Looking for travel inspiration? Check out our monthly Road Trip series — a fun beer adventure across Oregon! This month's featured region is the Central Willamette Valley. Come back next month to explore Southeast Portland!
By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Walking into Public Coast Brewing in Cannon Beach immediately gives you the sense that you are sharing another persons' labor of love: gleaming new brew tanks, handwritten tap lists, warm, inviting seating areas, and large windows that invite onlookers to watch the brewing process. Above it all, taking up most of one wall reads: “Beaches Forever, Beer For Everyone.”
It's a statement, a motto, a rule for the beer revolution unfolding on the Oregon Coast. Located at 234 E. Third Street – the site of former Cannon Beach eatery and watering hole The Lumberyard – Public Coast was the longtime dream of owner Ryan Snyder. Snyder, president of Martin Hospitality, purchased The Lumberyard in 2004 with the goal of one day turning it into a thriving, convivial brewery.
“It was my dream all along,” he says. Though that dream had to be put on hold several times over the ensuing decade, Snyder's patience has paid off: Public Coast welcomed its first customers the first week of June, turning an idea into the physical hustle and bustle inside one of the Oregon Coast's newest breweries. That's not to say the transition from daydream to reality wasn't without its complications. Delays in the federal approval process pushed the proposed February opening to June.
“Never in a million years would I have planned on opening a new restaurant in June,” Snyder says. “But at the end of the day, we're ready to make a product that stands out in the crowd.”
Snyder is no neophyte to the ins and outs of the brewing industry; his experience dates back to the early ‘90s with Big Dogs Brewing Company in Las Vegas. Snyder says his vision for Public Coast is the pairing of the freshest possible ingredients for both food and beer, a destination where both things combine to create a story.
“It's not just a 'beer place' or a 'burger place,'” he says. “We want both to be the story. Not one or the other, but how did it all work together."
To capture the best of both those worlds, Snyder brought his longtime head chef Will Leroux on board as head brewer. While it may seem like a giant, uncharted leap to make from the dining room to the brewing room, Snyder says Leroux was the first and only name that came to his mind as Public Coast began to take shape. Utilizing his contacts at Big Dogs, Snyder sent Leroux to Las Vegas for a month-long tutorial on brewing. Leroux returned and hit the ground running, using his experience as a chef to get the balance in Public Coast's beers just right.
“Brewing is not unlike baking; both involve a certain amount of science,” Leroux says. Snyder adds that Leroux's culinary touch is the perfect fit for what he's hoping to achieve. “What's really cool is that Will has created this great balance, which you would expect from a guy who is so methodical in his processes. He's the ultimate craftsman”
Public Coast boasts five tanks and all of their beers are brewed onsite. Additionally, every Friday the brewery taps a limited-edition keg. Recent offerings have included Jalapeno Bitter Pale Ale, Bumble Berry Blonde and Dried Cherry Stout. Playing with flavors has allowed Snyder and Leroux to find some happy mediums for patrons.
“The Bitter Pale, for example, has a pale ale finish that has a bittering on the palate like an IPA,” Snyder says. The response from people who normally don't care for IPAs has been overwhelmingly positive. For younger palates, there are non-alcohol beverages, including house-made root beer. Snyder also took care to provide 10 guest taps, in order to show some love to all of the breweries that supported his undertaking.
The food menu has been simplified in order to place focus on quality and offers three core items: burgers, fish tacos, and halibut and salmon fish and chips. There are also gluten-free options – all locally sourced. Additionally, Public Coast stands ready for the dark coastal days of Oregon Coast power outages with a complete power generation system. “In the event of a power outage, this place is set to be a refuge, a place where people can gather. Food and beer will always be ready,” Snyder says, adding that making the community feel welcome was an extremely important element of the new undertaking.
Keeping that sense of coastal community at the forefront is reflected in the brewery's name. Public Coast is a nod to the landmark 1967 Beach Bill, signed into law by Gov. Tom McCall, which forever kept Oregon beaches free and public. Being just a few blocks from the beach only helps enforce that notion. Looking ahead, Snyder has plans for a tasting room, a barrel-aging room and regular live music. In the here and now, however, Snyder couldn't be happier with how Public Coast is unfolding. “We want to serve the absolute highest quality,” he says. “We're following up on a dream.”
Public Coast Brewing
[a] 264 E. Third St., Cannon Beach
“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 Gail Oberst
Can we expect a hop shortage in the near future, driving Oregon IBUs down and prices for your pint up?
That was certainly the buzz a few months ago, when an article in the Wall Street Journal, followed by a lemming-like response from other writers, heralded gloom and doom for “small” brewers – producers of less than 15,000 barrels per year, thus, all but about seven of Oregon’s 170 breweries. Suggesting that a hop shortage is looming, the article warned that our beloved hoppy beers would soon cost too much for anyone to drink or give way to – Baccus forbid! – low-hop beverages like lagers or lambics or even meads and ciders.
But is there truly a nationwide – possibly world- wide – shortage brought on by your intense love of hoppy beers?
Psych! No there isn’t!
In a word, no, there’s no hop shortage, according to national and local experts.
Or to be more precise, there is no shortage of hops in the real sense, as it was in 2007-2008 when – for various reasons both environmental and economic – we suffered a real shortage, making the current situation far too mild to be called a “shortage.” But without a doubt, demand for hoppy beers has changed the market and brewers would be smart to plan.
Growers are doing their best to respond to a heavy demand for aroma hops, especially Cascades, the workhorse of the IPA and other hop-centric beers, said Nancy Sites, executive director of the Oregon Hop Commission. And they are doing a great job of it. Oregon’s potential harvest this year is nearly 800 acres more than it was last year and more than 570 of those acres are strung up with Cascades, the mother of aroma hops. Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Golding, Crystal, Mt. Hood, Perle, Sterling and Willamette all saw increases in acreage this year in Oregon. If you were a brewer counting on Nugget – currently Oregon’s largest acreage hops – you might be looking at a tight market, as acreage fell by just under 300 as demand shifts to other types. But replacement hops were plentiful. And Washington, which has 29,021 acres in hops this year (to Oregon’s has 5,559), has grown by nearly 2,000 acres since last year. “Shortage” is a word you would use when hop acreage falls from 17,000 acres to 5,700 acres, as it did in 1954. Even Idaho, with its 3,812 acres of hops, is up by more than 400 acres this year. Hardly the numbers of shortages, points out Chris Swersey of the Brewers Association.
So where does the Wall Street Journal get its idea that there’s a “shortage” of hops?
The word is sometimes used when prices rise, which they are apt to do as demand and values increase. And there has been a drop in the number of acres devoted to bittering or alpha acid hops – Galena, Nugget, Millenium — as brewers replace them with the aroma hops – Cascades and Centennials. And, as large brewers follow the consumer demand for aroma hops, those may quickly disappear from the open market, making contracts even more important for the small brewery.
The Job’s Not Done Until the Paperwork Is...
Perhaps those local brewers who chose not to enter into contracts or those newer brewers who haven’t established relationships with hop growers and distributors may find themselves short in some cases, Swersey said. More than 90 percent of Brewers Association members maintain contracts for hops, guaranteeing them product and reducing the chance of “shortages.” Many brewers establish hop contracts long before they even brew their first professional beers. These agreements are safeguards for big and small breweries, Swersey added.
In Oregon, some varieties are in short supply, but these are mostly privately licensed varieties where owners are maintaining higher prices to avoid oversupply, Sites said.
Sites said there’s reason to believe aroma hop acreage, as opposed to bittering hops, will continue to expand in 2015. “We are also trying to get a handle on how many acres are being grown in other parts of the U.S., and are still working on surveying those growers,” she said.
Doubtless, she said, the market is tight. “It sounds like ‘spot market’ hops for some varieties are a little harder to find and the price is higher right now because there aren’t a lot of ‘extras’ out there that are not spoken for in the form of contracts. Many brewers now are contracting for their hops two to three years out to ensure they get the amount and varieties that they need. Brewers that do contract usually end up paying a little less than brewers that wait to buy on the spot market,” she said.
But enough shop talk, what about my beer?
Whether rising hop prices will impact the price of your beer will depend on what kind of a business your brewery owner is running. Rogue brewers without contracts (not the brewery, which smartly grows its own hops), might find themselves paying a lot for hops and passing the cost on to you.
But, more than likely, your brewer is like Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi or Irene Firmat of Full Sail, who stay in touch by visiting Sodbuster Farms and other growers each year with a busload of curious employees and beer drinkers. Or your brewery is like McMenamins, whose team of hopped-up brewers actually makes a tradition of picking up their fresh hops straight from the grower, called “The Running of the Hops,” aimed at getting the freshest hops to the brewhouse on the same day they are stripped from the bines.
Stuff like that is unlikely to happen anywhere near Wall Street.
Which might explain some of the disconnect (I’m being kind) between Wall Street and Beervana. Let’s just say they don’t know chit about where beer comes from. But now you do. It really is a Northwest thing.
Here’s Gail’s Wall Street hint for the day: Hops, my boy. Invest in hops. And by that I mean begin your investment by accumulating those delicious resins in your belly. If there’s going to be a hop shortage, it’s up to you, Oregon drinker, to contribute to it.
By Gail Oberst
On the day I visited Opposition Brewing, currently a 1.5-barrel brewery in Medford, Nick Ellis was brewing a fine-smelling batch of Ramsey’s Brindle Blonde, so named in honor of the brewery’s late chocolate-orange-blonde colored dog. The small brewhouse was just a few feet away from the end of the bar – a long metal surface with an assortment of mismatched chairs and stools.
I barged in on a Tuesday/brews day. The taproom and brewery in an industrial building on the north end of town near the railroad tracks is usually open afternoons and evenings Thursday through Monday. On the other days, Nick and his partner/head brewer, Dennis Poncia, brew beer. Their wives, Erin and Penni, respectively, are partners in the nano brewery business.
The brewery was launched in 2012 under the name of Apocalypse, after which followed a series of beers that drew on the images of total annihilation: The unfiltered, big beers had names like Tunguska Event, Blast Radius, Fallow Fields, The Sixth Seal, Devastated Sky, Purgatory Pomegranate.
And then the brewery experienced a bit of its own dark medicine. Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewery threatened legal action if the brewery continued to use the name Apocalypse, claiming it already had dibs on the name. The owners enjoined the battle, but lacked the resources to continue the challenge. Apocalypse changed its name in 2013 to Opposition Brewing Company — an equally feisty name. The gas mask logo, and the death-and-destruction inferences remain. That said, according to the company’s website, their beer is not about doom and gloom. “It’s about good friends, good times, and knowing that we should always live for the moment because it may all be over tomorrow.”
Ellis had been a bookkeeper for many years, until several economic downturns in Southern Oregon forced him to consider beer – a seemingly recession-proof commodity.
Local support has proved his choice a good one. Today, thanks to appreciative and thirsty patrons, you would be hard-pressed to find the beers anywhere but at the brewery (they call it the bunker), with a few kegs going out to favored bars. But that may change soon. A 7-barrel brewhouse was delivered in July and will be online by 2015. Ellis said the brewery will most likely expand in the complex where they currently brew and serve beer.
(a) 545 Rossanley Dr., Suite C, Medford
(w) www.oppositionbrewing.com, www.facebook.com/oppositionbrewing
(h) Thursday – Friday, 4 - 9 p.m. Saturday, noon - 9 p.m. Sunday, noon - 7 p.m. Monday, 5 - 10 p.m.
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