South of Portland: Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene
Well, I don't need to tell you that Ninkasi (www.ninkasibrewing.com) is a brewing company in Eugene. If you haven't heard of them or tried their beers, then you don't live in the Northwest. With beers like Total Domination, Sleigh'r, and Tricerahops, the company is anything but shy about their brewery or their beer.
Started in 2006, Jamie Floyd and business partner Nikos Ridge began contract brewing in the space that Hop Valley Brewing now occupies in Springfield (formerly Spencer's Restaurant and Brewhouse followed by Sofia's Restaurant and Bavarian Brewery). Quickly reaching their maximum production levels, Jamie and Nikos moved into their own space in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. And they didn't stop growing.
Jamie must have closed his eyes and covered his ears, ignoring the recent and devastating recession. In the last two years, the company has grown from 2 employees to 37, now including benefits (and a 1 barrel brewing system for the employees to "play with"). The maximum production at their contract space was 1600 Barrels per year in 2006 and the output at the end of 2010 is estimated to be 32,000 Barrels. But that's not enough for Ninkasi, whose current brewery remodeling will raise the capacity to 90,000 Barrels annually. The expansion also includes a new Krones bottling line capable of filling 240 bottles per minute.
Currently, Ninkasi's flagship is their Total Domination IPA (6.7% ABV, 65 IBUs), which makes up about 60% of their total bottle production. Other standards include:
- Tricerahops Double IPA: 8.8% ABV, 100+ IBUs.
- Believer Double Red: 6.9% ABV, 60 IBUs.
- Quantum Pale Ale: 5.6% ABV, 35 IBUs.
- Oatis Oatmeal Stout: 7.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.
- Radiant Summer Ale: 6%% ABV, 40 IBUs.
- Spring Reign: 6% ABV, 38 IBUs.
- Sleigh'R: 7.2% ABV, 50 IBUs.
- Maiden the Shade
Ninkasi beer is beginning to appear all over the Northwest and beyond in bottles and draft. But this outward distribution growth into other regions isn't a reflection of their core principal of local community. While wider distribution helps pay the bills, the focus of Jamie and Nikos, and by extension the company, is focused very locally. No matter what their size, Jamie will always see Ninkasi as the village brewery and an integral part of their community. By concentrating on regional sourcing as well as supporting local arts and direct community activism, the brewery and the employees are living out this philosophy. One promoted idea at Zwickelmania is upcycling. Where recycling is grinding everything down into a uniform substance of lesser value to be used as a new base material, upcycling is getting to the products sooner and trying to turn them into something of more value. "Upcycling refers to reusing an object in a new way without degrading the material it is made from, as opposed to recycling which generally involves breaking down the original material and making it into something else, using more energy," (from Trash or Treasure? Upcycling becomes growing green trend on Reuters).
Philosophy, education, and community: the ingredients in every Ninkasi beer.
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