By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sam Draper Eslinger’s grandmother passed away in 2004 and he was supposed to follow family tradition and pass down his middle name, which was his grandmother’s maiden name. However, he didn’t have any kids. After relocating from California to Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 2010 to start a brewery, he realized what to do.
“I could pass on the name by naming the brewery after her,” says Eslinger. From there, Draper Brewing opened its doors to the public on July 1, 2012. It was a different time in the city of about 22,000. While many breweries now call Roseburg home, when Draper opened the only major craft beer presence in town was the McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery.
With flagships Chocolate Porter, Cream Ale and IPA, Draper also focuses on sours and barrel-aged beers. Eslinger sees Roseburg’s citizens and tourists as ready for beers inspired by brewing traditions from all over the world, but bringing palate-pushing beers to a small city is the latest bend in the road for Eslinger’s brewing journey.
Growing up in Northern California, he was working in construction in Sacramento, Calif. at the start of the 21st century when he “started enjoying beers I couldn’t afford.” A co-worker homebrewed and shared advice. “I decided to start making hefeweizens and such that I enjoyed but couldn’t really afford,” says Eslinger. “So I got into homebrewing, started reading books, got really passionate about it.”
During 2002–2003, an injury and rehab forced Eslinger to consider big life changes.
“I realized I wanted to make beer.”
Still working construction during the day, Eslinger attended night school for classes that would help him qualify for the American Brewers Guild. He also started doing cellar work at BJs, who hired him as a brewer after he completed his training.
“I was fresh out of school, a beer nerd. They knew I was frothing at the bit to brew something I could put my name on,” says Eslinger. “They were already barrel aging, so they got some in, gave me seven beers, some barrels and some fruit, and told me to blend and age and run with it.”
After a stint at Lost Coast Brewery, Eslinger was ready to go out on his own. His family had acquired 30 acres in Tenmile, and he could set up shop there. Despite being a California boy who was moving to Oregon, he saw opportunity. “The town I grew up in was an old logging town, and Roseburg is an old logging town, so it wasn’t a stretch.”
There was also an untapped market. “Everyone else has come after me. It’s crazy how many we have here now compared to when I started.”
Earlier in his homebrewing journey, Eslinger had dabbled in barrel aging but had to give it up while living in the Humboldt County area. Relocating to Umpqua Valley’s wine country restored access to wine barrels. With much interest in the brew-it-if-you-got-it traditions of Belgian farmhouse ales, Eslinger was also inspired by the 25 plum, apple and pear trees that had been planted by the original homesteaders in 1949. “Forty feet from the brewery are all these fruit trees,” he concluded. “Made sense not to waste it.”
In addition to the flagships, Eslinger brews seasonal beers, such as summery Blueberry Wheat Ale. He prides himself on brewing any style, but Eslinger’s heart is with Draper’s Renaissance Series of barrel-aged and sour beers. He consults local winemakers for suggestions on using fruits and barrels for limited-release beers. Many Renaissance beers also are fermented with Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and/or Brettanomyces, and barrel condition for at least one year.
Eslinger’s tastes lean toward “more esoteric beers,” and he knows that can be a challenge. “When I opened, I didn’t intend on making an IPA,” he explains. “First account I got said I was crazy if I didn’t make an IPA. Now that pale ale is one of my biggest sellers. You can’t walk away from it.”
Draper’s flagship beers provide a gateway into other offerings. “If you just have esoteric, it’s harder to tell if the brewer can make good beer. But if they have a regular pale ale or cream ale, and it’s good and clean, that proves to people that I can make good, clean beer. It gives the customer a barometer of trust, and they can work their way up to trying the different, more esoteric stuff.”
The inaugural 1-barrel system is now a 7-barrel system, but Eslinger jokes that “my brewery’s not modern by any standard.” Equipment in the 2,400-square-foot brewery includes open primary fermenters and closed conditioning tanks, a mix of gear from a now-defunct area brewery and even a repurposed dairy tank from 1956. Draper’s 2015 production was approximately 200 barrels, and the same is expected for 2016. Current distribution is primarily local, with some accounts in Eugene and Portland.
Draper’s 3,500-square-foot tasting room is located in a registered historic building constructed in 1908. With seating for up to 40 people, there is live music and other events throughout the month. In addition to Draper bottled and draft beers, the tasting room curates a selection of 60 sour ales and European imports. “We go out of our way to educate — help people try beers they haven’t tried.”
To increase Draper’s sour production — and protect flagship beers from potential cross-contamination — Eslinger recently constructed a new 480-square-foot sauerhouse at the Tenmile brewery for blending and barrel storage. The two facilities also help him plan Draper’s future and increased distribution.
Eslinger knows his tastes can be a challenge for the market, but he looks ahead with the same confidence that brought him to believe he could start an esoteric craft brewery in a small city. “I’d like to see the market go more and more in that direction. I go to San Diego, Sacramento, Portland … I see it going that way.” And he’ll have Draper at that forefront, pushing the public’s palate.
[a] 640 SE Jackson St., Roseburg
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer and biking led to love and marriage for Joel and Karen Sheley. You could even say they were the “Gateway” to new opportunities.
Gateway Brewing, named after the Portland neighborhood in which they live and make beer, was the city’s first brewery east of 82nd Avenue when it officially opened in March 2015. The path to get there began more than 20 years ago when Joel, a Portland native, hopped on the homebrewing bandwagon before deciding to go pro. He was in one of the first classes at the American Brewers Guild and completed one of the 10-week programs. Joel then got a job at the now-defunct Nor’Wester, quickly immersing him in all aspects of brewing, including the less-glamorous keg cleaning and equipment sanitizing.
Nor’Wester was located on the east bank of the Willamette River under the Morrison Bridge. Joel remembers the record-setting flood in 1996, which brought together city and voluntary crews to build a temporary levee on top of Portland’s seawall to keep the river from spilling into downtown.
“Our brewery didn’t flood,” said Joel. “But customers couldn’t get into our doors because of high water, so our restaurant was effectively closed.”
Multiple factors ultimately put Nor’Wester out of business in 1997, but Joel had moved on to Widmer Brothers Brewing the previous year. While there, he did pretty much everything BUT brewing. Joel started out on the keg line, ran the filter and centrifuge, and then took the lead in the cellar. Just when he was getting ready to make the transition into brewing, he accepted a head position in the bottling, packaging and wrapping department.
Karen’s pursuit of a career in craft beer took her across the country from Louisville, Ky. to Portland, where she joined Widmer in 2003. “My interest in beer grew from living in the Czech Republic in the 1990s and seeing craft brewing take root in other places I’d lived, including Louisville,” she said.
With her business background and interest in manufacturing, she wanted to work in brewing operations. At Widmer, she worked first in wholesale support and then production planning. “All the while, Widmer was growing into Craft Brewing Alliance and witnessing that evolution from within was an invaluable experience,” she said.
Karen and Joel naturally met, then, at work. “Back then, everyone at Widmer pretty much knew everyone else,” she said. But, they bonded over bikes. Joel was deeply involved in the cycling world at the time, participating in multiple events, such as the popular Seattle to Portland ride, and building bikes in his spare time. “From bike shopping to bike rides, to marriage and a daughter, here we are today,” said Karen. They married in 2007.
Joel actually left Widmer in 2011 to launch a business that involved his hobby: cargo bike delivery. The 65-pound contraption featured a roomy storage box in the front that he would fill with customer orders. “Anyone could call up and request a delivery,” he said. Most of his deliveries were for public relations firms or real estate agencies. But his job was no easy pedal through the park. In order to get to work downtown from his home near the Glendoveer Golf Course on Northeast Glisan Street near 140th Avenue, he’d have to ride nearly 11 miles in all kinds of weather. At the end of the day, he’d make the trek to Swan Island to pick up his daughter from preschool, safely tuck her into the cargo box, and ride the 11 or so miles back home.
Karen, too, had moved on from Widmer to a high performance microscope company, headquartered in the Czech Republic, with offices in Beaverton. And while Joel ran his cargo delivery service for about three years, he and Karen never left beer behind entirely. They started talking about opening their own brewery and that is how Gateway began. “Our final goal all along was to get this going and when the opportunity presents itself to establish a kid-friendly pub in the heart of Gateway,” Joel said.
Although Gateway was official, it took months to get all the legal stuff completed. In the meantime, Joel built a half-barrel system for experimental brewing and began developing recipes for their standard beers. They decided to lease brewhouse equipment, settling on a 2-barrel system that’s electric powered, four fermentation tanks on wheels, fully jacketed with glycol cooling, and eight brite tanks, also on wheels. Last June, Joel started the layout process. He carved out a good-sized cooler space, ran all the necessary lines and ended up with a simple, efficient operation in his garage. The brewhouse was up and running by late August.
Gateway’s current brews are Exit 7 IPA and Exit 7 IPA Ramped, named for the Gateway exit off I-84; Glendoveer Golden, a kolsch named for the neighborhood golf course and fitness trail; Wood Hill Stout, a dark winter ale named after Joseph Wood Hill Park on top of Portland’s Rocky Butte; and the Mahogany Lager, named for its rich, malty flavor and reddish-brown color.
“I want to make good, clean drinkable beers,” said Joel. “One of our main themes was to have sessionable beers. I’m always thinking about what will be the next big thing in beer.”
Right now he brews by demand, about once a week. “Once we hit capacity, we’ll need to brew three or four times a week,” he said. He’s the brewer, salesperson, president, and materials acquisition and supply chain manager. Karen is the planner, bookkeeper and regulation compliance officer.
Gateway’s slogan is an invitation to travel east of 82nd Avenue — “Come on over!” Check their website for current beers and where to sample them: gatewaybrewingpdx.com.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
No beer was flowing, but more people were getting in line.
The culprit at Eugene’s 13th Sasquatch Brew Fest? A jockey box had run out of gas. “It took me a long time to find a CO2 wrench,” says Doug Fuchs. “Then I found another CO2 bottle. I swapped out the dead bottle for the new one and the beer flowed. It took about a half an hour, but every single person in line was still there, waiting patiently in good humor. Beer nerds are good folk.”
For Fuchs and the rest of the team behind Eugene’s annual one-day festival, that’s what it comes down to: meticulous planning, hauling heavy kegs, on-the-spot problem solving, and above all, trusting in the best of the industry and the public.
Bringing together breweries and cideries, finding a location, arranging food and entertainment, organizing dozens of volunteers, setting a beer dinner, collaborating on a homebrew competition, complying with Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) regulations and drawing in the public is no easy feat. “Beers festivals are back-breaking work,” Fuchs says. But every year the Northwest Legends Foundation (NLF) -- the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes Sasquatch — makes it happen.
It Takes Four Months to Make One Day
Four months of planning culminated in 2015 Sasquatch, held on Saturday, June 6 during Eugene Beer Week. More than 100 kegs — 1,550 gallons — from 50 breweries and cideries poured for more than 3,000 people who braved temperatures rising above 90 degrees to celebrate craft beer at the Hop Valley Tasting Room. For Fuchs, of Eugene-based publicity and marketing firm Flying Ink Media, it was not only a celebration of the craft beer industry; it was another year commemorating a renowned figure in the local brewing community.
“Glen Falconer was a dear friend,” says Fuchs. “I met him during the first employee meeting just before Steelhead Brewery opened in 1991. Glen was the first assistant brewer. I was the first head bartender. Glen and I became friends quick and stayed that way.”
The two also worked together at the now-closed Wild Duck Brewery, Fuchs as an assistant brewer and bartender, and Falconer as the head brewer. When Falconer died suddenly in 2002, Fuchs was one of the first to realize something was needed to honor his memory, and Sasquatch was born. Fuchs has served as the publicist and marketing director for the festival since its inception in 2002. In 2014 Fuchs also joined the Northwest Legends Foundation board of directors, and this year became the festival’s brewery and beer coordinator.
Three people are in charge of organizing Sasquatch: Fuchs, John “Chewie” Burgess (operations manager) and Steve Ditmar (NLF president). They coordinate with an event operations board, which manages both big picture and minutiae.
“We start planning in early February of each year,” explains Fuchs. “Working together, we put the festival together in about four months, from February to the first week of June. February through March is mostly planning. April and May are fulfillment.”
Early festivals were held at the now-closed Wild Duck Music Hall, then outside in Kesey Square, moved inside the Hilton Eugene, and then switched venues back outside, first at Ninkasi in 2014, then at Hop Valley this year. “We plan on keeping the festival outside from now on,” says Fuchs. “When the festival is outside, we have a larger footprint, and then can pour more beer and entertain and educate more folks about beer culture and craft-brewed beer. These past two festivals, 2014, 2015, may very well be the largest ever.”
Different venues pose different challenges. “Every year is a learning experience,” Fuchs says, “Since we are pouring an alcoholic beverage outside in public, we have to have permits, oversight, fencing, security, all of which have to come together to make the festival a success.”
The Lifeblood of a Beer Fest
The lifeblood of Sasquatch comes down to two things: breweries and volunteers. All kegs are selected by head brewers and donated to Sasquatch (all proceeds from the festival go to area charitable organizations and to brewing scholarships for institutes such as Siebel and the American Brewers Guild).
Brewery support doesn’t end with the keg delivery though. “Brewers and their employees, representatives, and friends show up early, set up their own jockey boxes, haul their own kegs, ice down the beer, and inform and educate folks that show up to taste their brews,” says Fuchs. “The breweries are the real force behind the festival, and we give each brewery an opportunity to show off their craft.”
Beer fans show up initially to support their favorite breweries, but quickly turn to exploration of other breweries and styles. By providing so many different beer styles to try from so many different breweries, Sasquatch’s broad range provides something for everyone.
Alongside the brewers are 100 volunteers who handle all the big and small tasks on the day of the event. They set up the festival, work front of house, haul ice to keep the beer cold, pour beer, tidy up after the festival closes and show up the next day to clean the venue and break down all remaining equipment. “Volunteers make the festival happen,” says Fuchs. “I am amazed each year at the sweat and work put in by people — sometimes I don’t even know their names — who just make it work.”
As Fuchs and the Sasquatch team come off another year, they are icing their backs and glad to be out of the heat for a while, but the pain has been worthwhile. “Beer culture is an exceptional place with a lot of heart,” Fuchs says. “Eugene is a wonderful place. And the best way to reveal the heart of the community is to ask for help. Eugene jumps right in every time.”
Lawyers Anda Lincoln, left, with Lincoln Law Office in Fort Collins, Colo., and Melinda Sellers with Burr and Forman in Birmingham, Ala., presented information about selling beer, working with distributors and keeping things legal in their seminar at the Craft Brewers Conference, held in Portland in April. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The 2015 Craft Brewers Conference, held in Portland in April, covered virtually every aspect of craft brewing and brought in people from every state, the District of Columbia and Guam, and 54 countries. The global reach and appeal of craft beer was evident. The numerous seminars were equally as diverse. Two presentations neatly bookended the spectrum of topics.
Steve Parkes, owner and lead instructor at the American Brewers Guild, presented a session entitled “Going Pro: Making the Transition From Home Brewing to Professional Brewing and the New Challenges That Await.”
Anda Lincoln and Melinda Sellers, lawyers from Fort Collins, Colo. and Birmingham, Ala., respectively, presented a session called “Can We Do That? Common Questions Facing Brewery Owners in Working With Retailers and Wholesalers.”
With an introductory disclaimer that he was NEVER a homebrewer, Parkes drew on his early brewing experience in the U.K. before coming to the U.S. to “join the revolution.”
“Homebrewing is a hobby. Craft brewing is a business,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of mastering the craft -- of taking the time to learn how to brew a style and become consistent at brewing high-quality beers. “John Coltrane took years to master his craft,” said Parkes, referring to the legendary saxophonist. “Don’t rush. Master a balanced, clean pale ale.”
There are numerous avenues to getting a job as a brewer, including formal brewing education, education in science or engineering, internships, volunteering (which he finds is all too common today) and moving up from assistant to brewmaster at a new pub. “Breweries are opening too fast for startups to find trained and educated brewers,” he said.
He recommended several ways to learn about brewing. Visit breweries to stay apprised of the latest developments and network, join the Master Brewers Association of Americas and state guild, read books and judge tasting contests.
Two of the biggest challenges when transitioning from homebrewing to professional brewing are ingredients and scale. “Going from a 5-gallon homebrew to 30,000 gallons is a 100-fold increase,” he said. “Current recipes use ingredients that may not be available in large quantities or economically.”
For example, the barley and malt market is global and a drought in Russia or a storm in Germany can affect a brewery in Wisconsin. The increased demand for aroma hops due to craft beer’s rise in popularity has created a tight market for some varieties, such as Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe.
Parkes hit on the importance of quality and mastery repeatedly, especially noting clarification and carbonation issues. Consistency and quality go hand in hand and are facilitated by record keeping, possessing the proper tools and instruments, accessing a working laboratory and acquiring education and training.
Once an experienced and dedicated homebrewer does go pro and has spent a solid amount of time in the beer trenches, perfecting and mastering his or her beer, it might be time to branch out and sell to retailers and wholesalers.
Anda Lincoln and Melinda Sellers said that any relationship with a distributor begins with “The Agreement.” They advised developing a complete, detailed and specific written agreement. “Build reports, delivery and payment into the agreement as well as quality standards in shipping, storage and delivery.”
The brewery needs to emphasize how the product is to be handled, Lincoln said. This is where it’s important to be very specific and detailed. List which product cannot be sold past a certain date. Put the rotation schedule in the agreement. Wholesalers don’t want to receive product that will be out of date within two weeks.
A question was asked about wholesalers not following the rotation schedule, even if the wholesalers claim they are trying to fix the problem by implementing a new system. The answer, said Sellers, is not black and white. “It’s a relationship, an ongoing relationship, like a marriage,” she said. Her advice was to check out state law and get a good lawyer. “Go to them early on and have them help you save the relationship.”
Instead of relying on email or even certified mail, she suggested the ideal route to communication was to get your brewery people into the warehouse and walk through it together. Another strategy she suggested was visiting accounts in tandem and detailing what you want to happen at events and tastings -- spell out all expectations to the distributor. For example, one of Sellers’s clients was starting business in a new area of the country. The brewery was afraid that the distributor might place them in an event they wouldn’t want to take part in, so they asked for prior approval.
In dealing with retailers and self-distributing, Lincoln asked, “What can you incentivize them with? What is legal and what isn’t?” Draft beer sales can involve equipment, tap handles, glassware, kegs and line cleaning. Check and see what is legal to provide, she said. Be aware of what your state allows and any other state you may be going into.
“Wholesalers, how many of you have been involved in contests by manufacturers where top sales won a trip?” she asked the crowd. It turns out, that’s usually illegal. Some states allow you to give T-shirts and caps and others say you have to charge for them. There are also rules on signage. Certain point-of-sale merchandise and materials are not allowed, such as coupons.
The best defense, to steal a sports analogy, is to have a good offense. Know the legal restrictions in your state and/or region and record keeping requirements.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.