By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When it comes to summer in Bend, beer and outdoors are near-synonymous; practically every outdoor activity is accompanied with a can, bottle or growler of Bend’s award-winning beers.
Once winter comes around, though, it becomes a little more difficult. The opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors is severely minimized as roads turn to ice, snow piles on trails and frigid temperatures make going outside a 20 minute jacket-and-pants-layering ordeal.
But, many Bendites experience cabin fever halfway through December. Sitting around for one weekend is relaxing and all, but there has got to be more to winter than hiding out on your couch, waiting to see the sun.
The obvious choice is to head up to Mount Bachelor ski resort and play on the slopes. But without all of the gear necessary to ride the lift, it becomes an expensive afternoon. Instead, stop at one of the local ski shops and rent yourself a pair of snowshoes, throw a sixer of your favorite beer in your backpack and stop at any of the Sno-Parks to go for a wander in the woods.
Wanderlust Tours, a Bend company that leads outdoor tours around Central Oregon, aims to make that experience easier for tourists and locals alike. Their “Shoes, Views and Brews” tour makes experiencing Central Oregon winter easy with a guided tour through the snow-covered firs at the tree line of the Cascade Lakes.
Don’t think this is a walk in the park. Snowshoeing, while easier than walking around without any special gear, is still quite the workout. The shoes don’t float on top of the snow, like I imagined going into it. Rather, your feet still sink in a couple of inches (a couple instances I was up to mid-shin) and your legs are suddenly a little heavier.
During our tour at Kapka Butte, guides Courtney and Nick stopped every 10 minutes or so, pulling the group together for a well-deserved break. While snowshoers caught their breath and took photos of the stunning landscape, Courtney and Nick explained what the beauty was surrounding the hikers. Courtney pulled needles off of a nearby tree while Nick explained those needles, which smelled deliciously of bright citrus similar to hops, are a great source of vitamin C and can be used to make tea. After more walking, the group stopped in a circle, where Nick proceeded to pull an edible moss off of the tree limbs and ate it for its fiber. Shortly after this, one of the hikers yelled, “I thought we were supposed to get beer on this thing!”
Nick and Courtney pulled out a cooler filled with Cascade Lakes’ finest beers, starting with Blonde Bombshell and working through 20” Brown, Paddleboard Porter and Hopsmack IPA. With each beer, the two explained the ingredients and flavors of the brew, and why there are so many great breweries in Central Oregon.
I had never been snowshoeing before this experience and found it one of the most rewarding hikes I’d been on. While not overly strenuous, stepping through pristine snow knowing that no one else is seeing what you’re seeing or going where you’re going was rewarding. With a couple cans of craft in my bag – no cooler required, just use nature’s cooler around you – I’ll be heading back out and enjoying the silence and serenity of the Central Oregon winter soon.
By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I really need exercise.
An early-December Tuesday. Raining. It’s been raining — hard. I've been sedentary since Friday. Need to sweat outside.
Afternoon arrives. A rift in the clouds. A window?
I like windows.
And so, from Brookings, I drive up along the north bank of the River Chetco, flowing fast and fat, wide acres of murky brown embossed with wispy-white rapids and swirling eddies, poked with driftwood beneath a sky of polished lead.
I stop at Loeb State Park. Its air speaks of moss and camphor. Its evergreens contrast with the deciduous hardwoods, wind-stripped of their summer grandeur — now pretty, pre-winter groundcover amid salal and salmonberry.
The Riverview and Redwood Nature trails are two gems that seem custom-built for jogging. They thread several streams tumbling loudly to the Chetco, 56 scenic miles of river born deep in the Kalmiopsis, a wilderness area in the Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon.
I jog the moist myrtle-to-redwood-to-myrtle loop. Later, back at the trailhead, I’m thirsty. And naturally so. The swollen Chetco is front-and-center. Indeed, some of that cold rainwater will become delicious beer that I and many others will drink in the months to come.
Five hours later, I'm warm and dry in Chetco Brewing Company's snug taproom, feeling fit with a pint of award-winning Block & Tackle Stout. The beer was made with Chetco water in a repurposed home garage mere yards from the river itself — 3 miles from where it empties into the Pacific, 2 miles from the intake station that draws fresh water for Brookings and Harbor.
With me are seven members of Chetco Running Club, launched in September 2015. (The brewery was founded in 2011.)
"Welcome to the clubhouse!" brewmaster Mike Frederick says merrily, clinking his glass against mine. A bearded, beatific human who also owns a massage practice, Frederick is thrilled to make tracks again.
"I used to do a LOT of running in Minnesota and down in Los Angeles, but I sort of stopped when we moved to Oregon. We were so busy with other things, and I kept thinking I didn't have enough time."
But the popularity of his beer made a taproom imminent. When a clean, 768-square-foot space surfaced in early 2015, Frederick and his wife Alex wasted no time. Now, a year later, it's more than a quaint bar with a long beer menu.
"We had always wanted to be deeply involved in our community," Frederick says after a sip of IPA. "Providing jobs, hosting local musicians, supporting charities — stuff like that. I'd looked at several breweries that did different types of community involvement, and a couple of them, like Nevada’s Great Basin, had a running club. I thought that was a fantastic idea.
“When we finally got the taproom going, we were more in touch directly with the community, so I said, 'Let's start a running club, because then I'll have to run!'"
Having weekly group runs in and around town, usually on Mondays evenings, the club has also participated in a couple of 10Ks, and there was the official Chetco Brewing 5K held during 2015's rainy Oktoberfest in the middle of Brookings. "It was so great to have our small town draw a high number of enthusiastic runners of all levels," runner/taproom beertender Loretta Alcala says.
"And some of them are brutally competitive," Frederick says with a wink.
Overall, he wants the club to evolve and be as welcoming as it possibly can. "Anybody — anybody — can join,” he says. “If you're 80 years old and can walk a block, you should be able to do this. People who want to run a marathon should be able to do this."
In the future, Chetco Running Club would like to flourish for trail excursions, half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, and to be a team in events like the Wild Rogue Relay and the Warrior Dash, a 5K obstacle course.
"We can make one of those," Frederick says.
"We could have an awesomely muddy event here," runner Diana VaVerka adds. "We get enough rain, right?"
VaVerka is the group’s newest recruit.
"Running is such a culture of its own, and it can take some sort of level of insanity to truly enjoy it," she continues. "It's really nice to meet people who can share that level of insanity, and it keeps you sane!"
"It gives us something to look forward to,” Alcala says. “It keeps us accountable. It's social. There are people around here who want to be active outside."
"Yup,” runner Jackie Knudsen says, “and if you find someone you can compete with, it helps you improve, because you're always better or worse than someone else.”
"What's the connection between beer and the whole group athletic effort?" I ask.
"It's our motivation to run!" runner April Smith jokes.
"Yeah — we run, and then we get to come here and drink," Alcala says, grinning with her pint of porter.
But isn’t that detrimental to our good health?
Table consensus: Nope.
Not at all.
"Beer is not an unhealthy thing," Frederick says with sincerity. "For example, silicon builds stronger bones, and the lupulin from hops helps to prevent cancer.
"But, bottom line, anything that can be used to bring people together for a positive cause? That's the best health benefit in all of this."
I look at the dark beer in my hand; I think of my earlier jog. Two pursuits of mind, of exercise, of satisfaction, of well-being. Two concepts of joy, two things widely loved. I am here because of them.
Frederick is right. Welcome to the Club.
Chetco Brewing Company
[a] 927 Chetco Ave., Brookings
Ninkasi launched its Live Well program in 2014 in order to focus more on employee benefits. “We want our employees to leave work as good as or better than when they arrived,” explains Ninkasi’s people operations specialist. “When we have healthier employees, we generally have safer employees.” Photos by AJ McGarry
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The candy was becoming a problem.
“Our front desk team was spending a large amount of money per month on candy,” says Amanda Burchard, people operations specialist at Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene. “They decided we should move to healthy snacks. Now, they go to Costco every month and spend the money on granola bars, fruit snacks, trail mix and granola.”
That from-the-ground-up sense of wellness and change summarizes an overall culture of promoting health through the 109-employee brewery. Ninkasi sums up their Live Well program as part of the company’s core purpose: “Perpetuate Better Living.”
“We want our employees to leave work as good as or better than when they arrived,” explains Burchard. “We want them to go home younger, healthier and stronger at the end of every day. When we have healthier employees, we generally have safer employees.”
Ninkasi launched Live Well in 2014, in order to expand and focus on their employee benefits, but Burchard says that wellness has always been a focus at Ninkasi. “In the early days, we had on-site chair massages and paid-for employees’ medical insurance.” Today, Live Well is part of a larger suite of benefits and perks, such as a 401(k) financial plan, profit sharing, paid cell phones, merchandise credit, pints in the Tasting Room and weekly sensory classes. All employees are eligible for Live Well, though some activities (such as CPR training or yoga classes) are available only at the Eugene campus.
Three employees — the marketing programs director, one of the Portland market managers and Burchard — meet bi-monthly to discuss company wellness, and they also share bi-weekly wellness updates with the company’s Safety Team. Live Well is constantly changing and trying new things, says Burchard. “We implement and continue programs based on the feedback we receive from our employees,” she explains. “If an employee voices interest in something, we help them implement the program.”
Ninkasi’s social media coordinator, says Burchard, had a passion for running. So she got a group of colleagues together and started a run club. “They meet every Wednesday at 5 p.m.,” says Burchard. “They hit the running trail and then end at the brewery by drinking a beer.”
Physical activity is a common thread, from bikes available for employees to check out and ride around town, teams for kickball and bowling, and mountain bikers, kayakers and climbers. The bike rental program builds on Eugene’s overall bike-friendly infrastructure, and rock climbing is so much a passion for employees that Ninkasi included a climbing wall in its new administrative building.
However, not all activities and programs require working up a sweat. There’s a book club, and employees can also donate blood during work hours. Health programs encourage life improvement, from tobacco cessation to nutrition consultations.
“There are special programs we do based on the season,” says Burchard. “Flu season is one of them. We offer on-site flu shots and Emergen-C, so that all of our staff can stay healthy. Another is during the spring and summer, when local food is fresh and available. We work with a local co-op and give our employees a discount on the produce and meat. They can also conveniently pick up the produce in our admin office.”
Live Well is also part of what garners Ninkasi regular mentions in “best places to work lists,” such as multi-year appearances in Oregon Business Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon. Most recently, Ninkasi (and fellow Eugene company IDX Broker) were included in Outside’s Best Places to Work 2015, an annual ranking of the top 100 companies in the U. S. that help employees balance play, life and work.
The programs also give employees the encouragement needed to make a life change or try something new. Emilie Hartvig, Ninkasi’s donations manager, did not consider herself an athletic person, but she wanted to try yoga. “Ninkasi began offering yoga when we moved into our new office,” says Emilie. “At first, I was hesitant to try it, but after seeing a few co-workers really enjoying it, I decided to give it a try. Now, I can say I have the very basics of yoga down and I really like it. Every time I take a class, I feel refreshed and de-stressed. I have even gone to a couple yoga classes outside of work.”
New programs include a step program, implemented in 2015. Ninkasi’s remote sales team counted their steps for the summer and won prizes, such as gift cards or paid time off, based on who had the most steps. 2016 sees the beginning of another program for remote employees, where they will be eligible for wellness dollars towards beneficial programs or services of their choosing, such as gym memberships and massages.
For breweries looking to implement or evolve their own wellness programs, Burchard has some simple advice: “I would ask employees for feedback on what they would like to see and at the same time figure out how much you want to spend on it,” she recommends. “I would also find a team to help implement the program. It is always better to work on these larger projects with other people.”
As for Burchard, she says her favorite activity at the brewery is yoga. “It helps me stay strong and helps me relax, both very important things!” But she also has her eye on new offerings.
“If I could add anything to our wellness program, I would add an on-campus run/walk that ends at the brewery with an ice cold beer. It would be an awesome way to get all of our team together and would be super fun.”
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
If you browse around the website for Ashland’s Standing Stone Brewing Company, you’ll find a lot of information about the beer, the food and the atmosphere. But what’s unique is that you’ll also discover how much the business cares about its employees. There’s an entire section describing all of the support Standing Stone provides for its workers and the larger community. Now the brewery has taken another step toward increasing employee health and wellness by joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Work@Health Program.
Standing Stone is one of at least 300 employers across the country that joined the comprehensive workplace health training, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. The program was established with funds from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund and introduced in 2014. It’s meant to help all sorts of businesses, particularly small employers, as long as they have at least 20 full-time employees and were up and running for one year prior to February 2013. Employers are then taught about ways to implement prevention and wellness strategies, primarily to quell chronic health conditions.
The brewpub ended up dedicating nine months of training and development to create an in-house version of the program, which it is calling “Cheers to Health.” And so far, a CDC-modeled program has never sounded so fun! For example, Standing Stone has hosted a movie night for workers, has brought in chair massages and has handed out yoga class vouchers. These activities and events are meant to help employees by decreasing their stress and encouraging them to socialize, volunteer, and use relaxation techniques. Workers have also benefitted from finance classes and emergency preparedness education.
The latest phase of the “Cheers to Health” program ended in November with a volunteer project for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Standing Stone employees spent a day constructing and installing new metal shelving to replace wooden racks in the organization’s walk-in refrigerator. They also stocked donated food.
“There are all sorts of studies that show how being part of our community and helping others decreases stress and lowers blood pressure,” says Standing Stone server Carolyn Stone. “Volunteering increases our health and happiness.”
Standing Stone Brewing
[a] 101 Oak Street, Ashland
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Since summer 2013, Mikki Trowbridge has led free yoga classes in Salem-area craft breweries. When Trowbridge, a certified yoga instructor who has been teaching yoga in Salem for more than five years, visited Rogue Farms in Independence, she thought the place needed a yoga class. The meeting hall's managers agreed, as did more than a hundred people who came to the first class. “I guess people love the combination,” Trowbridge said.
So much so that in early 2014 she expanded the program, called Yoga and Beer, to Vagabond Brewing. According to co-owner Dean Howes, each monthly class fills up (the space accommodates 40) and often they have to turn people away. “It's a fun program,” Howes said.
The example provided by Rogue and Vagabond inspired Laura Beans, events manager at Gilgamesh Brewing, to extend an invitation to Trowbridge. The brewery's south Salem location features a large backyard with a creek, providing an ideal ambiance for a biweekly yoga practice. Though the program at Gilgamesh is currently on hiatus, Beans said, “We’re happy to have Mikki come back next summer to lead this fantastic program.”
Both Howes and Beans know Trowbridge as director of special events for Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties, where she spearheaded the annual Cinco de Micro Brewfest. Al Tandy, a local business owner, believes Yoga and Beer, where he has been a regular for over a year, is positive not only for attendees but also for Salem overall. “It's wonderful she donates time to improving our city,” Tandy said.
In addition, Tandy enjoys the camaraderie that develops within a large group at a brewery yoga practice compared to a studio class. “It's more low key,” he said, “and it's fun to hang out and socialize afterward.”
The social aspect of Yoga and Beer isn't lost on Trowbridge. Not only is “drinking the international way of making friends,” the high-energy classes, which spring naturally from her boisterous personality, are full of laughter. “I have groups of women coming for ladies night out, for example. Plus you can't be super serious doing downward-facing dogs while burly guys pour micros in the next room.”
For Trowbridge, a self-professed imbiber who became a full-time yoga teacher last November, Yoga and Beer combines two things she loves. It also expresses what's best about the local culture. Often she has heard people remark that pairing a yoga practice with drinking craft brews in a barn “feels so Oregon.”
An added benefit: the program promotes both the hosting brewery and yoga. “The stereotype that only skinny people in tight clothes do yoga makes a yoga studio intimidating for newbies,” she said. “A class at a brewery opened yoga to people who would never come to a studio.”
Each 75-minute class is open to all levels and allows attendees to “detox and retox,” a practice that is becoming increasingly popular across the country. But, Trowbridge said, “There’s no judgment if someone wants to do beer and yoga and beer, instead of just yoga and beer.”
Yoga + Beer Schedule
Vagabond Brewing: Second Wednesday of each month
Rogue Farms Hopyard: Last Wednesday of each month
Gilgamesh Brewing: Returns June 17, 2015
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