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 Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Hops, hops, hops. Everything’s coming up hops at Worthy Brewing Company.
Because of Roger Worthington’s ties to Indie Hops, a company that makes pellets, and its experimental aroma hop program with Oregon State University, Worthy is the main brewery to test out these new varieties.
As Zach Brenneman, Worthy’s head brewer, explained, “They’re working on developing aroma hops that have good brewing qualities, are disease resistant, have high yields and vigor. We may brew with one that consumers really love that’s disease resistant, but doesn’t have good yield.”
It can take years to find a hop that meets all the criteria. Worthy’s 5-barrel pilot brewing system was created for this trial-and-error process. Until the hops prove themselves consistently over time, they are simply identified by number. Last year, Worthy’s team brewed up four pale ales using the experimental varietals 1007-35, C1002-37, G9-1-374 and C115L-1.
“We use a very basic pale ale malt profile and our standard house yeast for these beers,” Brenneman said. “We make the same base beer for each of these brews to focus on the hops we are using. The finished beer will be 5% ABV and in the 30-40 IBU range.”
They served tastings of the four beers at the Bend brewery and several locations in Portland. Brenneman was at Produce Row Café sampling. “In talking with consumers there, I was interested to see how deep some people wanted to dive into this,” he said.
Some of the comments from the tasting cards:
“Would be good in a helles or kolsch.”
“Nice if you are sick of the IPA trend.”
“Super complex, but too assertive.”
“Almost too mellow for a pale ale (like a lager with hop character).”
“Not bad, just not my thing.”
More in-depth comments are solicited from tasters at Worthy. “Our panelists are given instructions on what we are looking for as we taste through each of the beers so that we can send back the best, most informative information about the breeding program hops we brewed with.”
So far, the brightest star of the program, most grown on OSU’s research fields, is Strata, formerly known as X-331. “It has outrageous oil and it’s more in your face. Tasters note its distinct tropical fruit flavor and its dank fragrance similar to cannabis,” said Brenneman. However, Strata was a surprise hit, especially for brewers. In initial sensory evaluations and onsite rub and sniff comparisons, it didn’t stand out.
Worthy’s blog post about Strata said the following: “Until the harvest this fall, the supply of Strata IPA is limited. The 2016 harvest from 9 acres, grown at Goschie and Coleman Farms, was around 18,000 pounds. It was considered a ‘baby’ harvest, the first after the establishment year. The one this fall will be the first mature crop. Reports from the farm are that it’s vigorously growing and yields should be above the average of 2,000 pounds an acre last season. This spring, Indie Hops planted another 60 acres in the valley.”
Worthy’s StrataSphere IPA won a gold medal in the Sessionable Hoppy category at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards. While it can take 10 years or more to develop a new successful genotype, this one was on an accelerated path of about six years. Strata is an open-pollinated hop, which means seeds that breed true, developed from a German Perle hop.
Strata IPA has been a consistent favorite at Worthy, with its sales often equal to those of the flagship Worthy IPA and in some weeks exceeding it. It’s available in draft only, but after the harvest plans are to package it in 22-ounce bottles.
This fall, Brenneman looks forward to getting a jump on brewing with the experimental hops and plans to dive right in after the fresh-hop beers are finished. He receives the chosen hops from Jim Solberg at Indie Hops in 2-pound foil sacks that have been bagged under gas. Ten pounds of whole-leaf hops are then used for pilot batches. “Our goal is to do a late kettle add and then dry hop in 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per barrel,” he said.
This year Brenneman wants to brew them in pairs — maybe even two on the same day. He would like to have eight experimental beers available during several months to have more options for consumers to taste and compare.
The goal is to keep brewing well-made, balanced beers and involving consumers who are invested in what might be the next new big hop as well as bring new genes into the hop pool. Close to 90 percent of the hops that Worthy uses are Indie Hops grown in Oregon.
You’ll actually find six rows of experimental hops at Worthy’s ever-expanding brewery and pub as part of its demonstration garden. Shaun Townsend, OSU aroma hop breeder who’s directing the hop development program, chose the varieties that would be planted in Bend. Although most of the test fields are in the Willamette Valley, researchers wanted to see how climate and pests would impact hops in Central Oregon.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Roger Worthington, owner of Bend’s Worthy Brewing, seamlessly blends his interest in art, space, science, brewing, renewable growth and more with the newest addition to his business — a 50-foot tall observatory.
Named the Hopservatory, it’s on the southwest end of the ever-expanding pub. The Worthy Garden Club, showcasing hops and barley onsite, has partnered with Grant Tandy from the Sunriver Observatory to offer public tours. The addition features a 16-inch reflecting telescope and a smaller refractory one.
“The goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like space, size, time, distance and speed in our solar system and beyond,” according to Worthy’s website.
“Our Garden Club marries heaven and earth,” said Worthington. “Our mission is to promote planet earth.” He hopes to give visitors a new perspective on the cosmos and a new appreciation for our home. “It’s ridiculous to think that we can populate another planet ... it’s not a good use of our resources.
“I reach 1,200-1,400 people a day here in the summer,” said Worthington. “Why not have them look up — look through a telescope at the sky — have them view the stars and planets and suns and moons and all the magic up there and get some perspective on our home here?”
Currently, tours are offered at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Online reservations are recommended since space is limited to 20 people. The $5 fee goes to Worthy Garden Club’s education programs. Observatory manager Tandy is on hand for open viewings without registration 9-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Scheduled tours begin in the appropriately named Transporter Room, situated between the Beermuda Triangle bar and the Hop Mahal banquet room. This space features mosaic tiles on the floor depicting celestial wonders, and the colorful curved walls of Venetian plaster represent the center of the Earth rising to the stars. Several TV monitors play educational videos about astronomy.
From here, a guide leads visitors up the adjacent spiral staircase that winds around the observatory that will eventually be covered with hops. On the second floor, guests pass the new Star Bar, which opened June 6 for customers 21 and older.
The next stop is the control room: a dark, quiet, cool area that feels like a library. Here guests watch a video by Jerry Niehuser from the Sunriver Observatory that helps put the light year distance from Earth to assorted planets in a relatable context. Niehuser talks about how long it would take an email to get to us here from Mars and other planets, which would be as long as 500 years in some cases.
After another hike up the spiral staircase, the guide opens the door to the dome and telescopes. On the night I went, two students at Central Oregon Community College led the session, showing us a star cluster, Saturn and a nebulae. After everyone had a turn looking through the telescopes, the group went outside to view constellations. Despite some surrounding light from nearby buildings and a light cloud cover, we clearly spotted several with the aid of the guides.
“We’re able to see things here that you can’t at Sunriver, even though they have more telescopes and more powerful ones,” said Worthington.
The Hopservatory is also available for private tours and as an add-on for large parties. If they sky is overcast on your scheduled date, the Worthy Garden Club offers “cloudchecks” to be used on a better viewing night. Ultimately, Worthington hopes people will come not only for a beer, but also for enlightenment.
“We’re all in this Earth lifeboat together. We can choose to work together and fix it,” said Worthington.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The totality of August’s full solar eclipse is just going to miss the craft beer mecca of Bend.
But if you want to watch the rare event take place for yourself and then enjoy a tasty Oregon brew, it’s just a short jaunt to the north to Madras, Redmond or Sisters, which all lie in the totality’s path Monday, Aug. 21.
The biggest planned event in Central Oregon is the Oregon Solarfest in Madras. The small High Desert town is almost directly in the center of the eclipse’s route, giving viewers the longest possible glimpse.
The meat of the event is camping, live music and a surrounding festival with activities galore. Four Bend breweries are sponsors: Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing and Worthy Brewing Company. A beer garden is planned, but the lineup of brews you can try is not yet available. However, Wild Ride is working with Cascade Lakes and Silver Moon on a collaboration for the festival, appropriately named “Wild Cascade Moon.” For more info and tickets: oregonsolarfest.com.
Since the full eclipse will fall somewhere between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in Central Oregon, most breweries and pubs won’t yet be open. But you can watch the sky show and talk it over during lunch with a beer right after — provided you can get anywhere in traffic.
There are no breweries in Madras regularly open to the public; for that, you’d have to travel south to Redmond. That’s the home of Wild Ride Brewing, Smith Rock Brewing Company and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company (served at 7th Street Brew House.)
The weekend before the eclipse is the first-ever Redmond Brewfest. The event at American Legion Park touts 300 different beers from more than 75 breweries. It takes place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. Live music, including Larry and His Flask, is featured.
If you want a prime view of the eclipse, Madras is the spot to be. The sky will go dark there for about two minutes. In Redmond, the event will last less than 40 seconds.
Be warned if you head to the area though: A lot of other people have the same plan. According to The Bulletin, the number of people in the region is expected to be double the norm. Law enforcement is preparing to deal with the surge, but area roads — particularly Highway 97 — may have a difficult time accommodating all the traffic.
If you’re just into the beer and not as much the eclipse, the safer bet is the annual Bend Brewfest, which takes place a week and a half earlier, Thursday Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 12. Organizers moved it up a week from its usual dates because of the eclipse.
Want to get a view of the eclipse while also enjoying a craft beer in another part of Oregon? You’re in luck.
· BREWVANA is hosting tour that begins at the Oregon State Fairgrounds for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party. Then it’s off to Vagabond Brewing for lunch followed by a tour of Crosby Hop Farm.
· Albany, Salem and Corvallis in Willamette Valley are in the path of the eclipse and have several breweries.
· The chance of clouds is higher on the Oregon Coast, but there are breweries in the path of the totality in Depoe Bay, Lincoln City, Newport and Pacific City.
· Baker City and Ontario also boast breweries that will be the last in Oregon to experience the eclipse before the event continues east into Idaho.
· Be sure to call ahead to make sure the brewery you want to visit is open.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s difficult to believe Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing is already 10 years old.
But from its humble beginnings, the quickly growing brewery is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, complete with another pub opening this spring in its hometown.
A lot has happened in those 10 years, including the now-famous purchase of the brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014.
The new brewpub, which is located on 10 Barrel’s east side Bend campus, is part of a larger expansion. A new building in excess of 60,000 square feet will be where all of 10 Barrel’s packaging and shipping takes place. It also includes warehouse space. 10 Barrel had easily outgrown its current facilities.
“It’s going to be great to be able to spread out in new offices, to have a little more room.” 10 Barrel brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit told Oregon Beer Growler.
But for people in Bend and fans of the beer in Oregon, the brewpub is perhaps the most exciting news.
10 Barrel’s original brewpub on the west side of Bend is a cozy affair, and often overflowing with guests during peak hours and on weekends.
The new pub will offer a similar intimate experience to that one, but will feature some of the same feel as bigger 10 Barrel pubs in Portland, Boise, Denver and San Diego (scheduled to open in April) with exposed wood, concrete and steel.
Display windows in the pub look into the new 10 Barrel facility. Patrons will also get views of the Cascade Mountains from the patio.
The new pub should do well as soon as the doors open, as the east side of Bend is underserved in terms of brewpubs, with only Worthy Brewing in the vicinity. (It also comes as another of Bend’s biggest breweries, Boneyard Beer, has plans to open a pub this year near downtown.)
Lovers of 10 Barrel’s beer will be happy to know that there are 22 taps on site. That gives the pub the ability to offer a variety of exclusive brews in addition to 10 Barrel’s flagship and seasonal-run beers.
Ian Larkin, formerly of Bend Brewing Company, will head up the brewing for the pub. That reunites him with Tonya Cornett, another Bend Brewing alum working at 10 Barrel. Bend Brewing has consistently produced award-winning beers before and after Cornett’s departure.
Seifrit said he plans to turn Larkin loose to make cool and unique beers, including special barrel-aged and sour beers.
“I told him I want him to come in here and go crazy, and take every idea you want to do, and do it,” Seifrit said. “My mantra is not to micromanage. My job is to give guidance and be an enabler — put the materials in their hands and do the best beer they can.”
10 Barrel tells Oregon Beer Growler that the new pub’s “estimated opening is the end of May," with an exact date still up in the air as of press time. You can find the new pub at 62970 NE 18th St. in Bend. 10 Barrel is also hosting a 10th anniversary party on campus on Saturday, May 13th, featuring a free concert headlined by hip-hop group De La Soul.
The pub is perhaps the biggest change in town. But the new facility is obviously going to change things for 10 Barrel far beyond Bend. The company and Seifrit maintain the brewery holds onto its roots, no matter how big it gets.
“Now, as we’re able to increase capacity, we’ll slowly start sharing the beer with people around the country,” Seifrit said. “But No. 1, we’re always going to focus on our core market — that will be tried and true until the day we die. As a company, we never want to forget where we came from and the people that supported us.”
OBG Blog Archives