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MONROE – Todd Nystrom said he wanted to create something special to help save his hometown, which has turned desolate over the years, with more empty storefronts and vacant lots along Highway 99W.

His family’s new business, Long Timber Brewing Co., is scheduled to open in a few weeks, though no formal date has been set.

“We want the town to thrive and grow,” Nystrom said.

The craft brewery could employ 30 to 40 people and draw crowds to Monroe. Nystrom thinks that it’s already become a focal point for residents, and he hopes it will be a magnet that attracts more people to move to the city in south Benton County.

Craft brewing experts have described the new company as “ambitious.” That might be an understatement, and not just for the Nystroms’ desire to reinvigorate an entire city.

Long Timber is aiming to serve top-notch beer and food, and they’ve hired top-notch talent. Then there’s the brewery building itself, which is something of a palatial lodge, a warm-feeling place with honey-hued wood. The structure is down home enough for a farmer or logger but still fancy enough for a businessman in a suit.

“We tried to do something to set ourselves apart. We couldn’t be a normal brewpub,” Nystrom said.

“You have to have something to attract people on 99. Everyone on 99’s a potential customer. You’ve got 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles a day,” he added.

Despite the steady flow of traffic, downtown Monroe feels on the verge of drying up, Nystrom said. With the closure of the Long Branch Bar & Grill, the only real restaurant left in town is Benny’s Pizza Joint, or perhaps, for those feeling charitable, Dari Mart.

Nystrom, whose family has deep roots in the area, owns and manages Hull-Oakes Lumber Co., northwest of town, and that business played prominently in the brewery’s name — as well as its construction materials.

Hull-Oakes always has been known for milling big logs, and exposed timbers, including a 60-foot beam that runs the length of the roof that is featured in the brewery’s design. About 80 to 90 percent of the wood used in the building was milled at Hull-Oakes, Nystrom said.

Old logging and sawmill equipment also is displayed inside the building, which has two stories and encompasses 8,800 square feet.

The building was designed by Corvallis architect Lori Stephens, who also dreamed up the Monroe Community Library just down the street. A groundbreaking for the Long Timber was held in October 2017 and construction started in March 2018, Nystrom said.

Besides the brewery, the building also has a wine bar featuring offerings from Sweet Earth Vineyards, a winery near Monroe that is owned by Nystrom’s daughter Natalie Payne, and there’s a 700-square-foot meeting room.

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“This is designed to be a place where people can meet in the community,” said Matt Maller, Long Timber’s head brewer.

The Corvallis resident was most recently an assistant at both Calapooia Brewing Co. in Albany and at Sky High Brewing in Corvallis.

At Long Timber, “The focus is making some approachable beers with some creative zing,” Maller said. “Some people here aren’t used to craft beer, so we’re trying to introduce them to it,” he added.

Maller would like to bottle Long Timber’s beer, but that’s a challenge for further out in the future.

He said that in addition to the beer, the food will shine at Long Timber, and that the chefs have a great vision for what they want to do.

Co-chefs Mark Schuchardt and Tim Knebel both worked at King Estate Winery near Eugene. Knebel, from Texas, promised that the menu will feature plenty of brisket and other smoked meats.

Schuchardt said that 95 percent of the items will be made in-house, and ingredients will be seasonally sourced and from the area. “We’re doing super local as much as we can,” he added.

The menu features a wide range of styles and varieties of dishes, but no pizza in any shape or form. “We don’t want to compete with anybody,” Schuchardt said.

For now, the plan is for the Long Timber to be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and until 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Wineries near Monroe, Alpine and Bellfountain don’t have full menus, so Schuchardt believes that people going on tastings will stop by the Long Timber to grab a more substantial bite to eat.

Payne said that figures to be a competitive advantage for Sweet Earth’s tasting room inside the Long Timber, as well.

The 2007 graduate of Monroe High School, who also handles bookkeeping duties for the Long Timber, said the new space will allow Sweet Earth to operate year-round, instead of seasonally. Payne said that the change might allow her winery to expand production and delve into other varieties besides Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Despite the grand scale, Amy Nystrom, Todd’s wife and business partner, said that she just wants the Long Timber to succeed. “Our intention is to hope this thing will survive and feed itself,” she said.

And in the process, it might help a community survive.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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