By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Reinheitsgebot is a 500-year-old law in Germany that limits the ingredients used in beer making to the big four: hops, barley, water and yeast. But this prohibits all of the other wonderful things in the world that can be used to make a delicious homebrew. While the decree has been in place for ages, people were making beer long before its inception and many of those early concoctions used plenty of flora. So let’s go old school with this month’s Homebrew Hints and explore two ways we can incorporate some local plant life: juniper and spruce.
Most North American juniper trees grow in Western states, like Oregon, so we have an ample supply of juniper berries in our own backyard. Commercial breweries that feature this ingredient often do so in a standard pale ale, usually to allow the juniper to shine and not compete with any other flavors. That’s all well and good, but why not start with a CDA base or even a Belgian wit to mix things up a bit?
Most importantly, consider the berry’s flavor and aroma profiles. Use this information to build a recipe around the ingredient that’s going to complement those characteristics. If you’re unsure about how the berry is going to play out, the best thing to do is test it out. Boil some water and make a tea with the ingredient, which opens some of the aromatics and flavors. You could also make a vodka infusion to taste how it may react as a “dry-hopped” addition. This infusion could also just be continually added in small doses to the brew until you reach the desired flavor. Of course, it’s helpful to research the new ingredient — like the berry — before brewing.
There are a few special ingredients that can only be used fresh. Spruce tips would be one of those ingredients. They’re really only available in the spring/early summer when the fresh growth forms on the trees. Look for the light green “tips” on the branches. Now you don’t want to rush out and just start harvesting them from your neighbor’s yard. The tips should be as clean as possible — meaning you don’t want to use them from trees that have been sprayed with any sort of chemical.
When collecting the tips, you only want the bright green new growth. Older growth could make your brew taste like a pine-scented air freshener.
After you’ve gotten your tips, it’s time to brew. As with hops, you don’t want to boil the spruce for too long or else you’ll lose a lot of the flavor and aroma. Optimally, don’t add them any earlier than 15 minutes into the boil, but they can be incorporated as late as a keg addition.
The best part about using plant life for added flavor is that you can continue to experiment with a tradition that’s as old as the hills.
Spruce Juice [AG]
Spruce Juice [Extract]
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Right now, Greg Swift’s shop might not look like much. The converted detached garage behind his house in Portland’s Arbor Lodge Neighborhood — about a block away from stop-and-go traffic on North Lombard Street — is a patchwork of organized spaces, like the pegboard where wrenches, hammers and tape are hung with care, and pieces of disorder as evidenced by the planter supporting the weight of an old microwave and some lime green Top-Siders resting on the appliance. It is clear, however, that this is the home base of a carpenter, as varying lengths and widths of lumber lay against the roll-up door. Plain old planks like these — scrap wood, really — provided Swift with the inspiration to create his first tap handle. And it didn’t take long before the budding hobby grew into a full-time business, allowing Swift to move into and develop the backyard shop.
You probably won’t find any of Swift’s tap handles at breweries around town just yet, but there’s a good chance that buddy of yours who homebrews has picked up a few for a home kegerator. Swift’s creations are hot sellers at beer-making supply shops like F.H. Steinbart Co., Homebrew Exchange and Mainbrew. Two years ago, Swift actually started his business (currently called glsDESIGN, but he expects to change the name this summer) by selling the handles on Etsy, the website dedicated to handmade goods. Since he had some extra wood left over from other projects, the newcomer to homebrewing wondered whether he could put the supply to good use and turn it into tap handles. The resulting smooth rectangles with a mini chalkboard in the center looked pretty good — good enough to try to sell.
“And I had, like, 20 or so and I was like, ‘I’ll sell them on Etsy and make a couple of bucks.’ And then immediately they all sold out within a week,” Swift recounted. He made another batch, which was also snatched up. “And then it was just like, OK — I guess there’s a niche for this.”
The handle design has changed slightly from the original — it’s now a bit thinner and lighter. There are also two sizes: a 6-inch tap that costs $20 online and in stores and a taller version that retails for $5 more. Both come in cherry, maple, oak and walnut, with walnut being the most popular wood. Swift guesses it’s due to the darker, rich color, but cherry is also a solid performer. While sales are strong, the carpenter was initially met with some doubt when he approached local homebrew supply stores about stocking his product, including his first account Mainbrew. Swift said they were hesitant because the handles they had weren’t exactly flying out the door.
“And I was like, ‘I’ll show you them.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh yes -- these handles we’ll take.’ So it was something about the chalkboard. Steinbart jumped right on it too. I know Homebrew Exchange, they were like, ‘Yes, we need these.’ Something about it seems to be working,” Swift said.
That something is the ability to personalize the product with the chalkboard feature. Consumers can write and draw on the handles, but easily change up those images when they put on a new batch of beer. And that can happen quite often with an ambitious homebrewer or even at a busy bar.
“Homebrewers often have a lot of turnover. Or bars have a lot of turnover. And most of the time, like, a brewery will send their tap handle [to a bar], but a lot of times they don’t. I know Side Street bar off of Belmont — that was the reason they got some,” Swift explained.
Beyond homebrewers, taprooms are becoming a lucrative source of business. Swift recently shipped 36 tap handles to one in Chicago, and his creations have been ordered by customers as far away as Germany and Australia. To fill orders, he’s primarily worked out of ADX, a shared workspace with tools available via membership in Southeast Portland. The facility has some key equipment that his shop lacks, including a laser cutter, that would allow Swift to add engravings. However, he hopes to purchase a table saw, joiner and planer — moving most, if not all, production to his home address.
From start to finish, Swift spends approximately 15 minutes on each handle by working on bundles at a time. Getting the raw shape is the quickest part of the process, while adding finishing touches takes the longest. Swift hand sands every block, tapes off each handle to spray paint the recessed middle three times to create the chalkboard and then oils the wood at the end. It’s a job that might sound repetitive and one that surely keeps Swift on his feet, but it’s the kind of job he prefers.
“I like working in a woodshop much more than just sitting at a desk all day,” Swift said. “I find it hard sitting at a desk.”
His previous work as an architectural designer was more sedentary than his current endeavor. And while he’s been formally trained in the field at the University of Oregon, Swift has sawdust in his blood. His grandfather was a carpenter. He grew up with a dad who had him by his side completing house projects — and this wasn’t just fixing a creaky step or hanging a shelf — Swift’s childhood chores included finishing the attic. But growing up in a shop class on steroids prepared him for UO’s architecture department, which has its own woodshop where Swift spent much of his time. After college, he took positions at local architecture firms, but the rise of the tap handle business put him on the path to self-employment.
Being his own boss and setting his own hours have obvious benefits, but by crafting these particular handles he’s also helping homebrewers tell their own stories about the unique personalities of their beers. Taps have become a critical medium for craft producers to introduce drinkers to their brands. A simple piece of wood or metal needs to convey a lifestyle, message or feeling that’s easily identifiable. But homebrewers largely lack the ability to provide a succinct narrative in their own bars at home, where friends are just as likely to gather as they are at the neighborhood bar.
“I think the people they like more design than just black tap handles, like a little black piece of plastic,” which is the common handle available at homebrew shops. “Yeah, I think it’s just more, I guess, why do we buy nice furniture or other nice accessories? So I think it’s just this nice added touch that has, like, it’s just more impressive to look at than the black plastic.”
Beyond bringing flair to the functional, Swift gets most of his satisfaction by creating something out of nothing. He wants to expand his focus by also building carriers for six-packs and 22-ounce bottles as well as taster trays. So if you happen by a home in Arbor Lodge and catch a glimpse of an open garage with the sound of a table saw buzzing as a man’s hands make quick work of a piece of walnut — that just might be Swift in his completed shop.
“When you get a piece of wood from the store, it’s really rough around the edges and then it comes out as this nice polished piece of craft,” Swift described. “Yeah, it’s rewarding to see that.”
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The space formerly occupied by Rat Hole Brew Pub is now home to North Rim Brewing. The new location for Rat Hole is in Sunriver. The backstory is somewhat complicated with beer being the common denominator — along with family.
We’ll begin with North Rim because it’s the newcomer. The brewery, started in northeast Bend in 2014, had just lost both its beer maker and reputation when Chris Hudson took over as head brewer last October. He immediately started turning things around. When he first met with the owner and looked over the 10-barrel brewhouse, he was stunned at the lack of standard operating procedures and equipment. Hudson said, “After I cleaned everything up, I revamped it. All the recipes are my own.”
Hudson brings more than eight years of experience and skill to North Rim, where he is not only the head brewer, but also the only full-time employee.
“I started brewing on a fluke,” he said. Back home in Joseph, he was 23 years old and broke after his third season of commercial crab fishing. Looking for something different, he went to Terminal Gravity Brewing in nearby Enterprise where owner Steve Carper hired him as a keg washer. Two days after he started, two of their four brewers quit. That allowed Hudson to bypass keg washing and immediately begin learning to brew with Carper. “I got into it and really liked it,” he said.
Five years later, he had moved up to assistant brewer when Widmer hired him. He followed that with a short brewing stint at Three Creeks Brewing Company in Sisters. “I prefer the artistry of brewing, changing things up and trying new recipes,” he said. “I was looking for that perfect place.”
On a whim, he went to a festival and met the North Rim rep, who told him their brewer was quitting. He liked the challenge and saw the opportunity to do things his way.
“My most prized beer is the South Slope Saison. It’s in production right now. Personally, I don’t drink IPAs and IRAs. My dream and goal with brewing is to create beers in the 4-6 percent ABV range that are drinkable, the kind where you can enjoy three or four in one sitting.”
Around the same time Hudson took over at North Rim, the Rat Hole Brew Pub in Bend was finding itself in a bind for beer. Les Keele, retired teacher and principal, owns the pub with marketing director Ken Deuser, his brother-in-law. They’re not the only people with important roles at the brewery. Al Toepfer makes all of Rat Hole’s beer. And last October when he and his wife Susan Toepfer, Keele’s sister, opened a second Rat Hole site in Sunriver. There wasn’t enough beer to sustain both places.
“Even when we were the only outlet, we frequently ran out of some beers,” said Keele. “We could go through four kegs in a week.”
The Rat Hole team met with Hudson, tasted his beer and felt it would be a great fit at the brewery’s Bend location. Deuser said, “His style of beer matched up with our original beer intent.”
Keele is planning on holding Meet the Brewer events on Sunday afternoons this summer. “Chris is very personable and knowledgeable. People will enjoy talking with him and getting to know him.” He also plans on hosting outside block parties featuring North Rim beers. North Rim may have a tasting room in the distant future, but the former Rat Hole pub with its Old Mill District location, comfortable deck and established menu with a Southwestern flair is a great fit.
Rat Hole’s Inception and Evolution
Al Toepfer got into brewing one Christmas years ago when Susan gave him a Mr. Beer kit and his first batch turned out great. He took to brewing right away and expanded his home operation from their kitchen table to the bathtub to their backyard and started winning awards for his creations. “He’s very creative and comes up with unique ideas that everyone likes,” said Susan Toepfer.
While his beers were getting better and better, his full time job as an auto technician in Seattle was becoming more and more challenging because of back issues. That’s when Susan Toepfer’s brother invited the Toepfers to come to Central Oregon, a place they loved, and set up a brewery in the aging 700-square-foot outbuilding on his ranch in southeast Bend.
Cleaning up the “rat hole” of a shed was a full-time project that took the help of family and friends. While processing the paperwork was a years-long process, the 2-5 barrel nano-brewery finally became operational in 2010.
“Everybody loved the beer,” said Deuser. “We were hand-bottling 22s as fast as we could.”
Keele said, “Eventually we realized we needed a tasting room. Because of the agricultural zoning, we couldn’t have one at the barn, so we began to look for a place.”
Fortunately, a space opened in the Old Mill District when a brewery moved to a larger spot. Rat Hole Brew Pub took over the lease and opened in 2013. Like many new businesses, there were ups and downs. Still, the beer was popular and the quality was always high, with Al Toepfer taking home awards, including a silver and bronze at the Denver International Beer Competition in 2013.
The Toepfers moved to the Sunriver area and started thinking about opening a larger brewery, preferably a 7-barrel one. They also wanted a new location, knowing their “rat hole” brewery was short-lived since Keele was selling the ranch. They found an interesting combination of warehouse and restaurant space on the same lot, more than 6,000 square feet in all, and opened up Rat Hole Brewing in Sunriver last October. The Toepfers did most of the remodeling and refurbishing of the bar and restaurant. They recruited David Cohen, a creative chef who had just sold his half of Rockin’ Dave’s Bagel Bistro in Bend. “The menu is not typical pub fare,” said Susan Toepfer. Some favorite dishes include Dungeness crab cakes, a chile buttermilk-marinated roasted chicken and a Monte Cristo sandwich — all made with fresh ingredients. They also now serve breakfast.
The 2.5-barrel brewing system is installed in the warehouse attached to the restaurant. Susan Toepfer said, “We’re in the process of getting approval from the county to open the brewery. Once we do, we’ll be able to brew seven days a week because we’re so close.” When it’s up and running, she plans to seek funding for a 7-barrel system. In the meantime, they have 21 guest taps and a small amount of Rat Hole beer flowing.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When Bend’s Kimberly Markley decided to make her first pair of earrings in 2012, she says she just wanted to make some cool-looking jewelry shaped like hop flowers.
She had no idea it was the start of what would become a full-time business.
From making beer-themed earrings just for kicks, Markley turned her hobby into a growing endeavor called Hopped Up Jewelry.
Through her sole proprietorship, she now makes earrings, necklaces, rings and more, all based on her own hops-shaped designs. The basic designs are made of machined stainless steel, brass and copper, and she finishes the pieces by hand. Her business includes an account with the state’s biggest beermaker, Deschutes Brewery.
But the decision to go from amateur jeweler to starting a business wasn’t an easy one.
“I don’t have a business degree or a background in jewelry making, so I started learning from scratch — just reading books and branching out,” Markley says while sitting in her studio in Bend.
She relates the story of making her first pair of earrings, simply to express her individuality while waiting tables at a Bend tavern called Brother Jon’s Public House.
When she made that first pair, a friend and regular customer at Brother Jon’s machined an initial design — based on her artwork — on a plasma cutter. She finished it off on her own, and the reaction was almost immediate.
“I think the thing that really got me started on starting a business were my friends,” Markley says. “They were like ‘Kim, these are really cool, you should make them. We want them!’ And I had to be convinced that it was something that people would actually want to wear.”
That reaction from customers and acquaintances is what eventually led to Hopped Up Jewelry.
“So I just started making them for people who asked,” Markley says. “It was definitely a labor of love the first couple of years, because I was working full time and I wasn’t making anything on them.”
She continued making earrings on the side before doing some traveling in 2014, which included a stint living and working in New Zealand. When she got back, she decided to give Hopped Up a go as a full-time endeavor.
Despite a lack of jewelry-making experience, it’s not like it was a huge leap for Markley, at least from an artistic standpoint. She had been a wedding and portrait photographer in the past, and photography is still one of her passions.
That artistic creativity comes out in the packaging as well — the products are mounted on beer coasters she stamps by hand.
Hopped Up Jewelry is still pretty small; Markley does everything from the jewelry making and finishing to sales and order fulfillment on her own. Her studio is in an RV, which she affectionately refers to as Stella. “Good creative vibes happen here,” Markley says with a smile.
But with two years of business under her belt and a growing line of products, Markley says she has aspirations of growing the business.
It’s a pretty good career fashioned out of some earrings made on a whim.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are lakes with landlocked salmon (they can’t get away!). There are huge fields of volcanic basalt and obsidian to explore. There are rivers that flow right through the middle of cities. There are unique Old West towns with horse rails. Best of all, any day/week/month in Central Oregon could include a visit to more than two dozen local breweries, many of which are expanding. Here’s an update on what’s happening in Central Oregon’s beer world this summer:
To the Sky and Beyond
Roger Worthington, Worthy Brewing’s owner, is watching his part of the universe expand — by 7,500 square feet, to be precise. The brewery and restaurant campus on the east side of Bend is growing to include a three-story observatory, topped off with a telescope that will connect the earthbound to the skies. The observatory is a silo-like structure rising at the edge of the brewery’s new covered outside patio on the ground floor. An open-air bar on a deck outside the second floor is also under construction and due for completion this summer.
Worthy Brewing’s expansion adds seating for at least 100 more patrons on the 2,400 square foot deck, according to Seth E. Anderson, architect at Ascent Architecture & Interiors. Details include custom furniture, lighting, circular staircases and unique bi-fold garage doors. A new banquet hall will also be a part of the $3.5 million renovation.
Monkless on the Move
Monkless Belgian Ales has moved their former 1-barrel, garage-based operation to a lucky space in Bend’s Northeast business district. The new location is not open to the public yet, but the building on High Desert Lane was once the home of 10 Barrel Brewing’s original shop. Chris and Jeremy Cox, former owners of 10 Barrel before it sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev last year, still own the building and have leased it to Monkless.
Monkless’ owner and head brewer Todd Clement, an organic chemist who graduated from University of California, Davis, spent the first 18 years of his post-college career missing his obvious connection to brewing, working instead in the pharmaceutical industry and then for a software company. His travels took him to Belgium, and his work brought him to Bend. “I grew to love Belgians,” he said. Clement started the brewery in 2014 with his friend Kirk Meckem, but recently purchased Meckem’s interest in the company. With a 10-barrel brew house in place, Clement in April gave up his full-time job and is now focusing on getting the expanded brewery online.
Demand for Belgians has increased in Central Oregon, as evidenced by presence of the style at other outlets like 10 Barrel Brewing, Bend Brewing Company and Crux Fermentation Project, Clement said. Already, Monkless has won kudos for its Pour Pour Pitiful Me, a high-alcohol quadruple fermented on cherries.
Watch for more Monkless in the months to come in Central Oregon brew pubs including Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails, and White Water Taphouse in Bend. The beers are also on tap at The Abbey Bar & Bottle Shop in Portland.
Kobold Sells to More Outlets
How do you turn a quaint, Craftsman-style home in a quiet neighborhood into a quaint, craft-style brewery? Ask Steve Anderson of Bend’s Kobold Brewing. His 2-barrel system is tucked into an 800-square-foot building that looks like it came with his historic house, but was actually designed specifically for its purpose. Above the tight brewery is a second-story sales room with a small, sunny deck that looks like the perfect place for a cold beer on a hot day.
The shiny, new 2-barrel brewery is not open the public, but Kobold beers are on tap in the region. Anderson, a retired air traffic controller, originally got his college degree in architecture. He used those latent skills to design his brewery.
Anderson sold his first Kobold brews in December 2015 to Platypus Pub in Bend. Today, Anderson counts about a dozen outlets that carry his beer, including all three Baldy’s Barbeques, The Lot, Growler Guys, Broken Top Bottle Shop, White Water Tap House, Pour House Grill, Primal Cuts Meat Market/Growler Phil’s and Big Dog Growlers. By June, you may find any one of his three stouts, an IPA, a CDA, a blonde, a couple of red ales and an ISA on tap.
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