By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In 2016, there was pizza. In 2013, there was a deli. But before all of that in 2012, there was just a brewpub called Falling Sky located in a downtown alley in Eugene. Throughout five years of change, there has been a constant:
“We want to be the most Eugene brewery in Eugene, the most representative of Eugene’s culture,” says co-founder Jason Carriere.
Instead of zigging before they zagged by focusing on territory, tap handles and shelf space, Falling Sky worked to grow a devoted local following. The business came together thanks to Carriere, owner of a homebrew store now named Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop, and Rob Cohen, who brought his experience with the restaurant industry. Ultimately, the two wanted a family-friendly neighborhood place.
But they did not expect what would happen next. The Falling Sky path has been different from other breweries, in part, because of the food. After barely a year in operation, Falling Sky had an opportunity to open a second location near other Whiteaker-area breweries. Expanding that quickly would be challenging, but the site was too good to pass up. It also gave them a chance to develop their food operation — the brewpub kitchen was cramped and constricted Cohen’s vision for the menu. The Falling Sky Delicatessen, which opened in 2013, elevated their fare: house charcuterie (the pastrami alone is worth a trip), pickles and fresh-baked breads.
In 2015, Falling Sky changed again. In addition to the popularity of the two locations, plus a few taps in the Portland area, the owners were in discussions with the University of Oregon about opening a space in what would be a newly renovated student union. Before that third location, a pizzeria, opened in 2016, Falling Sky expanded the brewery to meet demand.
“Both the deli and the pizzeria were surprises,” says Carriere. “The response we got from the community was great, and both of those were just opportunities that came along — maybe a little bit before we were ready for them — but we decided we had to take them anyway.”
After five years of massive — and sometimes not-entirely-expected — change, the Falling Sky team is looking forward to getting back to the basics of the day-to-day. The brewpub started with 25 employees and today has 75 across all three locations. With no more expansions or construction projects on the horizon, Carriere says he and everyone else is ready to focus on “investing time and energy into being one of the premier breweries in Oregon.”
Part of that is now dialing in the brewery expansion. “Because of the constraints of the building we’re in, as we planned we realized that if we wanted to put in additional tanks in the future, it’d be this huge ordeal,” explains Carriere. “We’d have to shut down the brewery and restaurant, because it’s challenging to get big equipment into the brewery.”
Falling Sky kept its current system but installed electrical and plumbing upgrades, along with other big equipment, such as a cold liquor tank, another whirlpool tank, four lagering tanks and two open fermenters. “Now we can do three turns in a day,” says Carriere, “where previously just trying to do two would have been a 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. ordeal.”
In 2012, Falling Sky produced 800 barrels and made an all-time brewery high of 1,111 barrels in 2016. Carriere estimates that the brewery could be on track to produce 2,000 barrels in 2017.
Not that they’re done adding new gear. An Energy Trust grant will help upgrade the brewery’s boiler. Automated grain handling is on the horizon along with installing a bigger pump for the brew system and adding an external grain silo. “We always hunted around for used brewing equipment that is interesting and cool, such as the Austrian-manufactured open fermenters,” says Carriere. “It’s part of our international theme to cobble together a little brewery museum back here.”
The upgraded brewery has also given Falling Sky the freedom to compete for more beer awards and take on new opportunities. As part of the grand opening for a new Whole Foods in downtown Eugene, the store approached Falling Sky about doing a beer. The final product, Retrograde Red, was available in 22-ounce bottles — a first for Falling Sky. “It was a good opportunity to test the waters more in a low-risk situation,” says Carriere. “It’s one of those things that we’d been meaning to look into, but didn’t have a reason — and then a reason came along.”
Now Falling Sky is pursuing limited bottle and can releases as part of a “presence of mind campaign,” instead of trying to compete for broader distribution and shelf space. “This gets our name out there so that when people see a different beer in a bar, maybe they’ve had our beer in a bottle, so maybe they try that other Falling Sky beer,” says Carriere. “We want to communicate to the state of Oregon that we are makers of quality beer, and that if you get one of our beers, any of our beers, it will be clean, drinkable and well-made.”
It’s about more than brewing beer and cooking food, though — it’s also about creating a strong culture. “What we’re building here is bigger than any one of us,” says Carriere. “People have worked for us, then left for other opportunities, and then came back. That speaks volumes about our family in the Falling Sky team.”
As local beer culture changes and the industry continues to grow, one thing surprises, humbles and motivates Carriere. “I’m amazed by the number of people locally who still, five years on, haven’t heard of Falling Sky. There’s still room for growth even in our own community, and that’s cool.”
Falling Sky Five Year Anniversary, March 1–31
Daily growler fill specials, brewery tours and tastings, special anniversary gear and apparel, brewer’s dinner, special-release and cellar beers, and more.
Falling Sky Brewing House
1334 Oak Alley, Eugene
Falling Sky Delicatessen
790 Blair Blvd., Eugene
Falling Sky Pizzeria
University of Oregon Erb Memorial Union
1395 University St., Room #46, Eugene
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The idea of crystal-clear mountain springs being the source of great beer has long been an image evoked by the beer industry, from the iconic commercials of Coors to the labels and marketing of today’s craft brewers.
But getting that water — and keeping it usable after the brewing process — are major issues craft brewers and cities must confront on a daily basis.
Water and general sustainability for the beer industry were the focus of a two-day event held in September, put on by the City of Bend and the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center. (A similar event was held in Bellingham, Wash., later in the month.)
The event was meant to be an educational opportunity for brewers while bringing together government officials, regulators and members of the craft beer industry to talk about sustainability and water usage. The workshops provided ideas for brewers and owners wanting to decrease their environmental footprint while improving their bottom lines, and connected them with cost-effective resources and solutions to energy, water and waste issues.
“Great beer starts with great water quality and great ingredients, and we have the luxury of having both here,” said Chris Hodge, the CEO of Worthy Brewing, in greeting attendees to the Sustainable Craft Brewery Workshop. Worthy, which hosted day one of the event, is one of a number of Central Oregon breweries that take sustainability issues seriously.
Of course, Bend is renowned for the quality of its water, which is often cited as one of the reasons the craft beer industry has flourished in the region.
At the workshop, Christina Davenport, industrial pretreatment technician for the city of Bend, talked about why brewery wastewater is of concern to cities in general and Bend in particular. For instance, Davenport pointed out, Bend’s Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing create more than 25,000 of wastewater gallons per day.
“We’re working with breweries to find solutions to reducing what goes to the sewer,” Davenport said. “That includes both the strength of the waste, and reducing the volume going into the sewer line.”
Creating one barrel (or 31 gallons) of beer often results in a brewery creating four to 10 barrels of wastewater, Davenport noted. From every brewery, some of that wastewater is of the “high-strength” variety — from the brewing process or from cleaning — which can carry an extreme pH level and is more difficult for municipalities to treat.
One solution employed by breweries is “side streaming,” or collecting high-strength waste so it can be disposed of separately. For instance, spent hops, grain and yeast can often be used by farms, and are commonly used by farms that have relationships with breweries.
Water wasn’t the only issue at the workshop. The Energy Trust of Oregon presented on how incentives and energy audits can save significant energy costs. Worthy, for instance, worked with Energy Trust and installed energy-efficient lighting, a high-efficiency heating system and solar electric. That resulted in nearly $80,000 in Energy Trust incentives, as well as $16,000 in annual energy savings for Worthy.
The PPRC presented on proven cost-saving sustainability measures, including case studies for breweries on how to reduce usage of energy, water and carbon dioxide.
But water was the focus of day two, the “Source to Brewer to Sewer Tour.” Attendees got an up-close look at the City of Bend’s water system.
The tour gave attendees a better idea of where the water that goes into beer comes from, and what has to happen for it to be treated after the brewing process. It starts with Bend’s surface water intake on Bridge Creek near Tumalo Falls, which is just a few miles from a pristine water source.
Bend also just finished a project that cost tens of millions of dollars, including the new Outback Water Filtration Facility and miles of new pipe connecting intake to the facility. That gives brewers an idea of how much effort and money is put into water quality in municipalities in general, and Bend in specific. Attendees also saw Bend’s water reclamation facility, which deals with breweries’ wastewater on the back end.
In between those stops, four local breweries (Deschutes, 10 Barrel, Crux Fermentation Project and Monkless Belgian Ales) opened their doors to talk about sustainability and water issues.
It’s clear that the idea of municipalities working with breweries on these issues is far from finished. Paul Rheault, Bend’s public works/utilities director, talked with attendees and said he hoped to one day forge a private-public partnership with the breweries to deal with the problems and costs associated with high-strength waste.
“We want the breweries to succeed,” Rheault said. “Thankfully, we have a good water source that’s well treated now for the brewers to use and make a good product.”
The discussion on water and sustainability issues for breweries is far from over. The city of Bend hopes to host a similar event in the future. Jack Harris, founder of Fort George Brewing in Astoria, was in attendance. Fort George recently hired a director of sustainability, and Harris said he would like to have an event similar to this one in his town.
The craft brewery industry has often prided itself on trying to be green and employing sustainable practices. That obviously becomes more difficult as breweries grow, but Bend and the breweries that call it home have shown there are ways to work together to make it easier.
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
How much water does it take to make your favorite beer? What about energy and other natural resources? This is probably not something you normally consider when you drink a pint, but thankfully for the environment, many of our local breweries are trying to lessen their impact with the help of Energy Trust of Oregon.
At Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, modifications to their refrigeration systems helped reduce their kilowatt hours per barrel by 6.9 percent, according to Julia Person, sustainability manager. The company’s participation in Energy Trust’s Strategic Energy Management initiative also provided valuable tools for engaging employees and identifying low- to no-cost energy-saving opportunities.
Person points out already-implemented or ongoing projects at the production facility on North Russell Street. In the brewhouse, they are currently testing various LED bulbs in the existing overhead fixtures to find the desired color and brightness. The new, more efficient bulbs will contribute to a further drop in kilowatt hours per barrel. Widmer has already replaced all inefficient fluorescent lamps with T5 lighting and has installed occupancy and daylight sensors throughout the facility, so lights automatically turn off when not needed.
Person describes another Energy Trust project, which involved installing smart thermostats in the office space. Heating and cooling systems can now be controlled remotely, thus saving energy, and money, by raising or lowering ambient temperature when no one is present. “The HVAC project, which includes these smart thermostats as well as other measures, such as retro-commissioning of our entire system, has resulted in Widmer receiving a $56,000 rebate check for completing this project,” Person says.
Back in the brewhouse, Person explains how a reduction in boil times by only five minutes equals significant natural gas savings when you consider that the 250-barrel brewery brews nine times per day and typically operates 24 hours, six days per week. “For water efficiency, we have worked on reusing rinse water at our bottle filler and preventing beer loss,” says Person. In 2013, the Portland brewery’s water usage ratio was an industry-leading 4.07 gallons per gallon of beer. In 2014, they were able to reduce that number even further to 3.5 gallons per gallon of beer.
One challenge familiar to all breweries is how to dispose of the high-quality organic wastewater that is a byproduct of the brewing process. An Oregon BEST Commercialization Grant helped Widmer collaborate with researchers from the Oregon State University researcher-led startup Waste2Watergy. Now working under a National Science Foundation grant, the company is already on the second phase of testing an innovative microbial fuel cell technology that is “capable of generating electricity directly from wastewater, while simultaneously accomplishing highly efficient wastewater treatment,” explains Person.
Widmer Brothers Brewing already boasts that 99.5 percent of their waste is diverted from landfills, including truckloads of spent grains, yeast and hops, as a result of recycling efforts. The company has recently identified a new partner that can recycle more plastics including grain bags, polyester strapping for packaging, keg caps and Mylar hop packaging.
After making the beer, it still has to be packaged for distribution. Craft Brew Alliance’s Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, Wash. switched to a dry-running System Plast bottling conveyor in 2014, which yielded savings in energy, maintenance and materials, along with 111,000 gallons of water. Redhook was subsequently named a 2014 Safer Chemistry Champion by Washington’s Department of Ecology for the project. Person says they are already exploring its application at the Portland facility.
If you like to consume your beer as close to the source as possible, you’ll be happy to know that the Widmer Brothers Pub was recently recertified as a three-star Green Restaurant. Certification is based on the accumulation of points across seven environmental categories: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction. One hundred percent of the pub’s electricity is sourced from renewable wind power through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky program.
Having met their 2014 objectives of achieving 5 percent savings across all utilities, reducing the impact of materials, increasing packaging efficiency, and achieving third-party certification, Person says the company is now focused on “tracking our greenhouse gas emissions’ intensity and continuing to pursue innovative projects such as capturing renewable energy from biogas.”
Widmer Brothers Brewing is not the only company that is committed to minimizing their environmental impact across their breweries and brewpubs. Energy Trust of Oregon has also partnered with Deschutes Brewery in Bend and Portland, Gilgamesh Brewing in Salem, Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene and Worthy Brewing in Bend, helping each of these businesses implement energy-saving improvements that have resulted in financial gains from both energy cost savings and Energy Trust cash incentives.
It’s amazing when you think about the positive impact that a few simple conservation actions can make on the environment. No matter how big or small the operation, Oregon breweries are finding ways to produce your favorite brew more sustainably while still providing the same quantity and quality of beer that we’ve come to expect and love.
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