By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
In a city in the Southern Hemisphere some 7,000 miles away from Portland, Argentinians are learning how to pronounce “Willamette.”
“It was a hard word for people to learn,” said Casey Rakoczy, who explained it would often come out as “Wee-sha-mett-eh.”
One of Oregon’s major waterways isn’t the only attraction locals in Argentina have gotten to know — at least by name. On the hardscrabble outskirts of Buenos Aires — miles from the cosmopolitan restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings and bustling traffic that helped the city become known as “the Paris of South America” — you’ll hear people ask for “Saturday Market,” “Forest Park” and “Mount Hood.” These are actually beers at Portlander Fermentation Lab, a brewery co-founded by Rakoczy after he upended his life in Portland three years ago to fulfill an urge he just couldn’t shake. Sure, it’s the dream of many a homebrewer to turn pro. But most try to make a go of it in their hometown — or at least in the same continent they’d been living. But Rakoczy had a bigger goal in mind. He wanted to shape the craft beer culture in another country.
“My mind was on the brewery in Argentina more than it was on work in the U.S.,” he said. “And that weight became heavier than what I was doing here [in Portland]. But I needed to, like, do it. I needed to leap and go.”
Before making that hemispheric jump, Rakoczy had been introduced to Argentina by two friends, Manu Lopez and his wife Inez, who had come to Portland for graduate school. He joined the couple on vacation a handful of times — exploring Patagonia’s vistas and glaciers on one trip; the surging Iguazu Falls on another, which Rakoczy describes as “Niagara times 10.” When back in Portland, the trio enjoyed what was then a burgeoning craft brewing scene. Rakoczy couldn’t help but compare the quality and variety with what he thought was lacking in Argentina.
“I kept seeing the beer here is not that great, but the country has a lot of natural resources,” he said.
With that in mind, Lopez and Rakoczy decided it was time to launch a brewery in Buenos Aires … well, after Lopez established one important factor.
“And he asks, ‘Can you brew?’” Rakoczy recounted. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, of course I can brew!’”
As a hobby fermenter who polished his skills with distance-learning classes in Oregon State University’s Fermentation Science program, followed by a week of hands-on instruction, Rakoczy felt confident in the skills he’d acquired to advance to the commercial level. With Lopez, he found a 200-liter system (approximately 1.7 barrels) for sale online in Argentina and they split the cost. Meanwhile, Lopez developed the distributing and pub side of the business. After becoming established, the brewery began hosting students who wanted to make their own special batches for parties. Rakoczy led them through the process — from recipe building to yeast pitching — and customers would return several weeks later for their finished keg.
“The idea of it was not necessarily just a brewery, but it was also a place where people could come and learn about how to brew,” he said. “We’ll make our money off of the beer, but we’ll also hold courses where people can come and I’d teach them and supervise.”
Aside from leaving his job as a footwear developer and a home in Portland for several years to embark on this passion project, Rakoczy said another challenge he encountered once in Buenos Aires was encouraging drinkers to order something other than Quilmes, which is the region’s version of Budweiser. And even adventurous palates didn’t have much to choose from as many smaller producers tended to stick to the same three styles.
“Everybody that was doing craft beer was doing like rubia, roja, negra, which is blond, red or black. And that was usually the only selection you had,” Rakoczy explained. “So when we started brewing, I said ‘I’m not doing any of those. We’re going to make IPA. We’re going to make amber. We’re going to make brown.’”
And that variety got him handles. Bar owners would buy Rakoczy’s beer in order to offer patrons something besides rubia, roja and negra. The names, of course, also helped his product stand out — titles familiar to anyone from the Rose City, foreign to someone who’s perhaps never even heard of Portland.
“The idea with the branding side of things was for us to deliver notoriety to what we felt was the authority in American craft brewing. And that was Portland, Oregon,” said Rakoczy, the self-described Yankee brewing in an area primarily dominated by German- and Belgian-inspired beer producers. Putting a Northwest stamp on style and atmosphere might be one way to get people on the opposite end of the globe to pay attention to a new beer mecca. And if “Burnside Amber Ale” or “Willamette River Brown” don’t spark the interest of the “portenos” (residents of Buenos Aires, a port), the hulking mural of bigfoot on the brewery’s new Palermo-area bar provides a colorful summation of the Pacific Northwest.
“Sasquatch is wearing a flannel shirt, a [beanie] hat and he’s holding a beer,” laughed Rakoczy. “It’s so hipster Portland. They couldn’t have got it more perfect.”
Rakoczy never planned to permanently relocate to Buenos Aires — at least not at this point in his life. He trained the next head brewer, a native Argentinian, before returning home last year. As the Portland partner of the business, he visits periodically and is excited by the changes he’s witnessed to the culture of craft beer. Rakoczy compared it to Portland 15 years ago. New breweries are taking root, quality beer appears on a growing number of menus and the IPA craze has just begun. Rakoczy finds fulfillment in the way he’s nudged the industry’s development, whether through training future brewers, assisting established beer makers with quality and consistency or by simply exposing a drinking population to new flavors.
“It’s kind of like I’m a beer missionary that went out and spread the good word,” Rakoczy concludes.
Alex McGaw, head brewer and owner of Two Kilts in Sherwood, stands in front of his shiny 15-barrel Practical Fusion system that replaced the homemade 7-barrel original system he pieced together before opening in 2011. McGaw is focusing on increasing production, exposure and distribution in the new year. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For Oregon Beer Growler
With new craft breweries opening on what seems like a daily basis around the state, a brewery that’s been around for five years is considered an established commodity. That’s the case for Two Kilts, a brewery in a semi-industrial area of Sherwood that Alex McGaw opened in 2011.
McGaw, the head brewer and owner, gave a strong nod to his Scottish heritage in choosing the name. He also developed a solid reputation for making excellent Scottish beer, winning the gold medal for Scottish Ale in 2014 at the World Beer Cup in Denver.
Still, McGaw is quick to point out, “We make all different kinds of beers.”
His winter seasonal beers include an oatmeal chocolate stout and a wheat.
McGaw arrived in Eugene in 2004 from the small, rural town of Dassel in south central Minnesota and immediately fell in love with craft beer. From landscaping he transitioned to delivery work for McMenamins in 2006 when he moved to Portland.
Naturally, he was interested in brewing. “I was in and out of different breweries and locations. I knew all the managers and all the brewers. By the time I started shadowing some brewers, I was also doing some homebrewing.”
One year later, he was a McMenamins brewer. After a three-week training stint at John Barleycorns in Tigard, he moved to the Fulton Pub in Johns Landing. During his four years there, he discovered he had a real knack for brewing beer.
“I like cooking and baking,” said McGaw. “I became pretty good at brewing. I was what you might call a technical, mechanical brewer.”
Eventually, he moved on to a larger McMenamins facility — the Crystal Ballroom with its numerous bars and spaces for live music. There he worked with several different brewers and gained more firsthand brewing knowledge and experience. “I learned the business of brewing. A lot of people were enjoying my beer,” he said.
On his own time, he started assembling a brewing system. Everything came together for him to start his own brewery when he found the Sherwood location in 2011. For two hectic years, he worked two jobs, sometimes around the clock. During the day he brewed for McMenamins at the Crystal Ballroom and at night he brewed at Two Kilts and ran the taproom.
“I thought I was going to get a break with the Crystal Ballroom gig, working four days on and three off, but it didn’t really turn out that way. Still, it was fun. I loved having my own place, working for myself and brewing beer,” said McGaw.
In 2013 he was able to leave McMenaminns and devote himself full time to Two Kilts. “I was finally able to pay myself a livable wage,” said McGaw.
Last summer, he took some Fermentation Science courses at Oregon State and gained a thorough overview of the process. In addition to online work, he spent a week at the Corvallis campus. “I learned the science behind beer and found out how to set up a lab. That’s very important, especially when you start to package your beer,” he said.
Until McGaw gets his own lab up and running, he has turned to fellow brewers for their assistance. “One of our best supporters is Jeff Edgerton at Bridgeport. He takes our samples to his lab to check.
“I love this business because it’s such a supportive community, competitive, yes, but supportive in learning the skill. We’re all trying to make us look good,” he said.
In the past year, McGaw has increased production and marketing. His beers are available around the state, but in small doses. “We’re trying to cover more territory,” he said.
Bottles and cans are available at New Seasons and Plaid Pantry stores, about 100 in all. Right now Two Kilts IPA, Crystal Sunshine and Scottish Ale are available in 12-ounce cans, and the Pale Ale, IPA, Scottish Ale and Cocoa Porter are available in 22-ounce bottles. “We’re trying to expand locally and working on increased distribution to growler shops and other outlets,” he said.
His full-time sales manager, Michael Fiaschetti, has really pumped up sales. “Everyone knows him. He’s made a nice mark for us,” said McGaw.
In addition to a whole new system — a 15-barrel Practical Fusion system with 30-barrel brite tanks, McGaw is adding new beers to the lineup and packaging more for retails sales.
The Crystal Sunshine, popular this summer, he describes as especially crisp and drinkable. “Our Scottish Ale is standard. I’m revamping the IPA to make it bolder. We had a fresh-hop version in the Oaks Park festival this fall,” said McGaw.
He’s thinking of adding an IPA series and a seasonal kettle sour.
With the goal of increased exposure, McGaw has entered Two Kilts in many of the state’s beer and food festivals, including the Bend Brewfest, Feast Portland and the recent Holiday Ale Festival. This was a first for the December fest, which requires brewers to make something that’s not on tap anywhere else.
The Two Kilts contribution was called the Earls of Orkney, a wheat wine with the following description: “A very big mouthfeel is present due to the insane amount of wheat malt that goes into this beer.”
McGaw is brewing three to four times a week. Last year the production topped out at 1,000-plus bottles and he’s planning to double that in 2016.
“We’re trying to support our local community of Sherwood and participate in community events,” said McGaw. He’s looking for another location in Sherwood to expand and add a food menu.
“What’s grown this place is word-of-mouth,” he said. “We’re looking to get into a more visible spot and provide our customers with a great experience.”
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In today’s fast-paced industry, it’s easy to forget that the modern craft beer revolution hasn’t even hit middle age yet. At Oregon State University, the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA), the first brewing archive in the U.S., saves and shares the story of hop production and the craft brewing movement in Oregon.
“We do this by collecting historical materials, conducting oral histories, sharing best practices for maintaining records and assisting with historical research,” explains Tiah Edmunson-Morton, main curator for OHBA (she also blogs about her work at thebrewstorian.tumblr.com). “In line with OSU's land-grant mission, this archive focuses on local agricultural, business and heritage communities, connecting OSU to the much larger story of brewing and hop growing in our region.”
Located on the fifth floor of The Valley Library at OSU, OHBA began in summer 2013 as part of the OSU Libraries & Press’ Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Edmunson-Morton works closely with staff in OSU Special Collections and Archives, the digital production unit and library administration. A student worker aids with research and a graphic design student recently designed a beer history board game.
Edmunson-Morton has collected oral histories from notable figures such as McMenamins’ historian Tim Hills along with beer writers John Foyston and the late Fred Eckhardt. Current projects include scanning brew sheets for the first 2,000 brews at McMenamins Hillsdale, Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Fulton breweries. Portland Brewing’s Fred Bowman granted access to news clippings about the early years of Portland Brewing, as well as photos showing the remodel of the building at the original Northwest Flanders Street location in advance of the brewery’s opening in 1986. OHBA is also collaborating with the Multnomah County Library on “Portland Brew History,” a digital exhibit featuring materials from 15 breweries.
“I feel so lucky to be working on something so fun and culturally/scientifically significant,” says Edmunson-Morton.
University, Industry Are Key Partners
It’s only natural that OHBA is part of OSU. The Corvallis public university is renowned for its hops breeding, brewing research and Fermentation Science program. Edmunson-Morton works closely with all of them, as well as the beer and cider sessions staff in Professional and Continuing Education to discover and procure new materials and stories.
In addition to oral histories with hop growers, OHBA has records from the Oregon Hop Growers Association and the Hop Research Council and is reviewing hops industry photos and research reports from the 1920s-1950s. Edmunson-Morton has collaborated with the Benton County Historical Society to convert tapes of oral histories with pickers and growers from the early 1980s. “We also scanned a set of questionnaires from that same oral history project,” she says. “That give a really interesting insight into the conditions in the fields in the 1930s.”
OHBA also sources documents and histories through newspapers and other periodicals, such as Zymurgy and The Amateur Brewer, as well as newspapers. “I’d like to continue to collect research files, pictures and publications from beer writers,” says Edmunson-Morton. “We are also looking at expanding the archive to more actively highlight and collect materials related to barley. Who knows? This may lead to a name change if we include yeast too.”
The Art of Beer
Rep. Peter DeFazio and OSU President Ed Ray were among the first to come to OHBA’s opening day for “The Art of Beer: What’s on the Outside.” Celebrating the work of brewers and artists in Oregon through beer labels, the public walk-through exhibition was planned to be open during April and May 2015, but instead closed at the end of July.
With items dating back to the early 1980s, The Art of Beer showed that labels are more than just marketing or advertising. “While the range of art on labels and coasters itself was important,” says Edmunson-Morton, “I also wanted to look at identity, branding, the process of creating art and the simple artistry that goes into … such a small bit of visual real estate.”
Beer labels are a snapshot, she explains: telling customers about the company, the taste or style of beer, the experience you are likely to have. “They are also connecting with consumers as artists, creating something beautiful and evocative,” says Edmunson-Morton. “When you saw the bottles on store shelves or labels on tap handles you were picking up clues about the beer, the brewery, etc. But when you saw those labels enlarged on a wall, they turned into something much more: art.”
However, a sort of meta-exhibition was also at work. Archivists and curators “make choices about what you see, labeling items to categorize them, grouping them with other items, and asking the viewer to consider and examine them in a constructed way,” says Edmunson-Morton. “Advertisers work in the same way by inviting you to draw a quick meaning and conclusions based on what is on the outside, and then asking you to make a decision and interpretation about what’s inside.”
A Community-Based Archive
While of interest to brewing hobbyists, professionals and academics, the archive is also part of the public’s awareness about the history of a vibrant modern industry. “People don't know how interesting and important what they have is, or think the posters they produced three years ago aren't historic,” says Edmunson-Morton. “With an archive like this, three years ago is certainly history!”
OHBA is actively asking the public, brewing industry, and homebrewing community to contribute new materials, such as photographs, news clippings, publications, books, recipes, coasters, taplists, menus, and/or any records for breweries and hop growing operations.
“The way an archive grows is by adding materials, but the way we save a history is by sharing it and telling its story,” says Edmunson-Morton. “I want this to be a community-based archive, which means that we collect materials that tell the story of the cultural and industrial communities, but also the story by the communities. It's not just my story to tell.”
Questions, donations and contributions:
Tiah Edmunson-Morton, OHBA Curator
541-737-7387 / email@example.com
Visit the Archives:
Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Valley Library Fifth Floor, Oregon State University
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
“I’m just trying to keep the past alive as best I can,” Dave Wills said while hovering over a blender inside his brewery.
That was one of the more monumental tasks on his list in what shaped up to be a busy day. While tending to business at Oregon Trail in downtown Corvallis one Saturday afternoon, Wills also had a scheduled tour leading the Oregon Brew Crew through the uniquely configured three-story facility. Like an enthusiastic professor, he peppered his lecture with vivid anecdotes and quizzed the listeners on the style of each beer they were served from his taps. When the lesson ended, there were only momentary lulls in activity as friends and neighbors popped in through the always-open back door. Wills had a greeting for everyone, pausing while answering interview questions to make a little time for each individual. But there was still salsa to be made. Rising above the hum of the blender stuffed with tomato, diced jalapeno and bunches of cilantro was his laughter sparked by decades-old memories. It was then it became evident that every day Wills is at Oregon Trail, he’s fulfilling his stated goal — keeping the past alive.
Wills never set out to be leading a brewery, but to those who know him it’s no surprise he’s ended up in that role. They describe him as someone who can motivate others and his energy level is like a brew kettle boiling over. It may seem a bit incongruous that the man who’s served as mentor to many now-established brewers once tossed a batch of homebrew for fear of something akin to food poisoning if he actually drank his own concoction. But Wills’ start in making beer came at a time when President Jimmy Carter had just legalized the activity and ingredients were often of questionable quality.
Wills’ first exposure to good beer actually all began with a woman. When he was 20 years old, his girlfriend surprised him by announcing she was going to London. That motivated Wills to go, too, a couple of months later. It was the late 1970s, so the variety of any beer that might have been considered craft was limited to Anchor and Henry Weinhard's. So seven weeks abroad and a Eurail pass provided Wills with a much-needed crash course in the world of beer. Following the whirlwind trip, Wills transferred to Oregon State University for the agriculture program. He’d already done two years of study in the field at a junior college in his home state of California. The move north exposed him not only to his first live hop plant, it’s also where he stumbled across a sign outside of a natural food store reading “Homebrewing Class.” Wills said to himself, ‘Now I think I’m gonna take that,’ and he did. Two women ran the instructional session, which was unique for the era. It was held in one of their homes and that’s where Wills realized how good a do-it-yourself brew could taste.
Around the same time, Wills took his own field trip to a nearby U.S. Department of Agriculture hop research farm because he wanted to grow his own. The difference between what was coming from the dirt and what was offered by many supply shops was striking. “And they broke out these beautiful green hops that were just — beautiful! Bright green,” Wills described. “And the hops I was buying from the grocery store, which just had the hops on the — you know, hops should really be kept refrigerated or frozen to keep ‘em nice. But what was being huckstered off on the homebrewer back then was just these old, stale hops.”
Experience with hops the color and consistency of yellowing, aged newspaper led to a business idea. As a recent graduate of OSU at this point, Wills began thinking about homebrewers across the country, most of whom were not living in hop-growing states like Oregon. He figured there must be an opportunity to sell fresher cones to these markets. A local hop breeder suggested that Wills get things started by talking to the Colemans, a hop farm family that still operates out of the Woodburn area. They put Wills to work on the property during harvest season. “And after that month, I drove off with my little Datsun pickup full of hops and put a little $14 classified ad in the Zymurgy magazine,” Wills said.
With one little ad, the orders started pouring in. Wills had himself a business. To keep the hops chilled, he bought a mini walk-in cooler for the basement of his rental home. Fulfilling customer requests simply meant packing the hops in plastic, resealable bags and then mailing them off. That was in 1982. And Freshops is still going strong with Wills at the helm.
Some of Wills’ product was sold in the Old World Deli, which in addition to soups, salads and sandwiches, was one of a few outlets that provided the town with homebrew ingredients. It also served as the site that brought together Wills; Ted Cox, owner of the deli; and Jerry Shadomy, who founded Oregon Trail in a corner of the building. All three were members of the Heart of the Valley Homebrewers club. The first meeting took place at Cox’s house before they put an ad in the paper advertising the next event at the deli. Shadomy, who had been winning a lot of awards for his homebrew, ended up gathering enough people who wanted to invest in a local brewery and started Oregon Trail after acquiring a 7-barrel system from Hart Brewing (later known as Pyramid). Wills describes himself as a hired hand back then who helped scrap parts together since there were no major equipment manufacturers, particularly for a smaller-scale brewery at that time. He characterized Shadomy as extraordinarily intelligent and somewhat eccentric person. But brewing the same beer over and over became dull to someone who needed new stimuli. Ultimately, Shadomy wasn’t able to maintain the business. That’s when Wills stepped in.
“I just kept it alive because I wasn’t going to just let this place go to auction after all of that love and sweat and everything that went into it,” he explained. “The space is awesome. It’s very well engineered and designed — and gravity flow — and it’s just a cool thing.”
His bookkeeper Rita Whitted added, “Dave is the reason it’s still here and not a past-tense thing.”
The space is certainly something special. Not all of it is pretty. The brewery is cramped. Three stories means lugging bags of grain up a lot of steep stairs. Some of the walls are just suggestions — beams with wiring that lays bare instead of normally being covered by Sheetrock. But after more than a century of wear and tear on the building, these signs of aging are like a historical record — proof that hard work was done here and people found purpose in this structure. In fact, that section of real estate has now been home to three breweries, according to deli owner Cox. He spoke breathlessly and passionately about the history, as if he couldn’t get the words out fast enough. The two earlier brewhouses operated in the 1870s and 1880s. One went out of business during a rough economic patch and the other burned down, as described by Cox. Oregon Trail, then, continues a legacy, a tradition, in downtown Corvallis.
Oregon Trail’s influence also extends to breweries across the state. Because of its proximity to OSU, plenty of fermentation science students have practiced making beer in that location. That application and Wills’ guidance have proved invaluable for many who’ve either opened their own breweries or gotten jobs at larger operations. John Marliave, co-owner of Corvallis’ Flat Tail Brewing, was one of those who benefitted from the hands-on involvement at Oregon Trail. “Yeah, I owe Dave a lot of where I am today because that experience isn’t something you get,” he noted.
Wills, whose father was a teacher, said he has some of that same urge to guide others in his genes. Bookkeeper Whitted agreed. “And the best teacher. Not the easiest teacher.” Wills was mentoring long before Oregon Trail, according to Mary Shannon O’Boyle, a former president of Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. She recounted that after meeting him in the 1980s, shortly after he helped start the club, he was very encouraging. “He convinced me to do my first beer and it was a pale ale. And we entered it in the county fair, the first county fair that allowed beer to be entered — 1984. And he helped me with it and it won a blue ribbon!”
Additionally, Wills recalled that he wished he’d gotten more time in the field while he was in college and that inspired him to take on students at the brewery. “We hardly went outside, so I wanted to see OSU fermentation science kids get the opportunity to do this. And I was hoping maybe one of them would stick around,” Wills said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.”
And that’s where the reward of teaching conflicts with the realities of running a business. Wills guesses he’s had 20 or so brewers come and go. “So having them turnover like that, that has made it impossible for us to grow,” he said. “You can’t have a new brewer every 12 to 18 months.” Wills continues to search for somebody who wants to help be an owner and invest in the brewery. Ultimately, he doesn’t want to sell it. In the meantime, he’s got a new brewer who has been on board since March. Whitted praised his beer making and attention to detail.
When asked why he sticks with the brewery despite the ups and downs, Wills’ friends are quick to answer: He doesn’t give up. He’s hardworking. He’s determined. He always looks for the next challenge. The liveliness in Wills’ eyes reveals another reason: he is a man who is constantly in motion and thoroughly enjoys connecting with others through his work. “He knows what he’s doing and he established a group of people throughout the entire region,” O’Boyle said, “and I know that sounds like I’m a fan. But as a friend, I’ve watched him bail people out who’ve needed help and also be respected for the fact that he knows what he’s doing.”
Beyond stabilizing the brewery, Wills wants to intensify his commitment to sustainability. He currently sells beer out of the adorably shaped party pig dispensers because they’re reusable and fit within the brewery’s footprint better than a bottling line. Of course, growlers are also welcome. Wills would like to see an overall consumption shift — less focus on obtaining beer bottles from across the country or world and more commitment to drinking local beer much in the way we would source milk from area farms. And in staying with the spirit of the brewery’s name, he has another wish: “I hope I see our beer getting delivered by covered wagon in my lifetime in the local community.”
In 2043, the original Oregon Trail will mark its 200th anniversary. Wills says he’ll be here. “Not sure what I’ll be doing. I’ll be drinking beer, I think, I hope, if my liver will make it that far,” he laughs. “I’d love to be there for the 200th anniversary and seeing this whole Oregon Trail thing will be an awesome visit to the past. I think it’d be awesome to see that kind of history all tied in. A lot’s going to change in the next 28 years.”
But rest assured, he’ll continue to keep the past alive — and kicking.
Oregon State University’s Beyond Football program was created in 2013 to help student-athletes identify their interests and skills by connecting them with professionals in a range of industries, including craft beer. Here, participants are seen at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
For all the glory we see on the football field, student-athletes also face unique challenges — including preparing for life after college- or pro-level athletics. At Oregon State University (OSU), the Beyond Football program is a tool the Beavers use to set up student-athletes for post-graduation success.
Kayla M. Gross, Beyond Football coordinator for OSU, explains that the program was created to help the student-athletes identify their interests, skills and passions, and from there determine a matching professional direction. That direction might even lead them to Oregon’s ever-growing craft brewing industry. “We connect student-athletes to business professionals, through leaders and community members who will expand their worldview, way of thinking, and network,” says Gross, “and foster an understanding of community, global needs, and a culture of volunteerism and lifelong civic engagement.”
Empower, Engage, Prepare
Started in 2013 with a donation from an OSU alumnus, Beyond Football is a component of OSU athletic director Todd Stansbury’s focus on developing “everyday champions.” All student-athletes participate in the program, which aligns with football head Coach Gary Andersen’s belief that athletes should train and prepare for success not just on the gridiron, but off the field. Currently, approximately 120 student-athletes have participated.
“Student-athletes that achieve success in the classroom and community are prepared to make an impact after graduation,” says Gross.
The program centers around three central concepts: empower, engage and prepare. Through a diverse array of programming, seminars, classes and other opportunities, students train for success in life and the workplace just as they train for success in competitive athletics.
Staff monitor success by measuring increases in key metrics: team GPA, number of undergraduates employed after graduation and number of hours volunteered. And the numbers say the work is paying off. “Over the last winter and spring 2015 academic terms, Oregon State Football has posted the highest cumulative and term GPAs since 2009,” says Gross. “Football student-athletes have also increased their volunteerism to one appearance per week.”
From Block and Tackle, to Brew and Tap?
Through university and industry connections, Beyond Football has connected OSU football players with companies and professionals in a range of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, sales, financial services, law enforcement, health/medical and staffing. “We aim to provide student-athletes with opportunities to meet representatives from many different companies and agencies,” explains Gross, “so they can make informed decisions about what career options align with their skill sets and interests.”
Players also gained greater awareness of opportunities in the craft beer industry during a luncheon in Portland, where two OSU fermentation scientists led a presentation about craft beer in Oregon and the U.S. “It’s an industry we’d like our players to have more exposure to,” says Gross. “Oregon State University has an exceptional Fermentation Science program, and we recognize how important the beer and wine industry is to our state and how strong it is.”
The goal is to help students identify potential career paths, while also fostering skills to succeed in any professional endeavor. “We have students majoring in business, communication arts and public health, among others, that would all have something to contribute to a successful business,” says Gross. “They have high levels of discipline, dedication, perseverance and sense of team. Through our program, we’re fostering the development of their character, sense of innovation, and understanding of civic involvement. We believe those three attributes are the cornerstones of a successful career.”
Beyond Football continues to evolve to better meet student needs. Behind the scenes, the Beyond Football team is building on their successes and student enthusiasm, while also building more relationships with businesses, nonprofit organizations and other entities.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that our student-athletes have increased their GPAs so significantly over the past three semesters and currently have the highest term GPA in the past several years,” says Gross. “Success in the classroom and involvement in the community is really the foundation for the other components of the program, so we’re very excited about what’s to come.”
Is your organization interested in getting involved with Beyond Football?
Contact Kayla Gross, Program Coordinator
OBG Blog Archives