If downtown America really is dying, then Apocalypse Brewing is operating ahead of the curve by placing its facility amid the rusted, gravel-strewn wastelands of northwest Medford.
I biked out to Apocalypse last weekend because I had spent the early afternoon on the bed in my cramped, steamy apartment staring at the ceiling like Martin Sheen in the opening scenes of "Apocalypse Now." After about two hours of that, I decided I needed to get out of the house and do something; otherwise I would end up stealing my neighbor's drift boat to float down Bear Creek on a mission to find and kill some wayward general in Ashland.
Last summer I wrote a feature on the uptick in nano-breweries that are dotting the Southern Oregon beerscape these days. Apocalypse was among the breweries I profiled. Sadly, I had not been back since that story appeared in the Trib.
To explain, nano-brewing is practiced by beer geeks who don't have the cash, or maybe even the desire, to open an ornate taphouse and production space. Rather, nano-brewers focus on small-batch craft, usually three barrels or less.
In the feature, I wrote that nano-brewers are "the punk rockers of the craft beer world." God, I'm clever.
So my friend and I took our lives in our hands and pedaled the pitbull- and neck-tattoo-infested South Columbus Avenue gauntlet to Rossanley Drive.
Apocalypse sits in a nondescript industrial park just off Rossanley. When you see the Human Bean booth, make the turn in and you'll find the brewery sitting off to the left.
I'm here to tell you, it doesn't look like much from the outside. The owners know their monetary limitations and appear to have rented out a suite in a large commercial building. The space resembles a huge storage locker, with a garage door that opens into the brewery.
Apocalypse is not trendy, or boutique or retro or stylish or any other cutesy term we apply to seemingly interesting businesses that lure us into them with the promise of quality (Oh, look at that vaulted ceiling! Those imported granite countertops! Those hand-blown glass decanters! The heroin-addicted waitresses!) but provide more of the same.
Apocalypse is spare. It's simple to the point of intimidating. In the few hours I spent there last weekend, I saw people wander up to the doorway and suddenly stop to just peek in, as if they didn't know whether they were allowed to walk inside. The production barrels sit in the drinking space, along with a simple stone bar. Cheap fans blow the air around and dogs laze about on the cooler concrete floor.
Apocalypse faces a desolate parking lot that stretches into a depressing span of crumbling lots that line Rossanley Drive. It's like drinking in a bar sprung straight from the mind of Cormac McCarthy.
The house music was New Wave '80s. The Cure. Devo. Talking Heads. Gary Numan. New Order. Pet Shop Boys. Etc. Perfect late-industrial music for a post-society space like Apocalypse.
It's my kind of place. I'm over cute and comfy. I have come to value utilitarianism over opulence. Some of the new microbrewers resemble yuppie enclaves, where much thought is put into the caliber of wood used for the bar seats and not enough into the quality of the brew. I'm looking at you, Worthy Brewing in Bend.
After ordering my pint I strolled to an open area near the back of the place. I grabbed a plastic chair stacked in the corner and a plastic table and chilled out off to the side. The place was steadily busy and looked to foster a regular clientele. However, a stream of interlopers bounded in and out to have their growlers filled with beers bearing doom-ridden names such as Devastated Sky, Fallow Fields and Blast Radius.
Apocalypse conjures an amazing Northwest pale ale called the Sixth Seal. There's a lot going on in Seal, an attack of hops on the front end mitigated by a mellow citrus finish. I downed two pints as the sun baked the blacktop just out the door.
I didn't have the wherewithal to try any other beers. I had to bike home on South Columbus and didn't think it would be a good idea to do so with a pale-ale buzz going.
At some point I suspect Apocalypse will move to a larger, plusher space and enjoy further success. I will be happy for them, but no doubt will fondly remember the garage days sipping good beer at the fringes of the industrialized world.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.