Eugene’s First Major Brewery to Close After 32 Years of Business

steelhead brewery eugene oregon
Sean Meagher/The Oregonian

It's with a heavy heart I share the news that Eugene has to bid farewell to a beloved culinary landmark, Steelhead Brewing Company. This establishment isn't just any restaurant to me; it's a place where countless memories have been made, a personal favorite for dining in Eugene. The announcement of its closure marks the end of an era, especially poignant since it comes from Cordy Jensen, the owner who's decided to retire after more than three decades of dedication.

The Jensen family's roots in the restaurant industry stretch back an impressive 85 years, with Cordy himself being a native of Eugene who's spent his entire career in hospitality. Over the years, he's been involved in the ownership and management of over 14 ventures, but Steelhead Brewing holds a special place in his journey, having been under his stewardship for 32 years. This establishment wasn't just Eugene's pioneering full-service brewpub but also a cornerstone in the craft beer community, eventually branching out into the wholesale arena due to its success.

One of our first dates, my lady and I, enjoying a cold beer at the Steelhead in Eugene around 2016 on a hot summer day

However, all journeys have their conclusions, and on March 10, Steelhead Brewing will pour its last pint. The keys have been passed on to Mark Byrum, a well-known figure in the local restaurant scene with successful establishments like Gordon Tavern and Carlita's under his belt. Byrum's vision for the space is to transform it into a classic steakhouse, something Eugene currently lacks, while also ensuring the legacy of Steelhead's brews lives on. This includes setting up a McKenzie Brewing tasting room adjacent to the steakhouse and retaining the skilled brewer that has been part of Steelhead's success.

This transition is not without its hardships, particularly for the long-standing employees of Steelhead, some of whom have dedicated decades of service. While the reality of unemployment looms, efforts are being made to support them through this transition, with promises of assistance and potential employment opportunities in the new steakhouse.

The renovation plans promise a fresh addition to Eugene's dining scene, yet it's impossible to ignore the bittersweet feelings accompanying Steelhead's closure. It's not just the end of a business but the conclusion of a chapter in Eugene's community life. Jensen's parting words, reflecting on the relationships built and the regulars known by their favorite dishes, underscore the personal connections that make local businesses like Steelhead so invaluable.

Community reactions mirror this sentiment, with locals expressing a sense of loss for a fixture that has been a constant in Eugene's dining landscape. The closing of Steelhead Brewing Company on March 10 is more than just the end of a business; it's the closing of a place that has been a significant part of Eugene's identity and many of our personal stories.

Source: KEZI