The craft beer industry has a diversity problem, which should be obvious to anyone who has ever seen the overwhelming amount of burly bearded white dudes (full disclosure: I am one of those dudes) roaming tap rooms or spraying down tanks in the brewery.
This November, after two years of serving guests in the breezeway between buildings outside of the brewery two days a week, Manifest Brewing plans to open an actual pub at the corner of Broadway and Willamette Streets in downtown Eugene. The space, formerly occupied by Starbucks, is ready for build-out; Manifest founder and brewer Brandon Woodruff intends to create an atmosphere that encompasses several genres. In addition, Woodruff sees the new spot as an opportunity to draw more people to downtown Eugene with events and a tour experience that will start at the brewery two blocks north.
Manifest’s story has many chapters already. The brewery was originally called Mancave, and was located on the outskirts of the Whiteaker neighborhood. When the landlord blew the lease in favor of a marijuana operation, Woodruff had to pack the 3.5-barrel brewery into storage. For a brief time, he operated under an alternating proprietorship at Elk Horn Brewery, and changed the brewery name to Manifest. Then, his friend and owner of Doc’s Pad and Sidebar establishments, Gary Miller, offered Woodruff the space adjacent to Doc’s Pad. And so the brewery essentially rose from the ashes. Since then, Manifest’s beer, which includes several IPAs, fruited sour ales, and Best Lager, has been distributed to Portland and Southern Oregon, and can be found on tap around Eugene. 16oz. cans are available at local bottleshops.
The opportunity to move into such a prime location came about due to quick thinking on Woodruff’s part. After an unfortunate stabbing incident outside the Starbucks this past July, Woodruff made a phone call. “I called the property manager that day and said, ‘if Starbucks leaves, I want to talk to the ownership.'” As it turned out, the Starbucks was already planning to move out (because, it has been surmised, it served more as a free restroom for pedestrians than as a coffeeshop).
Woodruff was planning to wait out the city to have a taproom at the brewery; he says the city has plans to make big changes to the breezeway and building facade where the brewery is located. However, those changes aren’t slated until 2021. “I couldn’t wait any longer” to get an on-premise sales location, he said.
Woodruff wants to attract locals as well as visitors, and says that many people who visit the brewery are from out of town. “All these places in downtown central are good tourist attractions; Sizzle Pie, Killer Burger, Voodoo Doughnuts.” He’d like to capture some of that audience, and promote downtown as a place to be. When he talks about downtown Eugene he also refers to the fact that many people, despite the opening of many restaurants and other businesses that generate foot traffic, don’t feel safe because of harassment by homeless people and street kids. It’s an issue that has plagued Eugene for a long time, with no apparent solution. The pub is kitty-corner to Kesey Square, and Woodruff would like to make use of it for festivals and nonprofit benefit events.
The Manifest pub will have seating for around 100 people inside. Seating will range from booths to club-style bench seating, so it should be comfortable for families as well as late-nighters. A roll-up garage door on the east side will spill to outdoor seating against the building and between large planters on the curbside, creating a European cafe vibe. Padded bench seating that wraps around an interior corner will be more club style, perhaps with a couple arcade games. These are Woodruff’s plans now; he says that he and Gary Miller will be developing the atmosphere and menu. For food, Brandon’s not thinking too fancy. With a simple kitchen, he’s mainly stoked about “biscuits and slather” and other home-style dishes.
Aaron Brussat is a complex living organism with an interest in all things fermented. He started writing about and working in the beer industry in 2010. His experience stems primarily from spending six years at The Bier Stein as a beer steward, homebrewing since 2005, and passing the BJCP and Certified Cicerone exams. Highlights along the way include numerous collaborations with local brewers, curating beer dinners at The Bier Stein, and traveling to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Peru, and New Zealand (as well as many parts of the U.S.) for a chance to drink beer at the source.