By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When the 2017 American Hop Convention came to Bend in January, it sparked a unique opportunity for the craft beer community in Central Oregon.
The convention, which is held in different cities across the country annually, examines the future and history of the hop industry across several days. It attracts hundreds of people associated with the beer industry.
But such a big event doesn’t come through relatively small towns like Bend all the time, so the brewers in the region decided to take the opportunity to do something special.
A variety of brewers came together — via the Central Oregon Brewers Guild — to brew a special beer for the convention, called Oregon Tr’Ale IPA.
Robin Johnson, the assistant brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery’s Bend location, recounted the effort to get a beer ready for the convention at the urging of Crux Fermentation Project’s Larry Sidor. More than a dozen folks from area breweries got together at the pub, as Johnson recalled.
“As we started kicking around ideas, everyone really liked the idea that it would be an all-Oregon brew,” Johnson said.
No detail was spared in making sure it was an Oregon-centric beer:
—Experimental hops came from Willamette Valley Hops.
--Madras’ Mecca Grade Estate Malt, used by several area breweries already, was tapped for the malt.
—The label is in the shape of the state of Oregon.
—The bottle cap features the state seal.
Picking the style was an easy choice, given the platform for the beer.
“We said, let’s do an IPA here,” Johnson said. “Let’s showcase the hops and show the convention what we can do as Central Oregon brewers.”
The group settled on using two varieties of experimental hops from Willamette and the Vanora and Pelton malts from Mecca Grade.
In all, 10 breweries had a hand in conceptualizing the beer and making the idea a reality. Boneyard Beer did the brewing, Deschutes coordinated the gathering of raw materials and Crux provided the bottling machine. A variety of breweries helped with the bottling process.
Showcasing hops was a major theme throughout the week in January when the convention was in town. Growers offered up experimental hops to area brewers who wanted to play around with them. Crux put 18 of those beers on display at a special tasting at its Bend pub.
But the biggest effort came with Oregon Tr’Ale. Will we see any more collaborations in the future from the Central Oregon craft brewing scene? Don’t count out the possibility.
“For this beer, we saw an opportunity to do something cool for Oregon,” Johnson said. “We would all be open to do it again in the future. It was a really positive experience and we felt really good about the beer we produced.
“But we’re all pretty busy guys with our own beers,” Johnson said with a laugh.
When Tyler Staples took over the brewing at Uptown Market in June he “skyrocketed our beer production,” said marketing director Liz Soucie. The former McMenamins Highland Pub brewer is seen here pouring beer at the original Southwest Scholls Ferry location. It’s marking its fourth anniversary this month. Photos courtesy of Uptown Market
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Uptown Market had a very exceptional beginning; in fact, you might call it backwards. Unlike the majority of craft beer establishments that begin with an idea and progress to a place, this one started with an empty space and progressed with an idea.
Uptown Market started out as a real estate opportunity for three guys. They bought an empty convenience store, and then figured out what to put in it.
Brothers AJ and Chris Shepard and their friend Stuart Faris independently came up with the same answer to the question of what to do with their Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location — they all wanted a place where they would hang out and drink beer.
Four years ago this December, the Portland Uptown Market opened as a bottle shop with six taps. Since then, it has expanded. There are now more than 30 different brews on tap, including its own beers, a vast selection of bottled beers and wine as well as homebrew supplies. Almost from the beginning, the casual market developed a loyal following — a dedicated group who wanted to … what else? Hang out and drink beer. With the recent opening this spring of its new location in Lake Oswego, complete with a kitchen and new chef, Uptown Market is branching into brewpub territory.
The business model for the relative newcomer is certainly unique. “Uptown Market is a very expensive hobby that makes them [the owners] money and brings them together. It’s also a showroom for the kind of work they can do,” said Liz Soucie, director of marketing.
AJ and Chris Shepard also own and operate a successful property management company, Uptown Properties. AJ Shepard is a licensed contractor, both commercial and residential, and Chris Shepard is a licensed broker. Faris is the director of marketing for an engineering company. They did much of the design and renovation of the Lake Oswego space themselves, with help from Soucie. In contrast to other startup businesses that often operate on a lean budget, Uptown Market has plenty of capital, said Soucie.
Once the first location was up and going with steady business, the three owners decided to add their own brewery. Actually it was their manager’s idea. Herb Apon, who is now manager for Portland beer hall Loyal Legion, pushed them to brew on-site. “Apon thought it would be a cool idea for Uptown Market to make use of its extra storage space in back and brew its own beer,” said Soucie.
They set up a 7-barrel system purchased from Two Kilts Brewing Co. When empty, the space looked fairly large. But with the brewing equipment installed, the 800-square-foot area filled up quickly.
“The original brewer helped create the brand,” said Soucie. “But Tyler Staples, our new brewer, has really grown the production and reputation of the beer.” Staples came from McMenamins Highland Pub and Brewery in Gresham at the beginning of summer 2015. “He’s skyrocketed our production,” said Soucie.
Staples is focusing on six production beers — from a pale ale developed for Portland Golf Club to a stout, along with seasonals and apple ciders. His two fresh-hop selections were very popular at this fall’s Portland Fresh Hops Fest held at Oaks Park. Soucie said they sell one-third of their fresh-hop kegged beer to other locations, and Staples’ relationship with distributor Willamette Valley Hops is a huge plus when it comes to ensuring seasonal supply.
Both Uptown Market locations feature special events and create a festive atmosphere by having something special “on tap” every weekend. During the summer, the shops often host tastings. “We enjoy bringing in guest brewers. One of their reps comes in. We put up to three or four of their beers on tap. They pour samples for our clientele to promote bottle sales,” said Soucie.
Once the Lake Oswego location opened, the chef started creating food specials to pair with the beer. The menu includes snacks, salads, sandwiches and sausages from Otto’s in Portland, along with burgers and daily specials/happy hour food. The Oktoberfest pork shank was such a hit, it continues be featured on the menu. “We did a special for Baerlic of a pineapple salsa and avocado burger and a beer brat with beer cheese and crispy shallots, using Baerlic beer,” added Soucie. Since the cozy pub is located in the midst of small businesses and professional offices, they also offer catered meals and boxed lunches. The Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location also has a food cart with a similar menu.
Recently, Uptown Market started a mug club for loyal customers. For a $10 monthly fee, members receive in-store discounts on pints, growlers, bottles, food and merchandise. Plus, they have the opportunity to purchase the hand-selected monthly 12-packs of hard-to-find beers and ciders. An optional benefit is your very own personalized mug.
Meanwhile, big plans are in the works for the fourth anniversary celebration of the original Uptown Market on Dec. 12. The fun will come in fours. Four bands, four guest tastings, four food specials, four variations of Uptown’s beer, four firkins and more.
Although the news this summer of a possible partnership with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales appears to be off the table, at least for now, the owners are on the lookout for a large scale production facility, most likely on the east side. As Soucie explained about the Logsdon deal: “The opportunity was brought to the ownership of Uptown Market and at this time it appears there are no plans to move forward with it.” Meanwhile future plans include finding a warehouse facility that’s around 4,000 square feet or so. The space would allow the brewery to can or bottle, build a large-scale pub and store an ample amount of supplies. Additionally, Uptown would like to buy a home and not lease, according to Soucie.
[a] 6620 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Portland
[a] 3970 Mercantile Drive #110, Lake Oswego
One of the founding partners of Plough Monday, Norm Vidoni, puts in the hard work to make sure his hops are grown organically, which means more labor — like weeding by hand. The Veneta-based brewery isn’t focused on making every batch the same, resulting in a unique experience for the consumer. Photo by Gail Oberst
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The vision began with locally sourced, organic ingredients for a true Willamette Valley beer. The reality has proven far more challenging. Veneta-based Plough Monday is adapting and plowing ahead with plans to bring as-local-as-possible beers to Oregon and Washington — despite making hard decisions to veer from their original plans.
Founding partners Norm Vidoni and Charlie Whedbee have been friends and homebrew partners for more than 20 years. From working a farm and trying to meet the challenge of raising organic hops, to learning not only how to brew, but how to build a market for their beers, the two friends keep adapting and learning. Through it all, the crew at Plough Monday has been producing 7 to 10 barrels a week, working toward a local tasting room and refining recipes for bottling and wider distribution of beers such as Fresh Hop Fuggle, American Brown Ale and Northwest Strong Ale. And, more recently, the brewery was certified organic by Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit that’s been advocating for organic agriculture since 1974. In this conversation, Norm Vidoni discusses farming, hops, the importance of local, the decline of organic beers, Plough Monday’s vision and how they are finding their way in a challenging agricultural environment and a crowded market.
What drives your passion for Willamette Valley-grown hops?
NV: Willamette Valley hops have a unique quality. They have less harshness to the bitterness, even at higher alpha acids. I think the aromas don’t have the same strong citrus qualities, but more of the lighter, floral aroma qualities. The climate here is much more similar to the climates in England and Germany, where they have those Noble varieties.
What are the challenges of growing hops organically?
NV: You have to be careful with organic inputs. Too much copper in the soil can make it so you can’t grow things. Weeding has to be done by hand, since you can’t use herbicides. Input is higher, but your output per acre is lower than it would be if using conventional fertilizers. These problems are causing people to start dropping out of organic hop production, and we likely will see drops in organic beer production.
How do mildew problems affect what you can grow?
NV: There’s one hop that’s totally downy mildew resistant, and that’s Magnum. That’s a great hop, and I’ve got lots of Magnums, but I think it’s only good as a bittering hop.
Fuggle, Golding, Perle and Orion all have some resistance, so they grow well here without getting decimated by downy mildew. No other hops can be grown organically here.
The hops industry hasn’t been focused on developing hops with these disease resistances. The Willamette Valley could be much more competitive in hop production if that had happened, but the focus has been growing hops that grow better in Yakima.
How are you adapting your own beer production?
NV: We’re recalibrating, long-term, for having sourcing as local as possible be more of a long-term goal than an immediate goal. It’s a quality decision. I really wish that there was more desire within the industry and the market for Willamette Valley-grown hops at this point.
What beers and styles will you be putting out?
NV: We’re moving more towards traditionally Northwest-style ales, but we are going to continue making the malt-forward, English-style beers, but with Northwest ingredients.
When we came into this, we had big hopes we could have a dogmatic, 100 percent local product. I see us moving more toward sourcing locally even if it’s out of our way, but if we can’t source it locally, we focus on where we get the quality or organic we seek. That’s disappointing to change from our original plan, but it helps us put out a product that the market wants.
How do you want people to view Plough Monday?
NV: We want to always be an artisanal brewery.
When we bottle, the bottles will have batch numbers. We aren’t focused on every batch being the same or every bottle being the same. We are always going to tweak our recipes and processes in between batches. We want there to be a variety, because we are always changing, learning, trying new things. That makes for an interesting product, and it allows you as a consumer to have some surprise in what you’re going to have. As time goes on, we hope to have three to five flagship, regular beers, then everything else work their way around those regular beers.
I’ve farmed organically for years, and I believe in it. I believe in trying to source locally. It’s great for the economy. It’s an important thing for the community at large to have these services, this agricultural production, within the community itself. But at the end of the day, people like to eat bananas, and those can’t be grown locally. We’re learning that we have to allow ourselves more flexibility than we’ve allowed ourselves to this point.
[a] 25327 Jeans Road, Veneta
By Gail Oberst
Can we expect a hop shortage in the near future, driving Oregon IBUs down and prices for your pint up?
That was certainly the buzz a few months ago, when an article in the Wall Street Journal, followed by a lemming-like response from other writers, heralded gloom and doom for “small” brewers – producers of less than 15,000 barrels per year, thus, all but about seven of Oregon’s 170 breweries. Suggesting that a hop shortage is looming, the article warned that our beloved hoppy beers would soon cost too much for anyone to drink or give way to – Baccus forbid! – low-hop beverages like lagers or lambics or even meads and ciders.
But is there truly a nationwide – possibly world- wide – shortage brought on by your intense love of hoppy beers?
Psych! No there isn’t!
In a word, no, there’s no hop shortage, according to national and local experts.
Or to be more precise, there is no shortage of hops in the real sense, as it was in 2007-2008 when – for various reasons both environmental and economic – we suffered a real shortage, making the current situation far too mild to be called a “shortage.” But without a doubt, demand for hoppy beers has changed the market and brewers would be smart to plan.
Growers are doing their best to respond to a heavy demand for aroma hops, especially Cascades, the workhorse of the IPA and other hop-centric beers, said Nancy Sites, executive director of the Oregon Hop Commission. And they are doing a great job of it. Oregon’s potential harvest this year is nearly 800 acres more than it was last year and more than 570 of those acres are strung up with Cascades, the mother of aroma hops. Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Golding, Crystal, Mt. Hood, Perle, Sterling and Willamette all saw increases in acreage this year in Oregon. If you were a brewer counting on Nugget – currently Oregon’s largest acreage hops – you might be looking at a tight market, as acreage fell by just under 300 as demand shifts to other types. But replacement hops were plentiful. And Washington, which has 29,021 acres in hops this year (to Oregon’s has 5,559), has grown by nearly 2,000 acres since last year. “Shortage” is a word you would use when hop acreage falls from 17,000 acres to 5,700 acres, as it did in 1954. Even Idaho, with its 3,812 acres of hops, is up by more than 400 acres this year. Hardly the numbers of shortages, points out Chris Swersey of the Brewers Association.
So where does the Wall Street Journal get its idea that there’s a “shortage” of hops?
The word is sometimes used when prices rise, which they are apt to do as demand and values increase. And there has been a drop in the number of acres devoted to bittering or alpha acid hops – Galena, Nugget, Millenium — as brewers replace them with the aroma hops – Cascades and Centennials. And, as large brewers follow the consumer demand for aroma hops, those may quickly disappear from the open market, making contracts even more important for the small brewery.
The Job’s Not Done Until the Paperwork Is...
Perhaps those local brewers who chose not to enter into contracts or those newer brewers who haven’t established relationships with hop growers and distributors may find themselves short in some cases, Swersey said. More than 90 percent of Brewers Association members maintain contracts for hops, guaranteeing them product and reducing the chance of “shortages.” Many brewers establish hop contracts long before they even brew their first professional beers. These agreements are safeguards for big and small breweries, Swersey added.
In Oregon, some varieties are in short supply, but these are mostly privately licensed varieties where owners are maintaining higher prices to avoid oversupply, Sites said.
Sites said there’s reason to believe aroma hop acreage, as opposed to bittering hops, will continue to expand in 2015. “We are also trying to get a handle on how many acres are being grown in other parts of the U.S., and are still working on surveying those growers,” she said.
Doubtless, she said, the market is tight. “It sounds like ‘spot market’ hops for some varieties are a little harder to find and the price is higher right now because there aren’t a lot of ‘extras’ out there that are not spoken for in the form of contracts. Many brewers now are contracting for their hops two to three years out to ensure they get the amount and varieties that they need. Brewers that do contract usually end up paying a little less than brewers that wait to buy on the spot market,” she said.
But enough shop talk, what about my beer?
Whether rising hop prices will impact the price of your beer will depend on what kind of a business your brewery owner is running. Rogue brewers without contracts (not the brewery, which smartly grows its own hops), might find themselves paying a lot for hops and passing the cost on to you.
But, more than likely, your brewer is like Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi or Irene Firmat of Full Sail, who stay in touch by visiting Sodbuster Farms and other growers each year with a busload of curious employees and beer drinkers. Or your brewery is like McMenamins, whose team of hopped-up brewers actually makes a tradition of picking up their fresh hops straight from the grower, called “The Running of the Hops,” aimed at getting the freshest hops to the brewhouse on the same day they are stripped from the bines.
Stuff like that is unlikely to happen anywhere near Wall Street.
Which might explain some of the disconnect (I’m being kind) between Wall Street and Beervana. Let’s just say they don’t know chit about where beer comes from. But now you do. It really is a Northwest thing.
Here’s Gail’s Wall Street hint for the day: Hops, my boy. Invest in hops. And by that I mean begin your investment by accumulating those delicious resins in your belly. If there’s going to be a hop shortage, it’s up to you, Oregon drinker, to contribute to it.
By Patty Mamula
Gayle Goschie grew up on her family’s hop farm in Silverton. Summers, she was in the fields with the hand labor crews.
After high school she took off for college, attending the University of Oregon and then Portland State University, her favorite.
“That was the early 1970s. Back then women weren’t expected to choose family farming,” said Goschie.
She enjoyed the Portland urban scene and took her political science degree to a small advertising agency, where she shot photos, laid out ads, made color checks at the printer, wrote copy and did whatever else needed doing. “It was fun to be a part of that creative world, but persuading people to buy one brand over another didn’t have the soul I was looking for,” she said.
She came back to the family in 1981 and has remained. Today she is one of three women in Oregon who manage hop production on family farms out of 25 such farms in the state.
On her return, she focused on her Spanish language skills. Her improved communication increased efficiency and involvement. “It’s been so enjoyable to me to have deep personal relationships with our employees, who have been with us for a long time. To be able to have employees come back every year and know exactly what to do and take pride in their work is huge,” Goschie said.
She continues to be the main person who works with the hand labor crews, but she shares ownership and responsibility for the 1,000-acre family farm with her two brothers, Gordon and Glen.
Gayle is the face of the hop business, in charge of overall management including sales and marketing. For 35 years, their major hop customer was Anheuser-Busch. “We had a unique, personal relationship with their family. We sold our hops direct to them and exchanged visits to the farm and brewery. We hosted many of their researchers here,” Goschie said.
Then in 2008 InBev bought Anheuser. Hop contracts were cut, and the demand for Cascade hops dropped. At the same time, craft brewing was coming on strong. Gayle began doing business with Deschutes, Bridgeport, Widmer, HUB, Pelican in Pacific City, 10 Barrel, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker in California, New Belgium and Odell in Colorado. “We have customers in Wisconsin and Michigan and continue to work east,” she said.
The craft brewers have gone from being a small part of the industry, where they were accessing their hop supply casually and without contracts, to a segment that has formalized where and how to get their hops, Goschie said. Brewers have brought more emphasis on hops as an essential ingredient.
“It’s been a delight to work with them. They are so passionate about what they’re doing,” Goschie said. She told about receiving an e-mail from a local brewer that was written at 2 a.m. praising the great quality of her hops.
The connection to the buyer is crucial. “It makes us better to know what’s important to the brewer,” she said The emphasis on hop varieties, new profiles, and new varieties goes hand in hand with learning more about the growing process. Gayle works with OSU extension scientists and researchers and attends industry meetings and seminars.
“Craft brewers have thrown a big change into the industry, similar to the wine business. When you taste a chardonnay wine, you know that it’s made from a chardonnay grape. Beer consumers are very aware of IPA, Cascade hops and their many subtle nuances. There’s a re-energized emphasis on hops and consumers who want to get educated about them.”
Summers, like always, Goschie spends most days in the fields, watching how the hops grow, checking for problems and or advantages to a particular variety, assessing how complicated or well a variety grows under different conditions and practices. Fall harvest is around-the-clock controlled chaos.
Still, Gayle finds time for her favorite off-farm activity—hiking. The Columbia Gorge is where you will most often find her hiking.
As a member of the American Lung Association she trains people to climb Mt. Hood, a climb she accomplished in 2009. She made it to the summit of Mt. Rainier in 2012 and this summer plans to climb Mt. Adams, the brother to Mt. Hood in Native American legends and the one who won the heart of Mt. St. Helens.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.