For a very long time, we, the Salem, Oregon beer brigade, have wanted a downtown taphouse or brewpub to showcase the amazing beer made in our state and in our city.
Salem’s brewing scene has grown vastly in the last half-decade, first with breweries such as Gilgamesh, Pale Horse (which is now closed); and now with a vibrant scene featuring Vagabond Brewing, Santiam Brewing, Salem Ale Works and Sparky’s. Still, we haven’t had any taphouses or brewing operations in downtown Salem, which is truly the heart of this spread-out city. Until now.
Let’s head downtown for a pint!
Enter Victory Club, which is a brand new taphouse owned and operated by the three-man team behind Vagabond Brewing. Located in the Salem Arts Building (155 Liberty St NE) facing the rear alley, the Victory Club is a 2,500 square foot restaurant/taphouse that features 35 taps, with two taps reserved for every Salem brewery and local cideries Wandering Angus and Anthem.
This means Victory Club will be the premier destination for Salem-made beer. If you’re more into cider and not a beer fan, you’ll be able to buy locally-made cider. Also, as an amazing step, Victory Club is working with the mixology team at nearby Archive Coffee and Bar to have hand-crafted cocktails on tap at Victory Club.
To this Salem resident, a big factor that makes Victory Club unique is the collaborative nature in which its being built. Rather than being strictly a Vagabond taphouse that’s located downtown, the owners want the venue to be a meeting place for Salem’s craft beer and cider movement. Victory Club is a showcase for the emerging spirit of hand-made spirits, ales and ciders from the state’s capital.
I think Victory Club’s coolest feature is going to be the designated outdoor patio. Right off the front door is a patio that’s about 15’x40′ where picnic tables, umbrellas and more will welcome beer fans who want to dine outside. One advantage to Victory Club facing the alley is that the patio will be quieter, with less street traffic to disrupt groups while dining outside.
The Victory Club opens on June 3 and will be open 11:00 AM-10:00 PM Sunday-Wednesdays and from 11:00 AM – Midnight Thursday-Sundays. There’s a ‘soft-opening’ preview event this weekend, May 27 and 28 and the venue will be open in the evenings.
Music and more
Victory Club is sort of an L-shaped space. Upon entering the main room, you have the bar on the left-hand side and semi-private booths that line the right-hand side. The bar itself is rather gorgeous. The tap array is adorned with a copper feature that was hand-built for Victory Club by the copper artist who also makes copper creations for McMenamins.
At the far end of the L, past the bar, there’s a rolling barn door that reveals a separated space that has a long events/concert room with a stage and its own small tap array. This area can be closed off and Dean Howes, a co-owner of Vagabond, told me the space will be used for live music, karaoke and in time, private parties and events.
If you head to Victory Club hungry, you won’t be disappointed. There’s a small kitchen that will serve a traditional pub menu with burgers, tots, nachos and more.
Howes told me they want Victory Club to be a downtown venue that serves multiple purposes. Along with a taphouse serving local pints, the owners hope to have beer pairing dinners, karaoke nights (something we don’t have downtown now) and more.
Catering to craft aficionados. Despite having a full liquor license, the Victory Club owners want the venue to be a haven for craft lovers. By featuring locally made ales, ciders and Salem-made house cocktails, there was an active decision made to avoid having rum and coke well drink specials, that invite a more ‘let’s go party!’ crowd.
Using a network of local distillers, cider makes and more, Victory Club will feature a premium cocktail selection that will vary based on curation and seasonality.
Boosting Salem’s brewing visibility
Right now, if you were to ask a group of Salem residents whether we have local breweries, I’d imagine half or less would say ‘no’. The goal of Victory Club, according to Howes, is to change this. By being central and downtown, the owners want to raise the visibility of our town’s brewing prowess and history.
You see, Salem used to be ‘beer central’ going back 100+ years. In 1866, Samuel Adolph founded “Pacific Brewery” which sadly burned down a few years later. Then, in 1885, The Salem Brewery was renamed “Capitol Brewing” after Adolph sold the brewery to two employees. There’s a vast history of brewing in Salem, to read more, see Salem History.
One of the best known beers made in Salem was Victory Club ale, hence the venue’s name.
Resurrecting the Salem Brewery Association
With the new resurgence of Salem brewing, the independent owners of these Salem-based breweries have re-formed the Salem Brewery Association. The organization meets monthly to organize and think of ways to boost Salem brewing’s visibility. Howes tells me the organization is looking to start events such as a Salem Beer Week and others, to bring Salem residents to area breweries and open the doors to everyone in the area.