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Creative Drinking

Ashland's Three-Penny Tavern brings you back in time for a taste of beer, mead or wine
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Oberonís Cabernet Sauvignon is shown at Three-Penny Tavern in Ashlandís downtown Plaza. Julia Moore / Daily Tidings
 Posted: 2:00 AM July 05, 2013

It's obvious to anyone passing by Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern on the Ashland Plaza that this is a place to raise a pint of beer.

But look over the shoulders of the costumed wenches behind the counter and you'll see bottles of wine with an attractive Oberon's logo.

Owner Jordan "Oberon" Mackay ordered the private-label wine from Valley View Winery in Jacksonville.

The venerable Applegate Valley winery ages unlabeled bottles of wine — called "shiners" — in its climate-controlled storage space. When one of its 100 restaurant or bar clients needs a case or two, personalized labels are printed up and applied.

"Simple logos look better," says winery owner Mike Wisnovsky, who with his brother, Mark, is the second generation to run the business, with John Guerrero serving as the winemaker since 1985.

"Oberon's label is really great looking," adds Mike Wisnovsky. "It has the feel of the tavern."

A glass of Oberon's 2010 cabernet or 2010 chardonnay costs $5.

Avatar Jasmine IPA, hazelnut brown ale and other beers cost $4 to $5 a pint.

The wenches, in laced-up corsets and peasant blouses, also pour Blue Dog's Sparkling Mead, made from honey in Eugene.

Before the kitchen opens, only snacks are served, and patrons must be 21.

First-timers who wander into Oberon's may think they are on the set of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Beyond the rustic front door are manzanita branches that evoke a fantasy forest.

Here, wenches named Hyacinth, Ivy and Rosemerry dance jigs but they don't take any guff from the crowds who are nonetheless encouraged to roar and be rowdy, in an English Renaissance kind of way.

Before opening the establishment in June, Mackay and his crew operated a traveling tavern.

They would set up at the Portland Pirate Festival, Eugene's Faerieworlds Harvest and various Renaissance fairs and Indie music festivals on the West Coast.

Mackay, dressed in a leather vest, boots and a bowler cap, sometimes stands near the entrance and beckons newcomers inside.

He gestures toward a plush chaise longue tucked in a niche near a window overlooking the sidewalk.

The seat, he says, is suitable for Titania, the fairy queen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

He then leads first-timers through the pub, past the curving elevated stage covered in tapestries and cushions. Musicians perform here on Friday nights.

Continuing through the building, a planked path stretches 100 feet to a room in the back with a creekside view.

Here, female patrons squeezed into corsets and men, dapper in vintage striped pants, play the abstract strategy board game "Cathedral" as if they were actors on stage.

In this world, Mackay feels right at home.

He has lived in Ashland for five years and spent summers visiting here with his family while he was growing up in the Bay Area.

"There is an unusual amount of theater, art and creativity in this city," he says. "I think this pub reflects Ashland."

The throwback tavern may instantly seem entertaining to art-school students. But even an accountant with a hidden fantasy life of living in the Shire region of Tolkien's fictional Middle Earth "would find support," he says. "Forget your cares here."

He then spread his arms to emphasize his philosophy to the people in the pub: "Step out of your life and be your energetic, goofy, rowdy self."

Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern, at 45 N. Main St., Ashland, is open daily from 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.


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