A Eugene brewery has devised an interesting new way to supplement its business income during the Coronavirus crisis. Alesong Brewing & Blending has been putting the acreage that surrounds its brewery in Lane County to good use by planting produce like kale.
“We sowed our first crop of greens in mid-February and some are getting ready to harvest this week,” says Alesong Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk. “Chard, kale, collards, lettuce, it’s all out there and growing at a pretty good clip.”
“Our estate property has really provided us with a unique opportunity to take on a new revenue stream that also helps us benefit the community,” added Founder Doug Coombs. “I mean, you’ve seen how the shelves at Oregon grocers look whenever there’s any news of inclement weather. This outbreak has been like having a constant blizzard for weeks, and the stores need all the help they can get to keep greens in stock.”
While the pivot to farming has been relatively smooth, there have definitely been some challenges as Alesong begins its journey as a literal farmstead brewery. Keeping new agricultural chemicals separate from those used in the brewhouse has caused a little bit of confusion. According to Van Wyk, “we lost one acre of greens right away after I hooked the hose up to the caustic rather than the fertilizer. Man did those plants die fast! We figured out how to be really careful after that first mistake.”
Attempts at integrating the greens into the brewing process were also unsuccessful. A pilot batch of India Kale Ale ended up being dumped after one sampling. “We kind of knew what we were getting into, but that stuff looked like some bullshit they’d serve on St. Patrick’s Day, and it smelled like a sewer. No way could we ever put our name on it,” Coombs lamented. For now the farming and brewing operations will remain separate entities.
Alesong’s innovative barrel-aging program will also extend to the crops. Collard greens have already been packed into gin barrels along with some brine, and should emerge sometime in the fall to be packaged in limited-edition jars. Projects in the pipeline include Tabasco barrel-aged mustard greens and Belgian endive aged in barrels that previously held (of course) Belgian ales. The new side project has also warranted a new name that will be used to market the products. Look for Kalesong brand greens at farmer’s markets and local stores later this spring.
Not surprised to read that the talented and innovative crew at Alesong has expanded their horizons. McKenzie River 50k has had the honor of being affiliated with Alesong for the past 3 years for our race beer. Our collaboration beer with them has not only been part of our race swag but a generous donation of a keg to Public House in Springfield has facilitated a donation to McKenzie River Trust. We look forward to seeing what great things come out of their venture. Congratulations!