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HRL Brewery & Pubbery has industrial chic ambiance with ‘elevated’ pub fare

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Elderberry kombucha is among the nonalcoholic beverages served at Medford’s HRL Brewery & Pubbery. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
A soft pretzel is served with a choice of mustard or beer cheese at Medford’s HRL Brewery & Pubbery. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
The “snacky snack sheet" at HRL Brewery & Pubbery features local Rogue Creamery cheese and Taylor’s sausage. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
“Tossed tots” come in with a choice of two dippings sauces at Medford’s HRL Brewery & Pubbery. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
“Tossed tots” come in with a choice of two dippings sauces at Medford’s HRL Brewery & Pubbery. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
The “Meddi” is a vegetarian flatbread with feta cheese at Medford’s HRL Brewery & Pubbery. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

A new Medford brewery may promote “honor, respect and loyalty.” But HRL Brewery & Pubbery clearly has style.

Industrial chic is the aesthetic at this former custom cabinet shop. It’s not surprising that the carefully cultivated vibe is the work of trendsetter Eric Maxwell, whose La Strada boutique is one of the only sources locally for name-brand fashion labels. At HRL, Maxwell is following bigger cities’ lead for installing eating and drinking hotspots at formerly nondescript commercial structures.

HRL uses its expansive footprint to maximum advantage, offering indoor and outdoor seating for more than 160 customers. While communal tables do constitute much of the accommodations, HRL provides plenty of room to spread out, including on outdoor lounge chairs and indoor sofas. Plush, cushioned banquettes line one interior wall.

A streamlined menu complements HRL’s house brews and guest taps. Starters, mains, flatbreads and salads categorize the 14 items available, nearly half of which could more accurately described as snacks.

The selection, says Maxwell, keeps operations simple and food costs down. On the customer side, he says, portions are substantial and prices reasonable. Aspiring to “elevated” pub fare, Maxwell says he’s always dreamed of owning a brewery and worked on the concept for about a year. The motto has its roots in Maxwell’s U.S. Army service but is a “core value,” he says, that spans lifestyle, gender, politics and religion.

Maxwell initially worked with fellow retired veteran Matt Maynard, a home brewer, who developed a half-dozen recipes for HRL. But after less than a month in business, Maynard left the partnership, and Maxwell’s “better half,” Peggy Yuka, stepped in. To keep HRL in beer, the couple tapped into the region’s craft beer expertise until they could hire a new brewer.

“The guys over at Walkabout have been absolutely amazing with advice and helping out in the interim,” says Maxwell.

I weighed Walkabout’s Shark Biscuit Kolsch against Opposition Brewing Co.’s Tunguska Cream Ale. Appropriately smooth and mild, the cream ale ($6) won out. My partner chose Humm’s draft elderberry kombucha ($3), in part for the fruit’s immune-boosting properties. Also nonalcoholic is a roster of Caldera craft sodas for $3 apiece.

HRL’s food menu brings just enough variety to a fairly standard lineup of brew-pub favorites. I advocated for the “Meddi” flatbread’s artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and feta cheese — all my favorite toppings but strangely hard to pin down on a single pizza locally. I added Mama Lil’s “kick butt” peppers for $2 to the $13 flatbread.

Sausage adorns the only meaty flatbread, presented as HRL’s “piggy pesto.” The classic Margherita recipe gains balsamic glaze in HRL’s “Caparita” ($13).

Three flavors also distinguish HRL’s “tossed tots.” We opted for truffle oil-seasoned ($7), over plain and garlic-herb. If only pleasing myself, I might have ordered sweet potato tots but deferred to my spud-loving partner.

Sipping our drinks, we waited hardly a few minutes before lunch arrived. Items’ simple preparation also speaks to their short duration in the hands of kitchen staff. A thinner-crust pizza alternative, the flatbreads seemed prebaked, warmed through and lightly broiled. Absent a saucy base, the flatbread holds its integrity but does allow toppings to slip off, rather than adhering in the manner of pizza.

Also on the tepid side, the tots were baked, rather than deep-fried, resulting in the thinnest crispy coating over mealy, tender innards. We chose a mixture of Frank’s RedHot sauce and mayonnaise for dipping, similar to quintessential fry sauce with a hint of heat.

Another indispensable pub snack — the soft pretzel — beckoned during a second visit to HRL. My friend and I favored an accompaniment of beer cheese, adding a dollar to the standard $8 cost for a pretzel with mustard. The de rigueur condiment, however, would have nicely accented Taylor’s sausages on our “snacky snack sheet” ($13), mingling Rogue Creamery cheese, mixed nuts, crinkle-cut chips and brined veggies and olives.

The richer items suggested a pint of HRL’s house-brewed Whip It Out Oatmeal Stout ($6). My friend fully embraced the dark side with a pint of baking chocolate-coffee porter ($6).

Designed for sharing and nibbling, the snack assortment occupied us for a good hour, tucked into a cozy corner of HRL’s dining room. The pretzel didn’t last nearly so long, as we tore off leathery lengths and smothered them in cheese sauce before it thickened too much to ooze.

Served with a choice of two dipping sauces, HRL’s chicken tenders and tots ($12) are popular. Also priced at $12, the pub’s quarter-pound beef burger comes on a brioche bun with arugula, tomato, red onion and pickles on the side.

As the pub hits its stride, Maxwell has made smart menu choices that don’t overwhelm staff or kitchen infrastructure. I’ve lamented brew pubs debuting food that’s too ambitious, only to scale back and disappoint some customers.

Coining his as a “pubbery,” Maxwell confirms that — sophisticated ambiance aside — this one isn’t at all pretentious. It’s a place where everyone comfortably can come together for pints and light bites.

Located at 1100 N. Central Ave., HRL is open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 541-499-6373.

Tempo Tidbits

Medford’s newest Indian restaurant has announced plans for a lunch buffet, beginning this week.

Blue Royal Indian Cuisine in the Larson Creek Center boasts an extensive menu of chicken, seafood, lamb and goat dishes, including traditional tandoori preparations. A vegetarian’s paradise, Blue Royal boasts no fewer than 20 plant-based dishes, not including specialty breads, which also come gluten-free.

Occupying the former location of India’s Kitchen, 970 N. Phoenix Road, Blue Royal opened in April. An expansive dining room provides plenty of room to spread out, but the restaurant lacks outdoor seating. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. daily.

Offering online ordering for carryout, Blue Royal also does catering. Order at blueroyalindiancuisine.com

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Italy’s iconic panettone is gluten-free from Organicos Bakery in Phoenix.

Based on the bakery’s popular “Nice Bread” recipe, the treat blends brown rice, white rice and sweet white rice flours with tapioca and potato starches. Studded with dried fruits, the panettone is vegan, nut-free and lightly sweetened with citrus and vanilla. It’s delicious toasted, said bakery owner Allison Brummet and “makes the best holiday morning french toast!”

Hailing from Milan and traditionally prepared for Christmas, panettone is popular around the globe. A 30-ounce loaf costs $8.75 at Organicos, which will stock it through Dec. 22. Or preorder at organicosbakery.square.site

Organicos also is featuring a holiday spiced pear galette ($20) for preorder, along with holiday-themed cookies and biscotti. Located at 4495 S. Pacific Highway, unit No. 420, Organicos is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, until noon Monday. It also wholesales to grocers around the region.

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Purchasing a stainless steel straw at Ashland’s Matcha Boba House affords a free beverage topping — or 50 cents off a drink purchase — every time it’s used.

Available in seven colors, the reusable straws are priced at $12, and each comes with a bag and cleaning brush. The circumference is sized to boba pearls, chewy beads of tapioca popularized in Taiwan. For the holidays, Matcha is promoting “candy cane taro” and “sugar cookie matcha” milk teas, along with a “matcha nog” and “peppermint bark mocha.”

Located at 297 E. Main St., Matcha is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Online ordering is available at matchabobahouse.com.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.