The fledgling brewery industry in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood is beginning to take flight, with Lane County’s three leading breweries all planning expansions in the quirky neighborhood west of downtown.
Ninkasi Brewing Co., Lane County’s biggest brewery and the 32nd-largest craft brewer in the United States, plans to more than double its production capacity to 200,000 barrels, with a $15 million addition on a lot west of its facility, CEO Nikos Ridge said.
Oakshire Brewing is in the process of buying an 11,000-square-foot building, co-founder Jeff Althouse said. The building is listed as valued at $575,000, and Oakshire plans to spend $500,000 remodeling the space for barrel aging, warehouse, offices and a tasting room, with a target of opening for Thanksgiving, he said.
And Hop Valley Brewing Co., which operates a brewery and brewpub in Springfield’s Gateway area, plans to add production space and a tasting room early next year, which housed Scharph’s building materials, Hop Valley owner and partner Jonas Kungys said.
Initially Hop Valley will lease the 30,000-square-foot building, but the brewery has an option to buy it within five years, he said.
The convergence of two additional breweries on Ninkasi’s home turf is somewhat serendipitous, Oakshire’s Althouse and Hop Valley’s Kungys said.
“We had no intention of going right basically in (Ninkasi’s) backyard, but the site really met our needs,” Kungys said.
“I think it’s the luck of availability of property,” Althouse said.
“The Whiteaker neighborhood is a unique neighborhood. It has special zoning that allows for the mixed uses that we require, which are retail for our tasting rooms, manufacturing, warehousing and offices.”
Industry seen as good for the neighborhood
The brewers, as well as others in the community, said they think the concentration of breweries will be good for the Whiteaker neighborhood and for Eugene’s burgeoning craft beer industry.
“(These) entrepreneurs (are) building up a cluster in the Whiteaker area,” said Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, a Whiteaker resident.
“I think it’s probably very good for the economy of the community. ... This is a good little enterprise for our community, and I wish them all well.”
Chad Boutin, owner of Blair Alley Vintage Arcade, which plans to reopen soon after closing for remodeling, already thinks of his neighborhood as the “Brewery District.”
“They’re all moving to the Whit,” he said. “By 2014, I feel we could have something in the Whit — a destination kind of place.”
Brewers say the clustering of breweries and tasting rooms in other cities, such as Portland, Austin, Texas, and Fort Collins, Colo., helped put those communities on the beer tourism map.
“I think having a brewery node would bring more visitors to the area, similar to Fort Collins, which has several breweries within walking distance of each other,” Ninkasi’s Ridge said. “I think generally it’s a positive thing.”
Oakshire’s Althouse said he lives in the Whiteaker neighborhood, “so I’m thrilled about it.”
“I think it means a great pub call, a great night out and more great options for beer,” he said. “And it means continued development of the talent base of employees we need to grow our business. There will be more people attracted to the area because of the jobs.”
Combined, the three breweries plan to add about 35 jobs by the end of next year.
“There’s a (brewery) boom going on,” said Mark Jaeger, owner of Jaeger Real Estate and a partner in Sam Bond’s Garage, a Whiteaker bar and music venue.
“I (recently) read Anheuser-Busch profits were up to something in the billions for the first quarter of 2012, so the microbreweries are constantly biting into that enormous revenue stream,” he said. “It seems like it’s hard to see an end to it right now.”
Even Sam Bond’s hopes to start brewing its own beer this year. Jaeger said he and Sam Bond’s partners Bart Caridio and Todd Davis are leasing 3,700 square feet in the Foundry Building on East Eighth Avenue, near the federal courthouse in Eugene.
They’ve lined up an experienced brewer and are in the midst of acquiring equipment. They will sell their beer at Sam Bond’s and hopefully on draft at other venues around town, Jaeger said.
He said he and his business partners had toyed with the idea of brewing their own beer for years, and decided now was the time.
“Our brand is very strong and very well-loved,” Jaeger said. “We serve a lot of beer at Sam Bond’s. We try to support the local guys. ... It just felt like the logical next step for us to expand our brand and offer the beers we really enjoy.”