“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Mike Boyle said of his new business in Sisters, Hop In The Spa. “And of course people just love it when they get here.” Hop In The Spa was inspired by beer spas that can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped. Photo courtesy of Hop In The Spa
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are seemingly endless ways that Oregon has tried to cash in on the beer tourism craze. The latest evidence of that trend: a spa where you soak in beer.
Ever since Hop In The Spa opened in Sisters in February of this year, it’s been nearly non-stop business, according to Mike Boyle, co-founder of the spa.
Some of the reason for that? It’s gotten a ton of free publicity in the form of mainstream press coverage for what is America’s first “beer spa,” an idea that Boyle and co-founder Sally Champa ported from Europe. Hop in the Spa has been featured in the likes of Time, Newsweek, CNBC, Maxim and Men’s Journal.
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Boyle said. “And of course people just love it when they get here.”
Boyle even said the Travel Channel was sending a camera crew in July for part of a special that would feature the spa that is still just a few months old.
The story of how Hop in the Spa came to life has been well told in most of those publications. Last fall, Boyle, a longtime Sisters resident, got into a car accident and his doctor recommended that he go to a massage therapist. That’s how he met Champa, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the newness of the idea and all the press coverage has helped Hop In The Spa’s fast rise, it’s also rooted in the service it provides.
The core idea and novelty is the soaking in “beer.” Technically, you’re not soaking in beer as much as hop-infused water with minerals, oils and some beer added in. The soaking mixture is brewed onsite. Beer spas can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped.
Many of the packages at the spa include a massage after the soak, and the two things work hand-in-hand, according to Boyle.
“The soak kind of tenderizes and marinates your body,” Boyle said in describing why Hop In The Spa has gotten early rave reviews. You also get a beer with the treatment. “You’re not getting inebriated, but the whole experience gets you so prepared by the time you get on the massage table.”
Of course, beer is a big part of the experience as well -- Hop in the Spa has a deal with Bend’s Deschutes Brewery. Boyle says that it has the biggest selection of Deschutes beers available anywhere outside of its pubs. The spa is also close to opening a beer garden on the premises.
Based on the early returns, Boyle said franchising the Hop In The Spa idea appears to be in the cards. Spas could be coming soon to Hawaii and California. And Roanoke, Va. — the site of Deschutes Brewery’s new East Coast brewery — is also a possibility.
But for now, the only place in the U.S. to get in a “beer soak” is in Sisters. And based on its popularity, you better make your reservations early if you want to get in the door.
Hop In The Spa
[a] 371 W. Cascade Ave., Sisters
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The writer behind the recently published zine, A Feminist's Guide to Beer Drinking, is unsurprisingly, a girl (and yes, she's OK being a "girl"). She's also a certified Cicerone, coauthor of the book “Hop in the Saddle” and has her first solo book coming out this fall.
Before Lucy Burningham came to the beer mecca that is Portland, she was living in Utah, which has laws she diplomatically describes as "weird." Those used to the beer-favorable laws found here, however, might describe Utah’s limit of 4% ABV on beers sold at grocery stores and convenience stores “shockingly antiquated.” Moreover, so-called “high point beer” with an ABV above 4% is limited to bottles only, even at state liquor stores, breweries, bars and restaurants. Those laws have resulted in a general lack of craft beer (although that is slowly changing) and for Lucy, a lack of a palate for beer.
When she moved to Portland in 2005 to pursue a master's in creative nonfiction writing at Portland State University, she fell in love with the city after being wooed, in part, by its craft beer scene. While interviewing a beer sommelier for her first beer article she not only learned that beer could taste like bananas; Burningham was also impressed with the beer culture. People knew the brewers, they expressed a tremendous amount of pride for local beers and were passionate about their favorites. It's not hard to understand how she became hooked on Portland, on drinking craft beer and on writing about craft beer.
That first beer article turned out to be the start of a new point of interest and direction in her journalistic career. Lucy had written for years about food. In fact, the thesis for her master's was on Oregon truffles. But Portland's beer enticed her to explore her beer palate. Jumping into craft beer Portland-style, IPAs were her first love due to what she describes as their "bracing bitterness." Beyond being drawn in by the taste, her curiosity was piqued by the wide variety of color variations both within and across beer styles. All of this combined with her journalistic skills to produce pieces for well-known publications such as Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, The New York Times and SAVEUR.
Out of her vast collection of writing, it was Lucy's first piece for The New York Times that she is most proud of. The article, “A Hop and a Sip to Fresh Ales,” was not only her first high-profile beer piece, but its research put her on a hop farm for the first time. At Sodbuster Farms in Salem, she was introduced to the excitement and incredible smells of the hop harvest. That, along with other beer experiences, opened her eyes to how much there was to explore, which she continued to do through writing. It also spurred her to pursue formal beer education and become a Certified Cicerone.
The Cicerone Certification Program offers three levels of certification with Certified Cicerone being the second, giving students a well-rounded education on beer as well as the skills needed to assess beer quality. Passing a comprehensive exam is necessary for certification and Lucy took the preparation to heart. She learned what it’s like to be a beer student — experiencing the intense pressure and feelings of being completely overwhelmed. Tough decisions arose, including times where she wasn’t sure whether she should just simply sip and enjoy a beer or continue to study in order to pass the exam. Her hard work and dedication paid off when she passed the exam and, as a bonus, she realized she had the content for her forthcoming book, “My Beer Year.”
Lucy Burningham writes about beer for well-known publications and has a new zine called A Feminist’s Guide to Beer Drinking. The journalist wanted to expand her experience with food writing by turning to beer after moving from Utah to Portland and falling love with the craft beer culture. Photo by Kris McDowell
While it will be a few months before her new book is available, her most recent work, A Feminist's Guide to Beer Drinking, is available in hard copy and online. Part of the Portland Zine series, it's one in a set of independently published booklets that reflects the progressive spirit and DIY ethos of the city. When Lucy was initially approached about the guide, she wasn’t sure she could pull it off. As she was brainstorming her approach, she started thinking about the women in the Oregon beer world and how they help to define it. Before she knew it, she was excited about what lay ahead.
With her proposal accepted, she interviewed a number of women, including Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, Miranda Kasten of Lady Brew Portland, Teri Fahrendorf of the Pink Boots Society and Whitney Burnside of 10 Barrel Brewing. She wanted the project to be part serious and part playful. It starts off serious, with a section on Gayle where she talks about her role in taking over a portion of the family hop-growing business and changing its focus to craft brewers to meet the changing times.
The playful tone becomes apparent as you move through the pages and find articles such as “How to Evaluate Beer Like a Lady *Or a Man *Or Fluid Gender of Preference.” There's also a guide for hosting a ladies' beer night that concludes with the instruction to "dream about your next ladies' beer night." In addition to Lucy's writing style, the zine's tone is assisted by illustrations from Deirdre Mahon and the layout, reminiscent of a scrapbook of favorite memories, pulls off the balance she was looking for.
The balance in the zine reflects a similar balance in Lucy's feelings about gender in craft beer. While acknowledging that gender can't be ignored and there are still biases and stereotypes, it's not something that she focuses on. Rather it's something that surfaces somewhat unconsciously — like when she finds herself at a beer event counting the number of men versus the number of women.
She's seen the number of women involved in craft beer increase in the last 10 years and takes the count as more of a quick observation than of something to dwell on. In her experience, she's generally found the beer community to be very welcoming, spurring her curiosity instead of discriminating against it. It's the occasional situation that catches her by surprise briefly. For instance, there was the time she was told by a guy that “you don’t look like a beer drinker,” which left her a bit bewildered. Much like the boy picking on girls on the playground, there's bound to be one who hasn't figured out that both guys and girls enjoy craft beer and can even enjoy craft beer together.
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