By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The runner’s high. You’ve likely heard of it. Maybe you’ve even experienced it. This exercise-induced state of euphoria has eluded many, however. Some are much more likely to find that joy and exhilaration at the bottom of a pint after pounding the pavement. Happily for those casual runners who are moved to sign up for the occasional 5K primarily for the after party, there’s a new series of regularly scheduled runs tailored just for you.
The Oregon Brewery Running Series offers the all of the trappings of an official competition: a finish line, a guy with a megaphone who yells ‘Go,’ and even bibs you can personalize with colored markers in order to look legit while huffing and puffing around Portland’s neighborhoods. But the experience is pressure free. There are no personal timing chips or gold medals. And true euphoria hits at the end when you’re surrounded by fellow runners congratulating each other for completing the route back at the pub.
Despite Portland’s abundance of breweries, the series didn’t originate here. It all began five years ago in Minneapolis and expanded to Oregon after a Minnesota transplant recognized the program his friend had launched back home would fit perfectly in the Pacific Northwest. “I mean, the beer capital of the world; arguably the running capital of the world,” described Nathan Freeburg, events and marketing manager of the Oregon chapter. “I said, like, ‘This is where we need to have the Brewery Running Series.’”
Freeburg’s motivation to bring the beer run west was also, he admitted, a little self-serving. “Moving out here was really hard because I was staying home with the kids and not working a normal office job. And I was very involved in the running community back in Minnesota, so it’s just like this is how I’m going to get connected and plugged in. Throughout my life, running has been such a critical focal point of my own social life and community,” he explained.
So the running guy found himself a beer guy to help round up breweries that would serve as the start and finish of each route. That’s where Drew Klinsing’s inquisitive taste buds came in. The self-described foodie in his friend group, Klinsing’s longtime hobby has been exploring all things edible in Portland. He’s the go-to for dinner recommendations and would make a pilgrimage to the Oregon Brewers Festival even when living out of state. Freeburg, having relied on Klinsing’s advice for date night destinations in the past, reached out to see if he’d be interested in a partnership and together they brought six breweries on board last fall. There are now four seasons of runs that last for four straight weeks with breaks of about two months in between each segment.
During a recent event held at Lompoc Brewing, some 70 participants — most in tank tops and nylon shorts in preparation for temperatures that promised to soar into the upper 80s that day — searched for a sliver of temporary shade near the pub’s back patio awaiting Freeburg’s announcement that they could take off at 11 a.m. Unlike a massive event like the Starlight or Shamrock, the course remains open. Cordoning off streets would cost thousands of dollars, which isn’t feasible when there aren’t also thousands of runners paying registration fees. But that simply means abiding by the rules we were taught as preschoolers: look both ways and follow directions. There’s actually an added benefit of maneuvering through an uncontrolled environment — you get to experience different neighborhoods and interact with people in a way that an event with tens of thousands of bodies crammed together doesn’t allow. For instance, about a mile into the Lompoc route along North Williams Avenue, participants carefully hopped over a garden hose stretched across the sidewalk as the homeowner sprayed the willing with skin already glistening from sweat. Nearby, a toddler motivated passersby with claps and high-fives from the edge of his yard.
Directionally challenged runners need not worry about taking a wrong turn and accidentally stretching the 5K into an 8K. Freeburg runs each route at least once beforehand and knows where to place volunteers with signs at critical corners and crossings, guiding you back to the brewery where rewards await. As part of the $30 sign-up cost, participants get a beer, brewery or running swag, live entertainment and snacks from small businesses based in state.
“A good way to think about it is like a craft run,” explained Klinsing. “So Shamrock is like a mass run. What we’re trying to do is a craft run where it would be craft beer and we’re also partnering with local craft artisans.”
Beyond supporting those entrepreneurs, another objective of the series is charity. Two fitting organizations benefit from a portion of the entry fee: Portland Parks Foundation and Oregon Brewshed Alliance, which works to protect forests and waterways. “Because we know that Portland cares about social justice — it’s an important thing that our community is a part of as well,” said Klinsing. “People don’t just want to run for no reason. It’s fun to run for beer, but it’s also fun to run when it’s giving back to our community in a meaningful way.”
But perhaps the most significant outcome of the program so far is the community it has fostered. At the Lompoc run, most attendees had sweated through more than one of the 5Ks in the past and many had a handful of runs under their elastic waistbands. A few had finished nearly all in the series. Freeburg and Klinsing have found that bonding comes more easily to strangers who’ve shared a journey — even a short one — and can then talk about it over a beer. That’s why the group size will never swell to several hundred people. The average turnout of 125 isn’t too big to hinder those interpersonal connections from taking place, but that number is just big enough so that you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself as the collective energy builds.
“One of our goals for this is around that sense of community and fun and togetherness,” Freeburg said. “We’re going to stop doing this if — it’s a bit hard to measure — but if people don’t hang out after, it’s probably a good sign that they’re not having fun. They don’t feel connected. If there’s not much repeat business, that’s probably another indicator that we’re doing something wrong.”
Based on the lingering crowd at Lompoc, there’s no danger of that happening anytime soon. And many participants seem to discover that if they can complete one 5K, they’re ready to take on another. Active events that incorporate beer like this one may just end up taking an important, yet often unfulfilled, role as health advocates in craft brewing culture. After all, it’s hard to beat that sense of accomplishment when reaching the finish line — no matter how long it took the first time out.
“One thing I love about running in general is that everyone has different goals. Everyone can achieve — like whether or not you’re finishing a 15-minute 5K or a 55-minute 5K — that could be the fastest you’ve ever gone. And in some sense, you have the same sense of, ‘I did this. This is amazing,’” Freeburg said. “And it really doesn’t matter your skill level.”
Runner’s high, achieved.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Breweries use and support the arts in different ways. For Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Company, support of the arts and collaboration with artists has been key to the 10-year-old brewery’s brand and growth.
“The forward-thinking use of artwork in our creative has been a significant factor in the success of our brand,” explains Jon Rogers, Ninkasi’s chief marketing officer.
In 2015 Ninkasi launched an Artist in Residence (AIR) Program, which celebrates its first anniversary this month. In addition to his work for bands such as The Black Keys and Dave Matthews Band, Eugene artist Neal Williams created art for Ground Control, an imperial stout fermented with yeast that survived a trip to space and back. He’s now been working with Ninkasi for a year as their current AIR, but plans are for him to continue working with the brewery’s in-house design and marketing teams.
“When I came to Ninkasi, I got the chance to see the brewing process and learn more about the care and attention to detail that goes into the beer,” says Williams. “It's all about taking the time to produce something of quality. I feel exactly the same way about my illustration work.”
With the 10-year anniversary coming up, Williams, Ninkasi’s design teams and co-founder Jamie Floyd all decided it was time to refresh Ninkasi’s beer branding.
“Neal did our Dawn of the Red rebrand,” explains Floyd, “but the full rebrand is a team effort, including Neal. They worked together to create those new looks. The beers have character, and they have personalities. It’s good for us to be able to give some personalities to things and have it look right. The rest of our brand has shifted to more of a graphic style, and have more stories that make it look like a brand suite, that gives it all continuity.”
Ninkasi recently released the new looks as part of their first full rebrand. Part of the success of the new look, says Floyd, is that Ninkasi’s in-house design and marketing teams can work alongside brewing and sales teams. Through meetings with brewers, marketing and sales, designers and artists gain a better understanding of the stories and journeys that each beer has gone through, from development to customer feedback.
“Our art team has made some incredible strides,” says Floyd. “Having so many skills in-house is amazing, and it helps a lot to have it in-house. We can see things all the way through, and have creative ideas that are not borrowed. The brewing team shares research beers they’re doing and [they] get a chance to talk about the beers and why they’re doing them. If those beers become beers we produce commercially, then the marketing team knows what the brewers thought, and that really gets their creative juices going.”
Ninkasi’s interest in the arts also leads to some arts that you might not normally think of — such as running. Running is a large part of Ninkasi’s company culture, including an end-of-run pint (a Wednesday employee running club finishes at the tasting room). “We thought that a lot of times breweries tried to make beers for runners, it didn’t work,” says Floyd. “We are runners, and we know that when we’re done we don’t want a light lager — we want an IPA. And we just ran, so we don’t worry about the extra calories. ”
Creating the beer went beyond usual test brews and pilot batches. During March and April, initial batches were produced and distributed to runners at 25 Beer Run Test Batch events, held nationwide in partnership with local running communities. “It was great to get the input of what runners wanted and do test batches with them,” says Floyd. “Running clubs liked it too because they were involved, and felt involved. It was a lot of fun, and it worked.
Ninkasi is now partnering with local wholesale partner Bigfoot Beverages and TrackTown USA, the local organizing committee for the Olympic Trials, to bring Beer Run to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field during the July 1–10 competition. Beer Run IPA will be on tap at four locations during the Trials, which are expected to attract over 172,000 fans.
For Floyd and Rogers, the arts are at the heart of Ninkasi. “We bring multiple artists with varied skills into our brewery,” states Rogers. “Our goal is to continue to enhance our brand, our workplace and the greater Ninkasi community.”
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: