By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s hard to believe, but true. There are still a few places in Oregon where craft beer is NOT king. Albany, sandwiched between Corvallis and Salem, is one of those places. Not exactly a craft beer desert (Calapooia Brewing and Deluxe Brewing Company are both located in Albany) — but close when compared to other cities that boast at least half-a-dozen breweries.
Enter Vagabond Brewing from Salem. When the opportunity arose to take over a former growler fill station next to Albany’s Heritage Mall, Vagabond jumped on it. Vagabond Brewing Outpost, a cozy sports pub, held its grand opening March 31. Located at 14th Avenue SE in Albany, it’s in a prime spot right off the city’s busiest street. “We have all the business on this end of town,” said Vagabond co-founder Dean Howes.
Vagabond Brewery, on Salem’s north side, celebrated its three year anniversary in February. The founders are James Cardwell, Alvin Klausen and Howes — three Marines who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and traveled all over the globe once they completed their service. “We developed a passion for beer and wanted to figure out something to do together,” said Howes.
They decided to capitalize on that passion and start a brewery named Vagabond. “We zeroed in on Salem. There wasn’t much happening here for beer,” said Howes. They wrote a business plan and scraped together enough capital to qualify for and secure a Small Business Administration loan. “We brewed with anyone who would give us the time of day — Gigantic, Breakside, McMenamins in Salem and several others. This industry is incredibly accommodating, “he said.
Their beers will be featured front and center at the Vagabond Brewing Outpost. Ten of the taps will be Vagabond’s and the other 20 pour guest beer and cider, with an emphasis on local products. Vagabond’s lineup is American, mostly Northwest styles. Their best-selling beer is a hop-heavy IPA called Attack Owl. It’s named for some local birds that began attacking people in a Salem park. The owl attacks made the national news and so did the beer. Howes said, “At one point, people were buying it as fast as we could make it.” Naturally, when Rachel Maddow mentioned it on her show, they sent her some samples.
Vagabond, which made 50 different beers last year, also plans on adding a 20-barrel lagering tank in order to make larger batches. Some of that increased capacity will surely be due to the traffic in Albany. The Outpost, which seats 60 inside and offers outdoor accommodations, features a new bar that was built by the three partners. In fact, the three did much of the construction work on the new location. Although the pub has a kitchen, the focus for the immediate future will be on beer.
Klausen and Howes plan to manage the Outpost and work the bar so they can get a handle on it and work out any kinks as they come up. During that time, they’ll launch the search for a manager.
Growth has been steady for this trio of Marines turned brewery owners. Last year, Vagabond opened the Victory Club in downtown Salem. Located between Commercial and Liberty Streets NE, it has a retro, speakeasy feel. The brewery itself is undergoing a 2,000-square-foot expansion. In the fall, a new 10-barrel brewhouse from JV Northwest will replace the current 3.5-barrel system. Vagabond produced 700 barrels last year, and with the new system capacity will increase to 2,500.
2195 14th Ave. SE #103, Albany
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
For the last three years, I’ve dressed up as a hop during the Halloween season because a.) hops are awesome, and b.) I’m both too lazy and not creative enough to conjure up some other costume. Although I love traditions, I’m growing tired of doing the same thing year after year. But one thing I never get tired of is Oregon beer — so, I’ve decided to brew up some new rituals for all of us featuring our favorite treat. Below, you’ll find four different fall activities — beyond just Halloween — and the beers that go with them. October will never be the same again!
Ashland’s Caldera Brewing is already Halloween-friendly thanks to their logo, a bubbling black cauldron. But what will really put you under their spell is the Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter. The brewery uses in-house toasted coconut chips and natural liquid chocolate to create nothing short of Mounds bar goodness. The beer already claims to be dessert in a glass, so why not take your state of sugar-induced bliss one step further by pairing it with the Hershey’s tropical treat? | 6.2% ABV, 24 IBUs
Aside from having a great name, Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter from Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond blends the chocolatey, caramelly, nutty notes loved by porter fans and amplifies them times a thousand with an undeniably creamy peanut butter flavor. It’s a beer that pairs well with E.T.’s favorite food group — Reese’s Pieces. Added bonus: The candies will double as a type of breadcrumb trail when you’ve imbibed too many beers and can’t find your way back home! | 6% ABV, 18 IBUs
Fall Activity Pairing: Trick-or-Treating
Even though you’re too big to get away with going door-to-door asking for candy — unless you secretly steal from your kid’s stash — there are likely plenty of leftovers from that giant variety pack you had every intention of handing out to costumed little monsters. Instead of ravaging it like a zombie, here are some more Oregon beer and candy pairings to help you savor every last bite: Rusty Truck Brewing’s Taft Toffee Porter with Heath bars, Base Camp Brewing’s S’more Stout with Peeps marshmallows, and Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar with Ferrero Rocher.
Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice
Pumpkin beer (or pumpkin anything for that matter) is one of those things people either seem to love or hate. But even the biggest pumpkin skeptic could be made into a believer with Rogue’s annual Pumpkin Patch Ale. “Crafted from patch to batch,” each year Rogue employees pick fresh pumpkins from Rogue Farms in Independence, load them up and drive them 77 miles to the Newport brewery. The pumpkins are then roasted and pitched into the brew kettle, creating a final product that rivals even the best witch’s brew. | 6.1% ABV, 25 IBUs
Complex enough to be in a category all on its own, Cascade Brewing’s Pumpkin Smash is not for the average pumpkin beer fan. The Portland barrel house is highly regarded for its sour beers, and Pumpkin Smash does not disappoint. Each year’s batch offers a different experience — for example, their 2015 version is a blend of blond and quad ales aged in bourbon and brandy barrels for up to 22 months with pumpkin and spices. In September, the brewery released the 2015 blend on draft only, with vintage 2013 and 2014 bottles available for purchase. If the spirits are in your favor, you’ll likely still be able to score a rare bottle at the brewery, or at bottle shops such as Portland’s Belmont Station and The Bier Stein in Eugene. | 10.8%-12.35% ABV
Fall Activity Pairing: Pumpkin Patch
Check out Heiser Farms in Dayton for the ultimate pumpkin overload. On Saturdays and Sundays in October, the farm has cannons that shoot pumpkins more than a quarter of a mile! They will also be serving Heiser Pumpkin Ale from Silverton’s Seven Brides Brewing, a brew made with pumpkins grown right on the farm.
Originally released as a seasonal in 2014, Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red has become almost as much of a cult classic as the movie it’s named after — 1978 horror film “Dawn of the Dead.” The brewery’s label designer and art director, Tony Figoli, is obviously a fan of the film, so what better reason to add this zombie-themed pairing to your to-do list this Halloween season and beyond? According to the Eugene brewery, “it doesn’t take brains to know this IRA is a delicious choice any time of year!” | 7% ABV, 75 IBUs
The infamous Black Widow only summons herself two weeks out of the year, but she always leaves a lasting impression. Originally brewed at the McMenamins Thompson Brewery 25 years ago on October 15, 1991, this deep-black porter infused with licorice root is so enchanting she will be the star of her own “Widow’s Weekend” at various locations. While she’s available October 15 through Halloween at all McMenamins pubs, the Thompson Brewery usually releases the popular seasonal earlier than the rest. But don’t get too lost in her web, as she won’t be here for long! | 7.35% ABV, 30 IBU
Fall Activity Pairing: Scary Movie Marathon
Although there is a 1987 crime thriller which shares the name “Black Widow,” McMenamins has a lot more to offer than that in the scary movie department this month. The company’s Mission Theater and Pub in Portland offers a variety of screenings all year long, but in October, you’ll find that classic spooky movies are their specialty. “The Craft” and “Scream” are both celebrating their 20th anniversaries, “Little Shop of Horrors” is celebrating its 30th, and “Carrie” is celebrating its 40th. There will be multiple showings of each, along with the movie “Se7en.” Don’t forget to order your favorite McMenamins beer as liquid courage as you prepare to be scared!
Putting the Oktober in Oktoberfest
If you’re pumpkin-phobic, have no fear, Deschutes is here! The brewery recently added a new fall seasonal to its lineup: Hopzeit Autumn IPA. While this beer may or may not conform to the Reinheitsgebot (a German purity law only allowing water, barley and hops as ingredients), the beer is at least “100-percent gourd free” according to the brewery, and “blends the malt body and flavor of a Marzen with the hop profile of an IPA.” It even has its own hashtag: #SayNoToPumpkinBeer. | 7% ABV, 60 IBUs
For those of you wanting something you could drink a few steins of without being frightened by flavors, this section’s for you. Block 15 Brewing’s Autumn Farmhouse Ale, dubbed as a “harvest celebration of Pacific Northwest regional farms,” is a part of the brewery’s seasonal bottle-conditioned series. The beer truly lives up to its description, featuring organic North American malts, organic oats from Green Willow Grains, Willamette Valley hops, and honey from Queen Bee Apiaries, also located in Corvallis. | 7.4% ABV
Fall Activity Pairing: Oktoberfest
Although Munich’s famous Oktoberfest may be over, luckily for you there are still some Oregon breweries that are hosting their own versions of the revered German celebration this month, including Block 15’s Bloktoberfest on Oct. 21 (Pro Tip: You get free entry if you wear German-themed clothing). On Oct. 8 in Portland, not only is Zoiglhaus Brewing hosting its own Oktoberfest, but Widmer Brothers Brewing will be putting on an Oktoberfest at Pioneer Courthouse Square featuring rock band X Ambassadors.
No matter how you’re celebrating this month, don’t be too spooked to try a new Oregon beer!
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The fellas behind Vagabond Brewing have done it again. Their Victory Club opened June 3 in downtown Salem as the premier venue to experience a taste of Salem’s thriving craft beer scene.
The approximately 2,500-square-foot taphouse inside the Salem Arts Building has an adjoining event lounge, features 39 tap handles showcasing the area’s beers, ciders and spirits, serves a quality traditional pub menu, and it fits about 150 people.
As if running a successful and expanding commercial brewery wasn’t enough work, Vagabond Brewing co-owners Dean Howes, Alvin Klausen and James Cardwell adopted another project when they took over the space at 155 Liberty St. NE about nine months ago.
“The opportunity was too good to pass up and we are ambitious by nature so we decided to go for it,” said Howes.
The entrance to Victory Club is in an alleyway between Liberty and Commercial Streets NE, with plenty of nearby street parking. Doors are open 5–10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Hardwood floors and a 13-seat bar made of reclaimed timber will greet you from the left coming through the door. Private dining booths line the right wall, each enclosed on three sides. A pair of TVs hang above the bar, with another pair directly above a 29-handle tap wall. A double-wide sliding door opens into the event lounge, which includes a small corner stage, short bar, two TVs, table seating along one wall and a pair of couches and coffee tables.
A pair of rugs also help tie the room together.
“The look and feel is a lot different than the (Vagabond) brewery and is focused on a warmer, more intimate setting,” Howes said. “We were definitely going for the speakeasy vibe.”
The taproom emphasizes Salem-area beers and ciders, but some taps will feature breweries and cideries from around the Pacific Northwest and occasionally across the country.
“We are also excited to be serving unique craft cocktails in collaboration with Salem's Archive Coffee & Bar,” Howes said. "We genuinely hope that Victory Club is seen as a gathering and focal point for our local craft scene. We love our city and our community and want to show as many people as possible what it has to offer.”
To help keep the taps flowing at Victory Club, Howes said Salem-based Vagabond has increased production to about 50-70 barrels per month since adding a 15-barrel tank in January to accompany a pair of 12-barrel tanks.
And things aren’t slowing down, he said.
“We are in the process of planning for a full brewhouse upgrade sometime in the first half of 2017.”
[a] 155 Liberty St. NE, Salem
By Michael Cairns
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Does spent yeast constitute a water quality issue for Oregon streams, and a financial burden on the state’s craft breweries? A September 2014 beer blog post described how two Austin, Texas breweries faced a fee of $5000 for “improper yeast disposal.” The piece made this writer want to do a little investigation to understand whether Oregon’s brewers are in danger of also getting slapped with hefty fines.
To understand why yeast would be considered a pollutant, a very brief science lesson is in order. Yeast, along with cleaning water, spent mash and hops that remain after the brewing process is complete, is usually discharged into municipal wastewater systems. Note that in Oregon most spent grains and hops, along with the yeast, are usually sold or given to farmers for animal feed — it’s organic and very nutritious. And yeast is ‘harvested’ for reuse in many breweries. These practices limit a lot of waste discharge, but not all of it. So where does the science come in? Well, the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates the discharge of pollutants to the nation’s waterways. More specifically in this case, it’s the discharge of organic materials that may contribute to biological oxygen demand, which can stimulate the growth of algae in streams, lakes and oceans. This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in dissolved oxygen, which is bad for fish and other aquatic life. High concentrations of total suspended solids that could come from breweries pose another threat to waterways and wildlife. Acidity, expressed as pH, is an additional concern. OK, enough of the science lesson.
To determine whether Oregon breweries are in danger of being fined or required to pay special fees for their discharges, I did some digging and got some of my questions answered. First, Steve Schnurbusch of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) told me that there are no requirements specific to yeast effluents, nor to brewery wastewater discharges in general. He spoke of ‘loading,’ a measure of the total amounts of organic matter discharged to streams in relation to the size of any particular wastewater treatment plant from a brewery and other industrial sources. In other words, if a large brewery is located in a small community with a small treatment plant, then there could be a problem. Schnurbusch noted that the DEQ mainly regulates end-of-pipe discharges to receiving waters — for instance, from treatment plants, rather than discharges from breweries to municipal sewer systems. He suggested I should speak to city officials who operate those treatment plants.
This suggestion led me to the City of Salem, where Nitin Joshi of Salem Environmental Services reiterated some of what I had learned from the DEQ representative. The City of Salem does not have regulations specific to yeast, or even to breweries. Salem breweries are considered commercial, rather than industrial, users. Unless a particular plant, or brewery in our case, discharges more than 25,000 gallons per day, then there are no permits required. Finally, I decided to speak to a brewer to get that perspective.
Santiam Brewing’s head brewer, Jerome Goodrow, was kind enough to talk to me as he was in the process of cleaning tanks after a brew and discharging the rinse water. Like most breweries, the spent grain and hops are used for farm animal feed, and some of the yeast is harvested. He noted that the cleaning solution, or disinfectant, is quite acidic, although it’s neutralized by use of a caustic solution, thereby creating a final effluent that is nearly pH neutral. Goodrow reiterated that they do not discharge enough volume into the city’s sewer system to qualify as an industrial customer, nor do any of the other Salem breweries. There are no issues specific to yeast discharge at Santiam.
So, the bottom line based on my limited research: yeast discharge to sewer systems does not seem to be an issue in Oregon. I’m confident that Oregon’s craft brewers are attuned to the potential and are very conscientious about recycling and limiting their discharge of both wastewater and organic materials. Further investigation may find a very large brewery in a very small community where discharge could create problems with biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids or pH conditions in the receiving waters, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at this point.
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Our state’s capital is home to one of the most humble czars you’ll ever meet. His laid-back demeanor likely stems from the fact that he’s in command of something quite unpretentious.
Known as the “Venti’s Beer Czar,” Jarred Venti has been providing two of Salem’s favorite hangout spots with an amazing lineup of beers and beer-themed events for more than a year and a half now.
When Jarred’s dad, Mike, and uncle, Dino, started their business back in 1996, it was initially branded as Venti’s Bento and was housed in downtown Salem’s historic Reed Opera House. In 2008, the place now known as Venti’s Cafe + Basement Bar moved to a new space across the street and has been wildly successful ever since. Today, bento is still the signature dish, but the menu has increased dramatically — including 10 craft-only beers and ciders.
“Dino was way ahead of the craft beer scene in Salem. He was paying more attention to what was going on in Portland and Eugene. No one in Salem was really paying attention to that,” Jarred says. Dino and his wife Leslie now own both locations.
Venti’s Cafe + Taphouse, which opened in south Salem in 2011, is the bigger location and hosts many fun events, including a huge anniversary celebration every August. Last year, the event was called “Salem’s Amazing Local Exhibition of Microbrews (SALEM).” All 24 of the taps were taken over by Salem beer and cider.
As beer czar, Jarred helps put together these kinds of festivities, including tap takeovers, Beer Geek trainings and Craft Brewed Concerts. Since October 2013, Jarred has also been fully in charge of ordering beer for both locations, including around 100 bottled beers at the Taphouse, and about half that at the Basement Bar. When it comes to beer, he makes all the final decisions — just like any czar would.
So, how does one obtain such a regal title? In Jarred’s case, it’s kind of something he just fell into. “The beer czar at the time, Matt Killikelly, was also starting up Santiam Brewing with his partners. He had a lot going on, so they were looking for someone to come in and help out a couple days a week. One day a week became two days a week, became three days a week, became four days a week … Almost a year into it, Matt decided he needed to devote himself full time to Santiam Brewing, so I had to step up and fill some pretty big shoes. And I’ve been immersed in the craft beer scene ever since.”
When Jarred isn’t busy being a commander of beer, he is a member of not one, not two, but three bands. If you think that’s impressive, you’ll find it hard to believe he was involved with six or seven bands a year ago. His current lineup includes playing bass for Rich McCloud, providing bass and vocals for Magical Mystery Four (a Beatles tribute band) and bass and vocals for Still Water Vibes.
While Jarred tries to divide his attention equally among the three bands, Still Water Vibes has been keeping him the busiest lately since their debut album came out at the end of May. “We call ourselves a blues band, but it’s really also heavily influenced by funk and soul music … and a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Just like how Venti’s started as a family affair, so did Jarred’s passion for music at the age of 14. “We have a lot of musicians in my family, my uncle Mario is an amazing piano player, and his son Josh, my cousin, is an amazing bass player. He’s sort of the inspiration for me picking up the bass.”
Although Venti’s is well known for its live music, you won’t find Jarred playing there too often — but he’s happy to let other artists take center stage. “Andrew (Hussey) books the music there, and he always does a good job at bringing in a lot of great out-of-town bands, which I think is awesome.”
Hussey books the musical acts for the Taphouse’s Craft Brewed Concerts, and Jarred chooses a beer pairing. “I usually try to arrange a special tapping of some sort to coincide with the music. It’s a cool way to bring live music and craft beer together.” A recent evening featured the video game sounds of Emulator combined with eight space-themed beers.
The Taphouse also hosts Lounge Nights, in which two of Jarred’s good friends, Nathan Olsen and John Pounds, play keyboard and bass during the opening set and then allow any and all singers to join in. “They’re both incredible musicians. The best at what they do in the area, for sure. We’re really lucky to have them come down every Tuesday.”
Aside from hanging out at Venti’s, you’ll likely find Jarred playing shows at Salem’s Vagabond Brewing, Half Penny Bar and Grill or Duffy’s Hangar, where he even hosts a monthly jam session. “I know a ton of musicians, and it’s a cool way for me to bring everyone together in one spot and just play music together.” All artists, regardless of skill level, are welcome to join.
If he ever needs some extra help warming up for his night gig, the beer czar likes to keep it local. “When I play at Vagabond, I always try something new. Every time I play at Half Penny, I’m drinking Hop Penny from Salem Ale Works (an Irish red only available in-house). When I play at Duffy’s, I like to drink Gilgamesh Vader (a coffee CDA).”
“I’m just super proud of Salem. We’re finally starting to get a beer scene down here. It seems like every day something new is opening up. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
This is one czar who is definitely all about his people. He’s the true definition of what a leader should be: he’s passionate about what he does, he supports his community as much as possible and he makes a valiant effort to bring everyone together. Oh, and he supplies the masses with funky music and tasty beer. All hail Jarred Venti!
Cafe + Basement Bar
[a] 325 Court St. NE, Salem
Cafe + Taphouse
[a] 2840 Commercial St. SE, Salem
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.