Ninkasi was the Sumerian goddess of beer and she brewed every day.
Ninkasi Brewing, in Eugene Oregon, pays tribute to the goddess by producing beer, obviously enough. And it’s a cultural joint, with an artist-in-residence programme and its very own in-house recording studio. Ninkasi’s Nigel Francisco tells us about the brewery, ahead of his visit to New Zealand for Beervana.
Beertown.NZ: How did your brewery get to include a recording studio? (Or, why doesn’t every recording studio have its own brewery? Genius!)
Nigel Francisco: For us beer is part of culture and music is also a big part of culture. We think these two things really go hand in hand. Our Director of Brand and Experiential Marketing was in a band for a long time and has recording experience, so this is how it all got started.
We have long partnered with bands and supported the music industry. These relationships have been mutually beneficial. We’ve partnered with some of our sponsored artists to create songs for our products – we were able to create a whole album around Dawn of the Red India Red Ale (7%).
B: What’s made Oregon such a success story for craft brewing?
NF: Oregon has a rich history of brewing and has been on the forefront of the craft brewing movement for some time. Oregon is home to a few breweries that started with the first wave of craft brewing in the mid-to-late 1980s, and some were here before then.
Another thing that makes Oregon the ideal place to brewing is our access to ingredients. Beer is primarily made out of water, and Oregon has great access to clean and consistent water year-round. We also have a long history with hops. We have many hop farms located in the Willamette Valley, and we are very close to the Yakima Valley in Washington State, which is one of the largest hop producing areas in the world. Many Oregon brewers have direct relationships hop brokers and growers. All of these factors really help in creating great beer.
We also have a strong culinary culture in the North West. The culinary industry’s spirit of experimentation and creativity dovetails nicely with the craft beer industry.
B: You’re based in Eugene, 180km south of Portland. Does that have a different craft beer/brewing culture to Portland itself?
NF: Our culture is unique to Eugene. We’re a little off the beaten path, so the experience a little less urban than the Portland experience. We have a wide variety of brewers from small, five barrel (585L) batch all the way up to 100 barrel (11700L) batch breweries. We also have breweries that are out in the country and this is a unique experience in itself. You can go to Agrarian Ales hop farm brewery and get a farmhouse beer with hops that came right from the property. This is almost like a farm-to-table experience at a craft brewery.
B: How much do you know about the New Zealand craft brewing scene, and New Zealand hops in particular?
NF: I know very little about the craft beer scene in New Zealand. I am very excited to learn more and experience the culture. We have utilized some hops from New Zealand in the past. We did a collaboration beer with Elysian Brewing from Seattle a few years ago, and selected Motueka to use in the collaboration. The beer was a Pumpkin IPA and it turned out great. I think it is great that there is a Southern Hemisphere hop producing county. I really think this will help out with some of the hop issues we have been experiencing in the Northern Hemisphere.