Nikos Ridge

Beer and Community: Ninkasi Isn’t Just a Brewery

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Ninkasi is the Sumerian Goddess of Fermentation. Fittingly, Ninkasi Brewery is Eugene’s Goddess of Fermentation. For over six years, Ninkasi has supplied Lane County with delicious and potent beer. Ninkasi’s continuing success has led to a major expansion of their company, which means they will be able to brew more, sell more, and expand even further.

For over six years, Ninkasi has supplied Lane County with delicious and potent beer.

James Book, Marketing Director of Ninkasi, enlightened me on the history of the brewery. Book says,

“Ninkasi Brewing began on June 15th, 2006 when Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge spent seventeen hours brewing their first batch of Total Domination IPA in leased space inside a German restaurant in Springfield, Oregon. Once a brewery, the building was equipped with a fifteen barrel brew house set up for brewpub brewing. A year later, Ninkasi moved to its current location at 272 Van Buren Street, in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene.”

Fantastic beer is not the only thing that Ninkasi provides. The patio outside of their tasting room regularly hosts local bands and musicians. These music makers have included: Alder Street All Stars, Security in Numbers, Barefoot Leroy, Chase McBride, Cowboy Bubble Bath, The Harmed Brothers, Rare Monk, Pirate Radio, Volifonix, Dryseason, and Sea Bell. And that is just to name a few.

Ian Royer of Alder Street All Stars enjoys the venue. Royer says,

“The outdoor venue is very nice and they attract a crowd of fancy drunks. The con is that it rains in Eugene.

As far as taste is concerned, Royer says that sometimes he cannot get enough of Ninkasi’s beer:

“It’s delicious which makes me wish I could afford it more regularly. On a separate note, it is really cool to see that a Eugene brewery can take off so quickly and gain national notoriety. I see Ninkasi beers all over the US and not just because I hang out with the Harmed Brothers.”

When asked to describe the band’s style, Royer states,

“We play a wide variety of tunes but focus on Bluegrass and Folk, while our vocals tend to be more punk rockish.”

The influx of young, talented musicians alongside the city’s own musical history has established a thriving music scene in Eugene. According to Royer,

“I think Eugene is unique for its music scene. For such a small town there is an immense variety of talented bands. Any night there will be some show you wanna see and most nights you find yourself running from one venue to another. I strongly encourage the people of Eugene and Springfield to look up local music and go out as much as possible. It will help keep admission and drink prices down.”

Ninkasi isn’t just about the beers. The company also believes in supporting the local community.

Ninkasi Brewery now features a 50-barrel brewing system. This system produces beer distributed throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, and parts of California. The Ninkasi family of beers has grown from a single IPA (Total Domination) to include Tricerahops Double IPA, Believer Double Red, and Oatis Oatmeal Stout, as well as some popular seasonals: Spring Reign, Radiant Ale, and Sleigh’r Dark Double Alt.

But Ninkasi isn’t just about the beers. The company also believes in supporting the local community. Book says,

“In addition to making and selling locally oriented craft beer, Ninkasi supports all forms of positive community gatherings and non-profit organizations. So far, we have worked to promote sporting events and team sponsorships, musical events and bands, theater and the fine arts, as well as festivals and neighborhood parties.”

Security in Numbers is another Eugene-grown band that appreciates Ninkasi. Asher Fay, the band’s singer and guitar player, says,

“We played [at] Ninkasi and had a great time. It was cold out there but the energy of the crowd and beer warmed us up and helped to make the show a more memorable one. The crowd turnout was great. The crowds in Eugene are always supportive.”

When bands are sponsored by Ninkasi, the bands are paid in cash and beer. Ninkasi’s stage is outside near their fire pit, and the venue as a whole is enjoyably low-key. Ninkasi also sells their entire selection of beers in the tasting room.

The brewery’s expansion is likely to increase their market and manpower. They donate thousands of dollars to community groups in the states they supply to and have created a unique taste that has lifted their brewery to new levels of success.

Eugene would not be the same without Ninkasi. Their unique beer is appreciated throughout the city, and now it seems other places are starting to catch on. Luckily, James Book and company seem to be more than ready to fill the order. Book says,

“We look forward to continuing to make great beers and having a positive impact in the communities where we do business.”

Ninkasi and Cascadia Wildlands Team up to Benefit the Environment with “Pints Gone Wild”

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What could be better than drinking delicious, locally crafted beer on a summer evening?  How about drinking delicious, locally crafted beer and helping to protect regional wildlands. 

Ninkasi Brewing Company of Eugene opened their beer garden in the Whitaker neighborhood on Tuesday night to welcome the five-piece bluegrass band Opal Creek as part of a year long fundraising effort to support Cascadia Wildlands.  The first Monday of every month (through May 2012), Ninkasi has pledged to donate half of all the proceeds from beer sold at their tasting room to benefit Cascadia Wildlands.  “Pints Gone Wild” began earlier this summer, as a cooperative effort to raise funds to further the causes supported by Cascadia Wildlands.

Ninkasi co-owner, Nikos Ridge, told EDN, that the brewing company has been glad to help in supporting Cascadia because “they do a great job achieving their mission, and they also support the McKenzie Watershed, which is one of our business interests.”  According to Ridge, using the cleanest water when brewing their craft beers is critical to maintaining their high standards of quality.  Ninkasi and Cascadia Wildlands also share more than just an appreciation for the environment of the Pacific Northwest. They want to make a difference.

This isn’t Ninkasi’s first time showing their support for Cascadia’s work.  The brewing company has also sponsored, through monetary and in kind donations, events such as Cascadia’s annual Hoedown in October, their Wonderland Auction in December, and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.  Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, expressed to EDN that Ninkasi “has been generous since their inception, they have really set the bar high on community support.”

Cascadia Wildlands works to protect the most vulnerable ecosystems stretching from Oregon to Alaska. Founded in 1998, Cascadia Wildlands has succeeded in using legal means to prevent and reverse legislation that would have otherwise allowed for major destruction of precious wildlands.

One of the current efforts being made by Cascadia Wildlands is to restore populations of the grey wolf in Oregon. The grey wolf has experienced extinction in Oregon through systematic removal, and have only recently began to repopulate through migration from Idaho.  In May of this year, Congress repealed the Rocky Mountain grey wolf’s status as an endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Washington and Oregon. Laughlin said that currently there are approximately three packs of twenty wolves that have been restored in Oregon.  Cascadia is working to protect these wolves from further threat, by attempting to block legislation that would allow for the hunting of these endangered wildlife.

Another major goal of Cascadia Wildlands is to guard Elliot State Forrest (ESF) from clearcutting.  The Elliot State Forrest is a publically-owned rainforest covering 93,000 acres of Oregon’s coastal region.  ESF contains more carbon per acre than nearly any other place in the world.  This means that clearcutting this area would release carbon into the atmosphere, ultimately abetting climate change.  Currently, the Governor’s Forrest Management Plan calls for a doubling of the clearcutting that is already taking place at ESF as part of a previous agreement to help provide funds for education.

Ninkasi’s continued support has been instrumental in helping Cascadia Wildlands fuel these environmental watchdog efforts as well as many others. Find out more about Cascadia Wildlands’ by visiting their site. You too can take action to help protect the majestic Northwest through your volunteer or monetary contributions. 

Elisha Shumaker, EDN
Photos by Brandon Preo, EDN