Monday, May 17, 2010

Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewery

This is the first of a series of reviews of Corvallis brewpubs. I'm going to do these in "historical" order, starting with the Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewery, which has been around since 1987.

There are, at present, four brewpubs in Corvallis, which is double the number that were operating in 2007 when we arrived here. Even two was kind of amazing to us, coming from Tallahassee, a city with five times the population of Corvallis but no brewpubs (there had been a few in the past, but none survived). In addition to OWD-OTB, there was McMenamins on Monroe, followed by Block 15 in 2008 and Flat Tail Brewing in 2010. At least in terms of beer production, Block 15 had surpassed the first two by the end of 2009, with its production for that year being 924.5 barrels, versus 816.25 for McMenamins and 534.54 for Oregon Trail.

Old World Deli is located at 341 SW 2nd Street. The interior is a strange mix of kitsch, funk and industrial chic. After entering, you pass between walls fashioned to resemble the fronts of German village structures, with the apparent intent being to create the impression that you're in an outdoor beergarten. It doesn't work, but you get the feeling they know that and don't really care. After passing through the mini burgh, the area opens up into the deli itself, with a seating area to the left and the ordering area to the right. The entire interior is festooned with artwork from mostly local artists, as well as with historical displays.

Service is essentially non-existent. You order and pay at the counter, and take your beverage to your table. They bring out your food order, but when you've finished, it's expected that you bus your table.

We were meeting a number of friends, two of whom had been there on several previous occasions. "The sandwiches are good," we were told, "but don't order the lasagna." I ordered the Reuben, with Swiss cheese on rye, and Kathy ordered the French Dip Roast Beef. Two others in our party also ordered sandwiches, these being a pastrami on rye and the "Mediterranean" on sourdough. Kathy and I also ordered a pasta salad.

The sandwiches were all good. The bread (delivered every day from a local Franz bakery) was good, and the sandwich contents fresh and tasty. The amount of meat on the Reuben and the French Dip was adequate, but only just. The "Mediterranean" is a real stack of meat and cheese and not recommended for the small of mouth. The pasta salad, on the other hand, was not acceptable, the pasta being dry and doughy.

The Oregon Trail Brewery web site describes seven beers, but only five were on tap that evening. They don't offer a "sampler" array (as does Block 15 and Flat Tail) so it was necessary to order five 10 ounce glasses. The first one I tried, the WIT wheat beer, had a light citrusy nose (mostly lemon) and was not at all hoppy. Not being a big fan of wheat beer, it was difficult for me to assess, but it seemed as good as most I've had. The next one I sampled was the Beaver Tail ale. Again, this had a very light nose, was not very hoppy, and seemed to have a flatness to it at mid-palate. It was okay but was, as they say, nothing to write home about. The IPA also had a citrusy nose, and though having an interesting amount of hops, was less hoppy than the average IPA. Competent, but not exceptional. The Brown Ale flirts with being a stout, with chocolate on the nose, and hints of coffee mingled with the hops. Last, but not least, was the Ginseng Porter. We weren't sure we'd like this, but the ginseng touch is very light, adding a spicy presence to the hops and light chocolate notes. A very nice beer, and the only standout of the bunch.

For dessert we had to try the "World's Best Brownie". This proved to be very good, hitting the sweet spot between too cakelike and too chewy. Covered with a layer of mini chocolate chips, it went well with the bit of Brown Ale and Ginseng Porter we'd held back. I wouldn't say it's the best brownie I've ever had but I think it's in the Top Ten.

So there you have it: funky decor, serve yourself, good sandwiches, competent beer and excellent brownies. Hardly a place to be avoided, I expect I'll have lunch there now and again, ordering the Mediterranean on sourdough, a pint of Ginseng Porter and one of those tasty brownies.

Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewing web site.

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