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Bricktowne Barrel House

Medford's newest brewery has rolled out the barrels, quite literally, opening a downtown barrel house decorated with plump casks turned into tables, where soups, sandwiches and salads accompany beer brewed in small batches.

Bricktowne Barrel House opened Jan. 24, showcasing the work of brewer Craig McPheeters, who has been brewing at home with dad Denny since the mid-90s. He decided to go pro nearly two years ago, and his brewery in the garage of his east Medford home was licensed by federal authorities last April for commercial production.

I first tried McPheeters' beer at the Battle of the Bones in Central Point last summer, where he went head to head with brewers from across the region and acquitted himself admirably. His Table Rock Red Ale was among my favorites of the many options on tap that weekend.

Thus, I was eager to visit the brewpub when my husband and I spotted a sign touting its imminent opening last month.

Bricktowne Barrel House offers a simple menu of grilled sandwiches, big salads that make a fine meal, a daily soup and chili and an appetizer plate of typical, fried bar food.

The operation is clearly a family affair with Denny McPheeters manning the small kitchen and Craig's mom, Jamie McPheeters, taking orders and pouring the beer, as well as remembering customers' names, handling special requests and keeping track of separate checks in big groups. They previously operated bars and restaurants in Central Oregon.

The first time my husband and I stopped in at Bricktowne, I ordered a salad dubbed The Greenway Goat, which featured sliced almonds, dried cranberries, apples and chicken atop a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, onions and olives for $8.50. That's a lot going on in a single salad, but it was a tasty combination, especially when topped with a creamy feta dressing described as a family recipe.

My husband ordered a Reuben, one of his favorites, but found it a little dry until he asked for extra mustard. On subsequent visits, he voiced his approval of a Philly cheesesteak panini loaded with beef, mozzarella and grilled onions and peppers, and the Applegate Aloha, a ham-and-cheese sandwich accented with slices of pineapple. Panini prices range from $6.95 for a gourmet grilled cheese to $8.95 for the cheesesteak and an Italian chicken sandwich. Each comes with crunchy kettle chips and a name inspired by the local landscape.

A daily soup-and-sandwich combo is priced around $5. On a blustery day, a grilled turkey sandwich piled with bacon and pepper jack cheese paired perfectly with chicken noodle soup filled with chunks of carrot and thick, dumplinglike noodles.

The main attraction at the barrel house, however, is the beer. Pints cost $4, with a $1 happy-hour discount. Take home a 64-ounce growler for $16, then refill it for just $12.

Craig McPheeters brews five standards, focusing on British-style ales and giving them names of local landmarks.

In addition to the Table Rock Red, I've enjoyed a Siskiyou Pass Extra Special Bitter, a mellow beer in the English tradition. The Agate Lake Pale Ale is a refreshing beer perfect for a summer day. I haven't yet tried the more seasonally appropriate Barrique Porter, but it is on my to-do list.

My husband likes Bricktowne's self-proclaimed signature brew, Rogue Trail India Ale. The company sells T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Don't fear the barrel-hopped beer!" and, indeed, this beer is nothing to fear. Instead of the hop monster that the IPA has become in the Northwest, where big, flavorful hops grow so well, it's a classic English IPA with subtle, well-balanced flavor.

Rounding out the beer selections is a rotating tap that will feature McPheeters' limited editions and recipes submitted by local home-brewers. Enthusiastic home-brewers already have submitted their entries, and Craig and Denny will choose which to brew on their equipment and serve at the pub.

Beer lovers, whether they brew their own or prefer to leave that to the professionals, will find plenty to like at Bricktowne. The barrel house takes all credit cards but no checks.

— Anita Burke