Above: A wine-pairing experience awaits visitors at the Phelps Creek Vineyards picnic spot. // Photo by Andrea Johnson
Below: Employees of Ninkasi Brewing Company busy keeping up with demand. // Photo: Joni Kabana
Behind the scenes
“There’s a sensibility that draws people to Oregon,” suggests Nikos Ridge, CEO of Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Company. “They come to enjoy the outdoors, our quality of life and our quality of products.”
Oregon’s renowned craft-beer reputation dovetails nicely into that scene. “People expect good beer to come from here,” notes Ridge. Ninkasi builds product awareness by participating in beer festivals, sponsoring events and fostering a strong social-media presence. Once consumers discover Ninkasi beer, they often seek out the Eugene brewery and tasting room, Ridge reports, as part of a Northwest beer-tasting tour.
It all pays off handsomely for Ninkasi. In its eighth year of business, the firm ranks 31st in the nation for craft-beer production. About half of its sales are out of state.
Ninkasi’s success flows through Eugene and beyond. The company employs 87 and is currently expanding its production facility for the fourth time — a $25 million project expected to add 40 new employees over the next five years — in the Whiteaker neighborhood. This once economically depressed area of Eugene now thrives with new residents, restaurants, retail and other thriving breweries like Hop Valley and Oakshire.
Last year Ninkasi donated $250,000 to hundreds of nonprofit and community organizations. It benefits other business sectors, too, from the hops it purchases from Willamette Valley farmers to the spent grain it supplies to Eugene’s Oregon Natural Meats for cattle feed.
It’s a hoppy, happy cycle that continually feeds Oregon’s economy. So fill a glass with your favorite IPA or pinot, and raise a toast to Oregon’s 28-million-plus overnight visitors and the burgeoning worldwide fan base they’ve become for Oregon products.