By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
From a free bike share program to special brews for community causes, Eugene brewpub Falling Sky is always involved.
“We’re really receptive to any partnership with the community, especially if it’s something that we align interests with,” says co-founder Jason Carriere. “We’re very open and connected to the community. We don’t turn people away.”
Falling Sky supports many causes that are rooted in sustainability and environmentalism. It’s part of what Carriere sees as the cyclical nature of brewing, which is a business that depends on healthy natural resources and agricultural products. “We depend on the ecosystem to provide what we need to make good beer.”
Falling Sky’s commitment to the environment is visible as soon as you walk up to their Pour House & Delicatessen at West Eighth Avenue and Blair Boulevard. Seven bikes are available free of charge (with a $150 deposit on a credit card) for anyone to borrow for up to 24 hours. Falling Sky supplies locks and helmets, and the bikes have built-in lights. Local shop Arriving By Bike keeps the cycles in good repair.
“We have a lot of people who come to Eugene from out of town,” says Carriere. “This has been a good way for them to get around town without too much trouble.” Sometimes people just ride along the nearby riverside bike paths or use the bikes to check out different neighborhoods while looking for housing.
Other Falling Sky programs tend to focus on special days where portions of certain beer sales go to a particular cause. Sometimes Falling Sky also works with nonprofits or other organizations to brew a beer around a specific cause. From initial conversation to rollout, it usually takes four to five weeks to develop a promotion. However, it might take up to two months if there is a beer release involved. “We typically just get together and have a meeting, talking about what they’re interested in,” explains Carriere. “We try to pick (a beer style) that appeals to a broad base of people, so that we can really pump up the beer and the connection with the charity.”
Recent examples have included Tree Line Pale Ale, brewed in support of Friends of Trees, a Northwest nonprofit that plants and cares for urban trees. Falling Sky donated $1 for each Tree Line pint sold, as well as $5 (enough to buy a tree) from sales of a special Friends of Trees T-shirt. In a similar vein, $1 of each pint of Floodplain ESB went to support the McKenzie River Trust, which helps protect area watersheds and critical habitat lands.
After winning an award for best medium-sized transit district in the U.S., Lane Transit District (LTD) reached out to Falling Sky. They collaborated to brew Mash Transit Ale, an English-style pale ale, to publicize and celebrate LTD’s achievement. Purchasing a pint came with a bonus: a free bus ride. Falling Sky also donated $1 of each pint of Mash Transit to Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth.
“We consider mass transit an environmental cause, in terms of keeping cars off the roadway,” explains Carriere. “It encouraged people to ride the bus who don’t often ride the bus.”
Falling Sky community support efforts can also be as simple as a flyer and a one-day deal. By bringing in an organization’s printed flyer or graphic on a smartphone or tablet, a customer can have 25 percent of their purchase donated to the cause.
For larger promotions and support, Falling Sky leverages in-house resources for brewing a special beer, promoting the cause in its locations and across social media, and developing a custom T-shirt. “We’ll do a beer release event where they can come in, set up a table, share information and talk with people,” explains Carriere. “It gives them a platform to get their message out. And when we go out to sell the beer, we also try to bring out promotional materials for the cause too.”
Coming up, Falling Sky is brewing a kolsch to support The Oregon Brewshed® Alliance. It will be released during the week of Earth Day (April 17–23).
“We’re a really small brewery,” says Carriere. “We don’t have a community outreach director or anything like that that some of the larger places have, so we rely on the community to come to us and work with people. Typically (co-founder) Rob Cohen, lead brewer Scott and I sit down with you and figure out what we can do to help.”
Falling Sky Locations
[a] 1334 Oak Alley, Eugene
Pour House and Delicatessen
[a] 790 Blair Boulevard, Eugene
Fermentation Supply Shop
[a] 1331 Willamette St., Eugene
In April 2015, conservation group Oregon Wild announced the formation of The Oregon Brewshed® Alliance. The coalition of breweries and more advocates for the protection of forests and watersheds. Featured here, left to right, are Christian Ettinger of Hopworks, Colin Rath, co-founder of Migration and member of Oregon Wild’s Board of Directors, Julia Person, sustainability manager at Widmer, and Marielle Cowdin, outreach and marketing coordinator from Oregon Wild. Photo by Emma Browne
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Brewers know that great beer begins with clean water. Oregon craft beer is especially connected to the Northwest’s land and waterways, and that’s why in April 2015, conservation group Oregon Wild announced the formation of The Oregon Brewshed® Alliance. The coalition of breweries, other craft beer organizations and conservationists advocates for the protection of forests and watersheds.
Launching with eight partners from the craft beer industry, in less than a year there are now 21 partners, including 7 Devils Brewing Co. in Coos Bay, C-BIG (Craft Beverage Industry Group), Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Fort George Brewery in Astoria, GoodLife Brewing in Bend, the brewpub chain McMenamins, Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland and multiple other breweries in Eugene and Portland.
“Conservationists and breweries joining forces for clean water might be a bit unconventional, but the partnership is really a natural fit,” says Marielle Cowdin, outreach and marketing coordinator for Oregon Wild. “Keeping our drinking watersheds clean and protected is essential for living. And it’s just as essential for keeping our craft brewing industry, something that has so defined our state’s culture, alive and thriving.”
Brewshed® partners and Oregon Wild also realized they had an opportunity to help the public understand the importance of clean water for brewing. “Many craft beer drinkers don't realize how significant water is for the process,” says Cowdin. “Two-thirds of Oregonians get their tap water from our state's lakes, streams and rivers. Since water is a product of the land that it flows through, our cleanest and best-tasting water flows through unspoiled public forest lands, with healthy forests acting as a natural filtration systems.”
Oregon Wild (formerly the Oregon Natural Resources Council or ONRC) began in 1974. Their conservation efforts have protected 1.7 million acres of wilderness, 95,000 acres of forests, and 1,800 miles of water protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The foundation of the Brewshed® was laid in 2009 when Oregon Wild partnered with Widmer Brothers Brewing to protect Portland's Bull Run Watershed. “The partnership sparked plans for a larger initiative, given the intimate connection between Oregon's thriving craft brewing scene and our public wildlands.”
Partners collaborate on various outreach events, such as pint nights, happy hours, special brews, Brewshed® hikes and fundraisers that support Oregon Wild's forest and watershed conservation work. Eugene’s Claim 52 Brewing considers conservation efforts a priority and works with various nonprofits on environmental stewardship. “From inception, Claim 52 has been proud to credit the McKenzie River for the flavor profile of our signature beer, the kolsch,” says co-founder/owner Mercy McDonald. “The river that runs in our backyard is vital and needs our care and protection to keep it pure. All of us have a role and stake in that outcome.”
Claim 52 hosts events for Oregon Wild throughout the year and contributes to raffles to help with fundraising. Last year, Claim 52 also bottled a specialty beer, Scrivener’s Sour, and donated a portion of the proceeds to Oregon Wild. McMenamins provides similar support. This year, while celebrating the 30th anniversary of Hammerhead, McMenamins donated $1 for every pint of the pale ale sold in Oregon Jan. 30-31. The brewpub chain is also donating event space for the Brewshed® Brewfest, which is set to take place Wednesday, May 18 at the Kennedy School in Portland. The inaugural event will feature beers from Brewshed® partners and guests can vote for their favorite beers.
“The amazing beers our Brewshed® partners will be pouring will showcase Oregon water, but we'll be incorporating information about Oregon watersheds and water conservation into our program for the evening, with speakers from Oregon Wild and other Alliance members,” explains Cowdin. “Fest attendees will get to know about watersheds beyond Portland and get to taste beer from across the state. Overall, this first annual Oregon Brewshed® Brewfest will be a celebration of Oregon beer and the Oregon water that helps it stand apart.”
In 2015, partners held 12 events to raise awareness and support, including an Earth Day fundraiser, a Community Tap Month, a hike along the Salmon River and an environmental speaker series. Events in 2016 have included a fundraising campaign called Weekend for Water in partnership with the Oregon Environmental Council, Base Camp Brewing Company’s Collabofest presented by #PDXNOW, and February’s KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene, where the Alliance sponsored the water stations.
“Moving forward, we hope to continue growth with new partner breweries and others in the brewing community that care about clean water across the state,” says Cowdin. “As the Oregon Brewshed® Alliance builds new partnerships, our voice for Oregon watersheds becomes stronger, and eventually, the Alliance could be seen as a model for craft brewing and water conservation nationwide.”
For brewers such as Mercy McDonald, the need for partnership is simple. “Clean water is often taken for granted, and that’s where quality beer starts.”
Oregon Brewshed® Alliance
Members, Events & More Information:
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Christian Ettinger, owner of Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB), has had sustainability on his mind long before the brewery's 2008 opening. While brewing at Laurelwood, he started experimenting with making organic beers but ultimately knew he wanted to go beyond what was possible there. Hopworks was the realization of his dream and an extension of his personal desires. Always at the forefront of Christian's mind is how to make the smallest impact on the environment as possible, something that's reflected in every aspect of the brewery.
The decor of both their original location and BikeBar, which opened in 2011 on the North Williams "bike-highway," is a visual representation of his interest in alternative transportation methods. The bicycle parts that adorn the spaces, however, only speak to part of the meaning behind the shortened version of their name, HUB. The other part of the meaning is less obvious but no less important. A "hub" is literally the middle and Christian feels that "every community needs a gathering place," be that a park, a library or one of the two HUB locations. He admits, "You don't need to drink beer, but you need to eat," which is why he has created spaces that are not just taprooms, but places for people to gather. The businesses offer a combination of bar and restaurant seating, as well as play areas for children. The Tot Tuesdays program, particularly popular in the winter when outdoor activities can be more challenging, is all about providing a space for parents to bring their children for crafts and story time.
Christian isn't content to simply maintain what he started; he's always in search of ways to improve. At the beginning of 2015, HUB announced a number of new projects and programs that will further expand the scope of its sustainability, environmental stewardship and contributions to the community. One of the biggest, literally, is a custom-designed Cleaning-In-Place (CIP) system.
Making beer uses a lot of water. For example, 90 percent goes to the cleaning of equipment between batches. It's not uncommon to use up to 10 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. There's no way to change the amount that stays in the beer, but it's the water that would typically go down the drain that HUB is focusing on reducing with its CIP system. After looking at multiple options, from basic do-it-yourself projects to expensive systems used by larger breweries, the brewery opted to build a system that was a happy medium between the two. The system will not only reduce water use; it will also allow HUB to reuse a percentage of detergents and cleaning agents. How much of a reduction is yet to be seen, but HUB is hoping to cut both by half.
Another project, Community Tap, is broadening the way HUB thinks about sustainability by supporting local nonprofit organizations. In the past, the business has contributed to many organizations in a reactionary way. What makes this different is that the brewery has created a structured program of giving that is intentional and focused. The giving goes beyond simply monetary donations and extends to seeking volunteer opportunities for employees with each organization.
For 2015, HUB has identified 14 charities, 12 that will benefit from HUB on Southeast Powell Boulevard and two that will benefit from BikeBar, that fall under three broad themes: sustainability, community and bicycles. Each of the charities has been assigned to a calendar month, aligning, when possible, with key events and awareness-raising times for the organizations. KBOO community radio, for example, is an organization HUB has been involved with for years as an underwriter for three shows that reflect HUB values. Their annual spring drive occurs in May and during that month 1 percent of pint sales at HUB on Southeast Powell Boulevard will be donated to KBOO. Christian anticipates that each of the 12 charities assigned to the flagship HUB location will receive $900-$1,000 and the two at BikeBar will receive $400.
A third project is attaining B Corporation certification, a third-party verification of the sustainability of a company, "what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk," according to the Certified B Corporations website. Some of the best companies in the world are chasing the certification that is an extensive and holistic look at business practices. The process of certification involves the accumulation of points in areas like corporate accountability, environmental practices, community practices and worker ownership.
Part of HUB's path to certification has included Christian becoming a board member for Salmon-Safe. It was not something he had thought about before, yet it is another way of addressing the issue of water conservation. In addition, HUB is working with Willamette Riverkeeper and Oregon Wild's Oregon Brewshed Alliance. Christian sees the success of HUB not just in terms of finances, but also in terms of outwardly-facing programs with social and environmental impacts. It's an area that he's been able to devote more energy to now that the brewery’s biggest concern is no longer "keeping the lights on."
You can support HUB's efforts by drinking beer at their two locations and 1 percent of the sales will be contributed to the organization of the month. Want to do a bit more? You can also help keep the four-pack PakTech handle recycling process going. The Eugene-made product that keeps four packs together can be returned to either HUB location in exchange for 25 cents toward your next pint. That might not sound like much, but accumulate 19 of them and you've gotten yourself a free pint of beer, all by just collecting the handles that make their way into your house every time you buy a four-pack for home or an outdoor adventure.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
[a] 2944 SE Powell Blvd.
[a] 3947 N. Williams Ave.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.