McMinnville might be in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country, but two new production breweries are a reminder that brewing innovation is alive and well there, too. Evasion Brewing is focused on creating gluten-free beers that anyone can enjoy. Allegory Brewing is producing ales and lagers based on experimentation and adjuncts, with a focus on unique, limited-release beers instead of flagships.
Evasion is a family-based project, with big goals to bring high-quality, gluten-free beers to all craft beer lovers, not just those who need to avoid the gluten present in barley and wheat.
“Everyone involved in the brewery had been related for years prior to Evasion Brewing even being an idea, either through blood or marriage,” says Evan Lapp, who manages sales and marketing and assists in the brewery. He co-founded Evasion along with his older brother Erik Lapp, who serves as president, and their father Craig Lapp, who is in charge of purchasing. “Half our family has different degrees of gluten intolerance, so we were acutely aware of the lack of GF options in the beer world.”
Of the approximately 230 brewing companies in Oregon, only a couple are dedicated to producing 100-percent gluten-free beers as their full lineup. Head brewer Ben Acord was working at a brewery in San Diego when he and the Lapps started kicking around the idea of good-tasting, diverse, world-class beers that could help people “evade gluten.”
“Evasion Brewing was created to make beers everyone can enjoy,” said the brewery in a September email announcing that their beer was available, “and help those of us with dietary restrictions or celiac disease to evade the gluten that stops us from drinking the quality beers we’ve been missing.”
Focusing on millet as their primary brewing grain, Evasion currently offers 10 beers on tap and four in bottles at the McMinnville tasting room. The business is also self-distributing at a growing number of locations in Oregon. Along with plans to expand distribution to Washington, the Lapps are developing an online shop and beer club for Oregon customers.
Evasion’s three core beers are Hophoria IPA (brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops), Blonde Ale and Tantamount Stout. A second flagship IPA, Hoptensity, is in development “to balance the lighter, fruitier Hophoria,” says Lapp. Seasonal and limited-release beers will be available too, such as a fall seasonal Belgian dark strong ale, a cold brew and toasted coconut stout, and two farmhouse ales.
A distillery that produces gluten-free whiskey has provided barrels to Evasion for aging an imperial stout and Belgian dark strong ale. These will be part of an ongoing “Mill and Barrel” series of specialty beers, which will also include wine barrel-aged saisons fermented with wine juice from area vineyards.
Along with respect for the Willamette Valley’s wine country, McMinnville is in the Lapp’s blood. “We are a family of machinists and have been for five generations going all the way back to Germany,” says Lapp. “Our machine shop has been in McMinnville for 12 years now, and our current building is 30,000 square feet.” The Lapps walled off 10 percent of the space and fitted it out as a 7-barrel brewery. With a 2018 production goal of 500 barrels, Evasion is committed to its accounts and tasting room while they dial in production and distribution.
“McMinnville is getting better and better every year,” says Lapp. “The wine culture is strong in this valley, driving a lot of tourism and even influencing some of our beers. We’re happy to be here.”
Looking ahead at how Evasion can fill an unmet need in the market, Lapp is excited for the gluten-free brewery’s future. “There are only nine dedicated gluten-free breweries in the U.S. I believe five of those are in the Pacific Northwest,” he explains. “We’re at the heart of what I think is going to be a major shift in the market in the next five-plus years.”
Lapp sees parallels with the resurgence of cider in this country. “Ten years ago, how many bars could you walk into that had a dedicated cider tap? Not many,” he says. “Once cider culture retook its hold in the States, better ciders popped up and now every bar has a cider line. It’s the same story with GF food options in restaurants. We feel gluten-free beer has the same potential. With how many people are gluten intolerant, it’s inevitable that better options for GF beer will be popping up and taking hold in restaurants and bars … We hope to be one of the breweries that is making that happen by trying new and interesting things with beer. For us, that’s what craft beer is about.”
Allegory co-founders Charlie Van Meter and David Sanguinetti met through a mutual friend, Josh Grgas, (previously of Portland’s now-defunct The Commons Brewery). Sanguinetti, who also founded McMinnville’s The Bitter Monk taproom in 2014, was building out a brewery concept with a consultant. Van Meter’s resume includes Portland’s Sasquatch Brewing, Hood River’s Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and Yachats Brewing — and in May 2017 Van Meter announced that he and his wife were relocating.
Allegory had a soft opening this summer, showcasing collaboration beers while they completed their 7-barrel brewhouse. Sanguinetti manages overall business and operations, and Van Meter is in charge of brewing and production. Allegory recently brought on Alison Burns, formerly of Boneyard Beer and Ninkasi Brewing, as a sales and marketing manager to expand Allegory’s distribution and market presence.
“Once we were operational, we immediately started brewing fresh-hop beers,” says Sanguinetti. Their inaugural !!!Fresh Pints!!! was a sour ale featuring Crosby Hop Farm Centennials. Along with other hop-forward and farmhouse styles, Van Meter “caught the last of fruit season” for some beers that Allegory is now aging in oak in a cellar that now has more than 40 barrels.
Allegory has been learning their system and dialing in their process and is starting 2018 with its first push for growth and production. “We have set out to brew a variety of inspired high-quality ales and the occasional lager,” says Sanguinetti. “As of now, we do not intend on having flagship beers, rather a framework of product line inspirations.”
Van Meter plans to focus on “nimble” production, allowing seasonality, geography, agriculture, experimentation and innovation to lead them through brews with “different adjunct ingredients and hops that come available and use them all in a wide variety of styles and processes.” Many beers will be aged in wood for six to 24 months. Allegory also plans to release fresh beers in cans, along with bottle-conditioned, mixed-culture beers.
“Allegory was thoughtfully designed with strong bones and no excessive frills (except the LED color-changing lights in the barrel room),” says Sanguinetti, “so that it can grow with consumer demand.”
A native of Yamhill County, Sanguinetti grew up with a passion for beer and a dream “to open a brewery in wine country where there is still a building beer culture, but lots of interest and tourism.” Also a native Oregonian, Van Meter liked McMinnville’s more rural setting — and the opportunity for opening a brewery in an area steeped in brewing knowledge and artisan inspiration.
“Clean, consistent water, barrels from wineries and distillers, vineyards, fruit and nut orchards, and hop farms are all at our doorstep,” says Sanguinetti. “For what we want to accomplish as a brewery, McMinnville and the surrounding area is a gold mine.”
Currently averaging two brew days per week, Allegory aims to produce more than 500 barrels during 2018. However, they have their eye on a larger production goal of 1,000 barrels, says Sanguinetti, “depending on how much is produced for the oak cellar and how many more tanks we land into our stainless cellar.”
Allegory’s focus is “to remain a smaller, boutique/artisanal brewery,” adds Sanguinetti. “We plan on staying self-distributed in Oregon and expanding the same into Washington. We also hope to have a small, curated presence in California built around collaborations and festivals. Over the next five years and beyond, we look forward to continuing to build relationships with our local farmers and makers, the beer community locally and nationally and, of course, our customers and fans.” •