By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In 2014, fledgling soccer club Lane United FC was looking for sponsors. They soon connected with Oakshire Brewing, beginning a partnership that has helped each organization evolve.
“I thought Oakshire would come in as a minor sponsor,” says Lane United founder and managing director Dave Galas, recollecting his original pitch to Oakshire co-founder Jeff Althouse. “Jeff stopped me, pointed to the front of the jersey, and said ‘I want that. I want to be the title sponsor.’ They’ve been our main title sponsor ever since.”
For Althouse, it was another way a local craft brewery could be at the heart of community sports and outdoor activities, as Oakshire had also been with Playground Sports and Human Foosball League.
“I grew up playing soccer and always felt at home with my teammates, coaches and the soccer community,” says Althouse. “When the opportunity came up to partner with our local upstart club, Oakshire jumped at the opportunity. We often identify as an underdog in a market of large brewing companies, just as an upstart soccer club fights to exist as an organization, and on the field at every match. It's a natural fit.”
Based in Eugene and founded in 2013, Lane United plays in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division, a stepping stone for many professional players and a source for Major League Soccer franchise reserve squads. Oakshire is Lane United’s official kit sponsor, and club jerseys are emblazoned with the 10-year-old brewery’s logo. Club events are also held at the Oakshire Public House, which is no stranger to fans of football — the globally beloved feet-only version, that is.
“The Public House had just opened when the sponsorship began,” says Galas, who is a fan of Oakshire’s Reclamation Lager, Overcast Espresso Stout, and Sun Made Raspberry Berliner Weisse. “We did a lot to drive business to the pub. That first year was also World Cup, and the Public House showed lots of games there, like the U.S.-Portugal game, when they got a special permit to open early. The building was so full, people were sitting outside.”
Like Althouse, Galas grew up with soccer in his life. Spending part of his childhood in Geneva, Galas would watch matches with Liverpool, St-Etienne and the Dutch national team. When he founded Lane United, Galas saw the club as integral to providing value to the community. Part of his original goal for the team was to have a regular soccer presence at then-vacant Civic Stadium (which burned down in 2015). The club currently plays at the Bob Keefer Center in Springfield, though Galas and others are working to establish a new stadium presence at the former Civic site, which upon completion will serve as the new permanent home for the club.
That new Civic site will also incorporate beer and pub areas on the grounds as part of the stadium’s infrastructure, says Galas. “Beer plays perfectly into the fan culture,” he explains. “The culture of soccer fandom is very social. There’s plenty of drinking, but it’s different from your traditional American sports. There isn’t a tailgating scene, but there’s a drink at the pub beforehand. Various groups get together at the pub during the game. Having a brewery as title sponsor plays in perfectly with that culture.”
Oakshire’s original commitment runs through the 2017 season, but Galas says he and Althouse will be discussing options on how to continue supporting each other. “We are very much a hometown, grassroots organization,” says Galas. “Oakshire’s approach to community outreach and the beers they brew go into that same mentality.”
Althouse also recognizes that sense of synergy with LUFC, as well as a shared purpose in the broader community. “Oakshire's partnership with Lane United Football Club allows us to connect with the most passionate local sports fans who share our values,” he explains. “We're thrilled to host LUFC events at our Public House in Eugene, and we love cheering for our home team at the pitch. Soccer and local beer just go together.”
Lane United Football Club
Official Lane United FC supporters’ group
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Longtime friends AJ Tuter, Matt Hill and Bryan Ireland had been homebrewing together in Roseburg for years, and members of their informal beer club kept telling them they should go pro. When they decided to make the leap, their search for a brewery name turned out to be down the street. Tuter’s home — and site of their garage homebrewery — was near Main Street, or “Old 99,” a north-south highway that runs the length of the West Coast. After getting licensed in 2013, Old 99 Brewing Co. has been at the vanguard of Roseburg’s growing craft beer scene, and a receptive public leaves Yelp reviews such as “hidden gem” and “small, friendly and has a whole bunch of passion and character.”
“We’re not on Old 99, but it’s perpendicular to it,” explains Tuter. “We thought Old 99 would be a good way to associate the Northwest for us. It’s been fun, it’s been a good brand to build. People like our shirts, our logo, that story.”
Today Old 99 is keeping a focus on slow growth, good beer and fun times. All three owners share brewery duties while holding other full-time positions: Tuter as a firefighter and paramedic who works in Eugene but lives in Roseburg; Hill as a network engineer in Roseburg; and Ireland, who works in Portland as a replenishment specialist and commutes to Roseburg.
Tuter describes Old 99 as being about “community, gathering, connections and above all, dedication to craft beer.” That focus is paying off. Starting with a 1-barrel system, Old 99 quickly moved to a 3.5-barrel system, on which they would double-batch into 7-barrel fermenters. “We did that for a while. It was hard duty,” says Tuter. “Every time you brewed you had to double-batch, and it made for a long brew day.” Since late 2014, Old 99 has brewed on a 7-barrel system from Portland Kettle Works. Along with a 15-barrel tank, the brewers have made other improvements to streamline the brewing process. While still double-batching, now Old 99 has been doubling capacity during the last seven months and is on pace to increase annual production from 300 barrels a year to, for 2016, an estimated 600-700 barrels.
While the partners share tasks, they also specialize in particular areas while also making sure everyone is communicating about what’s happening in different parts of the business. “It’s all collaborative,” says Tuter. “We all have different jobs, and everybody comes together and gets it done.”
Along with the partners, their wives help with different parts of the business. Old 99 also has four other employees, two in the tasting room and two doing cellar work in the 6,800-square-foot space. Currently Old 99 is sticking to its limited hours, but the partners are looking at expanding hours and adding staff in the future.
Sunday is typically a brew day, with additional brew days during the week as needed. By Thursday, all hands are on deck to prep for Friday and Saturday. Old 99 also recently started opening to the public on Thursdays. “It’s a challenge to balance working in the brewery, getting those tasks done and then doing the tasting room thing,” says Tuter. “But we like being in the brewery, with the equipment, where people can ask questions. The person who served the beer is more than likely the person who made it. That’s what I like about how we did it.”
The beers pouring today are similar to the beers that first poured when Old 99 opened three years ago. For The Win IPA, usually just referred to as FTW, came out of a 10-beer experiment to become their most popular beer. Another flagship, Billy Bad Ass Double IPA, has such a local following that “people refer to that beer almost like a person that they know,” says Tuter, prompting the partners to work up a graphic of what Billy might look like.
Infrared Northwest Red Ale can also be found on a few other taps in Douglas County. Old 99’s Pale Ale has undergone some changes over the years though. The inaugural Yard Sale Pale Ale has since been replaced by Tioga Pale Ale. Named after a section of the North Umpqua Trail, Tioga uses piney hops to make it “feel like a walk in the woods.” Keeping it simple on the dark side of things, year-round Fogline Stout got its start in the homebrew kettle and today remains a four-ingredient stout. “It’s just a Northwest stout, super smooth, a fan favorite.”
Lastly, Infidel Cascadian Dark Ale/Black IPA is a “beer geek beer,” says Tuter, but one that also won Best of Show at a brew fest in Klamath Falls last year. “A lot of people think they don’t like dark beer, but when they try this they’re impressed. They almost think they’re drinking a Guinness-type beer, but the hops are in your face with tropical and citrus notes, and it’s unexpected to have those coming out of a dark beer.”
Earlier this year Old 99 began limited distribution through Bigfoot Beverage, but Old 99’s focus remains “making sure Douglas County is taken care of first.” Tuter expects distribution to continue gradually expanding. In advance of that, Old 99 is starting to appear at more Oregon beer events, such as Lane County brew festivals and the Bend Brewfest in August. Old 99 also has added a crowler machine for filling and sealing 32-oz cans in the tasting room, similar to filling growlers. In August the brewery will celebrate its anniversary.
“We plan on growing, but we want to grow healthy,” says Tuter. “We’re going to do well with what we have, and not have to sacrifice beer quality. It’s beer first, grow later.”
Old 99 Brewing Co.
(a) 3750 Hooker Road, Suite A, Roseburg
Ninkasi is one of several Eugene breweries that have joined the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance. Pictured here are Ninkasi founders Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge. The brewery’s communication director said they’re proud to support WVSFA for “promoting natural food businesses and sustainable practices.” Photo courtesy of Ninkasi Brewing Company
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Headquartered in downtown Eugene, the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance (WVSFA) at first glance might not seem like an association for the craft beer industry. The word “beer” isn’t mentioned in the organization’s name, goals or mission. Yet the WVSFA has five members from the Eugene-area’s craft beer industry: Agrarian Ales, Hop Valley Brewing Company, The Growler Guys, Ninkasi Brewing Company and Oakshire Brewing.
The appeal is simple, says Ali AAsum, communications director for Ninkasi. “We are proud to help support the great work of WVSFA in promoting natural food businesses and sustainable practices within these industries,” says AAsum. “Their commitment to growing our community of like-minded businesses is outstanding.”
While the mission of the regional trade association of companies “promotes natural food businesses through relationships, education and sustainable business practices,” this is something of great interest to the craft beer industry as well, particularly at the local level. While the food organizations and beer organizations offer different perspectives and can have different needs or face different challenges, they also find far more in common when it comes to the value of sustainability in supply chains, distribution networks, relationships and other issues.
“We’re all working to establish the Willamette Valley as a premier source of natural foods and delicious beverages,” explains Alyssa Lawless, director of sustainability at Mountain Rose Herbs and current board president at WVSFA.
WVSFA members include food and beverage retailers, manufacturers, restaurateurs, distributors, farmers and nonprofit organizations. With such a range of businesses and organizations, says Lawless, one way the WVSFA brings common purpose is to ask all members to annually commit to a Sustainability Pledge that outlines principles to guide sustainable business practices. By signing the pledge, members agree to uphold sustainability principles pertaining to land use, climate change, sourcing, water use, labor, education, waste reduction and more.
Members also work together on the WVSFA’s various goals not only for sustainability, but also for improved operations and profitability of the member businesses. Goals include working with the City of Eugene and Lane County on issues affecting the viability of natural foods businesses located in those areas, mentoring new businesses, and educating the public about the health benefits of natural and organic foods.
The education component is one that brings members together regularly. “As a member, we’ve partnered with WVSFA on events such as Fun with Fermentation,” says AAsum, describing an annual showcase of local fermented foods and beverages that recently drew more than 700 attendees.
The WVSFA was founded in 2009, with membership open to all relevant food and beverage businesses that were interested in pursuing sustainable business practices. “At that time, Hop Valley Brewing Company, Oakshire Brewing and Falling Sky Brewing were among the first members, and they are still members today,” says Lawless. “These businesses saw value in joining a local group and networking with other environmentally- and socially-conscious companies.”
Members also meet for Educational Forums to discuss challenges, identify issues and brainstorm solutions. “We tackle topics such as distribution, sourcing, marketing, employee benefits, the Food Safety Modernization Act and regional food branding,” says Lawless. “One recent issue that will impact the food and beverage industry is the Food Safety Modernization Act. Last year we held two Educational Forums on the topic. Congressman Peter DeFazio attended the second forum to hear our members’ concerns.”
One larger goal the WVSFA has in its sights is developing a regional brand around foods produced in Eugene and Lane County. It would be something akin to the Napa Valley branding for its wines. “Our brewery members have provided excellent feedback in the process of developing the regional food brand,” says Lawless. “Craft beer is also one of the many industries contributing to the development of this area as a source of quality natural foods.”
Backed by a five-year strategic plan, the WVSFA has “a main goal of growing the regional food brand: ‘Willamette Grown & Crafted,’” explains Lawless. “This year we are expanding our social media presence and developing a new website. These and other goals are directly impacted by member feedback and the issues they deal with in their businesses.”
Lawless sees opportunity for other Lane County and Willamette Valley craft beer organizations to join the Alliance. “Throughout the year, members are promoted on social media, the WVSFA website and in a quarterly e-newsletter where they are able to advertise job openings and share news. Networking with other members and suppliers at Educational Forums, our Annual Banquet and community events is another benefit for craft beer organizations.”
The Growler Guys chain of Oregon, Washington and Idaho became a WVSFA member a year ago, due, in part, to its participation in Fun with Fermentation. In addition to volunteering for many WVSFA-sponsored events during the past four years, Shannon Turner manages The Growler Guys flagship store in Eugene. “This was really good exposure for our company to have face time with lovers of craft beer, cider and kombucha,” explains Turner. “The WVSFA promotes many causes that help ensure that we have fresh, safe ingredients, and clean drinking water in the Willamette Valley, so that brewers can keep making great beer.”
Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance
[a] 1430 Willamette St., P.O. Box 101, Eugene
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
After six years as brewmaster for Eugene-based Oakshire Brewing, Matt Van Wyk (left) has resigned and joined forces with two brothers, Brian and Doug Coombs, to begin a new venture. AleSong Brewing and Blending will focus on barrel-aged and farmhouse beers, with plans to begin selling product in 2016.
“We are looking for property where we can build our destination tasting room,” says Van Wyk, a Siebel Institute graduate. “Our ideal location would be somewhere south to southwest of Eugene in proximity to the great wineries that are out there.”
AleSong is also securing a warehouse space “where we can age and blend beer and begin to get some beer in the hands of eager fans,” says Van Wyk. “We’ll operate out of whatever warehouse space we can find until we get our property developed.”
Instead of installing a brewhouse, AleSong plans to work with other breweries to produce wort, which AleSong will then ferment.
“The beers we make will primarily be aged on oak,” explains Van Wyk, who began and managed a renowned barrel, sour and wild beer program during his tenure at Oakshire. “Many will be ‘farmhouse-inspired’ and utilize much of the great Oregon bounty that we are so fortunate to have access to: fruits, vegetables, spice and, of course, hops.”
In addition to Van Wyk’s background at Oakshire along with Illinois’ Glen Ellyn Brewing and Flossmoor Station, he was awarded 2006 Small Brewpub Company Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival and led Oakshire to a 2013 gold medal in the GABF Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer category.
With a chemistry degree from the University of Oregon, Brian Coombs worked with Van Wyk for two years at Oakshire, launching a quality assurance/quality control lab, and has also been employed at King Estate Winery near Eugene. Managing the business side of AleSong, Doug Coombs has a degree in economics from Princeton and was the founder and CEO of Columbian event ticket agency biciq.com.
AleSong is operated under Lane County Brewing, LLC. Van Wyk and the Coombs filed articles of organization LLC paperwork with the State of Oregon in July 2015. Van Wyk’s last day at Oakshire was Oct. 23.
AleSong plans to sell primarily at their tasting room, with some local/regional distribution. Plans also include a beer club. Similar to wine clubs, members will receive special club-only beers.
“I’m very excited to start this new venture and also very excited to work with Brian and Doug, two people who share a similar vision for this type of specialty brewing,” says Van Wyk. “The three of us are like-minded and singularly focused on making the highest-quality, barrel-aged beer."
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Steve Braun just needed another $3,500.
In the two days leading up to March 9, the Old Growth Ales (OGA) co-founder had much to be both excited and worried about. With their “botanic ales” available only at private events, OGA had received enough positive feedback to convince them it was time to upgrade to commercial brewing. Now 42 hours away from the deadline of an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign, the Springfield-based brewing startup was $3,500 shy of a $20,000 goal.
But if they fell short, they’d get nothing.
With 10 hours remaining, they needed $1,287.
Then, with 100 minutes left, the final backers put Old Growth Ales over the finish line. Armed with $20,361 from 158 backers, one of Lane County’s most iconoclastic startups was ready to take some big next steps.
Old Growth Ales plans to upgrade its "Little Maker," which is a biodiesel P30 Chevy step van used for private events. To meet Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau rules, no fermentation occurs in Little Maker. It's only for education, catering and wort production. Photo by Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
Botanic Ales: Old is New Again
What’s curious about Old Growth Ales is, as Braun explains, “We don't make much beer.” At least, not in the way we think of modern beer: a concoction of malt and hops. OGA wants to return the spotlight to herbs and other botanicals that comprise millennia of brewing tradition.
“We come across a huge range of understanding about the history of brewing,” says Braun. “Some people seem especially knowledgeable about brewing having a ‘lineage’ passed down from herbalists, alchemists, doctors and shamans. Other folks are completely unaware of the history,” particularly when it comes to hops. “Folks are usually amazed to hear that hops were not always ‘king.’ I often share that yarrow was once referred to as ‘field hops’ as a more common herb for bittering than hops. Non-hop bittering agents were outlawed in England in the 1700s.”
OGA wants to bring back yarrow and other brewing herbs and plants, for what they call “botanic ales:” gruits (herb mixtures for flavoring and bittering beer), metheglins (mead with herbs or spices added) and country wines (made with flowers, herbs, spices and/or fruits other than grapes). “Some people very much want an alternative to hop and barley ales that are not sweet ciders,” says Braun. “Most folks come to our product with curiosity… They want to learn more about botanic ales and are super excited to try our variety.”
Driving this interest is more than a quirky niche in a packed marketplace. Braun considers it “a question of values. We value the ecology of the Cascadia bioregion, the Northwest. We want to connect people to their environment, which in environmental education we call ‘nurturing a sense of place.’ I am an environmental scientist and environmental educator. The practices of Old Growth Ales are a direct extension of that.”
The initial spark for the idea of a bioregion-focused, eco-aware, beyond-malt-and-hops brewery came six years ago. While cross-country skiing near Willamette Pass, Braun and brewing partner Charlie Shepley began discussing different ways to brew. From there, they began working with business incubators to procure small business individual development accounts and learn the business side of brewing.
Over time, co-founders Braun and Shipley found the right people to be part of OGA. Brewer Emily Ryan provides support as a health and wellness consultant. Rebecca Roebber’s marketing and green business development expertise guides OGA. With herbalist and nutritional therapist Amanda Helser, Braun explains, “The brewery really focused on botanic ales.”
“We make an herbal coffee stout — with no coffee — and we are working on a hop-free IPA analog,” says Braun. In addition to “a lambic with alternative bittering to hops,” OGA brews gruits such as Summer Gruit, “a unique blend of bitter and slightly sour/floral characteristics, resulting from mugwort and yarrow for bitterness, and from elderflower and St. John’s wort for floral, musky and sour notes.”
A hibiscus wine, a spice brew with ginger, and a sahti, or juniper ale, are also in the works. Braun notes that Achillea millefolium, or common yarrow, will be a common element across OGA beverages.
“I am especially drawn to yarrow,” Braun says. “Yarrow can provide a range of great flavors and aromas from wintergreen to bitter to slightly sour.”
Braun expects five primary distribution channels: select Willamette Valley taphouses, special events such as weddings and reunions, direct sales at public events and festivals, dock sales, and a CSA, or “Community Supported Ales,” where “folks buy a share and get regular bottles.”
During the next two years OGA expects to have established commercial production and distribution. A 1- to 3-barrel brewhouse is planned initially, with next-phase plans including a tasting room and 3- to 7-barrel system expansion. They also want to develop a farmhouse brewery, with capacity to hold private events. Photos by Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
The Little Maker That Could
With the Kickstarter goal met, celebration has given way to the hard work of next steps. In addition to preparing rewards for backers, OGA is finalizing licensure, which is expected by autumn, and evaluating locations.
“One space we are excited about is north of Coburg, down the street from Agrarian Ales,” says Braun. “There seems an opportunity for synergy.”
While tending to operational brass tacks, OGA is working on their biggest challenge: remaining true to their environmental and social ethics while meeting business demands. “We wild-harvest plants locally for our ales,” Braun explains. “We cannot over-harvest these plant stands. Therefore, we have a limit to the quantity of some of the ales we produce.”
OGA will also upgrade the “Little Maker” that began it all: a biodiesel P30 Chevy step van for private events. To meet Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau rules, no fermentation occurs in Little Maker. It’s only for education, catering and wort production.
“We have installed four taps on the side, added solar panels, and created a breezy A-frame cloth hut on top for relaxing.” Braun says. “This summer we will add a waxed canvas awning for ambiance as well as sun and rain protection. Plus we are installing a sink, getting a new paint job, and improving the sound system.”
Over the next two years OGA expects to have established commercial production and distribution. A 1- to 3-barrel brewhouse is planned initially, with next-phase plans including a tasting room and 3- to 7-barrel system expansion. Braun says they want to develop “a farmhouse brewery, with capacity to do private special events: music, camping, rustic cabins.”
And starting now, thanks to 158 backers from the Internet, Old Growth Ales is on its way.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.