By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In advance of opening for the season on June 2, Detering Orchards sent out an eye-catching email to fans of their Coburg-area farm:
“During this off-season, we converted our old squash barn into a new place for people to relax and enjoy some of the best local craft cider and beer around. We are excited to announce a partnership with Eugene-based, award-winning Elk Horn Brewery. From farm-to-brewery, and back to the farm again, come out to Detering’s new Tasting Room to enjoy some Elk Horn hard cider or craft beer.”
Located north of Eugene, Detering was founded in 1934 and has become a seasonal, family-friendly mainstay destination for U-pick produce, a farm stand, food and drinks, festivals, games and other events on the working farm. In January of this year, Stephen Demergasso and his fiancee Tina Dao took over ownership. They immediately began considering new offerings to attract the public — not just for buying produce, says Demergasso, but to make the farm more of a place to “hang out.”
“The concept of the Tasting Room is you can taste the fruit in the drink,” explains Demergasso. “Detering has always made cider and done pressing for fruit. Elk Horn is a previous vendor, so I emailed and asked if they would like to have an exclusive relationship.”
Elk Horn’s owners, Colleen and Stephen Sheehan, visited and agreed. The Sheehans and Elk Horn helped Detering locate and install the equipment they needed and provided staff training on beverage descriptions and proper pouring techniques.
“It's a perfect symbiotic relationship,” says Colleen Sheehan. “Detering gets new clientele — the parents that enjoy shopping for fruit and roaming the grounds with their children while casually being able to sip on an alcoholic beverage — and we get exposure to a new group of people that might have never heard of us before.”
While Elk Horn has worked with Detering in the past, they have also often needed to source fruit and juice from farther afield. The new partnership helps them bring in fresh produce and juice straight from a farm that’s much closer to Elk Horn’s location near the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. It also adds another craft beer destination to the Coburg area, which is also the home of Crossroads Farm’s Agrarian Ales.
“I’m excited to experiment with something different and more local,” says Sheehan. “I want to do something with rhubarb, more flavors of cider, barrel-aging.”
The Tasting Room seats 30, but alcohol is allowed throughout the farm stand area. A sound system and TV allow people to catch a game or take in some live music. Visitors can wander the grounds among cows, goats and other livestock in pens, and kids (and kids at heart) can ride a new mechanical bull. There are four taps pouring two beers and two ciders from Elk Horn. Cheary Cherry and Peary Perry both featured Detering fruit. Elk Horn will provide exclusive brews for the Tasting Room as well as Elk Horn beverages available at the brewery (sometimes with slight modifications, too, such as extra cherry juice for the Detering version). Taps will rotate throughout the season as different crops come to harvest throughout summer and fall.
“We are looking at having something with rhubarb for July, maybe something else with cherries as we get those harvested and juiced,” says Demergasso, who coordinates with the Sheehans and the Elk Horn brewing team on ideas. “We definitely want to do a peachy blond beer after peach harvest, so probably come August we’ll have that available.”
As Elk Horn looks ahead to the rest of the season, they see the partnership as a way for their brewers to be as nimble as possible with the best, freshest and most local seasonal ingredients available. “As soon as they start producing fruit, we'll raid them,” says Sheehan. “Blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples — hopefully a little taste of everything!”
For Detering, Demergasso sees a chance to supply quality fruit and juice to an artisan local business and to find new ways to draw people to the farm. “I bought the farm because I believe in local farms,” he says. “It’s another way to supply the people of the south Willamette Valley with our fruit and other produce. Our farm is a fun place to hang out in the summertime, so we want to be a cultural hub for the community. People can come out here, get produce, have a drink and spend some time.”
30946 Wyatt Drive, Harrisburg
At Agrarian Ales in the countryside south of Eugene, business manager Todd Perlmeter, left, and master brewer Toby Schock look over the gallons of fresh-picked raspberries brought in by Maia Kazaks, field worker, and assistant brewer Matt Leef. The berries will be used for a spontaneously fermented beer. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A visit to Agrarian Ales in the lush, bountiful countryside of the Willamette Valley, just 13 miles south of Eugene, is an escape from the demands of everyday life. The farmhouse brewery sits on 25 acres of family land brimming with 15 different varieties of hops, herbs, spices, orchards, beehives, wheat fields, natural grasses, and an abundance of fresh vegetables.
Brothers Nate and Ben Tilley grew up here on their parents’ organic vegetable farm. When they graduated from Oregon State University, they returned to plant hops and grow a brewery. Toby Schock joined from the start as the master brewer.
In November of 2012, they opened the brewery in a converted dairy barn on 17 acres leased from Crossroad Farms, their parents’ operation. Their vision was to use only homegrown hops and they have stayed true to that vision. In fact, they are the only Oregon brewery exclusively using estate-grown, hand-picked hops.
General manager Todd Perlmeter said, “Agrarian has never purchased hops. This year we pulled our entire crop of Cascade hops, 500 plants, because of downy mildew. We added a third hop field, focusing on varieties like Mount Hood, Centennial and Nugget.”
They also planted an experimental stand, trellised in a tepee configuration, of heritage Mount Pisgah hops, transplanted from the native plant nursery at Mount Pisgah Park. When harvested, these hops will be used for a Mount Pisgah porter to benefit the park.
Agrarian also sells hop starts in early spring at their farmers’ market booth, a five-tap beer trailer. “We feel very fortunate to be the only brewery allowed in the market,” said Perlmeter, “because we grow our own products.”
The casual, rustic brewery and taproom have drawn record crowds this summer. It appeals to young and old, pets, kids and parents. With 4 acres of outdoor space, there’s plenty of room to play or simply sit at one of the many picnic tables and take in the surrounding view of growing fields.
The red barn is brewing central Monday through Friday until 3 p.m. when it transforms to the taproom and gathering place to sample brews and local food. The taproom is open Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. with live music in the summer. The pizza oven is the cornerstone of the outdoor kitchen, but the focus for everything at Agrarian is fresh from the surrounding fields to the table.
Perlmeter said, “The original idea was to use all local products. We’re willing to pay a premium to buy products to support local farmers.”
While their website lists many of these farmers, some of the more unique connections include Eugene’s Noisette Pastry Kitchen that takes the spent grain and bakes custom bread for them. All the raw grains are local. Agrarian gets most of their wheat, barley and flours for pizza dough from Camas Country Mill. In fact, the pizza flour is custom-milled for them. Nearby Burnheimer Meat Company makes their pepperoni using Agrarian’s beer and chili spices.
“Everything we serve here tastes so fresh and real; there are no chemicals, no glycol in our beer,” said Perlmeter. “All our beers are seasonals.”
Brewer Shock creatively uses the ripest ingredients at hand. He makes farm-fresh beers, often using peppers, such as Chipotle Porter and Hot Banana Hef. They usually have 12-15 beers on tap
Generally, Shock brews just one batch and that’s it. “Sometimes he repeats a batch because it’s so popular,” said Perlmeter. “Essentially, all the brews are one-offs. Even the same recipe a year later won’t be the same because the fresh ingredients will taste different.”
The one constant, usually available year-round, is a farmhand session.
They recently started barrel projects and have bottled a few favorites. Like everything at Agrarian, it’s a labor-intensive, totally manual production process with one person sanitizing the bottles, another filling them and a third corking and caging them.
The first bottle release was Yuletide, a Belgian beer that was strong aged in rye whiskey barrels for eight months, bottled and aged for another year.
Last fall their neighbor offered them Akane apples from his orchard. They ground and pressed the apples, then aged the juice in a pinot noir barrel letting it ferment with all the wild yeast for one year. Then they used that tart, funky juice to brew a Belgian saison, bottled it and aged it for another six months. The Akane Saison is only available on-site.
Eventually, they want to grow or produce everything they use. That means having a malting facility on-site and a yeast lab.
“The goal is to continue the ethos and grow organically. We like to grow roots deep into the ground versus spreading them across the land,” said Perlmeter.
Speaking of organic growth, the next step for the hops is to get organically certified. “We think it will be worthwhile for sales, documentation and talking points. We have some unique practices out here. Finding a way to communicate that to customers without hitting them over the head with it is important. We want people to come out here and experience that lifestyle,” he said.
Back at the brewery, the long-awaited addition of indoor bathroom facilities was completed June 27. This project was the number one priority for the funds that Agrarian has raised from Hatch Oregon, a new investment opportunity available only to Oregon residents. Agrarian was one of the first investment opportunities rolled out when the new law became effective in January.
Their original stock offering was set for $165,000. So far, halfway into their one-year time frame, they have raised $65,000, most of which went to the new addition. The remainder will go to purchase more kegs, cooperage and larger batches of grain.
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