By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Bend artist MaryLea Harris wasn’t a beer fan when she moved to Bend four years ago. But she quickly learned to love the artwork that changes annually on the packaging for Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale.
“When we moved here, I remember being at the grocery store here in Bend and there was this amazing display of beer,” Harris said. “I was blown away by the artwork on the cases of beer, and I actually bought one because the art was so cool. I had no idea what the beer inside would taste like, but it was so pretty I had to buy it.
“There’s judging the book by its cover, this was buying beer by its box.”
Just four years later, Deschutes tapped Harris to create the artwork for the 30th anniversary of Jubelale, the brewery’s signature winter beer. And for the occasion, Harris accomplished a first in Jubelale history — Deschutes actually commissioned four pieces of art for this year’s beer. Harris’ series of snowflakes appear on different bottles in each package.
“I suggested the idea of doing a series,” Harris said. “Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two beers are alike.”
Harris specializes in mixed media. And while that might be difficult to pick up from the two-dimensional beer packaging, paint wasn’t the only medium employed in creating the art that inspired the labels. Harris’ snowflake series uses plaster, acrylic paint and Jubelale posters glued to the background.
The result was the latest unique take on winter in Oregon for the Deschutes seasonal. Even though Harris is an experienced artist, the project could be intimidating at times. Deschutes approached Harris to do the artwork in April. When she met with the brewery’s founder Gary Fish, she wondered what she had gotten herself into.
“He took me through the gallery of the past artwork and told me what we liked and didn’t like about each piece,” Harris said. “I walked out of it like, ‘Please don’t mess this up.’
“But the best advice Gary gave me was when he told me: ‘We still want you to make it your art. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s only beer.’”
The turnaround time from commission to completion was just under a month, which presented challenges beyond the timeframe.
“I was painting at Easter time trying to channel wintry thoughts,” Harris said laughing, recalling the process. “So I actually psyched myself out by closing the blinds to my studio. I played Christmas music. I burned a candle that smelled like a wood fire. I made hot cocoa.”
She also had inspiration from the Bend art community, to which Deschutes usually goes for the Jubelale commissions. From living in Bend, Harris eventually got to know Avlis Leumas, who did the artwork for the “owl” Jubelale in 2013 that so struck her when she moved here. As she came up with this year’s art, she confided in Karen Ruane, a good friend who did the 2016 label. (The Jubelale art is often kept “top secret” until its release.)
Harris said she approached the process perhaps a bit differently than some past artists likely did. With a background in marketing as well as fine art, Harris said she was very concerned with producing images that would look good on the packaging, even though that part is taken care of by Deschutes’ marketing team.
“My trick when I was painting, I would take photos of the painting, and then hold my phone with the photo up to a beer bottle and see how it was going to look at that size and shape,” Harris said. “It really helped the process.”
Four years ago, when Harris and her family moved here, she said she wasn’t a big fan of beer. But drinking a Black Butte Porter soon after she got to Bend changed her tune. “I became a Deschutes girl from the very beginning,” Harris said.
Now the art of the converted beer drinker is on shelves around the country.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Surrounded by fans of The Bier Stein taking in the game or beering up for their own football festivities, Troy Potter can hardly believe that a few months ago he wasn't the new owner of Eugene's The Bier Stein. Working in sales at Ninkasi Brewing Company, Potter was happy where he was.
“I didn’t have a desire to be a business owner,” says Potter, “unless the perfect situation came up.”
Then it did.
At the 2016 Oregon Country Fair, Potter was having a beer with his longtime friends Kristina and Chip Hardy, founders of The Bier Stein. “Around one in the morning, I happened to mention, ‘If you ever want to sell, please talk to me first,’” says Potter. “They stopped, they giggled and said they’d been considering selling the place.”
The Hardys felt ready to pursue non-business interests, but didn’t want to be absentee owners. For the next year, when Potter wasn’t working as part of Ninkasi’s national sales team and managing accounts on the East Coast, he quietly evaluated buying the business.
“I was happy, making good money at a good job,” says Potter, “but when this opportunity came up, my wife and I talked about it and realized it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.”
On Aug. 1, 2017, Potter and silent partner Jon Farah officially became owners of The Bier Stein.
A Long Way From Cleveland
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Potter was 21 when in 1991 he grabbed his backpack and bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to Portland.
“I fell in love with craft beer, day one,” says Potter. “I spent six months drinking Widmer Hefeweizen with lemon, then Full Sail Amber, then Deschutes Black Butte Porter. But Bridgeport IPA was a game changer. I’ve been in love with IPAs ever since.”
After working as bar manager at an Italian restaurant and Kells Irish Pub, Potter’s interest in craft beer led him to jobs with McMenamins and Rogue. In 2007, his wife was about to graduate from Reed College, and they’d heard about a new brewery in Eugene. The day after graduation they moved south, where Potter became one of Ninkasi’s first employees. Fast-forward 10 years, Potter was learning how to be an owner.
Potter and Farah began working with a bank to navigate the “long, drawn-out process” of getting a Small Business Administration loan. Potter also worked side-by-side with the Hardys to understand day-to-day operations and get advice. Along with respecting the Hardy’s wishes to keep the sale quiet, Potter had signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t say anything to his colleagues. Then, finally, “the bank put everything in writing, and I gave my 30-day notice,” says Potter. “It was a surprise at Ninkasi.”
Smooth Transition, Strong Future
Founded in 2005, The Bier Stein began as a 2,100-square-foot bottle shop and beer bar between downtown Eugene and the University of Oregon campus. In 2012, The Bier Stein moved to a 12,000-square-foot building. Now offering more than 1,000 beers in bottles and from 30-plus taps, The Bier Stein seats 185 and has 50 employees. And that, says Potter, is how he wants things to be.
“The staff and managers are amazing, and everyone was excited to stay on,” says Potter. “I didn’t change one thing. Not the menu, not the beer. That turnkey aspect was in its truest form. Why change something that’s working perfectly?”
Potter is at the shop each day, working with managers and on marketing, advertising and overall operations. “I’ve also been bussing tables, running food. I intend to work in the kitchen and the bar too — keep my finger on the pulse and connect with customers,” says Potter. “The Bier Stein is about the best beer and the best customer experience. That’s what will keep The Bier Stein strong.”
Plans include growing The Bier Stein’s reputation as a destination and craft beer institution. “About 35 percent of our customers come from outside of Eugene, based on word of mouth.”
Increased customer education is also a priority. Potter wants all staff — including himself — to have Level Two Cicerone Certifications. “New customers come in, and they might know a little about beer, but it can be hard to come up to those cooler doors and pick a beer,” says Potter. “Something we can make better is to be there with customers and help them make that bottle purchase.”
Overall, Potter sees his role not as a game changer, but as the next generation. “My goal coming into The Bier Stein is not to change anything,” he explains. “My goal is to grab that torch that Chip and Kristina created and carry it forward. We’re going to keep it about the beer.”
The Bier Stein
1591 Willamette St., Eugene
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Whether choosing the life of a brewer or the life of a musician, it’s a choice that means committing to a challenging career that often requires long hours. Those who succeed are the ones who combine skill and commitment to crafting a product that they not only can be proud of, but their fans can consume.
John Harris, an icon in Oregon craft brewing, has managed to balance his primary career as a brewer with a love of music by sitting in as a guest for bands with both a local and national reach. As a kid, John said he was "always banging on stuff," which led to banging on things in a more musical manner — playing the drums in junior high band. Between band and private lessons, he learned to read music and keep rhythm, skills that he would draw upon years later. Attending a concert in 1985 he saw Billy Hults, a washboard player who, according to his posthumous induction into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, "played with about everyone in Portland in the ‘70s and ‘80s." John thought what he was doing with the washboard looked fun and he proceeded to pick one up for himself at a thrift store.
When asked how he learned to play it, John replied "You just kind of do it." No doubt his background in playing the drums helped him figure it out, and for a couple of years he was officially part of a band called the Hardly Boys. Being a musician generally isn't a high-paying gig and since washboard players don't hold the cache that a lead guitarist or vocalist does, there’s a greater likelihood that they won't be paid often, so when he was kicked out of the band it wasn’t the blow it could have been. At the time, John was beginning a career in brewing, something that would be at least a bit more lucrative than playing the washboard.
In 1986, John had a roommate that saw a brewer position advertised in Willamette Week by McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House and encouraged him to apply for what he felt should be "his job." John had done some homebrewing and read up as much as he was able to on it, which didn’t amount to much formal literature at the time. Feeling light on qualifications, he was somewhat surprised when McMenamins offered him the position. His boss proclaimed his chances of success directly from the get-go: he would either get the flow of brewing or not. As it turned out, John got it.
Two years later, with some professional brewing experience under his belt, he once again saw an ad, this time with Deschutes Brewery in Bend. They were looking for someone with two years of experience, which was considered a lot at that time. John knew that this was his job to go after and he was in a position to be able to relocate to Bend, which is what he proceeded to do after accepting the job.
When he came on board at Deschutes, owner Gary Fish taught him to brew three year-round offerings: a golden ale, a bitter and a porter along with seasonal beers. John's first seasonal was a wheat, followed by what is now a Deschutes staple — Mirror Pond. Sales of it quickly outpaced the bitter 3-to-1. But even with numbers to prove its popularity, Gary resisted replacing the bitter with Mirror Pond. He finally gave in a bit by bringing it on as a nine-month seasonal.
While John and his beers were successful at Deschutes, he said living in Bend wasn't much fun for someone who was an outsider. After four years, an opportunity with Full Sail Brewing came along that would allow John (and his now-wife) to return to Portland. John had known the Full Sail guys before they started looking for someone to head up their Portland location and both parties were comfortable with the autonomy John would have to run Portland operations.
Compared to the amount of beer the Bend facility turned out, the Portland location’s annual maximum capacity of 5,000 barrels was small, but it allowed John to continue to develop new beers for the Full Sail Brewmasters Reserve series. It was there that he also got the chance to learn more about the business of having a brewery, which included traveling with distributors and selling what he was making. From the beginning, John had viewed Full Sail as a good place to work and it was a solid job for a guy with a wife and two young kids. John was loyal to his job and ended up spending 20 years at Full Sail.
Throughout his career as a brewer, John continued to nourish his love of music, attending concerts and getting to know bands. That interest garnered invitations to play a lot with local bands Crawdads of Pure Love (based in Eugene), Ed and The Boats, and The Buds of May. He has even played with national bands such as The Mother Truckers, Zero, and Kingfish, fitting in appearances around their touring schedules and his brewing schedule -- a brewing schedule that changed in 2012 when he left Full Sail.
Some might have considered a 26-year run as a brewer a good one, especially when taking into consideration that he created recipes for Mirror Pond, Black Butte, Jubelale and Obsidian, among other things. Perhaps this would be when John started to think about spending his time doing something else. In his own way, John was. He was brewing up a plan for opening his own place and applying what he’d learned on both the brewing and business sides at Full Sail. In 2013 he opened Ecliptic Brewing, a brewpub whose name and the names of the beer, along with its interior design, speak to another love of John's: astronomy. When you have your own place, you set the rules -- and at Ecliptic, John has also brought music into the mix with a regular schedule of live performances. One band in particular, Off the Cuff, plays often -- with John shifting from brewer/owner to washboard player when he can.
Beyond the regular schedule of live music at Ecliptic, John has put together an event that will take place there Thursday, June 16th. Brewers and Their Bands will feature five brewers and bands they play with: John and Off the Cuff, The Moonshine with Max Skewes of Burnside Brewing, Indiana Tex Mex with Matt Swihart of Double Mountain Brewery, and Left Coast Convicts with Shaun Kalis of Ruse Brewing. The music will start around 5:30 p.m. and it will surely be an evening filled with great music, great beer and great people whose talents go beyond the brew kettle.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A beer drinker doesn’t have to look far to see Deschutes Brewery’s connection to Oregon’s natural resources and the environment: It’s on almost every label the Bend-based company makes, from Mirror Pond Pale Ale to Black Butte Porter.
But its commitment to the environment goes far beyond some artfully done bottles. The most recent example came just a few months ago when Deschutes won the 2015 Oregon Sustainability Award in the Business category, presented at the Northwest Environmental Conference & Tradeshow in Portland. The state-awarded honor intends to “promote and advance the inclusion of sustainable practices in government and the private sector.”
Serena Dietrich, the sustainability project manager at Deschutes, says being mindful of the environment is one of the core values for the brewery. “It is embedded into our culture,” Dietrich says. “From the beginning, our founder Gary Fish has been about doing things right, no matter how hard it may be at the time.”
Of course, being environmentally sensitive was likely much easier back in 1988 — when Deschutes was founded and obviously much smaller — than today, when it ranks as one of the largest breweries in the country.
The biggest sustainability effort Deschutes undertakes is the restoration of a billion gallons of water annually to the eponymous Deschutes River, which is just a short walk from the brewery. Working with the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) since 2012, the brewery makes a donation to the organization’s water leasing program, which pays farmers to lease their irrigation water and legally protect that water.
Why is that necessary, and what’s that mean for the river?
“In the spring and summer, water flows are greatly decreased in the river due to irrigation withdrawals. By increasing flows in the Deschutes River through the leasing program, fish habitat is revitalized and water quality is improved,” said Dietrich, who also noted that the water restoration also enhances ecosystems for plants and other animals.
The Deschutes Brewery partnership marks the largest private donation made to the DRC to date. The one billion gallon donation also equates to 14 times more water than the brewery and all of its suppliers use to make beer each year. That includes Deschutes’ pubs and everyone in the brewery’s supply chain (hop and grain growers), according to the DRC website.
The work Deschutes does with the DRC is just part of the company’s sustainability efforts, though. There is, of course, the fact that Deschutes has a sustainability project manager in Dietrich. There is also a sustainability committee that features employees from throughout the company, Dietrich says.
The company also makes contributions to a number of other environmental organizations. In 2015, the list of groups Deschutes contributed to include the Deschutes Land Trust, The Environmental Center, The Freshwater Trust and the Western Environmental Law Center.
Other environmentally-minded efforts at Deschutes include:
— Deschutes attempts to recycle nearly everything it can, from packaging material to kegs.
— About 70 percent of the glass used to make Deschutes’ bottles comes from recycled bottles, which reduces the amount of energy required to make new ones.
— Deschutes pays a company to take its “high-strength beer waste,” which also happens to be rich in nutrients. That waste is used to fertilize farms.
Deschutes also endeavors to put the ingredients it uses to make beer to good use, once they’ve gone through the brewing process. Spent grain and hops are combined and sold as cow feed throughout Oregon, which eliminates processing and reduces waste while providing healthy food for cattle.
Some of that effort is tangible in the Bend brewpub, which has had a working relationship with the Borlen Cattle Company since 1995. The company picks up spent grain and hops for feed and, in exchange, the pub buys beef from Borlen for use in its burgers.
Dietrich says Deschutes’ measures keep approximately 11,000 tons of spent grain out of landfills annually.
Deschutes certainly puts a lot of effort into its environmental practices to keep Central Oregon’s beauty intact for future generations. But Dietrich says the current sustainability efforts are just part of a work in progress.
“Even with all the effort, we continue to learn, assess and grow with our surroundings,” Dietrich says. “Keeping a focus on preserving our environment and community has always been a factor.”
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s easy to tell when a novel flavor has arrived — you can spot it everywhere. For example, Sriracha, the tongue-tingling sauce with the distinct red rooster on the bottle, has exploded in popularity during the last few years and found its way into an interesting array of products — from Lay’s chips to popcorn, candy canes to lollipops, and even bitters and beer. When a flavor is all the rage, you can safely bet that Moonstruck’s master chocolatier was incorporating it into his confections years before it was cool. However, Julian Rose has discovered that one of the problems with being an innovator is that not everyone is ready to embrace a new taste.
“Historically, here at Moonstruck we’ve done stuff ahead of trends,” he explained. “I did a Sriracha truffle in 2008. Virtually nobody knew about Sriracha. I thought it was a great kind of cool flavor — a little bit spicy, tomato-y. So we did that and then we saw that we had to explain to people what Sriracha is.”
Let’s just say the truffle with the foreign name didn’t fly off store shelves. But Rose’s latest experiment has found the right audience at just the right time. The Moonstruck Oregon Craft Brewers Collection is selling well with both beer lovers and chocolate aficionados who wouldn’t normally lift a pint to their lips. While the bottle top-shaped treats made their debut last September, it’s hard to resist the splurge of chocolate during a month that’s practically defined by sweet offerings and significant others. And in a world of imperfect pairings, it’s worth highlighting the union of beer and chocolate this February, along with how they came to live happily ever after, together.
Ideas come to fruition at Moonstruck in a modestly sized room tucked away in the bottom floor of the chocolate maker’s Portland headquarters. Rose’s office — part kitchen, part lab — has a view of the factory on one side, where he can see a “prototype” launched on a larger scale. To the other side, a wall of windows reveals one of the best views in the city: the repeating Gothic arches of the St. Johns Bridge. That pistachio-tinted span often serves as inspiration for Rose when he develops new confections. He described how objects — both mundane and profound — can spark ideas.
“I leave my mind very open, so I can see a sculpture and it’s going to trigger something. I can see a little egg and it’s going to trigger something else,” he said while gesturing to some new Easter-themed candy under development.
The concept for the Craft Brewers Collection came in a similar fashion — one day he looked down at a dozen colorfully arranged brews.
“I had a party at home and, you know, I’ve opened a case of beer many times and when I opened — so now more than a year ago around Christmas — I opened the box, a seasonal box with four different beers,” Rose described. “And that’s what triggered, I’m like, that’s my hook. I need to make it look like a beer cap. And that was the beginning of about six months of work.”
Up until that moment, Rose had been kicking around ideas for a follow-up to his wildly successful Oregon Distillers Collection — the best-selling assortment that Moonstruck has ever done. He’d made a few beer truffles before, but the simple, brown squares were missing that “Wow!” factor.
“There was no — what we call in the business — no hook,” Rose said.
But he found his attention getter for the new collection the day he hosted that party. Rose then got to work on the sample — he used a tube-like mold that’s tapered on one end to mimic the shape of a bottleneck for the truffles, secured the tops with real bottle caps as placeholders for the chocolate versions he’d later create, and placed them in a box that opened with top flaps just like a case of beer. The master chocolatier with more than three decades of experience in the sweets industry then made some house calls. That’s right — Rose didn’t send some marketing rep or salesperson. He personally visited four different breweries — Deschutes, Full Sail, Rogue and Widmer — to pursue a partnership. It didn’t take much convincing. Everyone was on board. Rose had just one moderate obstacle once he got the unanimous “Yes.” He wasn’t sure he could produce the truffles.
“I sold the idea that I could make it without knowing if I could make it!” Rose laughed. “It was a great creative incentive to make it happen, because now I saw that people were excited with it.”
Rose ended up sending an actual bottle cap to a chocolate mold maker who was then able to manufacture sheets featuring rows and rows of crown-shaped depressions. Cap colors were carefully matched to what’s used by the breweries in order to silk screen images with cocoa butter on the flat surfaces. But a “stop-the-presses” moment occurred not once, but twice during the process. Widmer ended up changing its Hefeweizen cap from gold to black initially, and later Deschutes altered the shape of its logo from an oval to a circle while shifting colors as well. Fortunately, the requests came before anything was finalized. All of the tops so closely resemble those that seal the actual bottles, people aren’t sure you can actually eat them.
“And that’s the No. 1 question we have when people see it for the first time. They think it’s a real beer cap,” Rose said, emphasizing they are, indeed, edible. “You can pop the cap with your teeth and your dentist is not going to freak out.”
Consumers may also wonder whether Rose has recreated the flavor of the beers with other ingredients or if full kegs are part of the recipe. The answer will likely please beer geeks.
“So it’s got a very organic approach to it that it’s actually made with the given beer,” said Rose. “It’s not flavor-enhanced or any kind of masked. It’s the beer.”
Rose uses a beer reduction, boiling it down to eliminate the alcohol and carbonation, which raised some questions early on.
“And a couple of brewers were like, ‘Isn’t that, like, very bitter?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but the chocolate is sweet, so it all balances out.’”
Rose developed about three versions of the chocolates, taking them to the owners, brewers and marketing employees for taste tests. He explained that their descriptions and feedback were valuable and allowed him to return to his kitchen and create something that accurately represents the flavor profiles of the beer. For example, since Hefeweizen is often served with a slice of lemon, Widmer asked Rose to add a touch of citrus oil.
“So it’s not obvious,” Rose said, “but it’s there. And it reflects closely what your experience would be with a Hefe, with chocolate of course.”
If you could taste Oregon, the truffle collection would stand in as a pretty delicious summary. The featured ingredients, such as hazelnuts, hops, chocolate and craft beer, are also part of the state’s identity. One of Rose’s favorite aspects of this endeavor was creating something that represented the area.
“What I discovered with pairing up with these four companies is all of them and us [Moonstruck] were basically founded within a five-year span,” he shared. “So all of these breweries started in the late ‘80s and we started in the early ‘90s, so I realized these were the pioneers also. These were the people that fought for having more liberal laws and more distribution and more tasting rooms, so they’re kind of the fathers of craft brewing in Oregon. And they happen to be great people to work with, so it was a fun project overall and I think it’s very Oregon.”
Rose expressed some concern about beer drinkers questioning or perhaps even criticizing the collaboration with four of the state’s larger breweries instead of up-and-comers. In addition to serving as a nod to some of the industry’s groundbreakers, working with established businesses helped launch the project. Rose had several more breweries in mind if any of the participants had declined. He sounded enthusiastic about future editions of the collection with different beer makers and mentioned that a second round of truffles could possibly be developed next year.
Brewers often say their profession is a mix of art and science and Rose can draw parallels to that description of work. Consistency, of course, is key and part of the science in beer and chocolate. Creating the ganache for the truffle is all about precision, too. Unlike a restaurant chef, a pinch of this and a splash of that won’t lead to a good product “because percentage, proportion, and speed and temperature all play a little role in executing this little filling, over and over, well,” Rose explained. Additionally, he believes that both Moonstruck and brewers pride themselves on taking advantage of the best ingredients and, when possible, locally sourced ingredients.
Collaboration is nothing new in the world of craft beer, and Rose also adheres to the ethos that sharing and transparency only make you better.
“Well, No. 1 for me — there’s no real big secret. Years and years ago, I realized that everyone has access to the same ingredients,” Rose said of him and other chocolatiers. “They can buy the same, virtually the same, chocolate. They can buy the same cream. They can buy the same butter. And what makes my chocolate so good — well, it’s the workmanship. It’s the knowledge. It’s the good palate.”
He went on to say the same applies to brewers. Despite their ability to obtain similar adjuncts, the beers don’t turn out identical. Learning from others and watching innovation forces everyone to work a little harder — at least those who are truly passionate about their craft. Rose acknowledged that he could just rest on his laurels, but that would be pretty dull.
As Feb. 14 approaches, Rose’s workdays will get a little busier. It’s one of several times throughout the year where chocolate is in high demand. When Rose used to teach, he looked into the research behind the chocolate/romance link. He posited that women interact with and experience chocolate differently from men.
“And you can easily prove it. You can open a box … you offer it and a guy’s going to take all of it and put it in his mouth and go, ‘Ah, it’s great,’” Rose said. “You offer it to a woman, she’s going to bite a little piece and then roll the eyes [with pleasure] and it’s like passion. It’s sensual. It’s flavor. It evokes emotion more in women.”
So what will the man who makes so many Valentine’s Day gifts for others be doing on one of the most romantic evenings of the year?
“Probably not eating chocolate,” he laughed. “I shouldn’t say that, but probably not. I’m not sure. In our world, when it’s the actual holiday, that’s our downtime. So I’ll probably just not go to a restaurant, not go out. I’ll go out before Valentine’s or after — I’m not stuck on the date — and just kind of relax and have a beer or two and take it easy.”
Relaxing and having a beer or two — now that sounds like a date any craft lover can appreciate.
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