By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The internet was supposed to make life easier and solve humanity’s problems, so who figured it would take an online bookstore more than two decades just to get beer deliveries to your home right? When Amazon rolled out its Prime Now service in late 2014, home beer and wine deliveries were discussed, but it wasn’t until August of 2017 that the service launched in Oregon. Amazon is famous for helping kill off local and big-box book retailers, and some are now concerned they could do the same to grocery stores and bottle shops.
Prime Now is an app for your phone or device that lets you order items you’d normally find at large grocers: food, household supplies and gadgets. To use this service, you must be an Amazon Prime member, which for $99 a year is easily worth it if you do any other online shopping or video/music streaming. Products are shipped through the company’s regional partners, and based on my zip code that would be New Seasons Market, Whole Foods Market or Amazon’s local product center.
Ordering from each incurs a separate delivery fee (typically about $5) that’s waived when the purchase amount reaches a certain threshold. Amazon then adds a suggested $5 tip for the driver, which can be edited. Users choose a two-hour arrival window and it can be scheduled days in advance. If you’re in a hurry, one-hour delivery is available for a fee ranging from $4.99-7.99. Prices are comparable, if not exactly the same, as what’s in stores. Another benefit is the option to have your package left on a safe porch without signature (though you must be present with identification if purchasing alcohol).
Amazon’s Prime Now store is the only outlet in my zip code to ship beer, cider and wine (none of the hard stuff). There is a “Cold Beer” section with subcategories for “Local and Craft Beer” along with domestics, imports and specific styles. At this point, your choices are limited to the lineup you might find at your local mini-mart, but I suspect that will change — especially if there’s demand.
Under “Local and Craft Beer,” some might quibble with listings for Not Your Father’s Root Beer, Blue Moon, Elysian, 10 Barrel and Hop Valley, but that’s neither here nor there. More important to most is the local beer selection, which includes new and classic — but safe — hits from Breakside, BridgePort, Crux, Full Sail, Deschutes, Ecliptic, Fort George, Ninkasi, Oakshire, Pyramid, Rogue, Widmer and Worthy. National/international players are even more basic, like Corona, Guinness, New Belgium, Pacifico, Stella and, interestingly, Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen.
I have now ordered from Amazon’s Prime Now service five times, three of them specifically for beer, finding mostly good results. The delivery often arrives on the early side of the two-hour window, and they take care to put the beer in a thin, but still temperature-holding, Mylar bag along with an ice pack. I encountered one issue with my first purchase of two bottles of Breakside’s flagship IPA in 22-ounce bottles (well-priced at $4.29 each) and a six-pack of Pelican’s Beak Breaker Double IPA. Shortly after placing the order, I was notified via email that the Pelican beer wasn’t available. The rest of the items came as usual, and there was no charge for the six-pack — though it was still listed as being available more than a week later.
Polling the hive mind known as my social media connections, I came across one other interesting snag that I tested myself. When requesting a seasonal release, you may not end up with the beer you intend. For instance, one person discovered that an order placed for Fort George’s Suicide Squeeze IPA actually resulted in the brewery’s 3-Way IPA being delivered. I attempted to replicate this by ordering Suicide Squeeze along with Breakside’s Toro Red (the site actually pictured the brewery’s What Rough Beast beer). I ended up receiving the 3-Way as well and the India Golden Ale by Breakside. The lesson: beware of accuracy when it comes to ordering seasonals. On the plus-side, it’s nice to get a refund and still keep the beer by sending in a complaint. This, however, highlights areas where online beer delivery will most likely always fall short — in selection and depth of knowledge.
“Delivery works best for replenishing staples,” says Carl Singmaster, one of the proprietors of Belmont Station in Southeast Portland. “For the consumer that prefers to drink primarily one widely available brand consistently, it makes a lot of sense. But for those who are constantly exploring and learning, I think they'll prefer to shop at bricks and mortar.”
“When customers need friendly interaction, real opinions, industry gossip or tips, that's where we come in. There's nothing virtual about it,” says Sarah Pederson, owner of North Portland’s Saraveza tavern and bottle shop.
With Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, there’s a lot of concern that the massive company could push out mom-and-pop grocery and beer retailers. While most bottle shop owners I talked to think that Prime Now is more of a threat to big-box stores, they are still considering the possible consequences.
“We may lose some sales,” says Sean Campbell (aka John Beermonger), owner of The BeerMongers bottle shop and bar in Southeast Portland, “but I feel that is always a threat either from grocery stores or big liquor stores. Knowledgeable staff, good prices and good atmosphere should help keep the little guys in business.”
Sarah Pederson agrees, “I think Amazon grocery will affect grocery stores in the beer departments more than small bottle shops such as Saraveza. I can't imagine that all the time, effort, devotion and education we put into our selection on a weekly basis could be mimicked by a ginormous online store.”
In addition to the selection and expert customer support, Prime Now doesn’t offer details consumers want, like where their beer is coming from.
“I have so many customers who are very conscientious of what brands they purchase in regards to the ownership of the brewery,” says Sarah Pederson. “I don't know if these people refuse to shop at Walmart or on Amazon, but I'm curious to hear from them.”
The area where Amazon really could hurt small businesses is pricing. “The biggest concern is that a company of the scale and with the cash on hand of an Amazon can subsidize their service to undercut other retailers. The other concern would be if producers and distributors give them outsized allocations of limited-release beers,” comments Singmaster.
Beermonger is more concerned about the beer itself. “I know not all beer is stored properly. I see it in big stores, but also specialty stores. If people get inferior product that was stored and shipped under less-than-ideal conditions, they may blame the brewery for making bad beer. This is a problem that often comes up and I see this new delivery system increasing the likelihood of beer that is ‘off.’”
Overall, these craft-centric retailers were interested in following this new wave of beer delivery, but didn’t seem overly worried about competition. In some cases, they were even encouraging.
“I am all for consumers having as many options and choices available to them as possible,” says Singmaster. “For those that prefer to have their groceries delivered rather than visiting stores in person, there is no reason they shouldn't be able to put beer and wine into the mix.”
“Convenience sells. This move by Amazon and Whole Foods is a sign of the times, and we shouldn't be surprised by it. In fact, we should be prepared for more of it. People are very emotional, and often fearful, about big business and how it takes over. It's not necessarily a bad thing for the craft beer movement, but it sure is an interesting twist in this ever-changing industry.”
One thing is for sure, now that there are more ways to get beer delivered, Amazon won’t be the only one to get into the business. Additional specialty retailers are likely on the way. We already have draft growler beer subscription services in companies like Hopsy and bottle subscription through Tavour, among others.
By Aaron Brussat
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the high elevations of the Peruvian Andes, civilizations of men and women transformed the harsh mountain landscape into livable, arable terrain. By brute force and, perhaps, extraterrestrial engineering skills, the Inca constructed architectural wonders, including Machu Picchu. Lookout towers, temples and an intricate aqueduct system built into the nearly vertical mountainside reflect the importance of quality workmanship; one loose stone and the whole thing falls apart.
In the Sacred Valley, on the way to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco, Peruvian native Juan Mayorga, along with Oregonian Joe Giammatteo and his wife Louisa de Heer, built a brewery from the ground up. Its construction was arduous, and introducing Peruvians to craft beer — especially craft beer on draft — proved to be a challenge that might rival the construction of the Inca citadel.
Founded on years of day-dreamy conversation brought to life by Mayorga’s initiative, Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley Brewery) began as an empty swath of land in Pachar along the Urubamba River, which draws water from southeastern Peru and winds through the valley northward to a junction that connects with the Amazon River and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. The nearby city of Ollantaytambo is a charming, stone-walled historic site — the only city to successfully fend off Spanish conquistadors — and is the last train stop before Machu Picchu. Incan ruins abound.
De Heer and Giammatteo developed a water treatment plan to keep runoff from the brewery out of the river. Using buried cisterns, pH management and a biodigester, the brewery’s wastewater is rendered neutral.
“We checked out plans from New Belgium and worked with an environmental engineer from Cusco,” said Giammatteo, who worked at Eugene’s Oakshire Brewing before moving south. “I looked at a couple Craft Brewers Conference talks related to wastewater treatment, and spoke with Ben [Tilley] at Agrarian Ales about their system. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. But we don’t have a lot of infrastructure.”
Adobe bricks, concrete, corrugated metal, plaster, stainless steel and a bit of wood comprise the brewery building. From a “combi,” which is kind of like a van-sized taxi for long-distance destinations, one sees the brewery as a pale beige structure with the logo (which has a distinct Oregon quality) and hops painted on the side. Once inside, you feel at home.
The taproom is modestly sized, colorful and (most importantly) has beer. Customers are greeted warmly and given a little dish of “choclo,” the national bar snack of giant corn kernels, fried and salted to a starchy crisp. The beer selection is not far from home — our home. While the regional fermented beverage is “chicha,” a partially malted corn brew, there is none of that here. It can be found through mysterious doorways along the narrow cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo, signified by a stick with a red handkerchief tied on the end that means “Chicha is ready.” IPA, red, witbier, saison and other familiar delights are a sight for certain sore eyes and a delight to all tongues, and with pint in hand, a wander around the property reveals a small garden with familiar vegetables, courtesy of de Heer’s green thumb. A sizable grass lawn and picnic table may host mountain bikers, local families with lively children, folks grabbing a beer after work or tourists, and affords a view down the valley to the northwest as well as of the cliffs that rise a thousand feet directly across the road.
Life in Peru is, obviously, different from our comfortable ways. The atmosphere is raw; the sun burns pale gringo skin in minutes. The infrastructure of the larger cities is not set up to support the current population. Floods trigger water outages; political maneuvers trigger road-blocking protests. These things are part of life; craft beer is a new thing. Craft beer is becoming increasingly visible in Peru, which has nearly 20 breweries to its landmass (larger than Texas). Most of them are in coastal Lima, though a few have cropped up in Cusco and Arequipa.
Exposing an unaware populace to an artisan food product is as challenging as it sounds. The concepts of beer freshness and refrigeration, let alone serving it on draft, are nearly nonexistent. In order to open new accounts, Giammatteo had to install kegerators, draft lines and faucets before putting anything on tap. They reached out to pubs and recently opened bars.
“We said, ‘We’re going to offer a new product. It’s draft beer. It’s high quality. The beer you’re bringing in from England is oxidized and not particularly interesting.’ Most of the owners weren’t beer drinkers, so they were like ‘Eh, OK.’ Some people were hesitant about the draft but got over it. We gave our first accounts a significant amount of infrastructure; they knew it would be a good investment.”
A little more than two years in operation, Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado has earned numerous medals in national and international competitions, and has won favor with locals and tourists alike.
“Peru is unique in that food is so crucial to how the culture works,” said Giammatteo. “As a result, if a food writer gets excited about a beer, all of a sudden you have followers.” He added that they were fortunate to get attention early on. “We had a beer event in Lima. A lot of food writers were there and wrote us up, and we won best in show. From the press we got from that it was easy to get momentum going.”
Giammatteo has collaborated with other Peruvian breweries, and took quickly to using local vegetation, such as “ayrampo” (the pink, peppery seeds of a local cactus), wild cherries and locally grown peaches.
Giammatteo and de Heer returned to their home in Eugene this April, bringing along their 3-month-old son and an adopted dog named Rabbit. After three years, it was time. Giammatteo handed over the brewhouse to Ben Kent, who came from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery to a production brewery called Sierra Andina in the central part of the country. Soon, he’ll be joined at Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado by another brewer with experience at Uinta Brewing Co. Giammatteo plans to visit occasionally to keep tabs on things and help with his envisioned “brewer exchange” program.
Getting to the brewery takes some time, some haggling with taxi drivers and several pisco sours. At 9,000 feet elevation, the buzz sets in quick and can exacerbate altitude sickness, so staying a few days to get acclimated is recommended.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Another brewery in Bend? Sounds foolhardy. A risky business decision at best. But don’t jump to conclusions. What it you offered something no one else did? That’s the case for Immersion Brewing — the ONLY place in town where you can brew your own beer.
Sean Lampe, co-owner with his partner Amanda Plattner and her sister Rachael Plattner, said, “We felt like Bend was perfect. We’re focused on the highest-quality beer and experience. If you don’t have people around challenging you, you won’t make great beer,” he said.
According to the Bend Visitor Center, the city has plenty of challengers. It has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon; as of last June, the Oregon Brewers Guild listed 26 in Bend.
Immersion opened last summer after many construction delays. “We signed the lease in December of 2014 and have been working on it for a couple years,” said Lampe.
The idea for the BIY (brew-it-yourself) business originated 18 years ago in Lampe’s college dorm room at the University of Colorado where he was homebrewing. New Belgium was a small local brewery then and Lampe quickly latched onto craft beer’s flavor, which was so distinct from domestics. While still a student, he worked as an assistant brewer at Walnut Brewery in Boulder, Colo. for two years. After graduation, he continued homebrewing in Tokyo where he worked as an IT recruiter for large financial companies. “There wasn’t much of a beer culture in Tokyo,” he said.
When the market crashed in 2008, so did his job and he returned to the states for work. Once again, he started homebrewing. “It was difficult in such a small space and hard to get the ingredients. I was always disappointed with the results,” he said.
Frustrated and dissatisfied with his beers, he realized there was a business opportunity in the failures. He wrote a plan for a brew-it-yourself shop where customers would have professional equipment, plenty of space to work and the best ingredients. Fellow UC alum Amanda Plattner suggested launching the idea in Bend, where she had family.
“We wanted to be more than a homebrew store,” Lampe said. “We wanted a place where you could come and have a great beer and food experience, where you could relax and enjoy yourself, and make some beer, if you were interested.”
Immersion is conveniently located between the Old Mill District and Downtown in one of Bend’s best known landmarks, the 100-year-old Box Factory — a long, red building that’s home to about 30 businesses. When you walk in, the first things you see are the shiny brite tanks, positioned in a semi-circle behind the bar. The five vessels are part of a 10-barrel JVNW system. Lampe wanted exposed tanks and said Immersion is one of the first to get the manufacturer’s rose-gold stainless steel version.
Josh Cosci was hired as the head brewer. Previously with Three Creeks Brewing Company and Worthy Brewing, he was originally in the wine industry in the Willamette Valley. While the lineup of regular beers is still evolving, Cosci likes to barrel age those that become mainstays in order to accentuate different characteristics.
For beer lovers who want to make their own concoction, there is a separate system made up of eight 5-gallon tanks. Ingredients are labeled on open shelving and there are recipe booklets with more than 30 options. IPAs are the most popular, with about half of all customers choosing to brew that style. “But, we get a good mix,” said Lampe. “They are all recipes that I have brewed and like.”
Reservations can be made online for sessions that are generally available Thursday through Saturday. Group size is limited to four people per kettle and an assistant brewer helps customers with the process, which typically lasts about two-and-a-half hours. Of course, it’s not all work and no play. Amateur brewers can order food and drinks to enjoy while they make their beer. Three weeks later, customers return for bottling and labeling, taking home approximately five gallons of beer or a case of 22-ounce bottles. The entire experience costs $180 to $220, depending on the recipe.
The beer lover in your life might enjoy a BIY session as a holiday gift. Or you could schedule your own brew day and give a carefully crafted beer with customized label to your friends and family this year. Whatever the reason or season, gift cards are available.
550 SW Industrial Way #185, Bend
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A small city, a little off the beaten path, in a beautiful region, known for its outdoor activities and increasingly renowned for its craft beer. It might sound like Bend — but it can also describe Bend-based Deschutes Brewing’s recently announced new East Coast home: Roanoke, Va.
To be clear, this isn’t the mysterious vanishing colony you learned about in school (that’s Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina). Nicknamed “Star City of the South” for the 88.5-foot neon star atop Mill Mountain near downtown, Roanoke has been many things. Originally established in 1852 as Big Lick (it was the site of a large salt lick known for attracting wildlife), the city officially became known as Roanoke in 1882. The city of 98,465 has been a popular train stop and manufacturing town, and today is a scenic city to visit when driving I-81 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic National Parkway and All-American Road that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.
There’s a mix of Southern charm and an emerging New South. Like many other small American cities, Roanoke has been redefining itself with small, artisanal businesses in travel, food, art, the outdoors, wine — and craft beer.
“It’s similar to Bend 15 years ago,” says Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewing. “In Central Oregon there’s nearly 30 breweries, and most of those have developed in the past five to 10 years. Within Roanoke and a little outside, there’s a half-dozen breweries now.” Those breweries have also been welcoming neighbors. “They have been so gracious,” says LaLonde. “Every one of those brewers came to the announcement and sat down with us. There’s a similar ethos of getting along and working together that we see in Bend.” The brewing industry has other support too, with a brewing program at nearby Virginia Tech as well as programs at the local community college.
Founded in 1988, today Deschutes now distributes to 28 states and the District of Columbia. But as a brewery distributes farther from its base of operations, transportation and environmental costs increase — as does the risk of quality control problems. Like Full Sail, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, Deschutes decided to set up a new production and distribution facility east of the Mississippi — or, as LaLonde explains, east of Omaha, Neb., the midpoint between Bend and Roanoke.
The two-year search took Deschutes to hundreds of locations, and the decision could have gone a different way. Except that Roanokers launched a social campaign, #Deschutes2Rke, to persuade the company that a small valley city was a better fit than those bigger East Coast places who, as Southern charm dictates, will remain nameless.
“It was amazing,” says LaLonde. “They sent me Louisville Slugger bats engraved with #Deschutes2Rke. Local breweries sent T-shirts. One guy even wrote and recorded a song, sent us the lyrics and CD. They welcomed us with open arms and the hospitality was amazing.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the municipal water supply is similar to Bend’s, and that Deschutes found a slab-ready location (complete with access to a bicycle greenway and a creek). With site construction expected to begin in 2019, by 2021 Deschutes plans to have more than 100 personnel on site and be shipping beer throughout the region. With initial production of approximately 150,000 barrels, LaLonde expects the Roanoke facility to eventually become bigger than the Bend brewery. East Coast beers will include Deschutes’ three most popular flagship beers and four seasonal beers. Regional beers will also be produced and distributed more broadly if they prove popular in the market.
Although opening day is years away, Deschutes is already on the ground, speaking at engagements and sponsoring events. On Aug. 27, Deschutes will host a one-day setup of its 40-tap Street Pub. The family-friendly event will feature live music and cooking demonstrations, with proceeds going to a local charity.
“We were looking for a place similar to Bend where there was lots of outdoor activities that our employees could participate in,” says LaLonde. “We have people who love to trail ride, mountain bike, fly fish. Someone who was in Bend could move to Roanoke and feel comfortable.” LaLonde estimates 15-30 Bend personnel will relocate to Virginia, and there’s plenty of excitement — one person has already bought a house there.
Things to See and Do in Roanoke, Va.:
—See the city and surrounding Roanoke Valley from Mill Mountain Star, the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star
—Traveling with kids? Ride the Zoo Choo at Mill Mountain Zoo
—Drive or bike the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
—Tour the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Center in the Square and Science Museum of Western Virginia
—Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
—Go swimming in or boating on Smith Mountain Lake
Visit Area Breweries
--Big Lick Brewing Company
--Chaos Mountain Brewing
--Flying Mouse Brewery
--Foggy Ridge Cider
--Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
--Parkway Brewing Company
--Sunken City Brewing Company
--Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
--Twin Creeks Brewing Company
Hopworks Urban Brewery in Southeast Portland recently signed onto the Brewers for Clean Water Pledge. In addition to many energy-saving and sustainable practices, the brewery has pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch rainwater in a retention pond. Photo by Tim LaBarge
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“The single most important ingredient in craft beer is water,” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy told brewers at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Portland in April. Not exactly a news flash. But, her comments about why they should support clean water were.
A little background: The 1972 Clean Water Act was diluted by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that seemed to exclude certain bodies of water. Therefore, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers drafted the Clean Water Rule to define the included water bodies. They released the rule in March 2014 for public comment, hoping for final adoption this summer.
“Before the new rule, up to 60 percent of American streams and millions of acres of wetlands were potentially overlooked by the Clean Water Act,” EPA officials said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council or NRDC, a nonprofit environmental organization, invited brewers to support the Clean Water Rule by taking the Clean Water Pledge.
Karen Hobbs, from the NRDC, said about 70 brewers have taken the pledge so far. By doing so, they sign on to comment letters to senators and the president and they are listed on the NRDC website as a partner to defend the Clean Water Act.
“What they do next is up to them,” said Hobbs. Many have improved efficiency at their facilities, engaged in watershed cleanups and improved water use. “Still,” Hobbs said, “we’re looking for ways to work better with the craft brewers because they are so embedded in their communities and so directly affected by local water. Many of them have amazing outreach in their communities.”
Like Bear Republic Brewing Company in Sonoma County, Calif. Peter Kruger, master brewer, said the brewery, established in 1996 in Healdsburg, Calif. broke ground on a new facility in Cloverdale, Calif. in 2006 with the idea there was plenty of water for the expansion. “We soon realized there wasn’t enough for the city, let alone our brewery.”
The city wanted to drill two new wells, but faced a five-year wait to secure loans from the United States Department of Agriculture. Bear Republic then fronted the city $475,000 in impact fees. Now they have two new wells with a million gallons of excess capacity. Peak demand is 1.8 million but the wells can pump 2.8 million.
Kruger said, “These were fees we planned on paying anyway. The amount we paid is what we estimated we needed to grow our brewery — basically we prepaid about eight years of fees,” he said.
With the money from Bear Republic, the city of about 8,000 people was able to fast track the wells. The brewery has introduced processes to conserve water in its drought-stressed region. “We run an incredibly low water ratio to beer, 3.5 gallons-to-1 gallon of beer. If you take out the water for office and irrigation use, it’s 3.1-to-1,” said Kruger.
The brewery has invested in technology to monitor water use and increase efficiency. They have spent several million dollars on an anaerobic digester that will treat wastewater.
In the first step, water runs through the digester and organic matter decomposes to methane, which will be burned for electricity. The exhaust gas preheats the processed water and will meet about half of their plant’s hot water needs. Then the water will run to the aerobic digester that will clean it up through a reverse-osmosis process for reuse in cleaning and wash downs. Kruger expects this to be up and running by January.
“Brewers are in a unique position to influence the world with the Clean Water Pledge,” he said.
Many leaders in the Brewers for Clean Water come from the water-challenged West.
Jenn Vervier, from New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, wrote a persuasive editorial in support of the Clean Water Rule in 2012 called “Clean Water is Good for Business and Beer.”
Closer to home, HUB recently signed the Clean Water Pledge and is working with the NRDC to develop some educational opportunities around the pledge.
Water conservation is a top priority at HUB. A recently installed custom cleaning-in-place skid allows reuse of the cleaning solution up to five times while maintaining water temperature and chemical effectiveness. A new centrifuge yields more beer per tank and uses less water for cleaning.
Outside, there are pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch water in a retention pond, allowing rainwater to become groundwater.
“Our heat exchange unit allows us to capture city water and use it to cool down our boiled wort, we then store it in our hot liquor tank for further use,” said HUB communications specialist Eric Steen. Both the brewery and kitchen focus on organic, sustainable practices.
For now, at least, the water news is good. The Clean Water Rule was officially adopted and formalized by President Barack Obama in May.
That won’t mean the end to challenges and legislative maneuvers, so supporting and/or taking the Clean Water Pledge will be more important than ever. You can find more information on the NRDC website: http://www.nrdc.org/water/brewers-for-clean-water/
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