Acacia Cooper started as brewmaster at Climate City at the end of May. The native Bend-ite is happy to be back in her home state. “I had always had it in my mind to return at some point to buy property and start a family, so it was wonderful timing when the brewmaster job opened up.” Photo courtesy of Acacia Cooper
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The new head brewer at Climate City Brewing Co. is ready to shake up the status quo in her brewhouse. Acacia Cooper, who started working at the Grants Pass business at the end of May, said she is coming into the new position with the goal of diversifying the beer offerings at her workplace.
“It’s very common for a brewery to have only one strain of yeast and use it exclusively, but I want to brew beer styles from all over the world with all different kinds of yeasts and with all kinds of unique ingredients,” Cooper explained. “I want to push the boundaries of what is traditionally considered "beer" ingredients and expose people to some extremely different, creative and delicious beers. I've already got styles on tap from Germany, England, France and the U.S., and I'm planning on introducing many more.”
Cooper, who graduated from Southern Oregon University five years ago, got her start in the industry with a paid-in-beer internship at Ashland’s Standing Stone Brewing Company. Like many professional brewers before her, Cooper became fascinated with the mix of art, biology and chemistry after taking up the hobby of homebrewing in college. “So, instead of pursuing my pre-med degree I decided to follow my heart, got my degree in chemistry anyway, and applied it to brewing,” she said.
The stint at Standing Stone was followed by a summer as an intern at Snake River Brewery in Wyoming. Cooper landed her first job at California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company, where she was the lead research and development brewer for four years. She believes that prepared her to take on the new role.
By taking the job at Climate City, the native Bend-ite gets to be back in her home state. “I had always had it in my mind to return at some point to buy property and start a family, so it was wonderful timing when the brewmaster job opened up at Climate City,” Cooper said. Her perfect desert-island beer is, in an appropriate nod to her hometown, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale. When not working up a sweat in the brewhouse, Cooper enjoys organic gardening with her husband and making compost tea. But tranquil pastimes are not her only passion. Cooper welcomes a good, old-fashioned bar fight, so take note of her guns if you happen to see her after work.
“I'm also pretty good at arm-wrestling, and can sometimes be talked into friendly competition at the bar after a few good pints of craft beer,” Cooper said. Consider yourself warned.
Climate City Brewing
[a] 509 SW G St., Grants Pass
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“It’s the climate,” is a fitting motto for the city of Grants Pass, and Climate City Brewing Company knows how to make those mild winters and warm summers just a little bit better.
With delicious beer, that is.
Climate City was filling its first pint glasses back in March in its revamped historic brick building at 509 SW G St., and it was looking to take its first-rate craft beers to the regional growler market this fall.
And maybe a few bar taps, said Climate City co-owner Steve Baksay.
“We want to be selective at first — kind of brand ourselves to the crowd around here before we start sneaking up to Portland,” said Baksay, who is also a self-employed physical therapist in Grants Pass.
For supplying kegs in Southern Oregon, the brewery has been eyeballing Gil’s in Ashland, Beerworks and Growler King in Medford and Frank N Stene’s Monster Growlers in Grants Pass.
The most popular beer at Climate City is its Nookie IPA, said Baksay, which comes in at 6.5 percent ABV and 65 IBUs. The beer is crisp and clean with a malt backbone — everything you’d expect from a Northwest IPA.
The brewery pours three additional core beers: an easy-drinking Yellow Belly Blonde at 4.8 percent ABV and 20 IBUs; Rainie Falls Red at 5.5 percent ABV and 50 IBUs, which nails that hard-to-find, malty-bitter balance; and the Hyperion Porter at 5.8 percent ABV and 40 IBUs, which would make a splendid breakfast or shower beer.
At Climate City’s circa-1886 digs, though, beer is only one side of the story, said Mike Held, general manager of the restaurant, who, prior to settling in Grants Pass in August, called Texas and South Carolina home.
“I have had some pretty good restaurants under my belt and this place takes the cake in ambiance and beauty, along with the food and beer,” said Held. “I am just really excited about the direction that we are heading.”
The smoked duck poutine is one of the most popular menu items, he said, as has been the blackened-salmon and chipotle cream pasta dish dubbed “Mamacita.”
The restaurant boasts about 200 seats, Held said, 50 of which are outdoors. The restaurant’s outdoor patio is perched above Gilbert Creek with a fireplace centerpiece and hops growing nearby.
Brewmaster Brandon Crews joined the Climate City team from Rock Bottom Brewery in Portland, said Baksay, and has been a perfect fit.
Baksay, who owns the brewery and restaurant with his wife Jodi Paquin, a social worker, and longtime friends Mark Simchuk and his wife Christine Meis, who are local podiatrists, said Climate City will be looking to add another 20- to 30-barrel system in addition to is current 10-barrel system sometime next year.
The system will go in at a new site and coincide with the brewery switching gears into production mode with bottling and distribution, Baksay said.
“We’re looking forward to the next year,” he said. “We’ve already learned so much.”
It’s been an exciting journey, Baksay said, since the four co-owners started bantering with each other about starting their own brewery at the Winter Brewfest at Josephine County Fairgrounds in November 2013.
“After two or three, or four pints of beer we started talking about breweries,” Baksay said. And the rest is Climate City.
Jerry Miller is brewer for JD’s Sports Bar and Brewery in Grants Pass. He’s been brewing in the Rogue Valley since the early 1990s.
Photo by Gail Oberst
By Gail Oberst
Jerry Miller was convinced when he started commercial brewing in 1993 that there couldn’t possibly be room left in the local market for more craft beer. Wild River was already operating in Grants Pass, and then Caldera came to Ashland (1997). “I thought this was the last cresting wave,” said Miller of the ’90s flourish.
He was wrong. New breweries have continued to thrive in the past 20 years in the Rogue Valley, leading to the latest small brewery boom including Griess Family, Chinook Brewing, Conner Fields, Opposition, Portal, JD’s Sports Bar and Brewery and others. Miller has been JD’s brewer for more than a year.
Miller claims he started one of Grants Pass’ first post-prohibition brew pubs. From 1993 to 2001, Miller worked at the Blue Pine Brew Pub, a favorite haunt of many in the Rogue Valley, some of whom are commercial and home-brewing today.
Miller was a machinist who in 1990 had just moved back to Grants Pass when he decided to take a homebrew class at Rogue Community College. After winning homebrew competitions, Miller was inspired to brew for Blue Pine Brew Pub.
“I loved the sound of fermenting beer,” Miller said. “It’s music to my ears.”
After Blue Pine’s owner passed away, Miller joined up with Ross Linton, the owner of Walkabout Brewery in Medford, where he brewed until last year.
A few years ago, Jack DiMatteo, owner of JD’s Sports Bar and a former Blue Pine customer, began making plans to brew at his place. Last year, Miller took him up on the challenge.
Miller said JD’s is closer to his home than Walkabout. The man with kids and grandkids at home said he needed to stay close, and DiMatteo’s offer made that possible. Today, the 8-barrel system puts at least 10 beers on tap at the bar: three are rotating seasonals.
At JD’s, Miller and crew are brewing up a surprising variety of beers, all offered on tap at the bar and at a few other locations in the Rogue Valley. This fall look for an Oktoberfest beer, MidSommar Ale, Paisan Porter and Knock Out Stout, to name a few.
JD’s Sports Pub & Brewery
[a] 690 Redwood Highway, Grants Pass
[h] Open: 7 days a week
Owner: Jack DiMatteo
Brewer: Jerry Miller
By Brian Yaeger
The Rogue and Umpqua Valleys are proving that the operative word in Southern Oregon is “Oregon.” A recent spate of brewery openings has literally doubled the number of breweries from ten to twenty in the last two years. Ashland is set to welcome its third brewery, Swing Tree, where owner/brewer Brandon Overstreet and his wife Tanya have lofty plans for spontaneous fermented beers but will debut with the likes of Obligatory IPA. Up in Medford, Apocalypse packs its warehouse space and the newer Portal provides a cozy pub atmosphere. On the northern end of Southern Oregon in Roseburg, Old 99 is brewing clean, top-notch beers and you’ll be stoked to make the acquaintance of Billy (last name: Bad Ass, who’s a Double IPA). Nearby, Two Shy is open for growler fills and is building out its tasting room to enjoy pints of their DIPA, Ignition. And coming soon is Dogbarrel, currently operating as a homebrew supply store but the 1.5 barrel system is already in the back awaiting operation. Way up in White City amid rural ranches there’s Fire Cirkl, a braggot brewery featured elsewhere in these pages. Last but not least, right in the middle, Grants Pass is experiencing a relative boom with three new breweries. There’s the forthcoming Griess Family in brewer Trevor Griess’s backyard called JD’s Sports Pub that added a brewery that makes shockingly decent beers like their pale ale, and, a veritable beer geek destination that you sadly can’t visit, Conner Fields.
Jon Conner moved to Southern Oregon with his buddy Josh Fields to start this 1.5-barrel brewery. Josh has departed, but the name sticks, and sensibly so, since it’s situated in fields of grapes, quite literally on the Conner Family Vinery, or what you and I might call a vineyard. Jon would love to add a hop yard, but first thing’s first. His stable of quality saisons and farmhouse beers are sold primarily at the Grants Pass farmers market in pre-filled growlers and one of the best is the Zin Saison made with Zinfandel grapes hand-plucked right outside the barn that houses the brewery. The farmers market attracts a few thousand people, and to sate their disparate thirsts, Conner Fields offers around fifteen different beers, though none as a year-round flaghship. One beer that’s garnering a fan base is Robot Small, a Japanese-esque beer in that 30 percent of the grain bill is comprised of rice and its abundance of Sorachi hops, lending the lemony high notes to this already light, top-heavy beer.
Born to be a maker—he was a sculptor back in New York with a homebrewing hobby who now makes beer but is always sculpting his brewing equipment—he’s looking forward to putting some of the empty wine barrels that surround him to good use. “I have Tempranillo barrels, port, Zin, Sherry...I will be barrel aging, but no Brett or I’ll be kicked out by all the winemakers.”
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