Historical Susanville establishment gets new life.
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY MELISSA BLOSSER
It was once a tavern where local ranchers made cattle deals and loggers and mill workers gathered to top off a hard day of work with a cold sip of brew. But after a series of owners, the Pioneer Saloon, a 150-year-old spot in uptown Susanville, Calif., was left abandoned and waiting for a chance at new life.
Meanwhile, Margaret Liddiard and Mark Pfenning were on their way home to Oregon when they drove past a For Sale sign on a historical building on Main Street in Susanville. Their curiosity sparked, the pair stopped and peered through a dusty window into an abandoned, rustic bar.
|Lassen Ale Works features a wall of local cattle brands|
"We just fell in love with the place," Liddiard says. "It has this certain charm about it."
Months later that charm led them and their partners, Erik Jefferts and Julie Howard, to renovate the watering hole, known since the 1860s as the Pioneer Saloon, and open their microbrewing company called Lassen Ale Works. They opened their doors Memorial Day Weekend 2012 and it has since become a robust social spot. It serves a steady stream of customers handcrafted beer and fresh food made from scratch.
"Nothing from the kitchen is premade, even down to the salad dressing," says Brewmaster Jefferts. "And you never get beer any fresher than when it leaves the brewery."
Jefferts is no stranger to the independent craft-brewing world. He developed his love for artisan beer in the mid-1980s. While visiting friends in Berkeley, Calif., he would frequent a local hangout called the Triple Rock, one of Northern California's first brewpubs.
Moving back to his hometown of Seattle, Jefferts began working as a doorman at the Big Time Brewery & Alehouse, where he quickly recognized his passion for the craft. Within a month, he became the assistant brewer and a month after that he progressed to night manager.
"I just really fell in love with brewing," Jefferts says. "I knew it was something I wanted to do."
At Lassen Ale Works, Jefferts brews six different house beers, always available on tap. They are Bizz Johnson Blonde, Almanor Amber Ale, Eagle Lake IPA, Rooptown Red Ale, Uptown Brown Ale, and Pioneer Porter Ale. The spent grain, a byproduct of the brewing process, is fed in a mixed ration to cattle at a Lassen County beef ranch.
Lassen Ale Works serves traditional pub food with a wholesome, fresh twist. The Bizz Johnson Blonde fish and chips has become the kitchen's signature dish. It's breaded and fried in the brewery's Blonde Ale and served with house-made caper-tartar sauce and a crispy side of hand-cut russet fries.
The Lamb Dip is the second most popular item on the menu, carefully constructed of a thinly sliced leg of lamb on a sourdough roll, with a house-made jus for dipping. It can be served with jalapeños to give it a kick or grilled onions and Swiss cheese.
Salad lovers can indulge their craving with baby spinach leaves topped with pickled red onions, candied walnuts, drunken figs, and fresh herb goat cheese served with a Dijon vinaigrette. Juicy citrus-grilled chicken or marinated flank steak can be added for additional hearty flavor.
Diners also can choose from a hand-selected wine list and a full bar. Signature fresh cocktails will be coming soon. Happy hour, or as they call it Hoppy Hour, runs from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.
Lassen Ale Works' atmosphere is rich, with dim lighting and rustic touches from the bar's colorful western past. The establishment's heritage is chronicled in its popular wall of local cattle ranch brands and a hand-painted mural, celebrating ranching and logging, which runs half the length of the building. The antique-backed bar looks right at home next to the brewery's spectacular stainless steel tanks and brewing system.
"We knew preserving the historical aspects of the building would keep it authentic," Liddiard says.
Melissa Blosser, a Lassen County resident since 2005, is a writer and editor who helps operate a cow-calf operation with her husband Buddy, a fourth-generation rancher. They have two boys, Brody and Blake. One of her favorite feature series showcased the history of ranching and agriculture families in Lassen County.
Lassen Ale Works
At the Pioneer Saloon, 724 Main St. (on Highway 36), Susanville
Look for the large vintage neon Pioneer sign with the cocktail glass on the south side of Main Street near the west end of town
Open 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.