By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In advance of opening for the season on June 2, Detering Orchards sent out an eye-catching email to fans of their Coburg-area farm:
“During this off-season, we converted our old squash barn into a new place for people to relax and enjoy some of the best local craft cider and beer around. We are excited to announce a partnership with Eugene-based, award-winning Elk Horn Brewery. From farm-to-brewery, and back to the farm again, come out to Detering’s new Tasting Room to enjoy some Elk Horn hard cider or craft beer.”
Located north of Eugene, Detering was founded in 1934 and has become a seasonal, family-friendly mainstay destination for U-pick produce, a farm stand, food and drinks, festivals, games and other events on the working farm. In January of this year, Stephen Demergasso and his fiancee Tina Dao took over ownership. They immediately began considering new offerings to attract the public — not just for buying produce, says Demergasso, but to make the farm more of a place to “hang out.”
“The concept of the Tasting Room is you can taste the fruit in the drink,” explains Demergasso. “Detering has always made cider and done pressing for fruit. Elk Horn is a previous vendor, so I emailed and asked if they would like to have an exclusive relationship.”
Elk Horn’s owners, Colleen and Stephen Sheehan, visited and agreed. The Sheehans and Elk Horn helped Detering locate and install the equipment they needed and provided staff training on beverage descriptions and proper pouring techniques.
“It's a perfect symbiotic relationship,” says Colleen Sheehan. “Detering gets new clientele — the parents that enjoy shopping for fruit and roaming the grounds with their children while casually being able to sip on an alcoholic beverage — and we get exposure to a new group of people that might have never heard of us before.”
While Elk Horn has worked with Detering in the past, they have also often needed to source fruit and juice from farther afield. The new partnership helps them bring in fresh produce and juice straight from a farm that’s much closer to Elk Horn’s location near the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. It also adds another craft beer destination to the Coburg area, which is also the home of Crossroads Farm’s Agrarian Ales.
“I’m excited to experiment with something different and more local,” says Sheehan. “I want to do something with rhubarb, more flavors of cider, barrel-aging.”
The Tasting Room seats 30, but alcohol is allowed throughout the farm stand area. A sound system and TV allow people to catch a game or take in some live music. Visitors can wander the grounds among cows, goats and other livestock in pens, and kids (and kids at heart) can ride a new mechanical bull. There are four taps pouring two beers and two ciders from Elk Horn. Cheary Cherry and Peary Perry both featured Detering fruit. Elk Horn will provide exclusive brews for the Tasting Room as well as Elk Horn beverages available at the brewery (sometimes with slight modifications, too, such as extra cherry juice for the Detering version). Taps will rotate throughout the season as different crops come to harvest throughout summer and fall.
“We are looking at having something with rhubarb for July, maybe something else with cherries as we get those harvested and juiced,” says Demergasso, who coordinates with the Sheehans and the Elk Horn brewing team on ideas. “We definitely want to do a peachy blond beer after peach harvest, so probably come August we’ll have that available.”
As Elk Horn looks ahead to the rest of the season, they see the partnership as a way for their brewers to be as nimble as possible with the best, freshest and most local seasonal ingredients available. “As soon as they start producing fruit, we'll raid them,” says Sheehan. “Blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples — hopefully a little taste of everything!”
For Detering, Demergasso sees a chance to supply quality fruit and juice to an artisan local business and to find new ways to draw people to the farm. “I bought the farm because I believe in local farms,” he says. “It’s another way to supply the people of the south Willamette Valley with our fruit and other produce. Our farm is a fun place to hang out in the summertime, so we want to be a cultural hub for the community. People can come out here, get produce, have a drink and spend some time.”
30946 Wyatt Drive, Harrisburg
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Harvest is a time for reaping what has been sowed. And while hop farmers are bringing in the fruits of their labor, the collaboration between Culmination Brewing and Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider is producing fruits of their combined labors.
Collaborations are fairly common in today’s beer world, with more breweries crossing the beer borders to team up with other adult beverage producers. These hybrids can be somewhat difficult to classify and won’t tempt all consumers from their respective markets. However, those open to new taste experiences may find something they enjoy that requires no classification beyond that fact that it’s the product of talented craftsmen.
Culmination and Reverend Nat’s collaboration, called Our Glass, goes beyond a single brew and encompasses a series of hybrids. The first release was Watermelon Cherry Sour — a blend of two sour beers produced by Culmination (a barrel-aged Flanders red with cherries and a blueberry blonde sour) that was co-fermented with Reverend Nat’s Granny Smith cider and fresh Hermiston watermelon juice.
The inspiration for this first in the series came from local food-beer-everything-tasty aficionado Steven Shomler’s love for and relentless pursuit of Reverend Nat’s Holy Water(melon) cider. Steven also has an ownership stake in and hands-on involvement with Culmination, which made the project launch even easier. The brewing teams could also often be found hanging out at each other’s locations, so there was a foundation of familiarity. Tomas Sluiter, principal owner and certified master brewer at Culmination, explained that the “caliber and quality of Reverend Nat’s made them attractive” to form a strategic collaboration and long-term relationship with.
When it came to the actual brewing, there was no doling out of “we’ll do this, you do that” instructions. The final product was the result of a true partnership, and one that seemingly worked well. The small batch consisted of six 1/6-barrel kegs and 450 22-ounce bottles, nearly all of which sold out quickly. Only a few bottles remain in the possession of each brewer and a couple of kegs will be brought out at a yet-to-be-determined time. Commenting on how the sour has evolved, Jim Bonomo of Reverend Nat’s said, “It’s getting more sour, but the watermelon flavor is still there.”
The name Our Glass was the brainchild of Devin Benware, part of Culmination brewing team. Tomas contributed the idea for the logo — two tulip glasses positioned base-to-base, forming the interior of a shadowy hourglass. The image is set like the hands of a clock would be at approximately 4:58 for the first of the series. As new collaborations are released, the “clock” will continue to move on each label.
Plans for future beer-cider hybrids include a barrel-aged, Tepache-based barleywine. Composed from Costa Rican pineapples, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) and spices, Reverend Nat’s Tepache is a “lightly alcoholic elixir.” However, the original brewing schedule has been thrown a bit off course due to the fickle nature of crops. The delay has nothing to do with ripeness (the pineapple plant produces throughout the year). Instead, a recent price spike in the Costa Rican supply due to volcanic activity has put things on hold. As a backup plan, to ensure the brewing schedule doesn’t go too far astray, Nat’s has bottles from the last batch of Tepache that can be added directly to the barrels with Culmination’s barleywine.
Another collaboration will involve Reverend Nat’s Winter Abbey Spice, a cider that is inspired by Northeast-styles that use raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Winter Abbey Spice is actually a blend of two ciders - Revival, their flagship cider, and Providence, which is made with raisins. What was initially called “Apple Pie” when the taproom started blending them has since taken on a life of its own to the extent that 75 percent of each batch of Providence is allocated to making Winter Abbey Spice. Due to the success of the first collaboration, expect larger batches of subsequent hybrids.
Both Reverend Nat’s and Culmination see a strong future in collaborations like theirs, in part because the cider business is growing, especially in mature markets like Portland where plenty of drinkers are looking to expand their palates. Tomas also believes that Portland consumers demand more due to the fact that so many people who now call the city home are non-native. He hails from Grand Rapids, Mich. and says in general terms, “everyone in Grand Rapids is from Grand Rapids.” In fact, he specifically asked one well-known and well-respected Grand Rapids brewery to collaborate with him and they replied that they simply don’t do collaborations.
That brewery’s loss is the gain of others who are likeminded. The Culmination-Reverend Nat’s collaboration is a fluid affair among friends, where getting together to spitball ideas is key along with firmly believing in the quality of what the other is creating. Listening to the two producers talk — the ideas generated by their creativity and openness to experimentation — gives the impression that there is no end to what they’re able to come up with. And just like friends do, when a bump in the road comes along — like the price of pineapples — they find a way around it. Beer drinkers and cider drinkers alike can raise their glasses to that.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.