By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Bier Stein
It’s all about the fireplace. Get away from the crowd congregated at the front of one of Eugene’s most popular taprooms and instead head toward the back. Whether starting your evening with a beverage, dining there or nightcapping, warm up by the big fireplace and let that flickering light set the mood. This is also the time to take advantage of one of the largest tap and bottle selections on the West Coast. Get a bottle of something special from the cooler or look to the display board for the perfect small glass of wintry warming ale goodness. A round of pool or a board game can keep you occupied or simply let the time fireside lend itself to conversation and intimacy. Between the beer and the fireplace, this spot was made to help you strike a spark.
1591 Willamette St., Eugene
Elk Horn Brewery
Valentine’s isn’t a quick flash. It’s a slow burn. And that’s how your night should be too. Located just off the University of Oregon campus, Elk Horn’s rustic classiness can both impress and relax your beloved. Founded by the owners of the popular Delacata Food Cart, Elk Horn has become renowned for its ciders and beers, as well as its Southern- and Northwest-inspired menu. Special for Valentine’s Day: Elk Horn is hosting a reservations-only dinner that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert, each paired with different Elk Horn beers and ciders. For details and reservations, email Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org.
686 E. Broadway St., Eugene
McMenamins North Bank
With large picture windows that let you look out on the rolling Willamette River, there is no other view like it in town. The lights are just right. The booths offer some privacy and intimacy. Burgers and salads are on the menu, but so are more elaborate and delectable entrees such as Equinox Pappardelle and Black Rabbit Red Sirloin Steak. The beers are from one of Oregon’s oldest breweries, and McMenamins wines and spirits are also available from the full bar. Maybe the weather will even be on your side: take your beloved out to the riverside patio for a moment and snuggle close together for warmth. Then you’ll know that this is the perfect place to tell them what you’ve been dying to tell them: you'll love them longer than the river flows.
22 Club Road, Eugene
Plank Town Brewing Company
Love is not always about what’s new. Love is about renewal, rejuvenation and appreciating the past while building the future. Located in the heart of downtown Springfield’s ongoing revitalization, Plank Town is the embodiment of that sort of love — and the perfect spot for your Valentine’s Day dinner and craft beer. Rich, deep woodwork gives a sense of intimacy and formality. A stage may offer some live music. Enjoy your pint and a small plate, entree or sandwich by the large street-side windows — or if you want more privacy, ask for a table in the back off to the side of the central bar.
346 Main St., Springfield
The Tap & Growler
Even when you love someone, it can be hard to agree. Beer? Wine? Mead? Thankfully, you might be Marzen and they might be Viognier, yet The Tap & Growler can bring you together. Located near both The David Minor Theatre and Fifth Street Public Market, this taproom offers excellent sandwiches, salads and shareable plates, in addition to 81 rotating taps of beer, wine, cider, mead, kombucha, and even cold-pressed espresso and craft soda. As you can guess from the name, should getting together have you ready to put aside more than your differences, you can always take a growler back to their place.
207 E. Fifth Ave., #115, Eugene
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On July 29, Eugene/Springfield’s Hop Valley Brewing announced the sale of a majority stake in the company to Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft and import division of MillerCoors. During the third quarter, Tenth and Blake also announced agreements with Terrapin Beer Company of Georgia and Revolver Brewing of Texas.
Customer and industry reaction has been mixed. Eugene resident Sam Rutledge first discovered Hop Valley’s Vanilla Infused Porter back in the brewery’s early days, and was struck by the daring use of vanilla. “I will still probably buy Hop Valley beer if it’s on sale, if it looks like it might be good,” says Rutledge. “But I’m hesitant because my experience with national brands is they’re risk-averse. One of the things I’ve liked with Hop Valley’s beer is they take risks. I would not be surprised to find Hop Valley make blander, less-adventurous products now that it’s owned by a national conglomerate. I will be surprised to see anything new or really surprising.”
For Hop Valley co-founder and co-owner Chuck Hare, that won’t be a concern. “They’re not going to come in here and change recipes and make the beer cheaper and different. They’re not sending someone in to run our company or approve our brews,” says Hare. “We’re doing everything we were already doing.”
Hop Valley remains a separate business unit of Tenth and Blake. Current management and ownership are still in charge, says Hare, and no employees are expected to lose jobs due to the acquisition.
Prior to the Tenth and Blake agreement, Hop Valley heard offers from other individuals and entities. “We had opportunities to walk off, never work again. But that’s not what we wanted to do,” says Hare. “We still have a considerable equity interest in this company. If we didn’t, then there wouldn’t have been a deal.”
Hop Valley was founded in 2009 as a 15-barrel brewpub in Springfield. An expansion in 2013 brought a 60-barrel, 30,000-square-foot production brewery and public taproom online and helped Hop Valley grow from 6,700 barrels in 2013 to 38,500 barrels in 2015, according to the Brewers Association, making it the 82nd-largest craft brewery in the U.S. With a solid base in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and some markets in Vermont, Hop Valley wanted to continue expanding distribution, but that’s where the problems began.
Assuming Hop Valley’s track record and Oregon’s prominence in the national industry would help open up markets in California, Hare and the team encountered very different reactions. “The farther you get away from home, the harder it is to sell beer.”
Back home, Hop Valley’s owners did some soul-searching. “We decided we wanted to scale up and get our beer in as many hands as possible,” explains Hare, but “we really needed to find safe waters with a business partner who would help us grow, protect us and help us get into major chains.”
The talks with Tenth and Blake showed Hop Valley a way forward — and brought something unique to Tenth and Blake. “We set trends here in the Northwest,” says Hare, “and Tenth and Blake was attracted to our hop-forward beers. We’re packaging five different IPAs right now, but each one is so distinctly different.”
Hop Valley expects to have other behind-the-scenes advantages, such as decreases in packaging costs and opportunities to visit with other Tenth and Blake breweries nationwide for collaborations and training. But providing a clear route to more tap handles and shelves nationwide is the primary benefit of the acquisition. “It’s tough to find a distributor who will take you,” says Hare. “That’s a problem we’ll never have to worry about again.”
The deal deserves the benefit of the doubt, says Amanda Martin-Tully, co-host of Portland-based The Brew Happy Show podcast. “When you see a homegrown brewery sell their majority share, it shakes the community,” she explains. “It's viewed as a betrayal, and that's a little harsh. We should be applauding our small business owners for creating a great product, and celebrate their success.”
Martin-Tully advises that Hop Valley fans watch and see. “Are they caring for their employees? Are they staying true to their mission statement? Is their beer still good? If you find these to no longer be true, then of course we should voice our disapproval and leave our pints empty. But just labeling them ‘sell outs’ and boycotting their beer? I'd like to think we're better than that,” says Martin-Tully. “Besides, that's a lot of good beer going to waste for no good reason.”
For Hare, the focus is simple. “There are lots of people in the country who haven’t had a good Northwest IPA yet,” he says. “I’m excited to get that to them.”
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 Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes the world of brewing herbs seems a small one. You know, hops. But the world of brewing herbs goes far beyond Humulus lupulus.
As long as humans have been brewing and plants have been growing, we have brewed with a variety of herbs not only for brewing qualities, but for health benefits as well. Centuries ago in some European countries, only unhopped beers could be called ales. Gruits, or beers brewed with combinations of herbs and spices, were the most common brews.
From ginger to yarrow, many common garden plants and weeds have hidden brewing powers and associations with health benefits. If you are looking to put some zing in your 2016 beers — and maybe raise a pint to your “I’m going to be healthier” New Year’s resolutions — here’s some advice from Old Growth Ales, a Springfield-based startup brewery.
“There is a long history of brewing with herbs, all across the earth, each specific to their geography — physical and cultural,” says Amanda Helser, herbalist and Old Growth Ales co-founder. “The northern British Isles brewed with heather. Norwegians brewed a sahti using juniper boughs for lautering. St. John’s wort was used across Europe, and sarsaparilla has been used for centuries worldwide as a tonic. We want go back to this type of brewing. Hops and barley are great. I love them. And there is so much more.”
Helser and Steve Braun (fellow co-founder and head brewer) focus on brewing ales and wines with a range of beneficial botanicals. In March 2015, Old Growth Ales successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to fund an expansion of their operation. Helser is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a trained Western herbalist who has practiced for more than five years, including experience with with Cascadia Folk Medicine and Seed & Thistle Apothecary. Her background includes Portland’s School of Forest Medicine and the School of Traditional Western Herbalism, and a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College with a focus on fermentation and human culture. Braun has a doctorate in environmental science and 15 years brewing experience, including more than 10 years of brewing with herbs, alternative bittering agents to hops and alternative sugar sources to barley.
Before we move on, some caveats. No one is giving medical advice; that’s what your preferred practitioner is for. And while many botanical health properties have not necessarily been scientifically tested, the beneficial properties of plants represent cultural bodies of knowledge that go back thousands of years and span cultures around the world. Brewing books such as Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher’s “The Homebrewer’s Garden” and Stephen Harrod Buhner’s “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation” are also useful resources.
“Brewing is traditional herbalism,” says Helser. “Many botanicals were originally fermented with sugars to take as medicine. The fermentation process adds its own energetics.”
Different herbs also require different methods to bring out their benefits. Like teas and tinctures, ales and wines can become other ways for people to consume herbs: salves, essences, poultices along with eating them in powdered and raw forms. The beneficial properties of a plant can also change depending on how it is used, explains Helser. Dandelion root, nettles and elderberries need to be boiled. Some herbs need to be steeped for a very long time, similar to dry hopping. Some herbs are alcohol-soluble and have different effects when introduced during secondary fermentation as opposed to prior to fermentation.
Here are various herbs common to brewing (common and botanical names), along with some of their health properties, according to Helser and Braun. When seeking out brewing herbs, common names can vary, so always reference the botanical name.
— Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): digestion, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, congestion. “It’s the thousand-leaf plant of Achilles. It is a heal-all. Next time you are cut, chew it up and put it on the cut, you'll see. It is a plant ally of sorts.”
— Elder (Sambucus caerulea): flu and fever, overall health tonic. “A prized plant: the berries and flowers. Be careful though. There are many varieties of elder. Sambucus caerulea (blue elder) is our safe, locally occurring common variety.”
— Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): vitamin C, antioxidants. “A little astringent, tart and gives beautiful color. Good for hypertension and cancer prevention. A diuretic.”
— Nettle (Urtica dioica): liver tonic, minerals, blood purifying. “One of the first greens to appear in the spring. Helps detox after the winter. Bright and full of umami flavor. When I am feeling run down or stretched thin, I crave any and everything with nettles.”
— Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale): liver support, detoxification. “When roasted, dandelion root gives a great earthy flavor.”
— Ginger (Zingiber officinale): stimulates circulation and digestion. “It quickens the blood. Good for cold and flu, sexual function, viral infections, coughs, kidneys, the list goes on. Ginger is amazing.”
Other common and popular brewing herbs, along with some beneficial properties, include:
— Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus): adrenal support
— Chicory root (Cichorium intybus): liver support
— St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): emotional health, digestion
— Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium): antimicrobial
— Hawthorn (Crataegus): circulation, heart health
— Rose hips (Rosa rugosa): vitamin C, antioxidants
And by the way, enjoying an herbal brew isn’t something you’ll need to hold
your nose and close your eyes for either. “We’ve crafted an ebulon, which is an ale with elderberries, black cherries and rose hips,” says Braun, as well as a hibiscus wine that comes in two strengths: a 6% sessionable version, and a 12% imperial.
“Craft beverages are gateways into further experiences with herbs,” says Braun. “Suppose we had a bag of dried elderflowers, mugwort, St. John’s wort, yarrow, and goldenrod. Someone may look at us and ask, ‘What do I do with those?’ and move on, buying their packaged tea or typical craft beer. However, if we ferment these herbs into a crisp gruit and pour them a pint, they will at least try it, and in our experience, enjoy it and strike up a conversation. The path to wellness is facilitated by incidental educational experiences like these conversations.”
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Steve Braun just needed another $3,500.
In the two days leading up to March 9, the Old Growth Ales (OGA) co-founder had much to be both excited and worried about. With their “botanic ales” available only at private events, OGA had received enough positive feedback to convince them it was time to upgrade to commercial brewing. Now 42 hours away from the deadline of an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign, the Springfield-based brewing startup was $3,500 shy of a $20,000 goal.
But if they fell short, they’d get nothing.
With 10 hours remaining, they needed $1,287.
Then, with 100 minutes left, the final backers put Old Growth Ales over the finish line. Armed with $20,361 from 158 backers, one of Lane County’s most iconoclastic startups was ready to take some big next steps.
Old Growth Ales plans to upgrade its "Little Maker," which is a biodiesel P30 Chevy step van used for private events. To meet Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau rules, no fermentation occurs in Little Maker. It's only for education, catering and wort production. Photo by Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
Botanic Ales: Old is New Again
What’s curious about Old Growth Ales is, as Braun explains, “We don't make much beer.” At least, not in the way we think of modern beer: a concoction of malt and hops. OGA wants to return the spotlight to herbs and other botanicals that comprise millennia of brewing tradition.
“We come across a huge range of understanding about the history of brewing,” says Braun. “Some people seem especially knowledgeable about brewing having a ‘lineage’ passed down from herbalists, alchemists, doctors and shamans. Other folks are completely unaware of the history,” particularly when it comes to hops. “Folks are usually amazed to hear that hops were not always ‘king.’ I often share that yarrow was once referred to as ‘field hops’ as a more common herb for bittering than hops. Non-hop bittering agents were outlawed in England in the 1700s.”
OGA wants to bring back yarrow and other brewing herbs and plants, for what they call “botanic ales:” gruits (herb mixtures for flavoring and bittering beer), metheglins (mead with herbs or spices added) and country wines (made with flowers, herbs, spices and/or fruits other than grapes). “Some people very much want an alternative to hop and barley ales that are not sweet ciders,” says Braun. “Most folks come to our product with curiosity… They want to learn more about botanic ales and are super excited to try our variety.”
Driving this interest is more than a quirky niche in a packed marketplace. Braun considers it “a question of values. We value the ecology of the Cascadia bioregion, the Northwest. We want to connect people to their environment, which in environmental education we call ‘nurturing a sense of place.’ I am an environmental scientist and environmental educator. The practices of Old Growth Ales are a direct extension of that.”
The initial spark for the idea of a bioregion-focused, eco-aware, beyond-malt-and-hops brewery came six years ago. While cross-country skiing near Willamette Pass, Braun and brewing partner Charlie Shepley began discussing different ways to brew. From there, they began working with business incubators to procure small business individual development accounts and learn the business side of brewing.
Over time, co-founders Braun and Shipley found the right people to be part of OGA. Brewer Emily Ryan provides support as a health and wellness consultant. Rebecca Roebber’s marketing and green business development expertise guides OGA. With herbalist and nutritional therapist Amanda Helser, Braun explains, “The brewery really focused on botanic ales.”
“We make an herbal coffee stout — with no coffee — and we are working on a hop-free IPA analog,” says Braun. In addition to “a lambic with alternative bittering to hops,” OGA brews gruits such as Summer Gruit, “a unique blend of bitter and slightly sour/floral characteristics, resulting from mugwort and yarrow for bitterness, and from elderflower and St. John’s wort for floral, musky and sour notes.”
A hibiscus wine, a spice brew with ginger, and a sahti, or juniper ale, are also in the works. Braun notes that Achillea millefolium, or common yarrow, will be a common element across OGA beverages.
“I am especially drawn to yarrow,” Braun says. “Yarrow can provide a range of great flavors and aromas from wintergreen to bitter to slightly sour.”
Braun expects five primary distribution channels: select Willamette Valley taphouses, special events such as weddings and reunions, direct sales at public events and festivals, dock sales, and a CSA, or “Community Supported Ales,” where “folks buy a share and get regular bottles.”
During the next two years OGA expects to have established commercial production and distribution. A 1- to 3-barrel brewhouse is planned initially, with next-phase plans including a tasting room and 3- to 7-barrel system expansion. They also want to develop a farmhouse brewery, with capacity to hold private events. Photos by Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
The Little Maker That Could
With the Kickstarter goal met, celebration has given way to the hard work of next steps. In addition to preparing rewards for backers, OGA is finalizing licensure, which is expected by autumn, and evaluating locations.
“One space we are excited about is north of Coburg, down the street from Agrarian Ales,” says Braun. “There seems an opportunity for synergy.”
While tending to operational brass tacks, OGA is working on their biggest challenge: remaining true to their environmental and social ethics while meeting business demands. “We wild-harvest plants locally for our ales,” Braun explains. “We cannot over-harvest these plant stands. Therefore, we have a limit to the quantity of some of the ales we produce.”
OGA will also upgrade the “Little Maker” that began it all: a biodiesel P30 Chevy step van for private events. To meet Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau rules, no fermentation occurs in Little Maker. It’s only for education, catering and wort production.
“We have installed four taps on the side, added solar panels, and created a breezy A-frame cloth hut on top for relaxing.” Braun says. “This summer we will add a waxed canvas awning for ambiance as well as sun and rain protection. Plus we are installing a sink, getting a new paint job, and improving the sound system.”
Over the next two years OGA expects to have established commercial production and distribution. A 1- to 3-barrel brewhouse is planned initially, with next-phase plans including a tasting room and 3- to 7-barrel system expansion. Braun says they want to develop “a farmhouse brewery, with capacity to do private special events: music, camping, rustic cabins.”
And starting now, thanks to 158 backers from the Internet, Old Growth Ales is on its way.
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