One of Oregon’s newest breweries opened quietly on Friday, November 24, right after the Thanksgiving holiday. Evasion Brewing is located just outside of central McMinnville, and joins Ground Breaker Brewing and Moonshrimp Brewing of Portland, and Ghostfish of Seattle, as one of the few Pacific Northwest breweries dedicated to making 100% gluten-free beers. Understand, there are approximately 600 breweries in Oregon and Washington combined, so four breweries producing gluten-free beer (plus at least one other producing gluten-reduced beer) doesn’t exactly make for a crowded field. Gluten-free brewing is primarily characterized by the approach to ingredients. Seattle’s Ghostfish, and now, McMinnville’s Evasion Brewing, use an alternative-grains approach, using millet, rice, buckwheat, and other low-gluten or gluten-free grains to create a beer that has a close – sometimes, nearly indistinguishable – resemblance as possible to conventional beers brewed with malted barley, wheat, rye, and other grains with gluten. Portland’s Ground Breaker, in contrast, uses an alternative-ingredients approach, with ingredients not commonly used in brewing, like chestnuts and lentils. In both cases, the idea is to use gluten-free ingredients, whatever their provenance, to create beverages similar to conventional beers, but suitable for people with gluten-related health issues to drink.
It was these types of health issues that inspired the owners – Erik Lapp (president), Craig Lapp (purchasing), and Evan Lapp (sales and marketing) – to choose the gluten-free category for Evasion Brewing, which is configured primarily as a production brewery with a taproom, packaging in kegs and 12-ounce bottles for distribution to draft and retail accounts, so far focusing on nearby Yamhill and Multnomah counties. Brewer Ben Acord helms the kettles and fermenters, and came to Evasion with commercial brewing experience gained in southern California. Like other brewers working with gluten-free ingredients, Acord experienced a learning curve, and likely will continue to tweak processes and ingredients in order to refine the results. The beers are either fined for clarification, or left as-is from the fermenters. The range on offer at the brewery’s opening day was considerable, and flavors raged from just about impossible to distinguish from conventional beers, to somewhat fruity or a little cidery. The base range includes a blonde ale, IPA, and stout; the stout would be hard for many beer drinkers to tell apart from a conventional roasted-barley stout. These three are also available in 12-ounce bottles, as is a Belgian-style dark strong ale. At the grand opening, Other draft beers included a fruity “Ugly Pumpkin” ale, redolent with pumpkin and spices; IPBloodOrange, amplifying an IPA with blood orange fruit character; and two stouts, Coconut and Holé Molé, the latter flavored a blend of chili and cinnamon.
Inside, the brewery looks pretty conventional; mash tuns, kettles, and fermenters are still necessary equipment in a gluten-free brewery. Evasion also uses a unique “negative space” logo, which is apparent in the bottle labeling: instead of an actual printed or embossed “E,” the label is cut in a way as to present an outline of the letter on the background bottle glass, and this logo is carried on throughout the brewery’s branding.
The bottle labels sport a unique UPC barcode, shaped like the outline of the state of Oregon on a map. Evasion is proud of its origins as an Oregon brewery, and the logo is also present on its t-shirts and other branded items.
In an increasingly competitive environment, brewers have to choose the market niche they want to serve. For people who have the taste for beer but can’t handle the gluten, alternative grain-based brews are becoming a beverage of choice. They now have a new Oregon-brewed range of gluten-free beers to choose from. Evasion’s beers are already on draft at venues around its hometown of McMinnville; bottles are available at Green Zebra grocers and an increasing number of specialty retailers, including Portland’s own Beer Mongers pub and bottled beer shop. As production ramps up, don’t be surprised if Evasion’s beers are in the coolers at a retailer near you.
From outside, Evasion Brewing is about as plain-jane as it gets, but this brewery is showing promise in the gluten-free specialty-beer space. Even if it’s not a necessity for many of us, people seeking this kind of beer have a new choice, and it just might prove to be a good one.
4230 NE Riverside Drive
McMinnville, OR 97128