By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In 1979, a little place called Home Fermenter Center opened in Eugene. Focused on winemaking and homebrewing, the shop cranked along for 35 years until 2014, when the original owner, Jim Stockton, decided to retire.
Stockton passed the reins to Jason Alderman, 43, who has lived in Eugene, off and on, since 1998. He and his wife Jennifer have been upgrading the shop and expanding offerings. In April, the Aldermans celebrated two years of fermentation as a passion and a business.
Q: What led you to take over Home Fermenter?
JA: I was a regular customer and found out the shop was for sale. I have always worked for larger companies and was ready for a change. I felt it was finally an opportunity to do something for a living that I had more passion for: fermentation.
Q: What is your background?
JA: We started playing with different ferments back in 2007 and really found ourselves enjoying making beer. Most recently, I was an operations manager at a regional distribution center for a big box home improvement company. Our distribution experience has definitely given us good experience with supply chain and with inventory levels.
Q: How does the shop support home fermenters?
JA: Prior to taking over at the Home Fermenter, the shop was heavily focused on the wine side of the business. We feel that we have the beer side caught up with the times and would now say that the beer and wine sides are evenly represented. We have sought to support the home fermenter by carrying more product to make cheese, soda, kombucha, kefir and other fermented drinks and foods.
Q: How do you and your wife split the day-to-day duties?
JA: Jennifer has taken a big role with the wine, cider, kombucha and fermented food side of the operations. She has been experimenting with different ingredients and techniques to be able to share her experiences. I tend to be more of the go-to for the beer and draft departments. As a team, we keep everything going and keep a strong focus on customer service.
Q: What have been the ups and downs of the past two years?
JA: Being able to bring new life to the shop has been rewarding. It's great hearing customer feedback that we are taking the shop in the right direction. Being able to talk about fermentation most of the day is also an up.
A down is not having the time to brew as much as I like. We had to sell and buy a house last year to cut down on our commuting time. Now that we are settled, some of that time for brewing will be coming back.
Q: What have you been changing?
JA: We are currently rebranding. We are removing the "Center" from the name and going forward with Home Fermenter. This year, we are planning on getting the building painted and new signage.
We recently purchased a new electric house grain mill with a 60-pound hopper, as well as a new vacuum-sealing machine. We will be repacking hops and sealing them with a nitrogen flush. We have added new items to inventory, most of them being beer-related. Later this year, we plan on switching out the store fixtures and giving everything a needed update.
One large project currently going on is improving our website, homefermenter.com. We hope to turn on our online store this year.
Q: What are your thoughts on Eugene’s craft beer and homebrew communities?
JA: I love Eugene's and Springfield's craft beer scene. It's great to see the collaborations and support that the local breweries give each other. I have had the opportunity to attend a few of the Cascade Brewers Society club meetings over the last year. There's a great group of brewers over there, and I've picked up good information on improving brewing every time I visit.
Taking over the Home Fermenter was a big leap for us, but we are glad that we took that jump. It's great being able to follow some passion in life and being able to work with people with the same passions. We are thankful for the opportunities and thankful for our wonderful customers. Their support and sincere feedback and comments have been most valuable as we go through this journey. We are thankful to be a part of the homebrew community and look forward to it for many years to come.
[a] 123 Monroe St., Eugene
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.