At a San Francisco gala in January, three Oregon breweries and one cidery were among the 19 Oregon-based food and beverage companies whose quality products, community outreach and sustainable business practices earned them Good Food Awards.
Out of 199 winners from more than 30 states, 15 breweries were recognized in the beer category. Oregon winners included Falling Sky Brewing (Dreadnut Tropical Stout), Ninkasi Brewing Company (Pacific Rain Pale), WildCraft Cider Works (Sage) and Full Sail Brewing Company (Amber Ale). Previous Oregon winners have also included Rogue Ales, Deschutes Brewery and Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB).
Organized each year by the Good Food Foundation, the 2018 GFAs were selected by 277 judges in 15 categories out of 2,057 entries submitted nationwide. Winners received their medals from Alice Waters (chef, restaurateur, activist, author and owner of Chez Panisse, the renowned Berkeley, Calif. restaurant) and Nell Newman (environmentalist, biologist, supporter of sustainable agriculture and founder of organic food production company Newman’s Own).
Criteria for the beer category included a focus on local manufacturing, use of traditional and creative brewing and fermenting methods, a mission to redefine consumer expectations for beer craftsmanship, work to reshape supply chains and promote responsible ingredient sourcing, and conservation and community outreach activities that promoted resource conservation and support of the brewery’s local community.
Chairs for the five-person beer committee were John Herbstritt, a Bay Area wine professional, and Cole Emde, owner and head brewer for San Francisco’s Black Sands Brewery. The eight judges included Lucy Burningham, Portland resident and author of “My Beer Year;” Otto Fung of California hop farm Hops-Meister; Regan Long, head brewer at Local Brewing Co.; and Peggy Smith, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery.
“We’re so excited to win the 2018 Good Food Award for our Dreadnut Stout,” says Rob Cohen, co-founder and co-owner of Falling Sky, which has three locations in Eugene. “It can’t be a better honor for us than being recognized for a truly delicious product that supports sustainability and social good.”
Dreadnut was tongue-in-cheek “inspired by our lead brewer’s ‘hard work’ while in Jamaica.” The 7.6% ABV foreign export stout is noted for its roasty and sweet coconut aromas, and a body that uses coconut sugar to bring treacle and molasses notes, enhancing a “creamy coffee finish.”
In addition to a blind tasting held by the judges in September 2017, winners had to pass “rigorous vetting to confirm they meet award standards regarding supply chain transparency, environmentally sound agricultural practices, humane animal husbandry and community engagement.” Winners were then selected for the 15 categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, cider, coffee, confections, elixirs, fish, honey, oils, pantry, pickles, preserves and spirits.
“It is rare that an award takes into account everything the making of a beer requires,” says Ali AAsum. The communications director for Ninkasi also attended the gala. “This is why the Good Food Awards mean so much to us; not only is it about the taste of the beer, but the environmental and social impacts that beer has on the communities around it.”
Ninkasi focuses on the details, taking “many small steps” that add up to big impacts, such as constantly working to further save water and energy. Ninkasi also sources ingredients as locally as possible, and their national donations program, Beer Is Love, works with nonprofits in every state where Ninkasi distributes. The 2018 honor is Ninkasi’s third Good Food Awards recognition, including awards from 2014 and 2015.
“The awards brought together hundreds of the best food and beverage producers — it was nothing short of inspiring,” says AAsum. “I was thrilled to see so many Oregon and Eugene companies awarded for their commitments to producing sustainable, quality products.” By supporting the nation’s sustainable food movement, the Good Food Foundation says award winners “represent not just the best of America’s food movement, but the qualities we love most about this country: our rich cultural diversity, vibrant agricultural landscape and the creativity and integrity of its small business owners.”
For Falling Sky, it’s a recognition of the priorities put to work in their everyday operations. “We try to achieve these goals in everything we do,” says Cohen. “Being recognized on a national level with other such amazing companies was truly gratifying.” •