By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At first glance, Eric Steen didn’t look like a teacher, an artist or a beer maker. It was a rainy early autumn day and Eric was shuffling past noisy customers in Hopworks Urban Brewery dressed, head-to-toe, in white, furry costume. At better than 6 feet tall, he makes a good mascot for the business’s Abominable Winter Ale.
After taking off the comic book-looking yeti head, he offered an explanation on the melding of his roles as teacher, artist and beer maker: “I very much think of beer as a form of art. I’m very interested in the idea that, from start to finish, beer is a social act.”
Several dozen blocks and a couple of traffic jams to the west of the HUB taproom, in the quiet of the Portland Art Museum, associate director of education and public programs Stephanie Parrish admires Steen. “Eric and I went through the collection of a thousand pieces of art and tried to understand where we had works. How much do we have of Eastern Oregon? How much of the Oregon Coast?”
Getting these two folks working together is how to stage a unique art show and beer tasting.
The full name of the Nov. 4 event is “Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon.” It’s the centerpiece of a larger, two-year exhibit called “Picturing Oregon.” (Who says museum-types don’t have a punny bone?)
Stephanie says the “Picturing” exhibition celebrates the museum’s 125th anniversary and includes about 60 of the more than 1,000 Oregon-themed works in its permanent collection. “It was a matter of sorting through all the paintings and photos and then finding those that we thought were kind of representative of the collection. We wanted to have earlier works, 19th century, to more contemporary works. Wanted to have women included. As many different options as we could uncover.”
When it came to the “Pitchering” centerpiece, Stephanie called in Eric. As an art teacher at the University of Colorado and creator of the Beers Made By Walking project, Eric sees community involvement as a key to good art and good beer. He took immediately to the idea of foraging through the museum’s collection. “The thing that excited me was that they have all this Oregon-based paintings and photography.”
And Stephanie wanted to portray the entire state in Pitchering Oregon. “Organized by the region: Coast, Southern Oregon, the Willamette Valley, Portland, Mount Hood and the Gorge. We’re sort of following Travel Oregon’s seven regions.”
Stephanie and Eric whittled down the Pitchering exhibit to 18 photos, paintings and etchings. They next offered those works to 16 breweries and 2 cideries for inspiration to create a beverage.
To help HUB create its beer, Eric chose a platinum print by Lily E. White. It’s a photograph of the Columbia Slough taken more than 100 years ago. Eric grabbed brewer Trever Bass and “We checked out parts of the slough, looking at invasive plants, what grows there naturally. It’s a very strange area. The brewer just chose a random selection of plants he found there. Then he decided to layer everything on top of each other, prettily, into the mash tun and then passed wort over the top of it as it went into the boil.”
The works in the exhibit come at you like photos from a magazine, an old newspaper or a family album. They are more than images. They represent our collective backstory. Lisa Allen, brewer at Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, chose a wood engraving of the 19th century block house at Fort Yamhill. A sixth-generation Oregonian and trained anthropologist, Lisa began by thinking about the people in the artwork: What kind of beer did they drink, did they make? Her brew is characterized by the use of oak-smoked wheat malt and rye malts. She kept the alcohol level at 5 percent and came away with a beer she says is heavy but refreshing with both smoky flavor and spiciness.
Larry Chase is head brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland. His Pitchering Oregon piece is a 1911 oil painting by Frank DuMond. The “Sketch of Table Rock near Medford” is a landscape done on a bright, but cloudy, day. Larry made a table beer, a Berliner weisse, much like beers made in Belgium to be enjoyed by all members of a farm family. The beer will be golden in color to reflect the sunniness of the painting. Larry will serve the beer at the exhibit three ways: straight up and with two fruit or herbal syrups to cloud the beer, mimicking the clouds in the painting.
Pitchering includes a variety of scenes depicting the people and places of Oregon; some are very realistic, some romantic. But the starkest is an oil painting entitled “Harvest.” The huge work shows a sinister-looking raven flying over a clear-cut forest. The beer to go with this piece was made by Trevor and Linsey Rogers at De Garde Brewing in Tillamook. “Ferme et Foret” (Farm and Forest) features dried and fresh hops with spruce tips added to the blend. Are the painting and the beer things to be enjoyed simply … or is there a deeper meaning?
That’s the kind of question folks might get together and hash out over a couple of beers.
Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum 1219 SW Park Ave.
General Admission 1–6 p.m.; $25 general/$20 museum members
Eric Sterling, Andy Steinman and Lisa Marcus are the owners of DigitalPour, a digital beer board now installed in dozens of Oregon breweries, bars and this one, at Growlers Hawthorne in Portland.
Photo by Emma Browne
By Gail Oberst
You might mourn the old chalkboard that lists what’s on tap at your favorite bar, but not for long. Some taphouses and brewpubs are replacing the dusty bar feature with digital beer boards -- banks of flat screens that can enlighten you on everything from the color of the beer to the latest tweet about it.
DigitalPour – an Oregon company whose owners developed the software in 2011 – is not the only company providing these services. Although the San Diego-based TapHunter and other companies have some boards in Oregon, homegrown DigitalPour is elbowing its way onto the walls of your Oregon watering hole. Since the company opened, it has placed DigitalPour software in 120 locations – most in Oregon, but many across the U.S. and internationally.
Easy Beer Education
You don’t have to be a beer geek to appreciate the information DigitalPour’s software provides. Let’s say you are in the mood for a porter you haven’t tried before. On the screen, you would look for a dark brown glass or growler icon, read the info next to see if it’s a porter, and then ask for a taste to see if you like it. Viola! Pour power. Some drinkers don’t need much more than that little bit of help. Some digital feeds – especially those at brewery-based pubs – actually look like a chalkboard, listing just the beer, the international bittering units (IBUs) and the alcohol by volume (ABV) for visitors.
Want more? Of course you do. In addition to the basics listed above, your taphouse feed might include the name of the beer and brewery, the cost per unit, whether it’s on nitro or CO2, where it was brewed, and when the keg was tapped. If you need further info, you might watch the Twitter, Foursquare and Untappd feeds roll across the board as people check into the brew you are thinking of buying. Don’t want to stand around your local beer purveyor before you make your decision? Some of bars and growler filling station subscribers put their DigitalPour feeds right on their websites, including access to a mobile application.
Better Business Beer
Jim Hillman, owner of the relatively new 40-tap Growlers Hawthorne in Portland, said this sort of system was a logical choice for him. “First of all, we’re two Portland start-ups,” Hillman said. Second: “It’s easy to use.” Hillman can easily update his own tap information, which appears on the board, but his employees are also trained to do it as well. The software not only tells customers what’s on tap, but also inventories the back room – from beer levels in the kegs to suggesting price per pint or growler depending on mark-up rates. “I’m awestruck,” Hillman said. Analytics included in the software can track beer performance with up-to-the-minute profit reports on individual beers, breweries, styles and other trends.
Software subscriptions start at $99 per month with a $298 basic set-up fee. The downloadable software does not include the monitors, which are simply flat screen televisions hard-wired to a computer – all standard equipment that business owners can purchase on their own. Depending on the owner’s desires, equipment might cost around $1,800 for a bank of three monitors.
About the Owners
Lisa Marcus, CEO, Andy Steinman, COO, and Eric Sterling, CTO, at first glance, are unlikely partners. But as with all entrepreneurs, serendipity had a lot to do with their partnership. Lisa and Eric, for example, met on a dating website. “We quickly realized we were better at doing business together,” Lisa laughed. They both put some energy into WineSlingr software, a wine-based version of DigitalPour, but it was Eric’s favorite pub, Bailey’s, in Portland, that turned their attention to beer. Eric, a software developer who inherited the innovation bug from his dad, Jeff, was having a beer at Bailey’s, staring up at the pub’s hand-scribbled listings on the mirror, when the thought struck him. He could put the beer list on a television screen.
“I’d intended to put a one-off up for Bailey’s and that would be that,” Eric said. Instead, he took the idea to Lisa, who ran with it.
Andy Steinman, the company’s Chief Operations Officer, came into the business through Lisa’s wine and restaurant connections at Little Bird, a sister restaurant to LePigeon, and Walter Scott Wines. Steinman brings financial and business management experience to the mix. “This will always be a dynamic business,” Steinman said. Customers will decide the future of the business.
“I think it’s gonna get really weird,” said Lisa. New technology will be incorporated into the software. The bartender may be able to use his phone as a remote control, or expanding on menu items to answer customer questions.
Northwest Canning’s Justin Brandt displays his faster new Cime Careddu canning line.
Photo by Alethea Smartt LaRowe
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Opportunities for small breweries to distribute their beer have grown significantly over the past few years with the introduction of companies that specialize in mobile canning and bottling. Wild Goose Canning in Boulder, Colo. was the first U.S. firm to manufacture a canning line that was specifically designed to be hauled around to different breweries. In the Pacific Northwest, the first company to invest in one of their lines was Northwest Canning, started by Justin Brandt and a business partner in late 2011. A few months later, in June 2012, Owen Lingley debuted Craft Canning. Both are based in Portland.
An avid outdoorsman, Brandt had noticed the limited availability of canned craft beers while purchasing supplies for a day on the river. He quickly did some market research and put together a business plan, opening Northwest Canning less than a year later. With work experience as a financial advisor and with a degree in biology, Brandt said he “can really help the breweries we work with from a financial standpoint, but I also understand beer on a molecular level.” Now the sole owner of the company, Brandt has four other full time employees and hires part-time labor as needed while traveling into parts of Idaho and all over Oregon and Washington.
Owen Lingley’s work experience at Wyeast Laboratories, where he provided retail support by educating customers all about yeast, required extensive travel. As he visited brewers around the country, he saw the shift to cans coming. Anticipating the need of established breweries to increase volume, he saw an opportunity to use his knowledge of packaging and product handling to serve them in the fast-growing market of mobile canning and bottling. Operating within a three-hour radius of Portland, Craft Canning now has nine employees.
Northwest Canning started out with a small two-head filler, the Wild Goose MC-50, which could can about 20 cases per hour. As business increased, Brandt later purchased a three-head filler with a capacity of 40 cases per hour. Even that proved to be insufficient for his ever-growing list of clients and he recently invested almost $1 million in a fully-automated rotary system made by Cime Careddu of Italy that is capable of canning 160 cases per hour. The high-end line is installed in a custom-built 40-foot trailer, which also houses an on-board generator that supplies all of the power, a depalletizer, a filling unit, an inspection unit, and a packaging unit made by PakTech in Eugene.
Craft Canning currently operates a Wild Goose MC-250 canning line which Lingley hauls around in a 16-foot box truck. The system has to be offloaded and assembled then taken apart and reloaded after every job. Lingley estimates the line has produced three million cans of beer and is now averaging 1200-1500 barrels per month. The line is usually in operation for nine days in a row, then Lingley schedules one “spa day” for equipment maintenance. He also has a Meheen 6-head bottler capable of bottling eight barrels per hour.
One of the key benefits of working with mobile canning and bottling operations is cost. “For a brewery to purchase a modest canning system, you’re looking at around a $200,000 investment,” said Brandt. And that’s before paying the employees and allocating enough space to house the line and store the empty cans and bottles.
Both companies are working hard to keep up with demand. According to Brandt, “Northwest Canning has almost tripled our sales since opening. We’re doing 20,000-25,000 cases a month, so we’re busy. We’re just focused on hiring and training people right now.” Lingley said that Craft Canning has experienced 140% growth this year and is projecting 100% growth next year. “We just purchased a second bottling line and have our second canning line on order, and we’re already looking at a third of each.” Lingley also has plans to start a yeast lab, can their homebrew yeast, and do more QA testing for clients.
Owner: Justin Brandt
Craft Canning + Bottling
[a] 17252 NE Sacramento St., Portland
Owner: Owen Lingley
Jerry Miller is brewer for JD’s Sports Bar and Brewery in Grants Pass. He’s been brewing in the Rogue Valley since the early 1990s.
Photo by Gail Oberst
By Gail Oberst
Jerry Miller was convinced when he started commercial brewing in 1993 that there couldn’t possibly be room left in the local market for more craft beer. Wild River was already operating in Grants Pass, and then Caldera came to Ashland (1997). “I thought this was the last cresting wave,” said Miller of the ’90s flourish.
He was wrong. New breweries have continued to thrive in the past 20 years in the Rogue Valley, leading to the latest small brewery boom including Griess Family, Chinook Brewing, Conner Fields, Opposition, Portal, JD’s Sports Bar and Brewery and others. Miller has been JD’s brewer for more than a year.
Miller claims he started one of Grants Pass’ first post-prohibition brew pubs. From 1993 to 2001, Miller worked at the Blue Pine Brew Pub, a favorite haunt of many in the Rogue Valley, some of whom are commercial and home-brewing today.
Miller was a machinist who in 1990 had just moved back to Grants Pass when he decided to take a homebrew class at Rogue Community College. After winning homebrew competitions, Miller was inspired to brew for Blue Pine Brew Pub.
“I loved the sound of fermenting beer,” Miller said. “It’s music to my ears.”
After Blue Pine’s owner passed away, Miller joined up with Ross Linton, the owner of Walkabout Brewery in Medford, where he brewed until last year.
A few years ago, Jack DiMatteo, owner of JD’s Sports Bar and a former Blue Pine customer, began making plans to brew at his place. Last year, Miller took him up on the challenge.
Miller said JD’s is closer to his home than Walkabout. The man with kids and grandkids at home said he needed to stay close, and DiMatteo’s offer made that possible. Today, the 8-barrel system puts at least 10 beers on tap at the bar: three are rotating seasonals.
At JD’s, Miller and crew are brewing up a surprising variety of beers, all offered on tap at the bar and at a few other locations in the Rogue Valley. This fall look for an Oktoberfest beer, MidSommar Ale, Paisan Porter and Knock Out Stout, to name a few.
JD’s Sports Pub & Brewery
[a] 690 Redwood Highway, Grants Pass
[h] Open: 7 days a week
Owner: Jack DiMatteo
Brewer: Jerry Miller
Roddy Morris puts the finishing touches on a 40-barrel brewhouse at JVNW, one of Oregon’s largest and oldest brewery fabricators.
Photo by Alethea Smartt LaRowe
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Each gantry, or workspace, resembles an artist’s studio. Instead of easels, paintbrushes, and canvas, the tools of the trade at JVNW in Canby are hoists, plasma torches, and stainless steel. For 20 hours a day, fabricators working in pairs assemble every component of the vessel they are building from the ground up. The limited hands working on one project help ensure quality control. Instead of at a gallery or museum, the finished product is proudly on display at one of the several hundred breweries worldwide they have outfitted over the past 33 years.
JVNW was founded in 1981 by Don Jones and Ken Verboort (hence the JV in the company name) when a depression in the timber industry created an excess of stainless steel intended for making saws. Jones started making tanks for the beverage industry at a time when the wine boom was just beginning in the Pacific Northwest. Within a few years, the beer industry experienced a resurgence and the company was soon making the first brew systems for pioneers like Bridgeport, Deschutes, Full Sail and Widmer.
Jones’ son, David, who grew up along with his brother, Marc, playing in the factory, was groomed to lead the company. He went to work full time as a salesman for JVNW in 1996 after obtaining his brewmaster certification from Siebel Institute in Chicago. Now the CEO, David refers to his father, who is retired but is still Chairman of the Board, as a “visionary.”
The business has evolved over the years. While JVNW made their first brew system in the early 80s, they had to look to other sources of revenue during the recession, including manufacturing vessels for the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and alternative energy industries. Diversifying has made the company more sustainable in the long run, says Jones. “Currently, the majority of our business is for the brewing industry. We are more passionate about beer now than we have ever been.”
The 55,000 square foot Canby factory, built in 1997, has a somewhat sterile look and feel due to the work JVNW was doing at the time for the pharmaceutical industry. Yet there are thoughtful touches throughout, including the cement floor in the office space which ensures the fabricators feel comfortable walking in from the plant. David Jones’ office is in a direct line to the plant, conveying the executive’s open door policy. The gleaming staircase that is the centerpiece of the space was crafted by JVNW employees to look like a brewing tank. There’s even a small garden on the second floor patio where the company grows hops, peppers and herbs for their employees to use in homebrews.
Along with the casual and welcoming atmosphere, the company’s dedication to quality, design and innovation is what keeps talented employees with the company for their entire careers. CEO Jones relates, “For most companies, outsourcing continues to increase. We’ve gone the other way and created a vertically-integrated system so we have more control over what it looks like, how it functions, and how it performs. If it’s stainless steel, chances are that we made it.”
One person who remembers the early days is Phil Loen, Vice President Sales. Born, raised and educated in Oregon, he has worked for JVNW for the past 31 years. In the beginning, “they basically gave me a phone book and said ‘don’t come back until you’ve got some orders.’” Loen amusingly recalls the creative process that was required to fulfill an order for a client in Berkeley in the mid-80s, “that wanted us to design everything for their brew system. We had to figure out how to cool it, heat it, etc. The smaller- size, direct-fired brew kettles you see out there today are really an extension of what you see in a crab cooker on Fisherman’s Wharf or a bagel cooker at a shop in Berkeley.”
The emphasis on creativity is something the two senior fabricators I spoke with mention when asked what they like most about their jobs. Roddy Morris has been with JVNW for 21 years while Casey Halbakken joined the company in 1997. Both are brewery piping specialists. “We constantly try to reinvent ways to make things better and more efficient,” says Morris. Adds Halbakken, “Piping is the one part of building tanks that we get to create ourselves. They leave it up to us (the piping specialists) to figure out how to go from point A to B. If we feel like being cosmetic we can decide to make things look really good. We get to build our own things, have our own unique imprint.”
When asked how they commemorate a completed project, Morris says “We usually just high-five, then Chelsea Shoji (the Marketing & Advertising Manager) comes out and photographs it, then we tear it down and get it ready to send to the brewery.” It’s one of his favorite times on the job. Halbakken talks about arriving at a brewery to install a system: “you show up and it’s like Christmas for these guys (the brewery owners). You feel like Santa Claus and often get compliments beyond what you deserve. It’s really what the entire facility (JVNW) has done.” A recent project was the new 10-barrel system for Fat Head’s Brewery in Portland, due to open in October. “That one was really cool, a lot of fun to work on,” says Morris.
According to David Jones, the company’s future plans center on automation. “We’ve ordered some equipment that will help reduce our lead time on making tanks. Welding two rings (the shell of the tank) together takes 10 hours. A machine can do it in 45 minutes. We are also planning to offer automation packages to 40-60 barrel breweries to help them ensure consistency in the brewing process.” They will also continue to make most of their own components, “more than any other company doing what we do. It’s a JVNW signature—the fit & finish, the polish, the look, the manway,” says Jones.
[a] 390 S Redwood St., Canby, Ore.
CEO, President: David Jones
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