By Jon Abernathy
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“Fresh hop season ties perfectly in with prime steelhead season,” explained Toby Nolan one early morning in late August, while driving from Bend to Silverton. Nolan, the senior lead guide of tours at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, was on his way to Goschie Farms to pick up 50 pounds of fresh Centennial hops destined for a special ale that will raise money for the Native Fish Society. “The release of this beer coincides with the steelhead runs.”
Nolan is an avid angler and fly fisherman, often found casting a line over a quiet stretch of river in his free time. He practices catch-and-release and is passionate about river conservation and responsible management. “People are starting to realize we are having a negative impact (on the watershed),” he said. “Water is life.”
A first-time visit to Goschie Farms two years ago introduced him to Salmon-Safe hops, inspiring the idea for the benefit beer. The Salmon-Safe program works to keep watersheds clean enough for native salmon to thrive, and the certification process works “to provide incentives for the adoption of practices that protect water quality and fish habitat.” All of the crops grown at Goschie Farms (which, in addition to hops, includes grapes, corn and barley malt) are managed in accordance with these guidelines.
Though not a brewer himself, Nolan worked with Robin Johnson, the assistant brewmaster of the Bend Pub on the concept behind the beer. “I think I’ve been bugging Robin for two years about making this beer,” he laughed. “Finally this year Robin asked me if I still wanted to do it, ‘cause he was going to brew it anyway!” In addition to the Salmon-Safe hops, they incorporated malt from Mecca Grade Estate Malt located in Madras.
Deschutes has a long history of giving back, from their Community Pints every Tuesday to their Street Pub block parties that raise money for local charities. Environmental sustainability is also a priority for the company; for instance, they restore one billion gallons of Deschutes River water each year through the Deschutes River Conservancy water leasing program.
There’s a nice bit of synergy between the two initiatives with this latest project: a fresh-hop pale ale named “Savin’ Freshies,” which will be available at both the Bend and Portland pubs on Oct. 7. The release party at the Bend Tasting Room will additionally offer a raffle and swag with proceeds benefiting the Native Fish Society, and Deschutes is donating $1 from every pint sold.
Arriving at Goschie Farms the morning of his hop run, Nolan met with owner Gayle Goschie and explained the concept behind his beer. Goschie Farms was the first hop grower in the country to become certified as Salmon-Safe, and their efforts to responsibly manage water use to protect wild salmon habitats meshes well with Nolan’s enthusiasm for fishing and conservation. Upon hearing of his efforts to benefit the Native Fish Society with proceeds from the beer sales, Goschie offered to donate the fresh hops to the project.
Partnering with the Native Fish Society was the natural choice for Nolan. The organization’s mission is to advocate for the recovery and protection of wild, native fish as well as the rivers these fish inhabit. Their River Steward Program spans 42 watersheds in Oregon, including the upper and lower Deschutes River, with volunteers working on initiatives such as suction dredge mining reform, hatchery steelhead management and more.
If Savin’ Freshies is well-received, Nolan imagines the possibility of additional similarly themed beers. “If this project goes well, I’d love to see more of these, maybe for each season,” he mused. “It would be a big project, but it would be great to have a lineup of conservation beers added to our bottled series.”
In the meantime, he’s focused on making the release of Savin’ Freshies a success. “I’m really thankful Deschutes has given me the opportunity to do this, and I’m a guide, not a brewer!” he said. “That support has made this a great, gratifying experience.”
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.”
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