By the Brewers Association
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With more big labels snapping up smaller craft beer producers, the Brewers Association is making a move to help educate beer lovers about the origins of their beloved beverage. The not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers launched a new seal in July that’s meant to single out those businesses.
Featuring an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down, the seal captures the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer while informing beer lovers they are choosing a product from a brewery that is independently owned. These breweries run their businesses free of influence from other alcohol beverage companies that are not themselves craft brewers.
Independence is a hallmark of the craft brewing industry, and it matters to the brewers who make the beer and the beer lovers who drink it. A recent study commissioned by Brewbound and conducted by Nielsen found that “independent” and “independently owned” strongly resonated with the majority (81 percent) of craft beer drinkers. Increasingly, they are looking for differentiation between what’s being produced by small and independent craft brewers versus Big Beer and acquired brands. Beer drinkers, especially millennials, expect transparency when it comes to their food and beverages. That transparency and underlying ownership can drive their purchase intent.
“Independent craft brewers continue to turn the beer industry on its head by putting community over corporation and beer before the bottom line. They continue to better beer and our country by going beyond just making the beverage. These small businesses give back to their backyard communities and support thousands of cities and towns across the U.S.,” said Bob Pease, president & CEO, Brewers Association. “As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent. Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity — now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent.”
The seal is available for use, free of charge, by any of the more than 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers that have a valid Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Brewer’s Notice, meet the BA’s craft brewer definition and sign a license agreement. It is available to both member and non-member breweries of the BA. In the coming weeks, months and years, beer lovers will see it on beer packaging, at retailers and in brewery communications and marketing materials.
“Craft brewers build communities and the spirit of independent ownership matters” said Rob Tod, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors and founder of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. “When beer lovers buy independent craft beer, they are supporting American entrepreneurs and the risk takers who have long strived not just to be innovative and make truly great beer, but to also build culture and community in the process.”
While small and independent craft brewers represent 99 percent of the 5,300-plus breweries in the U.S., they make just 12 percent of the beer sold in the country. The rest of U.S. beer sales come from Big Beer along with imported brands. As large brewers continue to have unprecedented influence and acquire millions of barrels of formerly independently brewed beer, the seal differentiates in a crowded and increasingly competitive marketplace.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Effective May 1, Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Company has a new leader. In her five years at the company, though, chief executive officer Cheryl Collins has already been an integral force shaping the brewery’s culture. Now she’ll set the company’s overall course.
“Our core purpose has been, and will always be, to perpetuate better living,” says Collins. “My chief role in guiding and molding Ninkasi will be to continue our pursuit of perpetuating better living by building an effective team that aims to create an exceptional customer experience by producing quality craft beers.”
Co-founder Nikos Ridge stepped down as CEO to take the role of president and will continue to serve on the board. “The first 10 years of Ninkasi were about inventing ourselves as a company,” says Ridge in a press release. “The next chapter of Ninkasi is about taking the capabilities and teams we’ve built and aligning them even more to better serve our customers and craft beer fans.”
Since its founding in 2006, the 11-year-old brewery has grown to 103 employees in Eugene and other states. In 2016 Ninkasi produced approximately 100,000 barrels of beer and had sales of $30 million, and the Brewers Association ranked Ninkasi the 33rd largest U.S. craft brewery, up from 36th in 2015.
With more than 10 years of organizational leadership and development experience, Collins began at Ninkasi in 2012. A recipient of the Recruiter of the Year award from the University of Oregon, Collins has also been recognized as Manager of the Year by the Willamette Chapter Credit Union Association, and she holds two national awards from the Credit Union National Association for development and execution of training programs. Industry publications look to her leadership on small business best practices, and in 2016 Collins was the keynote speaker at the Oregon Manufacturers’ Summit.
Her time at Ninkasi, though, awakened Collins to the joy underlying craft beer. “It started with Ninkasi, the first time I heard a brewer describe what they had made,” she explains. “You could feel the passion that went into it; they talked about it similar to an artist talking about a painting. It was contagious. As I expanded my palate and began visiting other breweries, I noticed this trend throughout the industry. There is such great passion we all have in craft beer, how could you not enjoy it?”
In her role as chief people officer, Collins shook up the company — and the industry — with a radical proposal: get rid of performance reviews. The company agreed, leading to an ongoing evolution in how Ninkasi employees and management collaborate on professional improvement. The change was just one of many ways Collins modified company policy and practices to ensure that they built and maintained a cohesive, mutually supportive company culture — instead of being mere tools of employee compliance.
“My background and education is rooted in understanding and building organizational cultures,” says Collins. “Above all else, if leaders do not understand the importance of impact of culture, then everything else becomes more challenging. By being able to lead the organization with respect to culture and how we operate as a business, we will be able to position ourselves in an even more viable position in the future.”
As vice president of organizational development and chief operations officer, Collins spearheaded implementation of both cultural and operational initiatives. She instituted programs for employee recruitment, training and onboarding programs; continuous improvement strategies and best practices across brewery operations; team-building activities to nurture organizational culture; safety protocols and initiatives; leadership development programs; employer branding; and overarching company strategies.
“Cheryl has worked closely with every department across Ninkasi and is a pivotal force in pushing our teams to their full potential,” says Ridge. “Her leadership, coaching and strategic focus make this transition an obvious step forward.”
Now Collins expands her role to direct and lead the company both in its day-to-day operations and to guide long-term strategy. “I look forward to continuing our commitment to our core purpose — perpetuate better living — and working with our teams to develop innovative approaches to how we do business,” says Collins. “The door is open for new and innovative methods for how we operate as a business. We a have a team of creative and dedicated people who have made Ninkasi what it is today, and I’m excited to continue to help us improve and remain leaders in the industry.”
The craft beer industry is experiencing upheavals. Some independent brewers have been acquired, others have closed. And Collins knows she’ll encounter hurdles during her tenure as CEO. “Of the many challenges we face in the industry, the ones prevalent right now are the increasing number of breweries in the market and the impact of localization, both of which present growth challenges for most breweries,” says Collins. “As the industry continues to shift and change we will navigate these challenges through staying true to who we are at Ninkasi and listening to what our customers are saying.”
Whatever challenges come, she knows she can rely on Ninkasi’s collaborative culture. “People — both women and men — are passionate about craft beer, and all of us strive to make the industry better.”
As she takes up her duties as CEO, Collins will continue to lead with a belief that operations and culture are interdependent, and that the success, growth and health of one depends on the other. “It’s inspiring to be a part of a community with the level of commitment and engagement we see here at Ninkasi,” explains Collins. “You feel, believe and know you are part of something bigger than yourself; that level of inspiration is what we strive for every day.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The beer was flowing freely at The Workhouse on a recent Friday night.
Bottles and cans were scattered around long tables, as a group of about 30 women gathered at the Bend art gallery and studio. But only some of the beer was for drinking. The rest was for painting.
The women were there for a class taught by Karen Eland, who has gained fame for her ability to paint with things other than, well, paint.
A largely self-taught artist, Eland started painting with non-traditional media back in the late 1990s, when she first experimented with coffee.
She said she started painting with beer about eight years ago, when she moved to the beer mecca of Bend.
“It sort of dawned on me when I was surrounded by all this good beer, and actually, Bend was where I first liked beer. I never liked it before then,” Eland recalled. “And so I started off drinking dark beer and then I realized, ‘Oh, dark beer is dark. I can paint with that.’ Then I tried it out, and it worked.”
Eland’s artwork with beer spans a wide spectrum. She’s done whimsical takes on famous works of art (such as Rodin’s “The Thinker” reimagined as “The Drinker”; reproductions of iconic Guinness posters (painted with Guinness, of course); commissions for Deschutes Brewery and the Brewers Association, among others; and landscapes of iconic scenery in Oregon.
Perhaps her most famous work, at least in Oregon, is an installation than can be seen near the entrance of Worthy Brewing’s brewpub in Bend. For its opening in 2013, Worthy commissioned Eland to do four works of art, one panel for each of the main ingredients in beer: water, hops, barley and yeast.
Eland also sells prints and original pieces of art. And if you want to commission a piece to be done in beer, all you have to do is ask.
But now she is also teaching what she has learned from years of painting. Last fall, Eland started hosting classes where she shows others how to paint with coffee and beer.
Her most recent class was more of a private gathering of the Central Oregon Beer Angels (a social and fundraising group), but usually she holds one public beer-painting class each month.
The two-hour classes are more of a social gathering and an excuse to drink beer and try something new than a formal art class. Participants nosh on snacks and sip on beverages while they paint. (“I do like to at least have a sip of what I am using to paint with,” Eland confided. “But not too much,” she laughed.)
Students get a practice sheet and a pre-drawn sketch to fill in, along with an example piece to follow along with. Brushes and bowls full of beer -- Eland almost always paints with porters and stouts -- are scattered around the workspace.
“I’ll give them a few simple techniques, and then we jump into the actual painting,” Eland explained, noting that everyone completes the class with a finished piece of artwork to take with them. “Usually, it just kind of unfolds itself organically.”
The Beer Angels seemed to be having a good time, as the room buzzed with chatting along with periods of concentration as everyone tried to wrap up their artwork.
“It was really fun, and it felt creative to do this,” Tracey Wierman, of Bend, said while putting the finishing touches on her painting. “It didn’t even feel like I was painting with beer, really. It’s neat how the different shades come out.”
If you can’t make it to the class, Eland offered some advice for trying it at home. She suggested using watercolor brushes and paper -- the thicker the better. You can try using a dark beer right out of the bottle, pour it out and let it air dry to thicken it or microwave it a bit (although that doesn’t always produce a great aroma, Eland warned). From there, you just paint.
“I hope I don’t put myself out of a job telling people that, but that’s all there really is to it,” she said.
For more information on Eland’s art and classes, visit:
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A decade of hindsight later, it must have been a sign.
After months of planning, construction and delays, on July 5, 2005, Chip Hardy was finally ready to open the doors of Eugene’s The Bier Stein to the public. Soon, people would be able to purchase bottled beers and specialty craft beverages from all over the world.
There was just one problem.
“Cases of beer were everywhere,” says Hardy. “We had received a very huge order from Columbia Distributing.” So Hardy did the only thing he could: got the taps open instead. “We sold a lot of draft beer that day.”
A Sign of Things to Come
Co-owners and founders Hardy and his wife Kristina Measells had different plans, though. “The Bier Stein was originally supposed to be a craft beer store that you could eat and drink in,” explains Hardy. “Now we are a craft beer bar and restaurant that sells beer to go. What we have become wasn't our original intention, but we went with what our customers wanted, and it has been very successful.”
Listening to what customers wanted became an overall theme for how Hardy and Measells steered their course. Originally opening in a 2,100-square-foot space at 11th Avenue and Mill Street near the University of Oregon campus, it wasn’t easy to cram in 10 beer coolers, a kitchen, the 10-tap bar (later expanded to 12 taps) and seating. The Bier Stein quickly filled up with bottles, customers — and complaints: there just wasn’t enough room. “We had customers that stopped coming because it was too hard to find a seat,” says Hardy.
On April 15, 2013, The Bier Stein moved to a new location at 1591 Willamette St. The fully remodeled 12,000-square-foot bottle shop and restaurant features a large central bar, 18 LED-lit bottle coolers, 30 taps (and social media updates on tap changes), one cask engine, a private function area (with a separate 6-tap bar), a larger kitchen, and, above all, seating for 150.
The expansion made for other big changes too. Originally opening with a staff of three, The Bier Stein now employs 55, which “makes for a lot of HR work,” Hardy says.
More Breweries, More Selection, More Customers
Today, The Bier Stein is one of the largest beer bars on the West Coast, with a selection of more than a thousand beers, ciders, meads and other craft beverages. Its large selection and ongoing evolution is a response to a local and national craft beer scene that changes at a rapid pace.
“In the past 10 years, there are more breweries, more beer styles and better selection,” says Hardy. “We are able to give those breweries a showplace.”
However, trying to carry everything has to be balanced with tapping only what you can empty. “My sense on taps was only to have enough that we could sell and keep fresh,” explains Hardy. “We constantly rotate. Staying relevant means having an always-changing tap and bottle list, and the beer community has become more educated on what beer is.”
Public regard for The Bier Stein has also translated into accolades. In local newspaper Eugene Weekly’s annual “Best of Eugene” people’s choice awards, The Bier Stein regularly takes top slots for categories such as “Best Beers on Tap.” Readers of CraftBeer.com, the Brewers Association (BA) website for beer lovers, have also twice awarded “Great American Beer Bar” status to The Bier Stein for the Pacific region, as well as “Overall Great American Beer Bar” status in 2014.
“Winning this has given our place a sense of legitimacy,” says Hardy. “We are doing the right thing in the craft beer community: teaching, educating and tasting.”
Staying the Course
As The Bier Stein heads into its next decade, it’s time to celebrate — but also to stay true to their mission and customers. “We like having one location and doing it to the best of our ability,” says Hardy. “We’ll continue to provide our area with some of the best craft beers we can get a hold of and continue being one of the best beer bars in the country.”
July 6 marked the anniversary. A special selection of beers was available, including collaboration beers brewed with Agrarian Ales and Hop Valley. Anniversary plans also include “a large outdoor event” to be held later this summer.
For Hardy, marking The Bier Stein’s first decade is a big step on a long path that winds along with the larger community. “We are very happy the local craft beer community has supported us over the past 10 years, and we are also happy that our employees are so awesome,” he says. “The Bier Stein wouldn't be what it is today without them.”
At the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference, stainless steel was the order of the day for brewing tanks, bottling machines and tap systems that were on display at the trade expo. Exhibitors came from the United States, Germany, Canada, Chile, China, Italy, the Czech Republic, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Spain. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If the size of and attendance at the 32nd annual Craft Brewers Conference indicate the health of the industry, it’s thriving. The largest-ever event drew more than 11,000 brewing professionals and 600 exhibitors to Beervana in April for discussion, education, off-site events and tours.
Craft brewing continues its impressive surge. Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS, said that 2014 was the fifth straight year of double-digit growth.
Craft breweries opened at a rate of 1.7 per day -- 615 for the year — with 2,051 breweries in planning stages, according to Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association. He and Paul Gatza, the association’s director, presented an optimistic outlook at the opening session.
Total sales of craft beer were at 22.2 million barrels last year. Growth of 18 percent from the previous year continues to build as does pricing, which increased 3 percent. In fact, last year was the first where case sales increased by more than $1.
To further segment the market, brewpubs are leading the growth at 20 percent with incredible diversity in the brewpub model.
Steinman in his seminar “Halfway Home? Craft Continues Climbing, but Ascent Gets Complicated” said the hottest trend in craft right now is hyper local.
As examples he mentioned GoodLife Brewing Company and Worthy Brewing Company in Bend.
There are marked regional differences across the country, with Portland being the most developed (craft is nearly half of the market here), San Diego being the hottest (craft gained five shares for a total of 30 market shares) and Florida coming in as the most underdeveloped.
The consumers’ love affair with IPA continues. Half of craft growth was IPA and 20 of the top 50 brands are IPAs.
Storm clouds are brewing. Steinman noted that the first big shifts in the craft industry happened last year with several deals and acquisitions. “Growth is still turning the industry upside down. Big brewers and big money see this,” he said.
He counted 12 deals in the past 15 months with Anheuser-Busch InBev buying up Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company, Blue Point Brewing Company out of Patchogue, N.Y. and, of course, Oregon’s own 10 Barrel Brewing. Steinman projected himself inside the mind of A-B InBev, a $47 billion dollar company, and figured their logic was pretty simple — something along the lines of, “if you can’t beat ‘em, buy them” or even more transparent, “drop the price.”
Private equity groups accounted for six of the deals over the past year with several notable breweries selling part of their company -- Founders Brewing Co., Sweetwater Brewing Company, Oskar Blues Brewery and Southern Tier Brewing Company.
“Many crafts are starting to make real money. They can project future earning streams. They might potentially even go public. Craft is cool and investors see this and the prospect of outsized returns,” he said.
“Eventually, this could change the meaning of craft,” Steinman said.
He feels big brewers and big money are a disruptive force in the craft segment and wonders if the “soul of craft” is starting to erode.
Other concerns, said Watson, are overexpansion with the consequent issue of keeping beer in stock and distribution problems with more reports of wholesale difficulties. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration created a fuss over spent grain last year that fizzled out and mostly went away, but the big issue now is menu labeling, which is required for all chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets. The concern is that small breweries will be responsible for providing the required nutritional components of their beers.
Long-term environmental conditions, like climate change and water availability, are a concern for brewers and all food producers. “The movement of hop breeding from public to private” is another red flag, said Watson.
Although Gatza said craft brewers are the “belle of the ball” with state legislators, Steinman cautioned that craft brewers still don’t rule politics, especially not the feds, and he does not think the Small BREW Act, which seeks to reduce the federal excise tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50 percent, is likely to pass.
Still, craft is well on its way to putting up another year of strong double-digit growth.
Steinman proposed a couple of things to watch. First, it’s possible that those who sell a share to private equity could, because of the infusion of cash, do even better. Second, there’s also a chance the small, independent craft brewer retains an image advantage.
Watson noted some promising trends, including an overall growth of off-premise sales at places like sporting events, growing production of sessionable beers, convenience stores starting to figure out craft and a prevailing emphasis on quality.
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