By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Funhouse Brews. The name sounds like a wacky carnival attraction — one of those colorful places where the mirrors and walls are distorted and everyone looks like a twisted version of themselves. That’s just the image brewer Jason Rizos wants for his North Portland home-based nanobrewery.
The veteran homebrewer has more than 20 years of experience cooking up award-winning beers, and he likes to be different. “I’m trying to stand out as one who will make wild, experimental, unusual out-there beers, like Triple Berry Snowcone,” said Rizos. His tap handles — towers of red, blue, yellow and white Lego blocks — advertise the fun funkiness of the brewery.
Rizos started making beer when he was a typical starving college student with limited funds, and homebrewing was cheaper than buying.
“Really,” I wondered, “even with all the ingredients and equipment required?”
“Yes,” he said. To prove it, he created an online tool called the Homebrew Break-Even Calculator to compare the price of making a batch of beer to buying a six-pack. The site links to Rizos’ book, “The Frugal Home Brewers Companion.”
A Portland transplant who arrived from St. Louis in 2008, Rizos teaches literature and writing at Portland Community College. “I haven’t met many brewers who aren’t engineers or software specialists,” he said.
As a member of Oregon Brew Crew, Oregon’s oldest homebrew club, he served as president in 2011 and has participated in numerous competitions — both as a brewer and as a judge, having completed the Beer Judge Certification Program in 2006. He has won several awards for his beers, receiving medals at the Best Florida Beer Homebrew Competition, the Oregon Fall Classic and the Oregon State Fair.
A few years ago Rizos and his wife decided to establish the commercial nanobrewery and in December 2016 they were officially licensed and open for business. They built the 2-barrel system in what had been their totally unusable wreck of a garage. “We built this space expressly as a brewery with gas, electric and water, drains, sinks and specific spaces for our 60-gallon kettles and fermenters.” Rizos currently has two large refrigerators for cold storage, but is already starting to think about how to add more. Like most brewers, he is always in need of additional fermenters.
“We actually started in earnest in early 2017, but then the ice storm hit and we couldn’t brew because all the lines were frozen,” Rizos said. By February he had produced a significant volume to begin self-distributing.
Rizos describes his beers as “handcrafted, unorthodox, chimerical crossbreeds of classic styles, with a focus on processes and ingredients impossible or impractical on a scale larger than two barrels.” This summer he started making kettle sours “that were meticulously blended.” Then he had a breakthrough by deciding to add fruit: blackberries, raspberries and cherries (that he’s since replaced with strawberries), creating the Triple Berry Snowcone. Quality is his top priority. “I urge people to try my beers, even when they don’t think they like that style of beer. My sour is just barely a sour,” he said.
For the Nano Pub Crawl last month along North Mississippi Avenue, 30 nanobrewers collaborated with larger producers and other nanos to make beer for the event. Rizos partnered with Ecliptic Brewing’s John Harris, who came over to Funhouse and the two created an oatmeal stout. “I’m thinking about splitting that and making half of it into a salted caramel brownie beer,” Rizos said.
Fridays from 5-7 p.m., his in-home brewery is open for growler fills and sales of 32-ounce crowlers. Check funhousebrews.com for area businesses that serve his beers. Rizos usually brews every two weeks and tries to have four different varieties available. Currently, his beers are regularly on tap at Chill N Fill on North Lombard Street and QuarterWorld Arcade on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.
7717 N. Emerald Ave., Portland
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As the executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, one of Brian Butenschoen’s main responsibilities is publicizing and promoting the organization. Yet, he avoids publicity and promotion about himself. He prefers to stay out of the Oregon Brewers Guild picture and keep the member breweries front and center.
The Oregon Brewers Guild was established in 1992, originally named the Greater Oregon Brewers Association, and is the second-oldest nonprofit trade association for brewers in the U.S. Its mission is to protect and promote Oregon breweries.
With new craft breweries popping up daily in Oregon, the Guild continues to grow, both in size and influence. Membership includes 156 brewing companies, 125 associates that aren’t breweries but provide business services to the craft beer industry, and 3,500-plus enthusiasts called SNOBs — Supporters of Native Oregon Beer.
Brian always refers to Guild activities in the first person plural construction, as in “We print 75,000 copies of the Brew-Ha! map, showing all the member breweries.” Or, “We put on a 900-person dinner for all our supporters and friends every year.” However, since Brian is the only full-time employee, he surely deserves most of the credit for any and all Guild activities. He is the third executive director, a position he’s held since 2005.
One of the Guild’s primary vehicles for promotion is special events and festivals. Probably the best-known and certainly the most popular is Zwickelmania. The one-day open house held on the Saturday of President’s Day weekend began in 2009 and attracted 6,000 visitors to 20-30 breweries that year. Compare that to 2016 when 45,000 people visited 120 participating beer makers who provide brewery tours and special tastings.
Brian said, “It started with six of us sitting around a table and someone came up with the idea of an open house. When would be a good time? We agreed that it should be on a holiday weekend when breweries were NOT busy, when they wanted to see more people visiting them. That’s how we came up with the Saturday of President’s Day weekend.”
Now most participating breweries are so busy on Zwickelmania, they schedule extra staff and often have to control the number of people allowed through the door at one time. The event takes its name from the zwickel sample valve on beer conditioning tanks that allows brewers to take samples during the fermentation process.
What does it take, behind the scenes, to put on this event? The Guild — as in Brian — does all the promotion, signs up the breweries, handles the public relations and marketing, lists the participating breweries on the Guild website and creates maps for the six regions of Oregon. Suggested itineraries are also posted, grouping participating breweries by location.
The Guild sponsors two other main events in Portland. Cheers to Belgian Beers started 10 years ago and was held in May in 2016. Then there’s the Portland Fresh Hop Beer Fest, which has happened every fall. Now in its 13th year, the harvest celebration is slated to take place Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at Oaks Park.
In addition to a few other collaboration events with The Portland Mercury newspaper, like the Malt Ball, Brian tries to make sure the Guild is represented at many of the other festivals around the state. “We have tables and booths at the Spring Beer and Wine Fest, at the KLCC Microbrew Fest in Eugene, at the Oregon Brewers Festival, the North American Organic Brewers Festival and the Great American Beer Festival in Denver,” said Brian.
Events, large and small, mean planning, planning and more planning. Each one starts with a budget. Next, participating breweries are lined up. A venue is selected. People are informed about the event through public relations campaigns and marketing sales and website updates. Food vendors are arranged along with infrastructure providers who set up tents, tables, chairs and the ever-essential porta-potties.
Again, Brian is the main person responsible for coordinating and arranging these events.
Brian’s interest in beer stems, in part, from his family’s background in homebrewing. Following his great-grandfather and uncle, Brian took up the hobby in 1999 and decided to enroll in the Beer Judge Certification Program that same year. Brian also served as vice president and president of the Oregon Brew Crew, Oregon’s oldest homebrew club. Around that time he also started working at Belmont Station. He was fortunate enough to snag shifts on Fridays — free beer tasting days — which meant face time with the brewers who attended these events. He stayed on there until 2006, overlapping with his start at the Guild.
Events and promotions, important in their own right, are only part of the Guild’s duties. The other responsibility is protecting the industry.
“The Guild participates in decision making at the local, state and federal level. We stay out of lobbying and leave that to our individual members,” said Brian. “But we alert members and our board, by email and meetings, to legislative issues and other concerns.”
Oregon is one of the few states where the entire legislative congressional delegation is part of the Small Brewers Caucus, he said. “They all support the lower excise tax for U.S. brewers. Last June, Sen. Wyden sponsored a bill to give all alcohol manufacturers some excise tax relief. It has 24 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 100 in the House.”
Every June, right before Oregon Craft Beer Month in July, Brian holds a press conference about the economic impact of craft beer in Oregon, including information about the number of direct and indirect jobs created, number of barrels produced and sold here, the amount of charitable contributions and other economic indicators. For more information about the industry, upcoming Guild events or to learn how to become a SNOB, go to oregoncraftbeer.org.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer apps have come a long way since the days of iBeer (you remember: “drink beer” on your phone). Today’s apps include versatile, useful tools: everything from beer tour itinerary builders and brewing calculators to flavor guides and assistance with ordering a beer in multiple languages. There’s even a brewery game. Here are some must-haves for your device.
Note: Generally apps are available for phones and tablets, but your mileage may vary. Apps were evaluated on an iPhone 5s running iOS 8.4.1.
Search, rate, discuss
iOS and Android
Combines beer news, online discussion forums, beer style profiles, events and user ratings/reviews. A free account is required for this reference app from the folks behind BeerAdvocate magazine. Many features could be more robust, such as narrowing down events by location and date. Styles are brief but provide a solid, non-technical overview, followed by most popular beers in that style. Beer listings default to recent reviews, with one option of filtering by the top 250 instead. The search is useful if you know exactly what you want; improved filtering would make searching reviews more useful. Overall, though, a handy app that is a free alternative to RateBeer.
All-in-one homebrew assistant, calculator, tracker and brew journal
iOS, Android and Kindle
From its humble desktop origins, BeerSmith has expanded to online forums, social media popularity, a regular blog and podcast, and, of course, handy mobile apps. In addition to integrating with cloud storage and more than 68,000 recipes at beersmithrecipes.com, BeerSmith’s simple, easy-to-use app interface helps beginning and advanced brewers search, build and manage recipes; review profiles of hundreds of ingredients; track all steps in the brewing and fermentation process; and run brew timers, calculators and converters. Professionals such as Hanns Anderson, head brewer at Eugene’s McMenamins High Street, have used BeerSmith, and it has something to help your homebrewing too.
Be the sensory expert you wish you were
How many times have you been at a loss for words when describing a beer? Beer Judge turns your phone into a taster, a sensory analyst and an amateur spectrophotometer. The Flavor Wheel feature lists flavor and aroma descriptors, and the Off Flavors guide shows at-a-glance and detailed descriptions of flaws. Tap any color on the Standard Reference Method (SRM) spectrum graphic for an SRM value, or use your device’s camera with the app’s Analyzer to calculate an SRM (you wouldn’t use it for a brewing lab analysis, but it’s a good ballpark figure for happy hour technical evaluation). Perfect for beer tastings and enhancing your competition chops.
Is your beer in style?
iOS and Android
A just-the-facts compilation of official 2008 and 2015 BJCP official beer styles. When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you want to default to the 2008 or 2015 guidelines (you can switch between them at any time). Search for a style or scroll the list, then tap for the full profile. Text is well presented and easy to read, with controls to increase or decrease the size. While you can highlight and copy, functions to export to email, PDF or printing would be useful. A must-have for brewers, judges and enthusiasts.
Build your next beer tour
iOS and Android
Whether seeking out neighborhood places or planning a beer tour, BreweryMap builds itineraries and locates breweries, brewpubs, tasting rooms and more. Users can also add new listings or submit updates. The Road Trip function builds your next beer tour from start point to end point. Once you choose a route, the map fills in with pins. Tapping “List View” shows a list of locations in each locality: an Oregon Coast itinerary from Astoria to Brookings pulled up 21 locations in a 15-mile radius. Save itineraries for later reference too. The perfect app for the beertripper.
Who says brewing isn't a game?
iOS, Android and Windows
Whether you’re a homebrewer who dreams of owning a brewery or a beer pro who believes work is play, Fiz allows you to realize your dream of running your own brewery. With graphics and music reminiscent of ‘80s/’90s early Nintendo, Fiz allows you to start a brewery, analyze the market, develop recipes, brew beer, manage staff, enter competitions and more. Play during a few minutes’ break, or moonlight all weekend as a pixelated brewer. Fiz is rooted enough in reality to have real ingredients listed and a solid sense of the realities of brewing. And it’s fun enough that I better stop playing and finish writing this article.
Order a pint in 59 languages
Travel in foreign lands is all about mastering the basics of the local language. And it doesn’t get more essential than confidently ordering a beer in anything from Afrikaans (“n Bier, asseblief”) to Zulu (“nye ningi utshwala”). Pivo is simple, useful and fun for the global beertrotter. Alphabetically scroll a list of 59 languages, complete with phrase, phonetic pronunciation and video or audio. (Browse, search, or favorite functions would have minimized scrolling.) One caveat: this app’s last update was 2013 and is no longer being developed, but functionality was fine in testing. Does Google Translate do the same thing? Sí. Is it as cool? Nein.
Every beer everywhere
iOS and Android
Since 2000, RateBeer has become one of the beer world’s largest independent online communities and a go-to source for beer and location reviews and information. Take the pulse of any beer on the market: Who’s drinking it? What are they saying about it? Share what you think of what you drink, and rate where you’re enjoying that beer, cider, mead or sake. Whether searching by name or scanning a barcode, you get easy and quick access to beer data, including reviews, IBUs, ABVs, preferred glassware and more. Also curate your own wish lists and favorites, and search by location for bottle shops and watering holes near you.
A beer a day
iOS and Android
You know those “quotation a day” calendars that wind up under the Christmas tree? This is the beer version. Today’s Beer presents one beer, every day, along with beer info, bottle and pint views (with 360 degree rotation), beer color and more. (You can also look back at beers from the past seven days.) A simple interface with intuitive controls helps you dig as deep into a beer’s profile as you want. A must for beer hounds hunting inspiration, designers seeking ideas for novel labels and bottles, and anyone who knows that sometimes a bit of daily random inspiration is all you need to keep your palate dazzled and intrigued.
Never drink alone/
iOS, Android, and Windows
The “Facebook of beer” makes sure your drinking is always social. See the latest with the beer world in three main ways: “Friends” lets you see what folks you follow are doing. “Global” goes macro with updates from users all over the world. And “Nearby” tells you what users are enjoying in your area. Fancy an old favorite or something new? Seek out beers, pubs and breweries popular and nearby, and keep tabs on trends for the next tipple you should try.
OBG Blog Archives
Welcome to our archive pages! Read stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler from June 2012 to January 2018. For newer stories, please visit our new website at: