By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Southern Oregon’s craft beer scene is in for another big boost as newly founded Common Block Brewing Company prepares to open its doors and taps in downtown Medford.
The new brewery-restaurant venture from Ashland-based Standing Stone Brewing Company’s former co-owners and operators Alex and Danielle Amarotico is slated for a December opening. The industry-savvy Amaroticos, who ran Standing Stone for the last 18 years, had been batting around the idea of starting a new brewpub for the last two years before deciding in February that it was time to start from scratch, Danielle Amarotico said.
“Over the years, we’ve looked at a few different places. When we looked at this one, we got super excited because we could actually see a vision of an amazing brewery. It’s a really beautiful pocket of downtown,” she said. “We are absolutely looking forward to this adventure. The opportunity presented itself and we loved the building. This one felt just perfect.”
Medford’s 1947 Monarch Building, with its strong Streamline Moderne style of architecture, stands as a historic focal point in a newly developed portion of downtown known as The Commons. The former and first Dodge dealership building in Medford will have working garage doors to connect one outside deck to the main restaurant and brewery, where construction plans call for a fireplace and mezzanine.
With about 200 planned indoor seats and 100 more split between two decks outside, patrons will be able to overlook adjacent Pear Blossom Park or main Medford thoroughfare Riverside Avenue. Inside, the mezzanine will house seating and what will most likely be a 15-barrel brewing system, complete with a hop back to ensure fresh hops are used in the brewing process, Danielle Amarotico said. The couple plans to hire between 50-60 employees for the restaurant and brewery. Current Standing Stone assistant brewer John Donehower, who formerly worked as a production brewer at Pyramid Brewing Company, will head brewing operations for Common Block. He’ll be charged with developing all of the beers.
“We’re so excited to have just named John as our brewer. He’s really great.” Danielle Amarotico said.
At this point, Common Block isn’t considering production status for its brewery. “We just want to open our doors and get our feet wet selling our own and other local brews,” Danielle Amarotico explained.
It’s very possible, because of how backed up the brew equipment industry is, that there will be some lag time between the restaurant and brewery openings.
“It’s very likely we’ll have the restaurant open before the brewery. We’re just not going to wait to open based on that alone,” Danielle Amarotico said.
But beer drinkers rest assured, craft brews from around the State of Jefferson will still be flowing from Common Block’s taps before its own brews begin to boil.
Diners can expect a family-friendly atmosphere and well-rounded lunch and dinner menu from the restaurant. And just because the couple is walking away from Standing Stone, don’t expect them to leave that brewery’s flagship sense of sustainability behind.
“It’s just who we are. Where we go, I assume it will follow,” Danielle Amarotico said. “And it certainly has room to grow.”
“We are both just really, really excited,” she said.
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sustainability and turning out top-notch craft beer and food are the cornerstones of Standing Stone Brewing Company, but the Ashland-based brewery’s commitment to lessening its footprint goes far beyond the beer.
Last March, Standing Stone was joined by seven Oregon breweries and 16 others from across the country in signing the Brewery Climate Declaration, an effort to shed light on the opportunity for innovation in sustainable brewing and a call to action for the entire industry.
“It’s so encouraging to say, ‘Hey, we’re a part of this brewing industry, and as a whole people are doing really awesome things,” said Rachel Koning, the brewery’s event and social media director.
A large part of the accord is different breweries sharing the innovative avenues they have taken on their own commitment to sustainability.
Take Bend’s Deschutes Brewery as an example, which was one of the first breweries that measured its greenhouse gases by Global Reporting Initiative standards and then made that data available to the public. Deschutes has also made a commitment to purchase only renewable energy for its operations.
Like Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing Company, Standing Stone boasts a solar array atop its Ashland building. The solar panels were an early investment in sustainability for the brewery and have now paid for themselves, generating about 5 percent of the brewery and restaurant’s electricity.
“In the eight years I’ve been here, it’s been really fun to see all of the programs that keep developing,” Koning said.
Around 2009, the brewery’s former owners Danielle and Alex Amarotico, initiated a program that has ended up providing 75 of their employees with Kona bicycles for riding to work. Employees put down a deposit of about $500 on the bike and once they’ve come to work 45 times on it, the business returns their deposit and the employee keeps the bike.
But by far the largest piece of the sustainability promise at Standing Stone is the result of its 260-acre farm just outside Ashland.
“They’re all grass fed,” said Michael Smelser, pointing at One Mile Farm’s herd.
Smelser is Standings Stone’s farm manager and a restaurant server. He feeds your food. In early April, he was busy taking care of several newborn lambs at the farm.
“We use the farm to raise our cattle for the restaurant, as well as our lamb. Another big piece of that is composting. We compost all of our pre- and post-consumer waste out there. Literally truck loads,” Koning said. “That has been such an awesome close on the loop for food.”
And even some of the brewing, as all of the brewery’s spent grain is turned into feed for the farm animals.
Its ideas like One Mile Farm that Koning sees as the importance of breweries across the country banding together for the purpose of achieving a higher level of sustainable business. The Brewery Climate Declaration was launched by Ceres, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.