By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Have you ever wondered what “The Simpsons” and renowned counterculture author Ken Kesey have in common?
You’ll find both in downtown Springfield. However, while an unofficial “Moe's Tavern” is nearby, only Ken Kesey has a direct connection to local beer.
Old City Artists, with offices in both Studio City, Calif. and Portland, painted a 15-foot-by-30-foot mural of the long-running animated TV show in 2014. Old City has also worked with Nike, Disney and Madison Square Garden. Then, during four days in August 2015, Old City Artists returned to Springfield to paint a new mural — photorealistic and two stories tall — of Ken Kesey, the Merry Prankster of the 1960s, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion,” and graduate of Springfield High School (where he was voted “Most Likely to Succeed”). Kesey originally moved to Springfield in 1946 and lived much of his life just south of town in the rural community of Pleasant Hill. He died in 2001. The Kesey mural is on the wall of the Odd Fellows Building at 346 Main St., better known as Plank Town Brewing Company.
“The City of Springfield approached Plank Town with their idea to honor Ken Kesey,” says Bart Caridio, owner of Plank Town and Eugene-based Sam Bond’s Brewing, as well as the pubs Sam Bond’s Garage (Eugene) and the Axe & Fiddle (Cottage Grove). “The Odd Fellows were instrumental in agreeing to this idea, agreeing to have the mural on their building, and Plank Town just had to agree to have in on their business. It was a big fat ‘YES’ from both parties."
A panel of Springfield civic and business representatives, including Caridio and Kesey family members, put out a call for designs. The panel reviewed and selected the final design from eight submissions. Caridio recalls the design’s innovative incorporation of the wall’s windows and building elements as being key in the panel’s decision. The winning design was by Craig Ferroggiaro of Portland-based Willamette Valley Color, who has also created images for Swiss Army, Toyota and Apple. The $28,000 project cost was funded by Springfield hotel taxes.
Once selected, Old City Artists collaborated closely with the Kesey family to include memorabilia in the bookcase that is the primary part of the mural, such as the tie-dyed FURTHUR bus that Kesey and his fellow Merry Pranksters drove around the U.S. during the counterculture movement of the 1960s. In a video about the mural, Old City Artists described its “impossible idea” to tell Kesey’s story as a “father, farmer, magician, writer, athlete and counterculture icon,” focusing on imagery such as the bookshelf, a family photo and a concert ticket. “The mural is at once simple and complicated — just like Ken,” concludes Old City Artists. In addition to owner Erik Nicolaisen, Old City Artists members Christopher Slaymaker, Eduardo Garcia, and Patrick McGregor worked on the mural. The finished piece was unveiled and dedicated at a public celebration, also attended by Rep. Peter DeFazio, on Aug. 28, 2015.
Since its opening in 2013, Plank Town has become a cornerstone of downtown renewal in Springfield, once known more for strip joints and dive bars, and now increasingly known for craft beer, the performing arts and small businesses. Along with Hop Valley Brewing Co., Plank Town serves as a Springfield destination — particularly for folks working their way along the Eugene Ale Trail of breweries. The mural, Plank Town is finding, also gives people another reason to visit downtown Springfield and stop in for a pint.
“We all have noticed that there has been a pickup of tourism to check out the mural,” says Michelle Long of Plank Town. “It's pretty common now to look out the side window of the restaurant and see someone across the street taking pictures and staring at the building for quite a while to read and discover every part of the memorabilia in the bookcase. It's not uncommon to see people quite taken and going through a range of emotions while looking at the mural.”
Long sees the mural as enriching the Springfield art scene and enhancing the city’s growing reputation and new identity as a destination for art, culture, food, craft beverages and the outdoors. “Springfield has Second Friday Art Walks,” explains Long. “Adding another mural in the downtown area of this caliber is wonderful for getting people to notice what lovely things we have going on out here.”
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“With a passion for hops, and the patience for sour.”
Great Notion Brewing's slogan couldn't be more simple and straightforward, but it's what lies behind that simplicity that sets James, Andy and Paul's operation apart. Their passion for hops is expressed in the juicy New England-style IPAs James took a shine to while the 5-year-old house culture used in their sours is a testament to their patience. But to get to where they are now, we have to look back at how this notion became a great one.
James Dugan, Andy Miller and Paul Reiter are all Portland transplants who fortuitously found each other through geographic proximity. They live within a block of each other and on a block that holds annual parties. Portland craft beer drinkers should count themselves lucky that these guys are not only the kind of friendly folk who would attend those gatherings, but also that two of the three were generous homebrewers who shared their beers.
Both James and Andy had been brewing for some time; Andy getting his start while he was going to college in Alabama and James, an all-in brewer from the beginning, skipped straight over extract, went all grain and reached for the stars by brewing a Pliny clone on his first time out. For more than 10 years they had each been progressively getting more serious and refining their beers. James even won a medal in 2012 for a sour beer that was made with his own sour culture. They started brewing together when Andy's house was being remodeled, and although James had always preferred to brew alone, he found he liked brewing with Andy. When Paul tried their beers, he asked the obvious question of why the two weren't in the process of opening a brewery. Before long, that's exactly what the three of them were on the path to do.
Paul utilized his business background, which includes an MBA and specialization in sales and marketing, to work on a business pitch that the three presented to people they knew that might be interested in investing. Their goal of putting together between $500,000 and $1 million became a reality with a combination of funds from investors and a small business loan. Once the finances were in place, it was a matter of finding a suitable location — something that proved to be a sticking point until, through a friend of a friend, they learned that the owner of The Mash Tun on Northeast Alberta Street was looking to get out of the business.
The Mash Tun had been going about its business making acceptable beer and providing standard pub grub for years. But in a time when new breweries have been popping up as quickly as dandelions in the spring, they were an oft-overlooked blip on the Portland brewery scene. With the change in ownership and name, Great Notion has quickly found its name on the lips of thirsty Portlanders. Their twice-weekly brewing on the existing 7-barrel system is barely keeping pace with demand. Batches of Juice Jr., an insanely flavorful session IPA brewed with 100 percent Mosaic hops, have been lasting less than two weeks. And this was before their Grand Beer Release Party, an open house/grand opening party that featured 14 of their beers.
A handful of the beers at the Great Release were sours or barrel aged, styles that more and more young breweries are jumping into early on. Kettle-soured beers, like their Berliner weisse Zest, are a great introduction to their sour program that will continue. In addition to patience, space is another requirement for barrels, something that is in limited supply at Great Notion. Working around that, they secured a second facility in St. Johns to hold barrels. There's room for up to 100 barrels, which currently come from a local winery. Wine barrels are "dirty" from the standpoint that they come with Brettanomyces cultures from the grapes. This aligns perfectly with Great Notion's brewing of sour beers and they're taking it a step further by utilizing fruit — peaches, apricots, raspberries and cherries -- in the barrels.
Beyond brewing up great beer, Great Notion intends to be an integral part of the Alberta neighborhood and a place families like theirs can enjoy. With each of the three founders having two kids, it was a no-brainer to welcome children during all open hours, have a play area and offer a minor's version of hump day happy hour $1 meals on Wednesdays. Speaking of food, heading up the kitchen is Chef Ryan O'Connor, formerly of Vita Cafe and Helser's. He's someone they knew previously and have so much faith in, that they are able to be relatively hands-off with that aspect of the brewpub. Since they initially didn't think they would offer food, and instead planned to have food trucks, this is an ideal arrangement. For now, the menu offers plenty of familiar items — sandwiches, salads, pot pie and mac and cheese — but as they go forward, look for Ryan to spread his wings further, throwing in beer pairing dinners and the like.
They've gotten down great beer and great food, but what about the name Great Notion? The credit for that goes to Andy's wife, Emily. It pays homage to Oregon's history and the state's most famous author, Ken Kesey, who wrote “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” and grew up in Springfield. His next novel was “Sometimes a Great Notion” and Kesey was also a fan of The Grateful Dead, as is James. Thus the name was a fit on multiple levels. The logo, a lumberjack toting a mug of beer, reinforces their connection to Oregon and its logging history. The trio may be transplants, but they've embraced the place they now call home and invite craft beer drinkers to share in their Great Notion.
Great Notion Brewing
[a] 2204 NE Alberta St. #101, Portland
OBG Blog Archives
Welcome to our archive pages! Read stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler from June 2012 to January 2018. For newer stories, please visit our new website at: