The State of Suds

The craft brew renaissance is in full bloom here in Eugene and Springfield, and nothing makes this sudsy success more clear than looking at local breweries and what they’ve been up to.

Agrarian Ales

Agrarian Ales is a brewery with a mission: to use locally sourced ingredients native to North America whenever possible — and make delicious beer. Recently Agrarian helped sponsor the Above and Beyond Monsanto march, bringing its Indigenous lager to prove what’s possible in the realm of local, non-GMO brews.

“That particular beer is a very good example,” says co-owner Ben Tilley. “It exemplifies what we’re trying to do as a whole, to really be a completely locally based business through and through.”

Agrarian makes the chili-corn lager with certified organic heirloom Dakota Black corn from Lonesome Whistle Farm, as well as Guajillo and Royal Black chiles from Tilley’s parents’ Crossroads Farm.

Agrarian is also embarking on its first small-bottling project. “It will be really small runs,” Tilley says, “and we’ll be doing the Belgian-style corked bottles to sell small batches of some unique stuff that will have a good shelf life in the bottle.” The brewery is aiming to release its first run later this year.

Fans of the brewery, located just north of Coburg, can be a part of making the brews. The annual hops-picking party in August gives participants the chance to gather some of the 10 varieties Agrarian grows on its farm, which has a hops-growing tradition dating back 150 years.

Claim 52 Brewing

Since 2012, Claim 52 has been serving up its suds from a warehouse on Tyinn Street, as well as from numerous bars and taprooms around town, where favorites Claim 52 Kolsch and Admiral of the Red have caused quite the buzz.

Co-owner and brewer Trevor Ross says he’s especially proud of the small-bottling project Claim 52 ran with Belgian dark strong ale Olivia 9, named for Ross’ daughter. “We took a little bit of it and told people to come taste the young beer while we were bottling the beer that we sold later that year, and people could buy futures of it at that time,” Ross says. “It got us to see that that would work, and that there was a need for specialty high-gravity stuff in the community.”

The demand for Claim 52 brews led the company to hire assistant brewer Joe Buppert, and now the brewery is open for expanded summer hours, 4 to 7 pm Thursdays, 4 to 9 pm Fridays and 2 to 7 pm Saturdays.

“We’ve just about grown ourselves to our capacity of production in terms of how much beer we can actually make,” Ross says. “We’re possibly entertaining another tap room offsite, and we’re also eyeing expansion.”

Falling Sky Brewing

Welcome to the laboratory: Falling Sky, now with a brewpub, deli and home brew shop, is planning to make more than 100 unique styles of beer this year.

Co-owner Rob Cohen says Falling Sky is able to create such a variety because it’s not a production brewery. “Our brewers tweak recipes, and we can try a lot of different things without as much pressure to do large-scale production,” he says. All of that experimentation rotates through the brewery’s 20 taps.

Now Falling Sky is readying to host 150 brewers and beer aficionados during the Sasquatch Brewers Dinner June 6 at the Pour House Delicatessen. “For us it’s a huge opportunity to do a pretty amazing brewers dinner, and I think our space is going to be just perfect for it,” Cohen says.

The blossoming craft beer culture — and the many brewery openings that have followed — doesn’t worry the folks at Falling Sky. “We just think the more brewers the better,” Cohen says. “Some people are so nervous about more and more breweries opening up, but we think it’s just piqued interest more and more.”

Hop Valley Brewing

It’s been an award-winning year for Hop Valley, with two bronze medals at the 2014 World Beer Cup. Double D Blonde won bronze in the American Wheat category for the third time, and Citrus Mistress IPA took bronze in the American IPA category.

“The World Beer Cup is considered the ‘Beer Olympics,’ and to win medals there is a true testament to our brewing team and their commitment to quality and innovation,” says Partner and Director of Sales and Marketing Walter MacBeth.

This comes in the same year that Hop Valley opened an expansive indoor-outdoor location in the Whit, and it’s not done growing. “We are looking at expanding our reach into neighboring Western states,” MacBeth says. “We will be adding production capacity in August and September to make this a reality.”

In addition to growing its production, Hop Valley plans to start a barrel-aging program. “The basement of the Eugene Production Brewery provides perfect cellar conditions for barrel aging beer,” MacBeth says. “We have several down there now and are excited to add more.”

McKenzie Brewing Co./ Steelhead Brewery

McKenzie Brewing Co. is the outside sales line of Steelhead Brewery (they had to grab an additional name due to trademark issues), which makes it a stalwart microbrewery at 23 years old.

Brewer Ted Fagan says McKenzie Brewing has been hard at work this year on bottling and distribution. “We’re hoping to get a production brewery going here within the next year,” he says. “We’re unfortunately not quite there yet. We’re looking to reach capacity here by the summertime in our current facility and we’re looking to expand.”

Fagan adds that McKenzie Brewing wants to open a production facility at an additional location in Eugene, and ideally they’ll do that within the next year. “Things tend to move a little slowly, though,” he says. “Other than that we’re selling a lot of kegs of our Hopasaurus Rex IPA, our Hazy Hef and Twisted Meniscus IPA, as well as various other seasonals.”

If it’s food that beer lovers are looking for, Fagan says a stop at Steelhead is a smart idea. “We’re getting some changes done in the kitchen, revamping the menu at the restaurant right now and getting some wonderful new food out there.”

McMenamins High Street

The McMenamins chain is 65 locations strong, with three in Eugene, but only High Street brews its own beers. Brewer Hanns Anderson took the helm at High Street two years ago. “Being a relatively new brewer, I learned a lot that first year, and now it’s starting to come together for me,” he says. “I’m pretty proud of the quality of my beers. I’ve been getting better and better.”

Anderson says he’s especially pleased with this season’s Grandma Betty’s Quilted IPA, for which he’s adjusted the recipe and switched hops since last year. He also makes the McMenamins “big four,” the Hammerhead Ale, the Ruby Ale, the Terminator Stout and a rotating seasonal. “Those are the recipes they give me, and everything else is entirely up to me,” he says.

With those recipes and the financial backing of McMenamins, Anderson says he has a lot of freedom. “It’s great in the sense that I have full autonomy. The downside is that for about eight months of the year I’m extremely busy,” he says. “But this is such a good town to make beer in. We’ve got a really supportive beer community and brewer community. It’s just really special.”

Ninkasi Brewing

Ninkasi Brewing, already the area’s largest brewery, had a banner year, completing an expansion that more than doubled its brewing capacity and added to its office and hosting space. The company also focused on distribution, making Nevada its seventh state.

Co-founder and CEO Nikos Ridge says that finishing the expansion is a major milestone two years in the making. “Now we’ll focus on stabilizing after a couple years in flux with all this construction,” he says.

But Ninkasi isn’t resting on its laurels. Instead, it has big plans for their bigger facility. “We just released our Prismatic Lager series this year,” Ridge says. “Due to our expanded capacity, we can now make lagers on a year-round basis. We’ll continue to expand on our R&D, which is our single-batch Rare and Delicious series, as well as continue our single-hop beer explorations, and continue to go from there.”

Oakshire Brewing

In its first year in the Whit, Oakshire co-founder Jeff Althouse says there are two things he’s most proud of: “It’s making some of the best beer in the world — and having a great time doing it — and taking care of our customers in the public house.”

Those are qualities that Oakshire has been consistent about over the past year, releasing brews on Tuesdays, hosting food trucks and holding the inaugural Hellshire Day & Barrel-Aged Beer Fest, which packed the tasting room and outdoor covered areas despite the rainy February weather.

Althouse says he’s especially proud of a brew that recently earned rave reviews on DC Beer’s 2014 “Can’t Miss Beer List,” the Hermanne 1882. Part of the Brewers’ Reserve series, the Hermanne 1882 is a Belgian golden ale blended with Muller-Thurgau grapes and aged in pinot noir barrels. “We’ll be releasing it Tuesday of Eugene Beer Week,” Althouse says. “It’s pretty unique in the way it’s produced. It uses the addition of grape juice and has a really dry effervescent flavor. We’re trying to make a beer that had that bright champagne character to it.”

Althouse says Oakshire has a number of projects in the works, including a number of small-batch beers to be released during the summer, and bike-focused events.

Plank Town Brewing

Springfield’s Plank Town Brewing served up its first batch just over a year ago, and the brewery has been hard at work, securing a strong reputation for its cask ales and winning Oregon Beer Growler’s Civil War Beer Tasting with its Riptooth IPA.

But to brewer John Crane, hosting a packed house for Plank Town’s Cask Ale Festival is its shining accomplishment. “We had seven, eight different casks on tap from local breweries and ourselves,” he says. “That’s one of my personal passions around here, getting the word out about cask ales.”

The next year is looking even busier. Point Blank Distribution, a company that does business with breweries worldwide, has started working with Plank Town. “And we’re going to add a 20-barrel fermenter and pick up our production a little bit, and so we’ll have a bunch more interesting beers,” Crane adds.

For now, the Plank Town crew is working on a beer in honor of Glen Falconer, the longtime Eugene brewer whose legacy the Sasquatch Brew Fest celebrates each year. “The beer itself is going to be an old-ale style, really malty, chewy, a bunch of bigger flavors, crystal or caramel flavors,” Crane says. “It’s not about the hops in this beer; it’s about the malt.”

Sam Bond’s Brewing

While Sam Bond’s Garage has been a staple of Eugene’s bar scene since 1995, Sam Bond’s Brewing at the Foundry quietly enjoyed its soft open May 29 in a building that partially dates back to the 1800s. “We really are enjoying how the tasting room came out,” says co-owner Mark Jaeger. But that’s not the only place you can enjoy the 10 brews Sam Bond’s has at the ready. The Garage is serving them, and they’re beginning to pop up around town, including tastings at Cornucopia during Beer Week.

The 10-barrel brewery pays tribute to its architectural heritage by displaying artifacts found during renovation under the bar glass. There are metal parts and paper invoices dating back to at least 1935. “They’ve even pulled out fire hydrants around Eugene that say ‘The Foundry’ on them,” Jaeger says.

Sam Bond’s will install a kitchen at the Foundry  eventually, but for now food trucks will keep them satiated. Jaeger says customers can look forward to the grand opening slated for some time in June, when there will be live music and food. Keep an eye on the Sam Bond’s Brewing Facebook page for the particulars.

Viking Braggot

Braggots might be novel to beer fans, but they have a history going back to medieval Europe, when Chaucer wrote about them, and beyond to ancient times. Niche brewery Viking Braggot opened its doors in the summer of 2013 and began pouring the drinks, which are a combination of mead and beer.

On top of the many local taps listed on its website, Viking Braggot can now be found at a few locations in Corvallis and one in Portland.

Co-owner Daniel McTavish is most excited about what’s on the horizon. “We’re going to be bottling soon,” he says. “That will allow us to be in more places, in markets, which is really cool.”

In addition to bottling, Viking Braggot is getting ready to release barrel-aged braggots in the next few months. “We got some Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon barrels and we also have King Estate pinot noir barrels,” McTavish says. “You brew the braggots how you normally would, but you put it into the wine or bourbon barrels, and they sit in there anywhere from 10 months to a year and a half.” He adds that the process gives the braggots a whole new flavor.