You would be surprised by the quality of beer you can find inside an Oregon shopping mall, maybe moreso that it’s actually brewed right there amongst the shoppers. The Ram Restaurant & Brewery is quietly brewing consistent and good craft beer below a Dave & Buster’s and behind a DSW shoe store in the Clackamas Town Center. Here Brewer Adam Anderson toils away, churning out a menu of craft brews that, for the most part, will be distributed just across the parking lot at The Ram. This quirk, and the fact that the beers are actually pretty damn good, makes The Ram worth a visit, especially if you’re looking to escape a dreaded trip to the mall. Previously, the brewpub itself was located in what is now the shoe store, and now it has a more expansive and visible location in the former space of a Macaroni Grill.
Beer lovers tend to write off brewpubs like The Ram because it is a chain with over thirty locations in six states, perceived by many to be no different than BJs. But here in Clackamas, Adam Anderson has a surprising amount of freedom to get creative with his brewing.
Companywide seasonals, like the recent Cincopatas Mexican-style lager (brewed for Cinco de Mayo) and the dank and resinous Big Dread IPA (brewed for 4/20), can be done with slight tweaks. Anderson also has to keep up with core staples like the 71 Pale, Big Horn Hefe, Total Disorder Porter, and Home Town Blonde. It should be noted that the latter two have won medals at GABF in recent years, proving that even brewpub chains can crank out some quality beers. When all of the regular beers are safely kegged, it’s Anderson’s turn to have some fun.
“Every time I have an empty tap handle I can make a new one. IPAs go pretty fast around here and we’re usually sharing with Wilsonville and Salem, so they go pretty quick. Everything stays pretty fresh,” notes Anderson.
In his four years of a brewer, Anderson has demonstrated creativity and skill in The Ram’s ten-barrel brewhouse. His position is interesting considering that he didn’t have formal experience as a brewer, but worked as a bartender before “nagging” then brewer Jeremy Borde, who is now Regional Brewer for The Ram’s locations in Salem, Wilsonville and Clackamas. The two often collaborate, spitballing ideas and paying attention to what is going on in the beer scene around them.
“Adam has a real knack for nailing his recipes the first time out,” says Borde.
Evidence of this can be found in Anderson’s recent creation Enlightened Mess, an all-Citra hazy IPA that balanced bitterness and juiciness for a slightly different spin on the popular style. Recent one-off seasonals have included Hop Goggles IPA and Snazzy Hippo IPA. Borde also points out that while space to experiment is limited, the Salem location just started a barrel-aging program with brett saison and would like to try out more kettle sours and fruited beers. Generally speaking, a visit to The Ram will include a couple of interesting offerings on tap along with reliable classics. They have a mug club for loyalists who want to try them all.
As with any chain, consistency is key when it comes to the menu. If you order at The Ram in Clackamas, it should taste the same as if you ordered the same item at the Dublin, Ohio location. This isn’t a bad thing when you consider that, compared to other chain restaurants, the elevated brewpub fare is reliably tasty. Burgers are juicy and piled high with ingredients like candied bacon, Tillamook cheddar, pulled pork carnitas, corned beef, and truffle mayo.
While for the most part entrees, sandwiches and appetizers are pretty straightforward – fish and chips, steak, salmon, mac and cheese – there are some unique standouts. Armadillo Eggs – chicken, diced jalapeños, pepper jack, cream cheese, secret sauce and seasonings, rolled in saltine crackers – are a prime beer-drinking snack, as are the lighter Ahi Poke Nachos, which feature Ahi tuna on top of wonton chips, wasabi mayo, unagi sauce, jalapeño, sriracha mayo, cilantro, sesame seeds, avocado, and green onions. Things actually do get a little crazy with the long-running Burgerama, which finds Ram team members competing to see who can have the wildest burger idea featured on the menu. Also, this may be the burbs but it’s still Oregon, so you will find a surprisingly thorough menu of gluten-free options.
It may strike you as odd to have a brewery in a mall, but it makes complete sense if you consider the banality of shopping. The Ram offers respite the surrounding landscape of suburban capitalism. You probably won’t find pastry stouts, wild ales and oodles of hazy juice bombs any time soon, but what you will find are mostly straightforward takes on mostly classic styles brewed with quality and hard work.
The Ram – Clackamas Town Center
9073 SE Sunnyside Rd.,
Happy Valley, OR 97015
Tel: (503) 659 – 1282 | Fax: (503) 659 – 1324
Sun – Thu, 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat, 11am – Midnight