Corvallis Club Combines Craft and Community
By Anthony St. Clair
Autumn is a busy time for the 33 members of the Corvallis-based Heart of the Valley Homebrewers (HotV). “We just got finished putting on our very successful Septembeerfest,” says Carrie Reeves, who became club president in January 2014. “This was our seventh year, and proceeds go to the Linn Benton Food Share. We estimate that we had around 3,000 attendees this year.”
Members also spent September participating in Corvallis Beer Week, which ran Sept. 5–13. But the club is hardly sitting down to catch its breath over a refreshing pint of homebrew. Now members are planning the club’s Annual Oregon Homebrew Festival, a Beer Judge Certification Program and American Homebrewers Association sanctioned event held every May. For the last 16 years, the competition has also been a qualifier for the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing.
A club member since 2013, Reeves took to the community of homebrewers and their mutual love of all things beer—a common thread in the area. Today Oregon has 32 homebrew clubs registered with the American Homebrew Association, but the Corvallis club was one of the first. HotV was founded in 1982 as Corvallis Homebrewers, and also held its first annual homebrew competition, now the the longest-running event of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Once homebrewers from surrounding areas participated, the name was changed to Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. Today, the club has members in Corvallis, Salem, Albany, Sweet Home, and even Eugene, home of the Cascade Brewers Society, a fellow homebrew club.
HotV members meet on the third Wednesday of the month, alternating between member homes in Albany and Corvallis. “We sample one another’s beers, as well as those of local brewpubs and unusual commercial brews,” Reeves says. “Occasionally we arrange comparative tastings of commercial examples of beer styles, with members voting according to their preferences. It’s a great way to experience brews that one hasn't tried before, and to find new favorites.”
In between meetings, members gather for club business and also for the good ole joy of homebrewing. Brewing sours is popular right now, Reeves says, a reflection of the ongoing changes in the industry and populace. “Just as Pacific Northwest trends have adjusted, our club has reflected that,” she explains. “For instance, members might increase the hop content of beers, and find ways to get creative with ingredients that are local to us here in the Willamette Valley. But a passion for making beer remains the same.”
Members plan a wide range of regular club and community events too. In addition to the 63 craft beverages on offer at Septembeerfest, HotV organizes club brewing days, holiday parties, pub crawls, and picnics. Since 1995, members have picked up litter on Highway 20 between Albany and Corvallis, as part of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program. Today, four times a year members meet to clean up the highway. Over the last 19 years, their efforts have removed 900 bags of trash.
As Reeves looks ahead to the Nov. 29 Civil War between UO and OSU, she’s setting her game day plans. “I will be watching the Beavers hopefully win against the Ducks at my friend's house,” she says. “I will be drinking Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat, or whatever is on tap at their house, and I will be eating bad food like nachos and chili!” She might bring a bag of Chester's Puffcorn, her favorite snack.
Reeves also has her eye on 2015, her second year as club president. “It will be a really great year,” she says. “We have a lot of educational and fun activities planned.”
Changes Ahead for Eugene’s Cascade Brewers Society
By Anthony St. Clair
On the last Monday of every month, the brewers gather in the basement of downtown Eugene’s Rogue Ales Public House. Bottles hiss. People laugh. Eventually things settle down. News is shared, followed by discussion of a topic of beery import.
All the while the homebrew flows. Later, members of the Eugene-based Cascade Brewers Society (CBS) talk about life, homebrewing, beer, and more brewing. The meeting ends, but the camaraderie of homebrewing continues. Over the following month, club members will brew together, visit area pubs and breweries, plan events, and enter the monthly club-only competition.
Founded by a dozen people in 1988, the club’s membership stayed small for its first dozen years. In 2000, homebrewing gained in popularity. Today, people from Portland to Northern California are among the club’s 93 members.
“Meetings used to be in people’s homes. It’d be hard to have a regular space that could accommodate more people,” says Brandt Weaver, president since 2009. “Once we got our regular space in the bottom floor of Rogue, people felt more comfortable about stopping by. From there membership really started growing.”
Weaver joined CBS after moving to Eugene in 2002. “Most of the people there at the start are still really good friends. They wanted to share that homebrewing journey together,” Weaver explains. “When more people started getting together, they realized they had the energy to do more things. Bus trips, beer pairing dinners, things like that. The increase in membership led to more planned events. It also led to more of a focus on technical programs. Education, discussion of more particular aspects of brewing. It went from having homebrew and talking about it, to people presenting on different aspects of homebrewing.”
Today CBS members organize a range of events, from a summer group campout and monthly style-based judged competitions, to a fall chili cook-off and monthly happy hour. In collaboration with the Oakshire Public House, CBS members also participate in National Learn to Homebrew Day, an annual American Homebrewers Association event that introduces the public to homebrewing.
As the club rolls into an Oregon autumn, the fermenters are bubbling and beers are conditioning. Ciders, pumpkin beers, winter warmers, and Belgian styles are underway. Sour beers and barrel-aged beers are popular right now. “We’ve had club projects where we brew the same beer, fill a barrel, age it, and then divide the final beer,” Weaver says, noting the club’s love of experimentation.
“People use adjuncts that you wouldn’t see in commercial beers, things that wouldn’t be marketable,” he explains. “Non-traditional bittering, like teff or yarrow root. People are growing things in their yard to brew beer with.”
Looking ahead to the UO/OSU Civil War game, Weaver plans to attend any parties the club is invited to. He’ll pour a pint of what’s on tap—maybe an Oktoberfest or IPA—tuck in to chips and guacamole, and see how the game plays out. He also professes respect for Corvallis’s “impressive” Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. “We’re talking about having some events that could get the two clubs together, but we don’t have a lot of official contact.”
Future relations are a job for the club’s new president though.
After five years, Weaver will step down at the end of 2014. “We’re getting new blood and energy to do different things,” he explains. “We’ll hold the course with what we’ve been doing, but I’m excited about how new folks will be stepping up and bringing in their ideas. There will be good changes and growth for 2015.”
By Andi Prewitt
If the founders of Salem’s Vagabond Brewing ever offer to buy you a one-way plane ticket to any place in the world, better take them up on it. You’d be the first to do so. The four marines-turned-brewery-operators used to issue this challenge to people who expressed awe about their ability to drop everything and travel. But their experience wasn’t out-of-reach. It just required abandoning any sort of comfort zone. In order to get others to step outside their secure lifestyle, the Vagabond owners would ask individuals whether they’d like the airfare. The catch: the flight would have to leave the following week. Perhaps not surprisingly, no one ever accepted the proposal.
Risk-taking isn’t for everybody, but it’s pretty much defined the lives of James Cardwell, Ryan Fineran, Dean Howes, and Alvin Klausen. Not only have they served 12 combined tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq; each also traveled extensively after getting out of the military. Now that the group has a brewery, they’re honoring fellow adventurers this month by holding celebrations for Veterans Day.
The brewery will be running specials for veterans on Friday, November 7th through Veterans Day on Tuesday, November 11th. There are also plans for Vagabond tap takeovers at two locations in north and south Salem. And that’s not the only occasion the brewery will mark this month. Most people are familiar with Veterans Day, but not all have heard of the Marine Corps Birthday, which takes place Monday, November 10th. Units are known to celebrate the event no matter where they may be stationed. Vagabond is featuring a catered dinner for local Marines to honor the Corps’ 239th birthday and including many of the long-established practices associated with the event. For example, the oldest Marine and youngest Marine present participate in a cake cutting ceremony. There will also be a reading of a message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. And to add a bit of Vagabond flavor to the observance, the brewery is making a special Semper Fi IPA to pour that day. The brewery’s business manager Dean Howes says the birthday helps service members maintain a bond:
“It’s very rooted in tradition. A lot of Marines get out and you kind of lose that camaraderie and your connection to that sort of thing, so having an event on the birthday is important to a lot of the guys.”
Losing that daily interaction with other Marines can be a jarring, if not downright-traumatic, experience. Upon leaving the service, which is a life filled with built-in structure, purpose, and community, some individuals find themselves adrift. Howes and Vagabond’s marketing and distribution manager Alvin Klausen dealt with that shift after three back-to-back deployments.
“You basically go from a very regimented, regulated life and then it’s like, ‘All right, bye! Have a nice life!’ And literally the next morning no one’s telling you where to be. You don’t have any responsibility to anything,” explains Howes. “But you just have the weight of the world on your shoulders and you were in charge of people and their lives and making decisions that affect people forever. And you’re doing this thing that hopefully you felt was important and worthwhile and then suddenly now what do you do?”
Of course they did the most obvious, logical thing possible at the time: buy a van off of Craigslist and start driving south. Howes admits it may sound drastic or dire. However, the journey ended up being anything but that. Their travels took them through Central and South America, which provided some much-needed perspective after they spent their adult lives in the service. The friends saw there was much more out there to experience. And it was an opportunity to simply unwind. During this trip the two also developed the idea of starting a brewery.
Given the founders’ experiences, it’s easy to see how they came up with Vagabond’s motto: “Beer. Love. Adventure.” But starting the brewery proved to be quite a challenge. The group decided to use the crowdfunding resource Kickstarter to raise money even though their research showed them that the site’s failure rate for breweries was quite high. They set a target--$25,000 in about 30 days, kicking off one of the busiest months they’ve ever experienced. To the surprise of some users, you don’t just sit around and wait for free money to pour in. It takes a lot of public campaigning and stifling your shame. The group recalls they struggled with the uncertainty of it all.
“Keep pushing—like not knowing if it’s going to pay off. Because if it fails you fail real publicly. It’s like all or nothing the way Kickstarter is. So you either make it or you get nothing. And you basically fail in front of everybody,” says Howes. “And in order to try and make it work you literally present it to everybody that matters in your life and everyone that you care about.”
Vagabond ended up surpassing its goal by more than $3,000, which then helped secure traditional lenders. But more importantly it provided a much-needed boost of confidence by showing that others had faith in their project. The brewery eventually opened in February 2014 and much of what the friends learned in the service—discipline and always having the other Marine’s back—helped get things up and running.
“For a while there we were working 100 hour weeks for months straight, seven days a week—just going,” recalls Howes. “And I think a lot of that too was probably cathartic. And you put everything into something because that’s what you used to do. And you do it for each other, which is why most guys will tell you they serve or why they fight.”
It might be human nature, but the wandering periods of life seem to come and go. The kinds of risks that are taken tend to change and most strive for some sense of permanence in. The four vagabonds who started the brewery have built a home for themselves, their growing families, veterans, and beer lovers. Ultimately, they still embrace the ethos of the wanderer—so don’t be surprised if one of them offers to buy you that one-way plane ticket.
[a] 2195 Hyacinth St NE #172, Salem
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Seeking out breweries while traveling was already a lifelong hobby for Bobby Marcum. But while being a consumer is an important role, Marcum felt that he had more to contribute to the local beer industry. An avid bicyclist, Marcum originally wanted to own a pub cycle but he quickly realized that many of the brewery locations in the Willamette Valley are too spread out for that to be feasible. After seeing a Brewvana bus in Portland and developing a rapport with owner Ashley Rose Salvitti, Marcum was convinced that mode of transport was the perfect solution. “I essentially took the bus tour concept and tried to mold it around the demographic of the valley,” Marcum says. He gave his first tours during this year’s Zwickelmania in February.
Now just over eight months old, Ale Ways offers a variety of tours to suit all tastes. Operating on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with pick-ups available at various locations in Salem and Albany, the all-inclusive tours offer transportation, beverage tastings, pub food, brewer talks and brewery tours, and a commemorative mug. One fun opportunity to explore several types of beverages is the “Pub Crawlvallis Tour,” which visits 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Mazama Brewing, and Nectar Creek, a meadery. Alternatively, the “Eugene Brews Cruze” is all about beer, with stops at Ninkasi, Hop Valley, and Agrarian Ales.
Marcum doesn’t assume tour participants are homebrewers or that they know how beer is made. Therefore, he structures his tours so that the first stop provides the background on making beer. At the next two stops, the brewers talk less about how beer is made in general and more about their personal background and why they make their beer a particular way. As Marcum observes, “When the group sits down in the pub to sample some beers afterward, they feel like part of a private club because they’ve had the unique experience of having met the person who made the beer they’re drinking as well as touring the facility where it was made.”
Tours are offered year-round with the aid of Gus and Frank, a 14-seat short bus and a Hummer, respectively. The bus has been configured to offer maximum comfort for tour participants. It has the look and feel of a mobile pub with the added bonus of customers being able to drink while riding, so the fun never stops. As Marcum says, “You can drink flights of beer all day and you’re going to feel pretty good. But my tours also give you the insider scoop.”
Marcum continues to establish good relationships with local brewers and business owners and is doing his part to attract more tourism to the Willamette Valley, especially Salem. “Part of my whole business model was to make it a destination,” he says. He also enjoys delivering a great experience to his guests. “It’s all about connecting with people and sharing the love of beer!”
Ale Ways Brewery Tours
Owner/Operator: Bobby Marcum
Oregon breweries in October claimed a total of 22 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, according to reports from the Brewers Association, which organizes the event in Denver each year.
Oregon Breweries brought home seven gold medals, eight silver medals and seven bronzes. As was the case last year, rural Oregon breweries won more medals than Portland metro brewers, who won seven medals. Breweries from Central Oregon won five medals, Eastern Oregon won four, coastal breweries won four, Columbia Gorge area breweries won one, as did Southern Oregon. About half of Oregon’s breweries are in the Portland area.
Winners were selected by an international panel of 222 beer experts from a field of 5,507 entries received from 1,309 U.S. breweries. For complete information, visit http://www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com/the-competition/winners.
Of interest, Brian Butenschoen of the Oregon Brewers Guild noted:
· Four breweries tied for most medals at the GABF, with three medals each. Two of these breweries were from Oregon: 10 Barrel Brewing Company and Barley Brown's Brew Pub.
· The gold medal winner in the most-entered category for the second year in a row in the American-Style India Pale Ale category with 279 entries went to Breakside Brewery.
· It was the second year for the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category and for the second year in a row the gold medal went to an Oregon brewery. This year it went to Barley Brown's Brewpub for Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA, which won the bronze medal in this category in 2013.
Also of note:
Carrying the south coast brewing banner was Arch Rock of Gold Beach, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this year with a prized GABF gold medal. James Smith is Arch Rock’s brewer. Earlier this year, tiny Chetco Brewery, a few miles south of Arch Rock in Brookings, earned a World Beer Cup gold medal as it celebrated its first-year anniversary. Apparently, south coast breweries know how to hit the ground running.
And the north coast is no slouch: Open less than a year, Astoria’s Buoy Beer Co. won silver for its Dunkel.
After name-changing trials at the beginning of the year, Ground Breaker Brewing of Portland took home the gold medal for gluten-free beer.
“Dark Ale was the first beer to feature a new recipe including roasted lentils in place of oats,” said James Neumeister of Ground Breaker.
Following, in order of gold, silver and bronze, are Oregon’s 2014 medal winners at this year’s GABF.
2014 GABF Medal Winners Made by Oregon Breweries:
Field Beer - Cucumber Crush, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
Fresh or Wet Hop Ale - Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
Indigenous/Regional Beer - Salmonberry Sour, Bend Brewing Co., Bend
Gluten-Free Beer - Dark Ale, Ground Breaker Brewing, Portland
Kellerbier or Zwickelbier - Gold Beach Lager, Arch Rock Brewing Co., Gold Beach
International-Style Pale Ale - Hand Truck Pale Ale, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style India Pale Ale - Breakside IPA, Breakside Brewery, Milwaukie
American-Style Wheat Beer With Yeast - Hefeweizen, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland
German-Style Wheat Ale - Weizenbock, 13 Virtues Brewing Co., Portland
American-Style Sour Ale - Myrtle, The Commons Brewery, Portland
American-Style Brett Beer - Peche ‘n Brett, Logsdon Organic Farm Brewery, Hood River
European-Style Dunkel -- Buoy Dunkel, Buoy Beer Co., Astoria
German-Style Kölsch - I’d Like to Buy the World a Kolsch, Old Town Brewing Co., Portland
Classic English-Style Pale Ale -- Caldera Ashland Amber, Caldera Brewing Co., Ashland
American-Style Stout -- Disorder, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style Strong Pale Ale -- Breakside Wanderlust IPA, Breakside Brewery, Milwaukie
American-Style Wheat Beer - Amber Waves, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
Belgian-Style Fruit Beer -- Poire du Pélican, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City
Indigenous/Regional Beer - Sage Fight IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend
English-Style Summer Ale - Surfer’s Summer Ale, Pelican Brewing Co., Tillamook
American-Style Black Ale - Turmoil, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style Stout - P2P, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
By Sam Wheeler
School spirit has never tasted so good at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.
Medford-based Southern Oregon Brewing Company recently teamed with the university’s Alumni Association to craft a mascot-spirited, easy-drinking, Northwest-style red ale that’s malty smooth with a subtle hoppy smack.
“It’s a beer that primarily has appeal here in Southern Oregon. My goal for this whole project was to cross market and support our local college,” said Tom Hammond, founder and owner of Southern Oregon Brewing Co.
Of course, “it’s a great beer,” Hammond said. “Generously hopped with a decent backbone and it’s a pretty beer—has nice coloration.”
The 22-ounce bottles of Raider Red Ale and its custom tap handle are emblazoned with the school’s name and Red-Tailed Hawk logo and the beer represents a blossoming marketing avenue for SOU, said Alumni Affairs Director Mike Beagle.
“I’ve had a couple of SOB beers, but this is my favorite. We’re excited about it and it’s really been popular at tailgating events,” Beagle said. “For us, this was a way to get our logo and our spirit mark out there. I think it’s something that adds a touch of class to what we do.”
The school’s Alumni Association and SOB came together for a small production run of the ale in 2011, Hammond said. But legal red tape associated with having the school’s name tied to the adult beverage didn’t pan out, so a larger run was put on hold. Once Beagle kicked the project back into gear and the beer’s licensing agreement was sorted out a few months ago, Hammond received the go-ahead to start crafting Raider Red once again.
In a month, the brewery has turned out two batches of Raider Red Ale for a total of 60 barrels, said Hammond. Most of that has already been assigned to a store shelf or tap handle in Southern Oregon. It’s one of the most popular beers at SOB’s tap room, said bartender Katie Savacool. Another perk for registered SOU grads is a 25 percent discount at the SOB tap house, Hammond said.
“It looks like a beer that’s going to have some legs,” Hammond said.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.