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.
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