Story & Photos by Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Since it opened in 2010, Rusty Truck Brewing has been diligently crafting award-winning beers in a brewhouse tucked away behind Lincoln City’s Roadhouse 101 restaurant.
But after years of building a nationwide fanbase and winning plaudits from beer reviewers across Oregon and beyond, Rusty Truck is finally seeing its name in lights.
Owner Brian Whitehead has spearheaded a major re-branding that sees the restaurant and brewery operating together as Rusty Truck Brewing in a revamped, brewpub style.
“We are going to focus more on beer tourism,” Whitehead said, adding: “We’ll have more appetizers, more sandwiches, burgers and pizzas. We’ll still be very family friendly.”
Along with a towering new sign and re-designed menu, customers will soon see evidence of a brewhouse expansion that will double capacity. Whitehead said going from a 10-barrel system to a 20-barrel, will allow Rusty Truck to keep up with demand from its more than 100 accounts across the state.
“We were selling as much as we could make,” he said, “and we need to make more beer.”
The new system has been designed to be as efficient as possible, with automatic malt-handling equipment meaning head brewer Jonathan Anderson can spend less time shoveling and more time brewing.
“There’s still going to be a lot of hands-on,” Whitehead said, “But less heavy lifting.”
Sheila Martinak, Rusty Truck’s accounting and operations manager, said the new system will speed up the brewing process, allowing the brewery to offer more of its current seasonal ales all year round.
“Right now, there are things that we just can’t fit in when we are doing so many specials,” she said. “There are only so many brewing days available.”
Anderson, who is in the process of redesigning all his recipes to fit the new system, said the brewery has already seen a spike in demand since installing the new Rusty Truck Brewing sign in early April.
And guests hoping to pair their beers with brewpub fare will not be disappointed.
Manager Branden Fowler has done his homework in assembling a brewpub menu designed to hold its own in a competitive field.
“I did research on brewhouse and brewpub menus from the East Coast to the West Coast and from the Mexico border to the Canada border,” he said. “I looked at what was popular, toyed around with sauces for the hot wings, fooled around with some recipes.”
The result is a menu packed with items perfect for sharing and crafted to pair well with everything from a hoppy IPA to a malty stout.
New items include Sundried Tomato, Spinach & Artichoke Dip and a Hummus Platter as starters, along with main courses such as Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich; Fish Tacos made with seared Pacific cod; and Cavatappi-Crusted Mac & Cheese bathed in a sauce made with Fender Bender Amber Ale.
Replacing the previous list of seven separate burgers is a build-your-own option, starting with a half-pound Kobe beef patty and offering options ranging from smoked bacon and Ortega chili to blue cheese and the famed Sugar Shack BBQ Sauce.
Meanwhile, the Beer Cheese Soup has graduated from a special to a menu mainstay, served with house-made spent grain bread and made with a different ale each week.
“The flavor will migrate depending on the beer we use,” Fowler said. “Malty one week with the porter, the next week a little hops if you use the IPA.”
And whether it’s the hummus or the burger patties or the onion rings, Fowler is adamant that making everything from scratch is the only way to go.
“We have a great big beautiful walk-in freezer through there that I’m hoping not to use,” he said. “It’s a beautiful piece of machinery, don’t get me wrong, but I like to work fresh as much as possible.”
Fowler said the re-branding puts Rusty Truck in the perfect position to take its brand to the next level.
“The restaurant has been here in some form since 1972 and it will always be here,” he said, “but for us to grow as a business and get our name and our brand and our beer out there, it’s the brewery 110 percent.”
Despite the decision to re-brand, Whitehead certainly has no plans to forget Roadhouse 101. His plans to honor the restaurant’s old name will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen its eclectic interior, with decorations ranging from a rope swing to road signs and a forest of dollar bills tacked to the vaulted ceilings.
“We are taking the big old Roadhouse 101 sign inside the restaurant,” he said, “and we’re just going to sort of hang that from the ceiling, too.”
Rusty Truck Brewing is located at 4649 SW Hwy. 101. For more information, including a list of upcoming events, go to rustytruckbrewing.com or call 541-994-7729.