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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