Barley may be the most overlooked ingredient in beer, but it plays a critical background role that Oregon State University professor Pat Hayes likens to the bass solo in a song. Additionally, researchers are working on creating new varieties of barley and farm trials are underway. Pictured here is a combine harvesting Rogue’s barley fields last summer. Photo courtesy of Rogue Ales and Spirits
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Of the four ingredients in beer, barley is perhaps the most underrated. It doesn't have the flashiness of hops, with new varieties seemingly coming out every day. It doesn't have the environmental gravitas of water, the most abundant ingredient in beer by volume. It doesn't have the lingering mystique of yeast that harkens back to the time before yeast was a recognized beer ingredient. That leaves barley, the most predominantly used grain for malt, as the often-overlooked ingredient. But just like "no one puts Baby in the corner," barley is deserving of its own time in the spotlight.
While barley tends to get taken for granted, Oregon State University barley breeding and products professor Pat Hayes puts it in perspective saying that, "Without malt there wouldn't be the opportunity to showcase hops and yeast. It plays a critical background role but rarely gets to move to the front." He likens being able to pick the flavor of barley out in a beer to picking out the bass solo out in a song. The comparison is apt because base malts, which are lightly kilned and have low color, don’t provide much flavor. That isn't to say there is no contribution to beer's flavor from malt; in fact, there are a wide variety of specialty malts that do contribute more distinct characteristics. Craft brewers by far use more specialty malts than mainstream, adjunct brewers and have been the primary drivers in the growth and evolution of the specialty malt market.
Before malt is created, barley must be grown, most of which is called spring barley that is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. As an agricultural crop, barley provides some potential challenges for farmers. The revenue per acre for can be lower than what could be made growing other crops, setting up a situation in which it may be replaced with more lucrative crops. In addition, there is a secondary market for barley that doesn’t meet the specifications of malting companies. But that market — animal feed — is priced in favor of other crops, corn in particular, whose price is lamentably low due to national policies. Sadly, it may be cheaper for an Oregon farmer to buy Midwest-grown corn for feed than it is to purchase a neighboring farmer's barley.
Finally, barley grown for malting requires it to be a still-living thing, 99 percent viable, when it arrives to be processed into malt. That viability is influenced by handling during harvest and transport (an extra logistical consideration) as well as the moisture content at the time of harvest. Fall rains can be detrimental to the quality of the barley, a risk that’s minimized when malting companies contract with farmers in diverse geographical areas and supplement their spring barley crop with winter barley, which is typically harvested about a month earlier. Great Western Malting, a historical West Coast supplier to craft brewers, buys barley from northern California up through Washington and east to Idaho and Montana.
The variety of barley each farmer grows is based on the suitability of the climate it's grown in and provides only minor differences that are negated by malting. The process of turning barley into malt can be compared to turning bread into toast, one in which it is the process that is more influential on the finished product than what the starting product was. Great Western Malting produces 30 different types of malts to provide craft brewers with the variety and selection that they seek.
With that said, the starting product — the barley itself — is an area that continues to evolve as well. Researchers like Pat Hayes at Oregon State University are exploring the creation of new varieties of barley, which beyond having the ability of being malted into different types, may actually contribute their own unique flavors to beer. One such exploration is the crossing of Golden Promise, a barley strain that produces a malt craft brewers favor, with Full Pint, a variety that some hope will yield unique flavors. The hybrid creation, called Oregon Promise, is currently being grown in Madras. Oregon State University is in the process of conducting farm trials, moving beyond small plot production and working with industry partners who are starting to make the tiniest batches of beers with the grain.
Digressing slightly, standard batches of barley to be malted range from 30,000-350,000 pounds where as 5-by-20 test plots can be expected to yield only around 11 pounds. There’s no simple way to malt that small of an amount, currently. But that’s not stopping some from figuring out a way to do so, providing researchers with a way to determine whether they’ve gotten the results they were hoping for in the preliminary stages. One such venture is related to Pat Hayes' work in which Wisconsin's New Glarus Brewing Company has been able to develop a process utilizing less than a half a pound of malt to make a batch of beer that is equivalent to a single bottle. There’s a big gap between that highly specialized process and the smallest batch size of 30,000 pounds from Great Western Malting.
Just as craft brewers respond to the demand of consumers, so too is there at least one malting company working to fill the gap in malt batch sizes. A student from Pat Hayes' program is heading to Rahr Malting Company in Minnesota to work on a small scale malting/brewing/analyzing pipeline. The outcome of that work should expedite the exploration of barley’s contribution to beer flavor, starting with the Oregon Promise variety.
Developments like creating new barley strains, malting previously unheard of small batches and making a single-bottle batch of beer are exciting. And it’s things like this that may result in barley becoming the next frontier in craft beer.
For more information, visit the Oregon State University Barley Project site.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
After five years of ups and downs, Eugene’s current newest brewery, Mancave Brewing Company, now distributes its “palate-altering ales” at 25 locations in the Eugene/Springfield area. Co-owners Brandon Woodruff and Wes Gunderson have combined vision and grit to make their way despite many obstacles.
Brew What the People Want
Mancave’s first tap handle, for Single Release Farmhouse Ale, went to Growler USA near the University of Oregon. “I even signed the first card for them,” says Woodruff. Both Farmhouse Ale and Exalted IPA have quickly sold, but Woodruff notes that flagship beers won’t be part of Mancave.
“We are not going to mass produce or mass market one beer or multiple beers that taste the same,” he explains. “We are going to brew what you want.”
Woodruff’s vision is to produce Mancave beers on a seasonal release timeline. Exalted IPA will be produced at different times throughout the year. Bang Biscuit IPA has been released as a summer IPA, followed by Irkalla Oak-Aged Porter in late July and again during fall and winter. Year-round Dueling Hop series pits different hop varieties against each other. “We sold out of the first 15 kegs in the first week.”
While starting small with three 7-barrel, 30 percent fermenters and one brite tank, Woodruff is already feeling the pinch of their nano system. “We brew as often as possible. We only yield around 700 liters of finished beer and even less for IPAs,” Woodruff explains. “We have to double batch just to get to those levels.”
However, Woodruff plans to add three 10-barrel fermenters in the next few months. “Our goal is to do around a thousand barrels during our first year of operation. We are pretty close to the capacity to hit those numbers.”
Despite the growing number of area breweries, Woodruff is optimistic. “We all make different beers. I look at craft beer like music,” he explains. “If your genre is doing well, you will too.”
That optimism is hard-fought though.
Woodruff, 31, is a “multigeneration local” who graduated from North Eugene High School. He grew up not far from the Whiteaker neighborhood at a time when it was known far more for social problems.
“Sure it has cleaned up a bunch, but I still pick up needles on my walks,” says Woodruff. “I have had members of my family murdered over [drugs], and too many friends die from the drugs that come out of the Whiteaker.”
Woodruff “grew up about as poor as you could imagine in a family with six kids. Section 8 [housing], food stamps and food boxes for the better part of my life,” he says. “I learned a ton from my mom, her never-give-in spirit.”
After high school, Woodruff worked as a barista, then a bartender. He signed up for eight years of service in the U.S. Navy, but was discharged early for a pre-existing knee injury a few months in. Upon re-entering civilian life in 2006 and returning to Eugene, Woodruff began homebrewing. Bartending paid the bills, but a dream was already forming. “After being released from the Navy, I wrote a letter back home saying how someday I was going to start a brewery.”
Opening the Cave
In winter 2010, Woodruff and a friend were brewing together in a freezing shack. As they talked about how cold it was, Woodruff’s friend said, “At least we have this cave.”
At that instant, Woodruff knew what he was going to do.
“When we came up with the word ‘Mancave,’ I don't know if it was even around yet as a household word,” Woodruff says. “At first glance one would think the name could come off as suggesting only men. When we ran our Indiegogo and Kickstarter, nearly 80 percent of the pledges came from women. Some of our greatest followers are women, but of course when we say the name to someone the number one question is, ‘Are women welcome?’ If anything, it’s a good conversation piece.”
Plans for Mancave have bumped along. Partner and CFO Wesley Gunderson came on board in 2013. They are the only employees, but relatives have pitched in with tank cleaning or other tasks, and Woodruff’s grandfather, a farmer near Coburg, helped purchase Mancave’s first kegs.
Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns fell short of their goals. “We didn't even have our space yet,” he recollects. “Having your location is huge to crowdfunding. People need to see it to believe it.”
A silent partner pulled out of the project. “Red tape” was another challenge. “We almost had to build three-hour fire walls that would cost more than the equipment we own,” says Woodruff. “That felt like a dagger. After many thousands paid, we found out, in fact, we didn't need them.”
Despite the setbacks, in May Woodruff finally began hand-selling kegs to Eugene-area pubs and restaurants and added a beer-by-bike delivery service in June.
Currently 20-25 accounts regularly pour Mancave beers. “We slow our production often to ensure these places that have commitment with us will receive product on time and the quality is where we want it.”
But in between all the tasks of running a brewery, brewing beer and self-distributing, Woodruff is also watching the big picture. Current plans include opening a tasting room at Mancave’s 540 Fillmore St. production brewery, with an eye to opening Hohle Verein (German for “Cave Club”) later this year. “It’s for members only,” Woodruff explains, but “anyone can become a member by purchasing a piece of merchandise. In turn, we give 100 percent of profits to local nonprofits and will compound it one-for-one.”
In 2016, Woodruff and Gunderson plan to scale up production to be more competitive in the local market, plus have 15 employees.
After so many challenges and setbacks, Woodruff is starting to see Mancave gain traction. “Minds are being blown,” he says. “We are starting to gain regulars.”
Capitol Farms may be a modest-sized hop farm compared to other local growers, but the multigenerational family operation has deep roots and devoted workers. Some of the hop harvesters pictured here, Jorge Hernandez (foreground), Sergio Bravo (left) and Fidel Sosa, put in long hours when the cones are ready to come off the bines. Photo by Emma Browne
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
When you ask hop grower Mike Kerr about his favorite variety of hop, he’ll tell you it’s the Nugget.
“It’s just an absolutely outstanding hop to grow. It’s vigorous; it’s adaptive, if you will. It can adapt to hot growing seasons, cold growing seasons. It’s just a wonderful hop.”
Just like how the Nugget hop can adapt to whatever Mother Nature throws its way, Mike and his brother Andy have also had to learn how to become resilient.
At 160 acres, their Salem-area hop farm is quite humble compared to most local growers, but that hasn’t stopped Capitol Farms from having a full-scale amount of setbacks.
It was late summer 2013 when an aggressive thunderstorm made its invasion onto the farm, threatening the hard work the brothers and their crew had put so much time and effort into.
“We could watch it coming in on the radar and it was just horrible to watch. And it came and it knocked down 95 acres of Nugget hops. They were within just days of being harvested,” Mike said.
“At that point, you’re really faced with some challenges. You have your harvest window based on a 24-hour picking cycle and you immediately lose 12 hours because you can’t harvest at night because you have to bring in this complex machinery to help raise the trellis so that you can pick the hops. Then, you’re also faced with about a seven-day window before the hops start turning bad that are lying on the ground. So at that point, we didn’t think we’d be able to get through 50 percent of what was left. In fact, we knew we wouldn’t be able to.
“So, you’re out there walking through these fields that are just devastated … crop poles are looking like matchsticks … I mean it’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in your life. And you’re looking at it going, ‘There’s just no way in hell.’”
And that’s when the Davidsons showed up.
A multigenerational family of hop growers about 20 miles north of Capitol Farms, the Davidsons had just finished harvesting their hops the day before and had sent their team home, but when they heard what had happened to the Kerrs, they called within hours to say, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll be there.”
All of a sudden, truckloads of equipment started coming in.
“Not only did they spend a week harvesting our hops side by side with us, but it wasn’t just a matter of sending their crew out to pick hops … I mean those guys were out in the field treating it like it was their own.”
Where does that desire to lend a hand come from? According to Mike, it comes from a family with a great sense of responsibility.
Jim Davidson, who passed away many years ago, held a monthly breakfast as a means to get other hop growers together and just chat, which helped foster a sense of camaraderie in the business that still lives on.
“The Davidson family was just remarkable; they literally saved our crop,” Mike said. “And I think you would find that anywhere in the industry today. People will really pitch in and help each other.”
Whether by blood relation or not, hop growing definitely seems to be rooted in a family environment.
Capitol Farms was started by Mike and Andy’s grandfather in 1951. He had grown hops in the St. Paul area and was the local buyer for S. S. Steiner, which is still a very prominent hop dealer today — located just down the road from the farm. His son, Mike and Andy’s father, came back after a stint in the Air Force and he farmed for a while before opening a computer store in 1980. Shortly thereafter, Mike ended up leaving Oregon State University to come back and help out with the farm, which ultimately led to the brothers purchasing the farm from their parents.
Mike and Andy made the decision a long time ago to diversify the farm, so they added a perennial nursery. “It’s a nice balance, it creates more work for our labor force year-round, which we feel is important,” but, Mike emphasizes, “Hops are our history, they’re our blood. Can’t imagine doing anything else.”
The brothers grow four varieties of hops on their farm: Nugget, Willamette, Centennial and Cascade. When asked about his favorite part of the growing process, Mike said it’s the springtime. “It’s the season of renewal. You start turning the earth and it just smells wonderful. It’s almost miraculous to watch the growth rate in the spring. Everything’s fresh, everything’s new.”
Mike, of course, enjoys the other times of the year, like the harvest season, but says, “It’s so go-go-go that you really rarely get a moment to pause to appreciate and enjoy it. You have to remind yourself to stop and enjoy those moments during that time because it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the rush.”
Although the Kerrs have weathered their share of storms, it sounds like they’ve found their balance. And just like those resilient Nugget hops, they’ll continue to adapt and grow with some helping hands and a good foundation.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“City of Sunshine”: Klamath Falls, population 20,000-plus, is hours off the beaten track for most craft beer tourists.
Fortunately, beers from the city’s largest and award-winning brewery, Klamath Basin Brewing Company, are available all over Oregon, as well as northern California and southern Washington.
But if you want the full Klamath Basin Brewing experience, you have to make the trek into the 51st state. Klamath Falls is nearly in the middle of the “State of Jefferson,” whose residents have been threatening succession since … Oregon’s statehood. Defiance Double IPA, Rebellion Red Ale and 51st State Pale Ale all allude to Southern Oregon’s traditional break from the status quo. Include this brewery in a weeklong high desert trek from Redmond down Highway 97 through Bend, ending in Klamath Falls. Or make up your own Southern Oregon brewery tour and spend a night in Klamath Falls. But bring your inner redneck. I know you have one, because you’re a beer drinker.
The restaurant and pub are separated from the brewery by a glass wall, all in the former Klamath Falls Creamery building, home of the late Crater Lake Dairy Products. Most of the historic building is home to The Creamery Brewpub & Grill, a popular eatery for locals and visitors. The 1935 building’s high barn-like beams speak to Klamath Falls’ agricultural history. Today, the beams sport colorful flags of favorite local, college and professional teams hanging over half a dozen flat screen televisions scattered throughout the main restaurant and bar area, including one screen almost as tall as a small house.
There are other nods to local history and culture. Pictures of the creamery’s old ice cream fountain hang on the walls right next to a sign with the message: “Hippies Use Side Door.” Relax hipsters. For the most part, you won’t be the target of K. Falls derision, as long as you keep your discussion to beer.
Anyway, Klamath Falls defies most preconceptions about rednecks. The restaurant brewery out-greens most others in its class: Its menu is loaded with steaks and seafood, burgers and nachos, but it also offers (by my count) more than a dozen vegetarian options. The brewery and restaurant’s owners, Lonnie Clement and Del Azevedo, feature foods made from local produce and beers made with Klamath Basin barley, Northwest hops and Oregon yeast. But possibly the greenest activity on site is the brewery’s use of geothermal-heated water in its brewing and heating. Volcanic hot water aquifers just below the surface of Klamath Falls provides the downtown with hot water that is used for everything from heating sidewalks to home showers.
In addition to hot water, Klamath Basin Brewing Company also brews with water from wells fed by springs from the mountains that surround the city.
Does all of that make their beer better? You decide. On my latest visit to The Creamery Brewpub & Grill, there were nine Klamath Basin beers on tap, three of which were award winners (Backroad Vanilla Porter, Crater Lake Amber Ale and Notch Eight IPA). In addition to the State of Jefferson inferences, Hard Hat Hefeweizen speaks to this area’s working-class values. Notch Eight IPA refers to the maximum velocity on a locomotive’s throttle.
Corey Zschoche has been Klamath Basin’s head brewer for the past six years or more after studying fermentation science at Oregon State University. His Beaver allegiance is displayed throughout the brewery: an orange door here, a beaver flag there. Billy Harwood-Sloan assists him in the brewery. Zschoche estimated that the brewery produced about 1,500 barrels in 2014 -- about a third of which was sold in the pub. The pub employs about 40 people.
The brewery is growing: Zschoche estimated production was up about 25 percent last year — with as much or more growth expected this year.
Klamath Basin Brewing
The Creamery Brewpub & Grill
[a] 1320 Main St., Klamath Falls
Owners: Lonnie Clement and Del Azevedo
Brewer: Corey Zschoche
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Southern Oregon’s craft beer scene is in for another big boost as newly founded Common Block Brewing Company prepares to open its doors and taps in downtown Medford.
The new brewery-restaurant venture from Ashland-based Standing Stone Brewing Company’s former co-owners and operators Alex and Danielle Amarotico is slated for a December opening. The industry-savvy Amaroticos, who ran Standing Stone for the last 18 years, had been batting around the idea of starting a new brewpub for the last two years before deciding in February that it was time to start from scratch, Danielle Amarotico said.
“Over the years, we’ve looked at a few different places. When we looked at this one, we got super excited because we could actually see a vision of an amazing brewery. It’s a really beautiful pocket of downtown,” she said. “We are absolutely looking forward to this adventure. The opportunity presented itself and we loved the building. This one felt just perfect.”
Medford’s 1947 Monarch Building, with its strong Streamline Moderne style of architecture, stands as a historic focal point in a newly developed portion of downtown known as The Commons. The former and first Dodge dealership building in Medford will have working garage doors to connect one outside deck to the main restaurant and brewery, where construction plans call for a fireplace and mezzanine.
With about 200 planned indoor seats and 100 more split between two decks outside, patrons will be able to overlook adjacent Pear Blossom Park or main Medford thoroughfare Riverside Avenue. Inside, the mezzanine will house seating and what will most likely be a 15-barrel brewing system, complete with a hop back to ensure fresh hops are used in the brewing process, Danielle Amarotico said. The couple plans to hire between 50-60 employees for the restaurant and brewery. Current Standing Stone assistant brewer John Donehower, who formerly worked as a production brewer at Pyramid Brewing Company, will head brewing operations for Common Block. He’ll be charged with developing all of the beers.
“We’re so excited to have just named John as our brewer. He’s really great.” Danielle Amarotico said.
At this point, Common Block isn’t considering production status for its brewery. “We just want to open our doors and get our feet wet selling our own and other local brews,” Danielle Amarotico explained.
It’s very possible, because of how backed up the brew equipment industry is, that there will be some lag time between the restaurant and brewery openings.
“It’s very likely we’ll have the restaurant open before the brewery. We’re just not going to wait to open based on that alone,” Danielle Amarotico said.
But beer drinkers rest assured, craft brews from around the State of Jefferson will still be flowing from Common Block’s taps before its own brews begin to boil.
Diners can expect a family-friendly atmosphere and well-rounded lunch and dinner menu from the restaurant. And just because the couple is walking away from Standing Stone, don’t expect them to leave that brewery’s flagship sense of sustainability behind.
“It’s just who we are. Where we go, I assume it will follow,” Danielle Amarotico said. “And it certainly has room to grow.”
“We are both just really, really excited,” she said.
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