Ninkasi is one of several Eugene breweries that have joined the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance. Pictured here are Ninkasi founders Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge. The brewery’s communication director said they’re proud to support WVSFA for “promoting natural food businesses and sustainable practices.” Photo courtesy of Ninkasi Brewing Company
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Headquartered in downtown Eugene, the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance (WVSFA) at first glance might not seem like an association for the craft beer industry. The word “beer” isn’t mentioned in the organization’s name, goals or mission. Yet the WVSFA has five members from the Eugene-area’s craft beer industry: Agrarian Ales, Hop Valley Brewing Company, The Growler Guys, Ninkasi Brewing Company and Oakshire Brewing.
The appeal is simple, says Ali AAsum, communications director for Ninkasi. “We are proud to help support the great work of WVSFA in promoting natural food businesses and sustainable practices within these industries,” says AAsum. “Their commitment to growing our community of like-minded businesses is outstanding.”
While the mission of the regional trade association of companies “promotes natural food businesses through relationships, education and sustainable business practices,” this is something of great interest to the craft beer industry as well, particularly at the local level. While the food organizations and beer organizations offer different perspectives and can have different needs or face different challenges, they also find far more in common when it comes to the value of sustainability in supply chains, distribution networks, relationships and other issues.
“We’re all working to establish the Willamette Valley as a premier source of natural foods and delicious beverages,” explains Alyssa Lawless, director of sustainability at Mountain Rose Herbs and current board president at WVSFA.
WVSFA members include food and beverage retailers, manufacturers, restaurateurs, distributors, farmers and nonprofit organizations. With such a range of businesses and organizations, says Lawless, one way the WVSFA brings common purpose is to ask all members to annually commit to a Sustainability Pledge that outlines principles to guide sustainable business practices. By signing the pledge, members agree to uphold sustainability principles pertaining to land use, climate change, sourcing, water use, labor, education, waste reduction and more.
Members also work together on the WVSFA’s various goals not only for sustainability, but also for improved operations and profitability of the member businesses. Goals include working with the City of Eugene and Lane County on issues affecting the viability of natural foods businesses located in those areas, mentoring new businesses, and educating the public about the health benefits of natural and organic foods.
The education component is one that brings members together regularly. “As a member, we’ve partnered with WVSFA on events such as Fun with Fermentation,” says AAsum, describing an annual showcase of local fermented foods and beverages that recently drew more than 700 attendees.
The WVSFA was founded in 2009, with membership open to all relevant food and beverage businesses that were interested in pursuing sustainable business practices. “At that time, Hop Valley Brewing Company, Oakshire Brewing and Falling Sky Brewing were among the first members, and they are still members today,” says Lawless. “These businesses saw value in joining a local group and networking with other environmentally- and socially-conscious companies.”
Members also meet for Educational Forums to discuss challenges, identify issues and brainstorm solutions. “We tackle topics such as distribution, sourcing, marketing, employee benefits, the Food Safety Modernization Act and regional food branding,” says Lawless. “One recent issue that will impact the food and beverage industry is the Food Safety Modernization Act. Last year we held two Educational Forums on the topic. Congressman Peter DeFazio attended the second forum to hear our members’ concerns.”
One larger goal the WVSFA has in its sights is developing a regional brand around foods produced in Eugene and Lane County. It would be something akin to the Napa Valley branding for its wines. “Our brewery members have provided excellent feedback in the process of developing the regional food brand,” says Lawless. “Craft beer is also one of the many industries contributing to the development of this area as a source of quality natural foods.”
Backed by a five-year strategic plan, the WVSFA has “a main goal of growing the regional food brand: ‘Willamette Grown & Crafted,’” explains Lawless. “This year we are expanding our social media presence and developing a new website. These and other goals are directly impacted by member feedback and the issues they deal with in their businesses.”
Lawless sees opportunity for other Lane County and Willamette Valley craft beer organizations to join the Alliance. “Throughout the year, members are promoted on social media, the WVSFA website and in a quarterly e-newsletter where they are able to advertise job openings and share news. Networking with other members and suppliers at Educational Forums, our Annual Banquet and community events is another benefit for craft beer organizations.”
The Growler Guys chain of Oregon, Washington and Idaho became a WVSFA member a year ago, due, in part, to its participation in Fun with Fermentation. In addition to volunteering for many WVSFA-sponsored events during the past four years, Shannon Turner manages The Growler Guys flagship store in Eugene. “This was really good exposure for our company to have face time with lovers of craft beer, cider and kombucha,” explains Turner. “The WVSFA promotes many causes that help ensure that we have fresh, safe ingredients, and clean drinking water in the Willamette Valley, so that brewers can keep making great beer.”
Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance
[a] 1430 Willamette St., P.O. Box 101, Eugene
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“A big part of my job is going off and breaking things. I am used to thinking critically about processes. How things work and what is it supposed to be in the end,” explains Don Anderson. He’s sitting next to his wife Lin at a table in a Lake Oswego brewery explaining how being a tech geek has helped him start his own business in Wilsonville called Vanguard Brewing. When something does break “you dive down into it and dig that little nugget out and say this is why it’s broken, now go fix it.”
Don slowly rotates the glass of beer on the table in front of him and explains how being a quality assurance engineer helps him make beer. His example is the witbier he recently made: “A lot of the times I’ve made a witbier, I’ve used malted wheat and the traditional recipe calls for flaked wheat. So I wanted to see what that does in the barrel. Does it make it more sticky? Do I have a problem with the stuck mash? Does it affect the flavor? I know it affects the color already. We’ll see what kind of beer comes out.”
Lin smiles as Don answers. She has been listening to him talk and fuss over beer since she bought him his first kit in 1991. Back then, Don was fresh from a military tour in Germany and not happy that American beers came up so flat compared to their European counterparts. Within about eight months of getting that first kit, Don stepped away from extract brewing and “started doing all grain.” He says, “I brewed all the time, there was always beer on tap.”
You probably know where this story goes next. Don and Lin started thinking about their own brewery. But this is where high-tech geekiness comes into play again.
Don is an engineer. Lin’s background is as a project manager for a high-tech company and stay-at-home mom. Success at those jobs requires planning and preparation, so when they looked at the idea of a brewery they immediately knew what they didn’t know. They didn’t know how to run a commercial brewery or a business of any kind.
That’s where Lake Oswego’s Stickmen Brewery and a bakery come in to the picture.
“A few years ago my friends started the Stickmen and I’d come in every weekend and work in the brewery,” says Don. “Everything you can do in a brewery, I’ve done. I’ve brewed, I’ve done formulas, all aspects of brewing. And Lin ran a small business.”
“It happened in a very organic way,” explains Lin. “It was just something I loved doing and I had friends who would say ‘I love your cupcakes. Would you make some for me?’ So I would and they’re like, ‘You know, you should make this a business.’ And I heard that enough times that I thought it was worth trying.”
“I managed to get in with some good friends who helped to set up my bakery,” she continues. “It was actually in a trailer that I borrowed from a friend and it was parked on another friend’s business property.” From there Lin grew the business through word of mouth, appropriate for a cupcake business, and by hustling some accounts with coffee shops.
Meanwhile, Don continued brewing at Stickmen and discovering what he wanted to make. There was a “proud papa” moment when, on one warm summer’s day, he could look out on the deck at Stickmen and tell by the color of the beer how many people were drinking the first batch of beer he’d made.
Using their acquired business and brewing experience, Don and Lin will take the next step this summer and open a brewery in Wilsonville. “Our brewhouse is 15 barrels and our fermenters are 30s. So we can do double batches — back-to-back batches in one day when we need that capacity,” says Don.
The plan is to start with a small taproom attached to the brewery, but to focus on kegs sales to restaurants and taverns as well as growler sales.
Don and Lin have a couple of other goals. They want Vanguard Brewery to serve as an incubator where young brewers can earn a decent wage and learn the craft. They’d also like to see the brewery support their retirement.
But from the gleam in their eyes and the enthusiasm in their voices, you can tell Don and Lin don’t see retirement coming any time soon.
The Vanguard will be at 27501 SW 95th Ave. in Wilsonville. You can find out about their Founders Club on Facebook or at vanguardbrewing.com.
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Romance is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you head to your local brewpub for a pint. But if you love beer as much as I do, then you find ways to incorporate a visit to a brewery in everything you do, including a date with a special someone. This list includes just some of the Oregon breweries that have one or more of the following elements of romantic ambiance: cozy seating options, a fireplace or fire pit, a nice location on the water, a great place to watch the sunset, and even a place to sleep. For your next date, seek out the perfect spot at one of these breweries and order an oyster stout, or any beer made with chili peppers, honey or chocolate. Let the magic of the ingredients and the setting make it a day (or night) to remember!
Note: In an effort to keep this list manageable, it only includes locations where beer is made on site.
1019 NW Brooks St., Bend
Nestled along the banks of the Deschutes River near Mirror Pond in downtown Bend, this quaint brewpub has a patio for enjoying the scenery in the summer months. In the winter, grab a table by the big windows in the back and watch the snow fall.
Crux Fermentation Project
50 SW Division St., Bend
Located in the former AAMCO building near the Old Mill District, Crux is the perfect place to watch the sunset from the tasting room and patio. Sundowner starts a half-hour before sunset and lasts for one hour, offering discounts on appetizers and beers. Afterward, you can linger with a pint by the fire pit.
1355 SW Commerce Ave., Bend
This brewery encourages living the good life with great beer and food to be enjoyed in a variety of settings. While the indoor space is filled with natural light and ample seating for large groups, the beer garden with its grassy lawn and fire pit is perfect for spreading out a blanket and lounging with your loved one.
Old St. Francis School
700 NW Bond St., Bend
Another gem in the McMenamins crown that is comprised of more than 50 properties in Oregon and Washington, of which 24 are also breweries. Here, take your pick from a glowing pot-bellied stove or a toasty outdoor fire pit on the patio. Maybe you can catch a romcom playing at the movie theater. Overnight guests can enjoy the soaking pool, surrounded by stained glass and shimmering tilework.
Three Creeks Brewing
721 Desperado Court, Sisters
Housed in an Old West livery stable, this warm and rustic brewpub is a welcome respite after a fun day outdoors. Particularly inviting are the plush leather couches in front of a gas fireplace.
The adjacent FivePine Lodge (operated independently of the brewery) offers a unique experience for those seeking romance and adventure.
Astoria Brewing Company
144 11th St., Astoria
Start your visit here by catching a ride on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. After you’ve taken a ride down the waterfront and waved at all of the passersby, walk back to the Wet Dog Cafe, which has been in business since 1995. The riverfront deck is open seasonally and offers a fantastic view of the Columbia River.
Buoy Beer Company
1 8th St., Astoria
This brewery, which opened its doors to the public on Valentine’s Day 2014, is as close to the water as you can get. In fact, it was literally built over the water, from the meticulously repurposed remains of an old cannery building. The river view room is the big draw here, featuring a wall of windows facing the Columbia River, where sea lions cavort and cargo ships ply their trade.
Fort George Brewery
1483 Duane St., Astoria
Located on the original settlement site of Astoria (founded 1811), the Fort George building housed an automotive repair facility before being revitalized and made into the brewery. The upstairs section, which opened in 2013, has the best views of the sunset and the river. In a neighboring building, the cozy Lovell Taproom features a huge gas fireplace, where you can snuggle up with your honey on the hearth.
Pelican Pub & Brewery
33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City
If you want to enjoy an award-winning beer with sand at your feet and nothing but beach between you and the Pacific Ocean, then this is the place for you. Scan for bird activity on Haystack Rock, watch the dory fleet landing, look for spouting whales or just stare into the eyes of your special someone as the sun sets.
Rogue Brewers on the Bay
2320 SE OSU Drive, Newport
The name says it all -- this two-story brewpub offers a panoramic view of Yaquina Bay and the marina. Wind your way through the brewery to get to the full-service restaurant. Just for fun, order a beer with a seafaring name, like Old Crustacean. You can also buy a bright red bottle of Double Chocolate Stout, the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. If you want to extend the date, Rogue’s Bed ‘n Beer is just across the bay.
Dragon’s Gate Brewery
52288 Sunquist Road, Milton-Freewater
Adam and Jennifer Gregory’s 10-acre farm is in the middle of vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. The brewhouse, in a small barn, is where Belgian-style ales are made with their own estate-grown hops. Relax in an Adirondack chair and take in the view of the Blue Mountains framed by hop bines. Don’t miss the massive black Friesian horses.
Mutiny Brewing Company
600 N. Main St., Joseph
Minutes from Wallowa Lake, this brewpub has a beautiful view of the Wallowa Mountains. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy a pint while you watch the sunset behind the mountains.
Terminal Gravity Brewing
803 SE School St., Enterprise
An oasis in Eastern Oregon, this brewery is known for its excellent IPA. A destination for locals and tourists alike, the outdoor dining area, in the form of picnic tables under the shade of an aspen grove, offers views of the Wallowa Mountains. Sit by the creek and let your worldly cares dissolve.
Mt. Hood Area
Big Horse Brew Pub
115 W. State St., Hood River
This small brewery is one of the oldest in the Columbia River Gorge. North-facing windows on the second and third floors of this remodeled home offer expansive views of downtown Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge.
Full Sail Brewery
506 Columbia St., Hood River
This employee-owned, award-winning brewery was constructed on the site of the abandoned Diamond Fruit Cannery. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, the brewpub has a wall of windows facing the river along with an outdoor patio that is open year-round.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
4785 Booth Hill Road, Hood River
Located on a picturesque 10-acre estate off Highway 35 complete with assorted animals and 400 cherry trees, this brewery celebrates its four-year anniversary in February. On a clear day, the tasting room windows offer a beautiful view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood Brewing Company
87304 Government Camp Loop Road, Government Camp
On the south slope of the mountain, it’s too close to offer views of the snowy peak. All the more reason to cuddle up in comfy booths or grab a seat in a leather armchair in front of the fireplace. If things get too warm, head to the bar, the entire length of which features an ice-glazed strip for keeping your beer cold.
Pfriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave., Suite 101, Hood River
Housed in a Silver LEED-certified building across the street from Hood River’s beautiful Waterfront Park, this brewery made 50 unique beers in 2014. The rustic beer patio features a large fire pit and sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. The upstairs “library” is a nice place to escape for a quiet conversation.
4945 Baseline Drive, Mount Hood Parkdale
This cozy brewpub located just off of Highway 35 in Parkdale will celebrate its three-year anniversary in April. With spectacular views of orchards and Mt. Hood, it’s is a wonderful place to grab a picnic table and soak up the sunshine on a clear day.
Thunder Island Brewing
515 SW Portage Road, Cascade Locks
Uniquely located alongside the Columbia River near the Bridge of the Gods and the Pacific Crest Trail, this year-old brewery is the perfect place to grab a pint after a day of hiking. With views of namesake Thunder Island from the large outdoor patio, the brewery is a year-round destination for adventure lovers of all types.
Portland Metro Area
Base Camp Brewing
930 SE Oak St., Portland
This brewpub offers the opportunity to pretend you’re on a camping trip. As you sip a S’more Stout, topped with a roasted marshmallow, you can plan your next outdoor adventure using the topo maps on the glass-topped tables. Look up at the wooden bow truss roof and spot constellations in the permanent late-summer night sky. Or just head outside to one of the fire pits, grab a seat on a log bench, and take turns howling at the moon.
Deschutes Brewery and Public House
210 NW 11th Ave., Portland
The reclaimed wood carvings throughout this enormous warehouse space feature northwest animals and landscapes and make the perfect backdrop for the stone fireplace that separates the bar area from the open kitchen.
2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale
Located on the site of the former Multnomah County Poor Farm, this sprawling 74-acre property offers countless ways to romance your loved one. Rocking chairs on the verandas, Ruby’s Spa, a soaking pool (for overnight guests only), numerous fire pits, and the oh-so-cozy Little Red Shed with its wood-burning fireplace are just a few of my favorite options.
Old Town Brewing
5201 NE MLK Jr. Blvd., Portland
A large stone fireplace anchors the bar area, giving it a ski lodge feel. Assorted armchairs and couches offer plenty of cozy seating options for couples.
Portland U-Brew & Pub
6237 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland
The perfect activity for a beer-loving couple — drink a pint of the house-made beer while you brew your own. The best part is that you don’t have to do the cleaning! The couple that brews together stays together.
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery
40 N. State St., Lake Oswego
The 200-seat back patio overlooks Lakewood Bay and is open when the weather is good. When the temperature drops, the heat lamps make things cozy. A great place to watch the sunset.
Tugboat Brewing Company
711 SW Ankeny St., Portland
This tiny brewery specializes in British-style strong ales. The pub is homey and relaxing, with lots of small tables topped by lamps, and jazz on the sound system. Read a book of poetry to your sweetie or play a board game.
Caldera Brewery & Restaurant
590 Clover Lane, Ashland
If the weather is nice, grab one of the 69 patio seats with breathtaking Siskiyou Mountain views. Indoors, the couch that faces the bold, blue fireplace is the perfect place to snuggle.
Klamath Basin Brewing
1320 Main St., Klamath Falls
The Creamery Brew Pub & Grill is great for sports lovers. Cheer on your favorite team together from a table near the large brick fireplace. If you want a space away from the action, the intimate front area and booths provide a quieter setting.
Brewers Union Local 180
48329 E. 1st St., Oakridge
This spot describes itself as Oregon’s “only Real Ale pub and brewery” featuring “a blend of the best of the British Public House, the American spirit of adventure, and the natural scenic beauty of Oregon's Cascade Mountains.” The cozy front parlor is the choice spot for lingering over a pint.
2065 Madrona Ave. SE, Salem
A beautiful stone fireplace anchors the bar area and is surrounded by overstuffed leather couches. Pringle Creek runs along the covered back patio which opens up into the large backyard of the property and creates a nice ambiance and a quiet place to chat.
High Street Brewery & Cafe
1243 High St., Eugene
This location features McMenamins’ only truly subterranean brewery and was the first microbrewery in Eugene since the days of Prohibition. Explore the renovated 1900s house or relax in the backyard beer garden where ales are enjoyed under the shade of fir, ash, hawthorn and tulip trees in the summer; warmth is provided by an outdoor fire pit in winter.
Ninkasi Brewing Company
272 Van Buren St., Eugene
The tasting room itself is pretty tiny, so everyone heads to the outdoor patio. Make a beeline for the two-part fire pit, a mesmerizing work of art. You can also stay under the tent and huddle together next to a patio heater.
Sky High Brewing
160 NW Jackson Ave., Corvallis
This four-story renovated building offers multiple options for date night. Drink and dine year-round on the heated porch on the third floor. In season, enjoy the 360-degree views of the Coast Range, Willamette River and the countryside from the rooftop, then watch the sunset over Corvallis. Patio heaters provide additional warmth on cool nights.
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