|Falling Sky's Brewhouse being delivered - Photo via Facebook|
To my mind there are two things you can do as an aspiring brewery owner to help your place have success in a bad economic climate and an oversaturated market. Both Bull Ridge and Falling Sky are following both of these by A) Opening in an area with less brewery density that is perhaps under served and B) Opening as an above-average brewpub model, wherein beer can be primarily sold in house rather than having to rely on highly contested taps at bars and restaurants.
Of course, there is no accounting for other factors, like quality, timing, location, marketing, and luck.
Baker City is a small town in eastern Oregon that found its spot on the beer geek map when Shawn Kelso and Barley Browns Brewpub started racking up medals and a reputation for zymurgical brilliance. Soon we will have another reason to make the trek out east, with the recent opening of Bull Ridge Brew Pub. I talked to one of the owners, Brewer Walter Bourque, about what visitors could expect.
"Well the concept behind the pub is support local/Oregon as much as possible. We source the food as local as we can, meaning meats from Ontario, and at the beginning of the year a local rancher here in Baker, and fruits and veggies from local farmers. Beer-wise, hops from Oregon (depending on style) and malts from the northwest (again style dependent). I have a rye pale ale (hopefully the flagship, but time will tell) that I use locally grown rye from Stein Distillery in Joseph. They produce a fantastic rye whisky that I plan on using some barrels for aging, as well as Keating Valley Vineyards, a new local vineyard, whose used wine barrels I'll be using, as well as some of the grapes."
Bull Ridge Brew Pub is currently open serving what I hear is tasty food, along with 8 guest taps and over 90 bottles. The brewery has not yet been installed, but Walter's test batches have had good word of mouth. When Bull Ridge's own taps come online they don't plan to take over the guest taps, but instead will add even more lines. Walter says it is not just about his beer but about creating the environment for good beer. If customers don't like his beer he hopes to have something else for them. As far as food they, want to start doing beer dinners and are not afraid to use a beer that will pair better with a dish than one of their own. Speaking of their own beers, I was really curious what kind of beers Walter planned to be making. I will just let him do the talking, as you can tell his passion just from his writing, and he has plenty to say about the subject:
"Stylistically speaking for the beers, the sky is the limit. Other than the previously discussed rye, the lineup will be standard with a golden ale, an IPA, a Bavarian style hefe, a porter, and 2 rotators. The hefe will be dual and "seasonal", meaning that depending on what fruit is in season is what I'm going to add to half the batch. Again the fruit is sourced from Eagle Creek Orchards in Richland, a 100% certified USDA organic orchard. With my passion for microbiology and a degree in it from Texas A&M, I have a saison yeast strain that I've been culturing for years that I'll have during the warmer months due to the fact I cultured it to ferment in elevated temps, the Texas heat so to speak. I plan on also doing an Imperial IPA single hop series. The reason i decided to go "imperial" with the single hop series is i want to overload the hop flavor so you can truly understand the nuances of the majesty of the hop. I managed to get ahold of a local Lactic culture from Ted Hausotter. One of his beers accidentally soured beautifully, and I got a culture of that that I plan on doing wonderful things with. I've also loved the idea of a "movable yeast series", meaning taking a standard in the lineup and splitting it over the normal yeast and a different yeast; think rye over the Hefe yeast and vice versa. This is to educate the public of the importance of yeast and just to add some fun for me to play with styles. I know some may transfer over beautifully, like Belgian dubbel and barleywine, and some will suck, but some surprises are definitely going to happen."
This all sounds wonderful and certainly renews my interest in making a trip to Baker City in the near future.
Falling Sky Brewing is a new project from the folks behind Eugene's beloved Valley Vintner & Brewer homebrew shop (to be renamed Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop) and Jason Carriere. When Mr. Carriere received this year's Glen Hay Falconer Foundation scholarship, he mentioned his plans to open a new brewpub in Eugene. Today that dream is very close to becoming a reality with the recent delivery of a new 8.5 barrel Albrecht brewhouse from Germany that most recently resided in Japan.
Mr. Carriere recently completed training at the Siebel Institute's Concise Course and brings his new experience to the brew team at Falling Sky, which got its name from one of their original homebrews, Falling Sky Juniper Rye. The new brewpub is being built right next to the existing homebrew shop, and they hope to have lots of crossover customers and a true brewpub model. They plan to have their own handcrafted sodas available in addition to their beers, plus locally roasted coffees, farm fresh foods from a local farmers market vendor and catering specialist, and hopefully a locally-made wine blend served straight from a barrel.
Falling Sky will concentrate on perfecting the experience of beer halls in Munich and neighborhood pubs in London, with a low-key, casual, cozy, and convivial space that will have a heavy emphasis on the local, homegrown, and handcrafted. They will have large communal style tables meant to promote conversation and community. Most beer will be kept in house, with standards like pale ales, IPAs, and Imperial IPAs brewed on the impressive Albrecht system, which is steam-fired and has a combination mash/boil kettle, so it is capable of step-mashing and decoction. A 1 barrel pilot system will allow them to play around, brewing lagers, Belgian ales, English bitters, and any number of different styles from around the world.
If all goes as planned, they expect to be receiving TTB approval any day now and have the brewery installed in 2-3 weeks. They have already comfortably scheduled their Grand Opening party a ways out for Friday, January 13, 2012. I am looking forward to another place to stop and grab both some grub and a beer in Eugene.
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Falling Sky Brewing.
1334 Oak Alley. Eugene, OR 97401.