By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Funhouse Brews. The name sounds like a wacky carnival attraction — one of those colorful places where the mirrors and walls are distorted and everyone looks like a twisted version of themselves. That’s just the image brewer Jason Rizos wants for his North Portland home-based nanobrewery.
The veteran homebrewer has more than 20 years of experience cooking up award-winning beers, and he likes to be different. “I’m trying to stand out as one who will make wild, experimental, unusual out-there beers, like Triple Berry Snowcone,” said Rizos. His tap handles — towers of red, blue, yellow and white Lego blocks — advertise the fun funkiness of the brewery.
Rizos started making beer when he was a typical starving college student with limited funds, and homebrewing was cheaper than buying.
“Really,” I wondered, “even with all the ingredients and equipment required?”
“Yes,” he said. To prove it, he created an online tool called the Homebrew Break-Even Calculator to compare the price of making a batch of beer to buying a six-pack. The site links to Rizos’ book, “The Frugal Home Brewers Companion.”
A Portland transplant who arrived from St. Louis in 2008, Rizos teaches literature and writing at Portland Community College. “I haven’t met many brewers who aren’t engineers or software specialists,” he said.
As a member of Oregon Brew Crew, Oregon’s oldest homebrew club, he served as president in 2011 and has participated in numerous competitions — both as a brewer and as a judge, having completed the Beer Judge Certification Program in 2006. He has won several awards for his beers, receiving medals at the Best Florida Beer Homebrew Competition, the Oregon Fall Classic and the Oregon State Fair.
A few years ago Rizos and his wife decided to establish the commercial nanobrewery and in December 2016 they were officially licensed and open for business. They built the 2-barrel system in what had been their totally unusable wreck of a garage. “We built this space expressly as a brewery with gas, electric and water, drains, sinks and specific spaces for our 60-gallon kettles and fermenters.” Rizos currently has two large refrigerators for cold storage, but is already starting to think about how to add more. Like most brewers, he is always in need of additional fermenters.
“We actually started in earnest in early 2017, but then the ice storm hit and we couldn’t brew because all the lines were frozen,” Rizos said. By February he had produced a significant volume to begin self-distributing.
Rizos describes his beers as “handcrafted, unorthodox, chimerical crossbreeds of classic styles, with a focus on processes and ingredients impossible or impractical on a scale larger than two barrels.” This summer he started making kettle sours “that were meticulously blended.” Then he had a breakthrough by deciding to add fruit: blackberries, raspberries and cherries (that he’s since replaced with strawberries), creating the Triple Berry Snowcone. Quality is his top priority. “I urge people to try my beers, even when they don’t think they like that style of beer. My sour is just barely a sour,” he said.
For the Nano Pub Crawl last month along North Mississippi Avenue, 30 nanobrewers collaborated with larger producers and other nanos to make beer for the event. Rizos partnered with Ecliptic Brewing’s John Harris, who came over to Funhouse and the two created an oatmeal stout. “I’m thinking about splitting that and making half of it into a salted caramel brownie beer,” Rizos said.
Fridays from 5-7 p.m., his in-home brewery is open for growler fills and sales of 32-ounce crowlers. Check funhousebrews.com for area businesses that serve his beers. Rizos usually brews every two weeks and tries to have four different varieties available. Currently, his beers are regularly on tap at Chill N Fill on North Lombard Street and QuarterWorld Arcade on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.
7717 N. Emerald Ave., Portland
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Several of Central Oregon’s newer breweries are opening tasting rooms to showcase their beer.
The most recent one to start serving the public is The Vault Taphouse and Kobold Tasting Room, which began operating in downtown Redmond in July. Steve Anderson, founder and head brewer, designed the renovation of a decades-old building and adjacent open space into a pub and beer garden.
“In the 1930s and 1940s, all these old buildings had their own vaults,” said Anderson, “because people didn’t trust banks.” The vault in the taproom is now a walk-in cooler.
Anderson will continue to brew at his home in Bend on his original 2-barrel system, licensed in 2015. The Vault Taphouse will feature eight Kobold beers and 14 taps for other local offerings, including a cider and a couple nitro beers. The counters, tabletops and bar in the taproom were made from restored pine slabs from a cabin on Lake Cavanaugh in Washington that belonged to his wife’s grandfather. Acid-washed steel used as wainscoting adds to the rustic look. Inside and out, the business seats about 100. Westside Taco Co., an award-winning food cart founded in Los Angeles, has opened another in the beer garden space.
Chronologically, the next newest taproom is The Ale Apothecary in Bend, which opened in May. The unique, small-batch brewery — with its wild-fermented lagers aged in oak barrels — was launched in 2011 by former Deschutes brewer Paul Arney.
While the brewery itself is still on Paul and Staci Arney’s wooded property about 10 miles west of town, the need for more storage prompted they move into a small warehouse space in town near GoodLife Brewing. Even while creating room for barrels and bottled inventory, there was enough space left for a tasting room that’s run by Nora Smith and Kirsten Schopen. Both of their spouses, Jared Smith and Connor Currie, are involved in the brewing. “The idea for a tasting room was in the ether,” said Schopen.
Four vertical sections of the old bay doors, now replaced with an efficient roll-up garage-style opening, separate the tasting and inventory areas. They added handcrafted wooden tables, barrel stave stools and beer barrel hanging lights. There’s also plenty of room for Arney to display his family pharmacy relics — three generations of pharmacists’ collections — which also inspired the name of his brewery.
The popular vintage beers are aged up to 18 months in barrels and a year in 750-milliliter bottles. Usually, the tasting menu includes three or four different samples at $6 a 4-ounce glass. Or, tasters can purchase a bottle to sample and take out. “About eight out of 10 customers buy a bottle,” Schopen said.
“We have one of the flagship beers for tasting — the Sahalie or La Tache — and we might have a new bottle release with a couple others. We like to mix it up for the locals,” she said. “Still, many of the people who come here and know about Ale Apothecary are visiting from someplace else.”
The Ale Apothecary is one of those breweries that becomes a destination worth seeking out due to word-of-mouth, whether that’s in person at a bottle share or via a podcast. There was little-to-no pre-marketing for the tasting room, just a sign on the door that faces an alleyway saying it was coming.
The Bridge 99 Brewery tasting room opened two-and-a-half years ago when founder Trever Hawman moved the brewery out of his house to the current industrial location in northeast Bend. Amazingly, all of the 18 beers on tap are Bridge 99 brews. Amazing because brewers Hawman, partner Rod Kramer and Richard Anthony still work on the original 2-barrel system. That will change early next year when a new 15-barrel brewhouse is installed.
“With that system, we will have the capability to do 8-barrel, 15-barrel and double batches,” said Hawman. The major expansion will double the total space from 3,500 square feet to 7,500 with additional storage and a bigger seating area in the tasting room.
Hawman and others make a wide variety of beers. “We don’t really have a flagship, but the IPAs are bestsellers,” he said. Also popular are the barrel-aged red and porter, both resting in Bendistillery Rye Whiskey barrel for three months. One of the more unique brews Bridge 99 offers is an Irish ale made from a 100-year-old family recipe that one of Hawman’s former carpentry clients brewed with his father. The beer calls for buckwheat honey from Ireland, a dark, nutty honey the Irish made when Britain cut them off from sugar. Hawman wanted to recreate the recipe as close to the original as possible and also uses European malt and Irish ale yeast.
Hawman handles all sales and distribution to 40 or so accounts. “Our growth has been organic and steady. Word-of-mouth is our primary marketing,” he said. “We’re looking to expand into Portland and maybe Washington.”
And in case you were wondering, the brewery is named after a Forest Service bridge over the Metolius River.
The Vault Taphouse/Kobold Tasting Room
245 SW Sixth St., Redmond
The Ale Apothecary
30 SW Century Drive, Bend
Bridge 99 Brewery
63063 Layton Ave., Bend
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Hops, hops, hops. Everything’s coming up hops at Worthy Brewing Company.
Because of Roger Worthington’s ties to Indie Hops, a company that makes pellets, and its experimental aroma hop program with Oregon State University, Worthy is the main brewery to test out these new varieties.
As Zach Brenneman, Worthy’s head brewer, explained, “They’re working on developing aroma hops that have good brewing qualities, are disease resistant, have high yields and vigor. We may brew with one that consumers really love that’s disease resistant, but doesn’t have good yield.”
It can take years to find a hop that meets all the criteria. Worthy’s 5-barrel pilot brewing system was created for this trial-and-error process. Until the hops prove themselves consistently over time, they are simply identified by number. Last year, Worthy’s team brewed up four pale ales using the experimental varietals 1007-35, C1002-37, G9-1-374 and C115L-1.
“We use a very basic pale ale malt profile and our standard house yeast for these beers,” Brenneman said. “We make the same base beer for each of these brews to focus on the hops we are using. The finished beer will be 5% ABV and in the 30-40 IBU range.”
They served tastings of the four beers at the Bend brewery and several locations in Portland. Brenneman was at Produce Row Café sampling. “In talking with consumers there, I was interested to see how deep some people wanted to dive into this,” he said.
Some of the comments from the tasting cards:
“Would be good in a helles or kolsch.”
“Nice if you are sick of the IPA trend.”
“Super complex, but too assertive.”
“Almost too mellow for a pale ale (like a lager with hop character).”
“Not bad, just not my thing.”
More in-depth comments are solicited from tasters at Worthy. “Our panelists are given instructions on what we are looking for as we taste through each of the beers so that we can send back the best, most informative information about the breeding program hops we brewed with.”
So far, the brightest star of the program, most grown on OSU’s research fields, is Strata, formerly known as X-331. “It has outrageous oil and it’s more in your face. Tasters note its distinct tropical fruit flavor and its dank fragrance similar to cannabis,” said Brenneman. However, Strata was a surprise hit, especially for brewers. In initial sensory evaluations and onsite rub and sniff comparisons, it didn’t stand out.
Worthy’s blog post about Strata said the following: “Until the harvest this fall, the supply of Strata IPA is limited. The 2016 harvest from 9 acres, grown at Goschie and Coleman Farms, was around 18,000 pounds. It was considered a ‘baby’ harvest, the first after the establishment year. The one this fall will be the first mature crop. Reports from the farm are that it’s vigorously growing and yields should be above the average of 2,000 pounds an acre last season. This spring, Indie Hops planted another 60 acres in the valley.”
Worthy’s StrataSphere IPA won a gold medal in the Sessionable Hoppy category at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards. While it can take 10 years or more to develop a new successful genotype, this one was on an accelerated path of about six years. Strata is an open-pollinated hop, which means seeds that breed true, developed from a German Perle hop.
Strata IPA has been a consistent favorite at Worthy, with its sales often equal to those of the flagship Worthy IPA and in some weeks exceeding it. It’s available in draft only, but after the harvest plans are to package it in 22-ounce bottles.
This fall, Brenneman looks forward to getting a jump on brewing with the experimental hops and plans to dive right in after the fresh-hop beers are finished. He receives the chosen hops from Jim Solberg at Indie Hops in 2-pound foil sacks that have been bagged under gas. Ten pounds of whole-leaf hops are then used for pilot batches. “Our goal is to do a late kettle add and then dry hop in 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per barrel,” he said.
This year Brenneman wants to brew them in pairs — maybe even two on the same day. He would like to have eight experimental beers available during several months to have more options for consumers to taste and compare.
The goal is to keep brewing well-made, balanced beers and involving consumers who are invested in what might be the next new big hop as well as bring new genes into the hop pool. Close to 90 percent of the hops that Worthy uses are Indie Hops grown in Oregon.
You’ll actually find six rows of experimental hops at Worthy’s ever-expanding brewery and pub as part of its demonstration garden. Shaun Townsend, OSU aroma hop breeder who’s directing the hop development program, chose the varieties that would be planted in Bend. Although most of the test fields are in the Willamette Valley, researchers wanted to see how climate and pests would impact hops in Central Oregon.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Roger Worthington, owner of Bend’s Worthy Brewing, seamlessly blends his interest in art, space, science, brewing, renewable growth and more with the newest addition to his business — a 50-foot tall observatory.
Named the Hopservatory, it’s on the southwest end of the ever-expanding pub. The Worthy Garden Club, showcasing hops and barley onsite, has partnered with Grant Tandy from the Sunriver Observatory to offer public tours. The addition features a 16-inch reflecting telescope and a smaller refractory one.
“The goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like space, size, time, distance and speed in our solar system and beyond,” according to Worthy’s website.
“Our Garden Club marries heaven and earth,” said Worthington. “Our mission is to promote planet earth.” He hopes to give visitors a new perspective on the cosmos and a new appreciation for our home. “It’s ridiculous to think that we can populate another planet ... it’s not a good use of our resources.
“I reach 1,200-1,400 people a day here in the summer,” said Worthington. “Why not have them look up — look through a telescope at the sky — have them view the stars and planets and suns and moons and all the magic up there and get some perspective on our home here?”
Currently, tours are offered at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Online reservations are recommended since space is limited to 20 people. The $5 fee goes to Worthy Garden Club’s education programs. Observatory manager Tandy is on hand for open viewings without registration 9-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Scheduled tours begin in the appropriately named Transporter Room, situated between the Beermuda Triangle bar and the Hop Mahal banquet room. This space features mosaic tiles on the floor depicting celestial wonders, and the colorful curved walls of Venetian plaster represent the center of the Earth rising to the stars. Several TV monitors play educational videos about astronomy.
From here, a guide leads visitors up the adjacent spiral staircase that winds around the observatory that will eventually be covered with hops. On the second floor, guests pass the new Star Bar, which opened June 6 for customers 21 and older.
The next stop is the control room: a dark, quiet, cool area that feels like a library. Here guests watch a video by Jerry Niehuser from the Sunriver Observatory that helps put the light year distance from Earth to assorted planets in a relatable context. Niehuser talks about how long it would take an email to get to us here from Mars and other planets, which would be as long as 500 years in some cases.
After another hike up the spiral staircase, the guide opens the door to the dome and telescopes. On the night I went, two students at Central Oregon Community College led the session, showing us a star cluster, Saturn and a nebulae. After everyone had a turn looking through the telescopes, the group went outside to view constellations. Despite some surrounding light from nearby buildings and a light cloud cover, we clearly spotted several with the aid of the guides.
“We’re able to see things here that you can’t at Sunriver, even though they have more telescopes and more powerful ones,” said Worthington.
The Hopservatory is also available for private tours and as an add-on for large parties. If they sky is overcast on your scheduled date, the Worthy Garden Club offers “cloudchecks” to be used on a better viewing night. Ultimately, Worthington hopes people will come not only for a beer, but also for enlightenment.
“We’re all in this Earth lifeboat together. We can choose to work together and fix it,” said Worthington.
Oblivion brewmaster Darin Butschy (left) recruited three new partners last fall, and their capital, enthusiasm and labor have re-invigorated sales and visibility. Pictured, clockwise: Bryan Harrison, Chris Springer and Ryan McDevitt. Photo courtesy of Ryan Schneider, Oblivion marketing/digital media coordinator
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oblivion Brewing in Bend has been on an economic roller coaster since opening in the summer of 2013.
Owner/brewer Darin Butschy and his wife started the small eastside brewery. Sales were slow at first, especially since it was a bare-bones, two-person operation with self-distribution out of their Subaru. The clean, crisp, easy-drinking beers soon gained a following and a local restaurant owner decided to open a pub on Northwest Galveston Avenue and feature Oblivion’s beer.
“We gave them rights to our name. We had nothing to do with the pub itself. We had all eight tap handles,” said Butschy. The pub was busy — too busy for owner Jon Sargent and he closed it after seven months at the end of 2015.
“It hurt the name,” said Butschy. “People thought the brewery was closed.”
When the couple split up, Butschy was on his own for a while. Business was definitely down. That’s when he recruited three friends to help shore up the operation. Together, they bought 65 percent of the company and Butschy retained 35 percent. Chris Springer, who worked at JELD-WEN for 23 years before retiring a couple of years ago, is now the assistant brewer and production manager. “When we came to meet Darin we really liked his beer and wanted to be involved,” he explained. The rest of the trio includes Bryan Harrison, who handles business management, and Ryan McDevitt, who is in charge of sales and distribution. “We have 85 active accounts now. We self-distribute all over Central Oregon in Bend, Redmond, Prineville, La Pine, Sisters and Sunriver. We are talking with distributors now,” McDevitt said.
Starting last fall when the new partners came on board, the brewery has seen steady growth. Production alone has increased to 60 barrels a month — three times the amount made in the same period of time last year. A small office was recently repurposed as a taproom inside the brewery for tastings and growler fills. The space is similar to Boneyard Brewery — no frills, just beer. While there are limited hours at this point, Butschy said drop-ins are welcome if you call ahead since someone is almost always there working.
Butschy learned to brew at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo, Calif. while he was studying chemistry at Cal Poly. “I was there for six years during the time when Firestone Walker was negotiating a buyout,” said Butschy, “foreshadowing what it has become.” His brewing work brought him into contact with California’s craft leaders like Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Anderson Valley Brewing Company.
He moved to Bend for the Northwest lifestyle and the excellent water. “I kept brewing to stay sharp on my game,” he said. As he saw more and more breweries pop up, he decided to go commercial. “I brew more traditional beers. I try to keep it balanced and traditional. That’s the way I was trained, not swaying away from what beer should be.”
His 10-barrel system includes a couple of 10-barrel fermenters along with one 20-barrel vessel and two 40-barrel tanks. Business manager Harrison is not stopping there, though, adding that “six more 40-barrels are on our wish list.”
The top-selling flagship beer is an IRA called Road Ryder, described as a “dry-hopped bomb.” Introduced as a fall seasonal, it took off and is now available year-round. “Our red is one of the best; it’s where we stand out,” said Harrison.
Oblivion has six regular beers, with additional seasonals and a few one-offs. All the beer is draft only. Other beers include a German-style pilsner with German lager yeast and hops in accordance with the German purity laws, a summer ISA, an IPA with five different Oregon hops and a stout featuring ten malts. Butschy is also aging a blond in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for the low-production/specialty XTap at the Bend Brewfest in August. Additionally, Oblivion’s Oblivious Blonde recently won the Central Oregon Beer Week SMaSH (single malt and single hop) competition. It’s customary for the winner to brew the official Central Oregon Beer Week beer the following year.
With that victory and a path for continued growth, Butschy and his new partners are looking forward to reestablishing Oblivion in Central Oregon and they’re having a good time while doing it.
Oblivion Brewing Co.
63027 Plateau Drive, Suite 4, Bend
Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.