The craft beer industry has been experiencing an amazing growth spurt in recent history, with steady progression in quality over the past couple decades. As a result, this is an awesome time to be a connoisseur of the finely crafted and brewed ales, especially located in Oregon where beers are made from the best hops on earth. Based on simple economics – the increased demand has led to the exponential growth in breweries, but another and equally beneficial outcome from the brewery boom is that with increased competition comes increases in quality of product for breweries to maintain or expand market share and profitability.
In both cases the consumer is stoked, and in Oregon – we’ve seen an incredible growth in breweries of all sorts, as well as a friendly and communal rivalry to one-up one-another with the beers these guys and gals are pumping out being consistently amazing and revolutionary in using new ingredients and aging in a variety of vessels. As an avid aficionado and being spoiled living in Bend, I’m always surprised and amazed with the evolution of craft beer, and always eagerly awaiting the next organic yeasty concoction.
Well, as luck would have it – I was in a unique and fun position while attending the 2015 Oregon Governors Conference on Tourism in Eugene as a presenter and enjoying the many festivities that accompany the celebration of tourism in Oregon. Our state has seen a dramatic increase of those like-minded consumers visiting from out of state with sampling and touring craft breweries as the primary reason of their leisure vacation, similar to the consistent influx of destination visitors to Napa and Sonoma counties in California for fine wine. Brewerism has become a major economic force for tourism in Oregon.
The Eugene breweries welcomed the annual tourism conference with open arms, and as a beer nerd – I was floored when Ninkasi Brewing opened their doors to a tasting to the several hundred in attendance being bussed over from the Hilton to pound quality beer and feast on amazing local restaurant fare. Arriving after-hours and hosted in the Ninkasi admin offices, we were treated to a behind the scenes look at their operations. Ongoing brewery tours were offered, along with four local restaurants sampling an amazing array of featured dinner entrees.
However, the highlight of the evening came as Ninkasi uber-treated our group to the first public tapping of their highly promoted and anticipated Ground Control Imperial Stout. Earlier that afternoon we watched the short film produced by Ninkasi documenting the process of the Ground Control production; which involves what is now an out of this world yeast strain for the first time ever used in the brewing process. Ninkasi actually collaborated to send a rocket into outer space with a special yeast strain to grow in a zero gravity environment.
I haven’t studied the impact or potential improvement of using yeast from space to brew beer, but the outcome is highly quaffable. Ground Control is the best imperial stout I can remember tasting, and I look forward to aging some bottles and tasting its improving quality with time.