In Oregon, where naming your favorite craft beer is akin to proclaiming your religious beliefs, every form of sudsy worship deserves a chapel. Full Sail Brewing has claimed Hood River; Deschutes Brewery has become synonymous with Bend; Rogue Ales calls Newport home. And now Ninkasi Brewing Company, the relatively new kid on the block, has marked its territory in Eugene.
From its base of operations two hours south of Portland, this brewery, once a mom-and-pop enterprise (Ninkasi started in 2006 with a mere 3,000 barrels), has revved up production this year to an estimated 18,000 barrels, making it not only Eugene’s best-selling brand of craft beer, but also the number one seller of 22-ounce bottled beer in all of Oregon. Owner Jamie Floyd, a brewer with more than 15 years of experience and president of the Oregon Brewers Guild, attributes Ninkasi’s prodigious growth to the company’s strict focus on bottling great beer—and on its choice not to open brewpubs. “I have no interest in running a restaurant and keeping people entertained at night,” Floyd says, laughing.
And nowhere does Floyd’s focus come through more clearly than in Ninkasi’s stable of winter beers. The first two, Believer and Oatis, have proven so popular that they’re now offered year-round. The third, Sleigh’r, will remain a seasonal offering—available from mid-October through December—despite being a fan favorite. “Our customers are sad when it’s gone,” Floyd admits. “But it gives them something to look forward to.”
Forget Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph—365 days of Believer, Oatis, and Sleigh’r could make the whole year feel like Christmas.