Microbrew on the menu
Great in-house craft beer being brewed at new Oroville restaurant
Oroville, CA 95966
This past February, Oroville’s Western Pacific Brewing and Dining began producing its own brews, and in the process has put the “micro” back in Butte County’s micro-brew industry.
“Oroville needs something like this … instead of having to always go to Chico,” said Jim Gowan, Western Pacific’s founding brewmaster.
In 1977, seven years after passenger rail service began bypassing the city, Oroville’s Western Pacific Depot was transformed into the local steakhouse institution known simply as The Depot. In October 2008, after his father passed away and after buying out co-owner, local vintner Gary Quillici, David Deakins became sole owner, changed the restaurant’s name and brought in his wife’s half-brother to give the new Western Pacific Brewing and Dining, and the city of Oroville, a brew to call its own.
After retiring from UPS, Gowan started his brewmaster career, and made stops at the Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery near Coloma and Folsom’s Lockdown Brewing Co. before joining his Deakins at Western Pacific.
To complement its combo of upscale steakhouse fare (steak, seafood, game, etc.) and hearty lunch options (sandwiches, pastas, full salad bar), the restaurant serves six different microbrews—five regular options and one seasonal “brewer’s special.” On a recent warm Friday evening, I visited the restaurant by the tracks, and with the trains roaring by, tasted the range of choices via the sampler platter ($6).
Lined up on the table like shots, from light to dark, the varieties included Belden Golden Ale, Pulga Pale Ale, Chilcoot IPA, Keddie Red Ale, the brewer’s seasonal special Brown Ale and the “844” Oatmeal Stout.
By far, the most impressive was the Oatmeal Stout. Tagged with the “844” engine number of the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific, the dark ale was appropriately full-bodied, with a surprisingly complex blend of smoky/spicy malt flavors and the perfect creamy head and finish that one expects from a oatmeal-augmented stout. The Brown was texturally similar, with less spice but just as much thick maltiness, and even more character and flavor than Sierra Nevada’s version.
The Red Ale and the IPA were fragrant and flavorful, with the “aggressively dry-hopped” IPA having a tasty bite while still finishing very clean. The lighter of the six, the Pale and the Golden, weren’t as immediately interesting, with the Pale lacking much flavor and body and the Blonde on this visit being a little flat with an almost boozy finish.
Any of the brews would certainly work well with the choices of sandwiches (from the French dip to the Thai chicken, both $7.99) or the burger ($7.29), and of course there’s nothing better than a fresh brew with a slab of beef—choices range from the 12-oz. rib eye ($21.48) and 8-oz. bacon-wrapped filet ($20.48) to the prime rib (7, 10 and 18 oz.; $15.98, $22.19 and $26.49), all of which include a choice of mashed or baked potato and a trip to the salad bar.
And on this occasion, with the knee-buckling stuffed-calamari dinner I ordered from the specials menu ($16.98), I was so blissed-out, it didn’t matter what drink came with it. The meal consisted of one exceedingly tender calamari steak, breaded and fried till light and crispy, then wrapped around a filling of shrimp and clams and topped with a garlic cream sauce that pushed the decadent dish right to the edge. The mushroom risotto on the plate was an almost perfect match, creamy and cooked to perfection, but was way over-salted.
My dinner date was less impressed with her prime rib, disappointed with its being a little on the cool side, and with the mashed potatoes having the unadvertised inclusion of gravy across the top. I tasted both, and while the prime rib wasn’t warm it still melted nicely in the mouth. And we both agreed that the mashed potatoes were smooth and flavorful, and that the gravy retained the tasty roasted flavor of the pan drippings nicely.
Western Pacific also has a separate bar, with live music every Friday and karaoke on Tuesdays.