The first buzz-worthy new brewery opening of 2015 — Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery is truly in a rustic barnhouse setting just 25 minutes out of Portland on the historic Springbrook Farm. The Wolves & People brewery will focus on sour and funky, spontaneous and barrel-aged beers and is the brainchild of noted beer writer Christian de Benedetti (The Great American Ale Trail, Weekly Pint etc.). If that’s not buzz worthy enough then bringing former Jester King Brewing Head Brewer Jordan Keeper to the team surely helps and collaborations with former Hill Farmstead brewer Dan Suarez, Portland’s The Commons and nationally known brewers such as Evil Twin, The Bruery and Boulevard will only increase anticipation.
For Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery founder Christian de Benedetti the brewery is a culmination of over twenty years homebrewing with old roots dating even further back to his childhood growing up with his four older brothers. Christian was actually raised on this farmland in Newberg, Oregon that is to become the brewery. As children Christian and his brothers would joke that they were raised by wolves, “We had a lot of freedom to roam out here growing up here on the farm.” It’s rare that as an adult you have the chance to revisit your childhood games again as a career but in this instance that’s exactly the genesis of Wolves & People Brewery, a childhood game played like this – “It’s simple: The “people” try to get to one side of the farm and back without being tagged by the “wolf” (and then turn into wolves). The last person to be tagged wins, and the game resets. It’s fun being a wolf; it’s fun running from one. It’s really about zooming around at high speeds in complete darkness. Kind of like launching a brewery.” The roots of Wolves & People run deep with old roots and multiple layers of meaning “the latin name for hops is humulus lupulus, which means “little wolf among weeds.”
Wolves & People Brewery will primarily be making “wild” ales with a proprietary house strain of wild yeast propogated from the oldest plum tree on the farm. Inspiration and an obsession with wild and wood aged beers struck Christian on his first visit to Brasserie Cantillon in 1997 where owner/brewer Jean Van Roy keeps the tradition of spontaneously fermented lambic ales alive. Since that trip Christian has returned to Cantillon learning and carefully considering his own brewery . A key element of Wolves & People is that proprietary yeast that was first proved viable in a collaboration brew with Portland’s The Commons Brewery which will be the first release. Brewed at The Commons first with W & P’s yeast the beer has been aging over a year in barrels with plums from the farm. Along with two other fruited barrel-aged sours that may be blended they will comprise the initial commercial offerings of Wolves & People and set the tone for mixed fermentations, wood aging, wild yeast and of course blending. The farm is turning out to be a great place for sourcing ingredients from the house yeast to their own hops and even “a pristine well with a moderate, ideal profile for brewing multiple styles. We envision plenty of saison, grisette, various American wild ales, Flemish reds, bruins, dubbels, tripels, maybe some quads and stouts, and who knows what else we’ll get up to?”
Like Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and Agrarian Ales in Oregon the Wolves & People Brewery is set on a real working farm with perhaps the most historic legacy of any of them. Set in just off of 99W and Benjamin Road the historic Springbrook Farm features a barn built in 1912 that houses the new brewery. Christian painstakingly researched the history of the barn learning “it has been home to horses, a winery (J.K. Carriere, 1999 to 2009 or so), an oak barrel cooperage (Oregon Barrel Works, formerly Francois Freres d’Oregon), our filbert drying production.” One of the most interesting facts he learned is about a Bavarian named Sebastian Brutscher who settled on the land around 1850 and grew oats wheat and hops and sowing the seeds of the brewery over 160 years in advance. Today the farm is 21.5 acres and will make an expansive and beautiful setting for the future brewery tasting room. Highlights include a large natural pond ringed with bamboo and iris, walking paths and large old pine, fruit and maple trees – “It’s not unusual to see coyote, deer, blue heron, huge raptors, red-wing blackbirds, and other living things outside.” Once the brewery operation is up and running the tasting room will become the place to sample their beers and take home growlers, 375ml and 750ml bottles.
Christian de Benedetti is a busy well employed beer writer, when not putting together his weekly national craft beer newsletter the Weekly Pint he is writing articles for the likes of The New York Times and Esquire, releasing a book (2011’s The Great American Ale Trail) or moderating beer seminars at this week’s Feast. I could not help but wonder if the Wolves & People Brewery marked the end of his writing career; “I’m still writing every single day and couldn’t ever stop entirely. It is a shift in focus and timing; you can’t build a brewery while sitting behind a desk, but I’m still very fortunate to be writing for many publications.” It also turns out that before he was a writer he studied brewing, earning a grant after college he studied brewing in Europe and West Africa for a year. He worked low-level jobs at breweries, wineries and barrel cooperage for experience after returning to the U.S. before finding he could get paid to write.“I moved to NYC two days before 9/11. It was never easy, but I learned so much.Today I have written two books on beer, and I hope to write more! But I’ve always wanted to get back to production. Hopefully this project will lend itself to some colorful new writing material.”
With a 6bbl brewhouse and four 7bbl fermenters sourced used from Heater-Allen Brewing in Mcminnville and 32 wine barrels in the cellar the Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery is well on it’s way but has a few more hurdles to clear. They would like to source another 70-80 wine barrels asap, they need more funding to pay for excavation work, floor repairs, glycol chiller, steam boiler and a manual bottling line among other things. They want to build a Koelschip (Cool-Ship) for spontaneous ferments in the barn. Coming soon is a CrowdBrewed funding campaign and kicking off test batches in the next 90 days or so. Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery plans to be releasing their first commercial beer in early 2015. Follow their progress on social media and check back on The New School for updates as we closely follow the most anticipated new Oregon brewery opening of 2015.