Worthy Brewing

Oregon

Earth First. Beer Second. Worthy’s Stance on the Cap & Trade Bill (HB 2020).

Fellow Oregonians:

Why do Worthy Brewing and Indie Hops stand behind their decision to join Oregon Business for Climate, a group of businesses that have been advocating in favor of sensible legislation to curb runaway greenhouse gas pollution?

We have been the target of attacks the past few weeks because of our support of the Cap and Trade bill (HB 2020). Farmers, truckers, loggers and others have accused us of trying to put them out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are in favor of legislation like HB 2020 because it will grow our economy, reduce Earth- destroying greenhouse gasses, save lives, create jobs and help mitigate the damage already done to our great state and people from wildfires, floods, drought and air pollution. It’s a fair law that finally attempts to “price in” the environmental and social costs of burning fossil fuels, while at the same time accounting for the challenges faced by Oregonians who may be impacted financially.

The new program would generate about $500 million a year, largely collected from about 100 major industrial sources of carbon pollution. The bill explicitly exempts the forestry and agriculture sectors. And yet the revenues collected would be available to farmers, ranchers and loggers to help upgrade equipment, switch to renewables, install irrigation drip lines, build sea walls, and cover irrigation canals to mitigate water loss, among other things.  It would also provide technology assistance to our biggest polluters to help them clean up their act.

And, importantly, a companion bill (which was on the Governor’s desk and she was ready to sign it) would have provided for fuel rebates for eligible truckers and loggers if gas prices rose as a result of this new law. The BEAR Report, commissioned by Oregon’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction to determine the impact of this cap and trade legislation on Oregon, forecasted 50,000 new jobs and a 2.5% growth in Oregon’s GDP by 2050. All of these reinvestments and more would help provide protections for our natural resource-based industries for the next generation, who will be navigating a vastly hotter, nastier and stormier world.

Over the past 18 months, the architects of this innovative bill listened to everybody. The loggers, truckers, farmers and ranchers, as well as our biggest fossil fuel burning industries, were all at the table. They were heard and that’s why the bill is so generous with its protections.

So, what does this mean for Worthy Brewing and Indie Hops, both of which I own?

We’d like to think we’re already doing our fair share to respond to climate change. Our pub buys most of its meats and veggies from local farmers and ranchers. We recycle, reuse and compost. We have a 50 KW solar PV system, plus a solar thermal system, which saves us thousands of dollars a year in electric bills and spares the air 100,000 pounds of CO2 annually. That’s the equivalent of planting 8 acres of trees every year. And we donate a meaningful percentage of beer sales to Earth-friendly non-profits.

Indie Hops, which I also own has, since 2009, made a sizeable investment in the breeding, cultivation, milling and storage of Oregon grown hops. Why? Because we believe Oregon has the best hop farmers in the world. We have contributed over $2.5 Million to OSU’s crops and soils research program because we believe, with our farm partners, that Oregon is the best terroir for growing high yield, disease resistant – and drought tolerant hops for the thriving craft beer market.

The point? We have skin in the game, and we would never support a bill that harmed farmers or our investment, which we expect to grow.

Our concerns about global warming prompted us to sponsor the work of OSU’s Professor Bill Ripple, who authored “Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” which has been endorsed by over 21,000 scientists worldwide. His alarming treatise prompted Worthy Brewing to adopt the mantra “Earth First, Beer Second.” That’s not a marketing gimmick. We are gravely concerned that global warming is already contributing to human misery, that it will get worse, and that time is running out. And we will do our best to be part of the solution.

So, we have been proud supporters of Oregon Business for Climate because we believe with swift and fair action, we can achieve a green, sustainable economy. I grew up in Corvallis and marveled at strong and wise stewards like Governor Tom McCall, a Republican, who in the late 1960s championed the bottle bill, the beach bill, and efforts to clean up the un-swimmable Willamette River. We need leaders now like the Republican leaders I grew up to admire and respect.

If you’re reading this, do the right thing. Conserve and preserve our land, water, forests and air for future generations—and please do it, now. And join the continued effort to pass sensible legislation in Oregon. Because we’re running out of later.

By in Oregon 0

Good Day for Oregon

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 18:55:00

Oregon doesn’t like to brag. I learned that growing up in Corvallis when Tom McCall was our Governor. Back then the unofficial slogan was “Please visit Oregon. Then leave.”

Oregon knows it’s awesome and doesn’t need to boast (unlike another state I’ve lived in – Texas, where it’s borderline treasonous NOT to insert the words “the Great State of” before intoning it’s hallowed name). So let me do a little bragging about our Great State.

Oregon makes great hops and great beer. That’s a fact.  And we have great water. Everybody knows this. But now, to that list of Oregon superlatives, let’s add “Great College Football Team.”

On New Years Day, my girlfriend and I watched Oregon crush Florida State. We watched the game, in Spanish, in Bariloche, Argentina, at the home of Klaus, a multi-lingual and brilliant motorcycle guide we met while kicking about Patagonia. We ate platefuls of grilled beef and washed it down with locally brewed pilseners and it was just great to see the Ducks roll.

This kid grew up a Beaver, but I was enormously proud to see the Ducks kick ass. There was a time back in the early 1970’s when serious people seriously considered dropping the Oregon schools from the “Pac-8” conference because, as it went, we were a small state with sub-marginal breeding stock and we’d never be able to compete at the national level.

Oregon 59, Florida State 20. Take that naysayers!  It was a great day for the State of Oregon. And what’s great for Oregon is great for craft beer, aroma hops and about a thousand progressive causes that make my friends Down South cringe.

But wait, there’s more. The Beavers stepped up big time, as well. The next day, Michelle and I drove down to El Bolson.  It’s a small “hippy” town smack dab on the 42nd Parallel, nestled between snow-capped mountains in a fertile valley along the Rio Azul (picture opal colored glacier water).  We’d heard El Bolson was where Argentina grew the bulk of the country’s hops.

We easily found the hopyards. They’re owned by Lupulos De La Patagonia.  The conditions were perfect for hop happiness: long hot days, cool nights, alluvial soil and plenty of TLC, administered in big doses by Marcus, the farmer we had the pleasure of meeting.  We asked Marcus for permission to bless his budding flowers, because … you know… it seemed like the right thing to do.  Marcus, with a chuckle, consented. “These crazy gringos!”

Now here’s the “Oregon Proud” moment.  We estimated the hopyard at about 50 acres. Of those, Lupulos grew only two varieties, which they had been planting for the last 30-40 years.  The lucky lupulos? Tah Dah! Nugget and Cascade — yes, two hops born and bred by our friend Dr. Alfred Haunold, at Oregon State, with the help of the USDA, about 4 decades ago.

Way to go Oregon State!  Two great hops, one for bittering, the other for flavoring, created in The Great State of Oregon, now thriving in the heart of Patagonia’s hop country. And, just like Bend a few years ago, the town of El Bolson is at the cusp of a craft revolution.

With a population of around 20,000, El Bolson supports six craft breweries (“Cervezerias Artesanal””): Pilker, Ruta 40, Piltri, Araucana, AWKA and Parapoto. Oddly enough, this list doesn’t include the major “small guy” brand, El Bolson, which apparently uses the town’s “hip” name but doesn’t brew it’s beer there.

Do the math. That’s about one “Cervezeria Artesnal” for every 3,000 inhabitants, which seems to be about the same outrageously beercentric ratio we have in our little mountain berg of Bend.

About the beer.  We didn’t get to taste all of the brands and we came across only a few IPAs.  I’m not being mean or nationalistic here but, overall, I’d say El Bolson is a few years, maybe decades, behind the Big O. I’m sure they practice good industry standards, but it’s hard to wow the palate with only a few hops.  It turns out that in Patagonia the only hops that are commercially available are… Nugget and Cascade.

A local bartender educated us about the slow trajectory of craft brewing in Patagonia. His grandfather began hop farming in El Bolson in the early 1970s.  At that time, nearly 100% of the hops were owne by and grown for Quilmes,  the dominant brewery in Argentina. Back then, as well as now, all the hops grown in El Bolson are trucked some 870 miles to the country’s only hop pellet mill in Buenos Aires.

And who owns that mill?  Quilmes, of course.  Quilmes appears to have achieved the monopolist’s dream: complete vertical integration. Not surprisingly, InBev (which owns Bud), gobbled up Quilmes in 2004. In short, Quilmes is, was and for a long time likely will be totally Monolithic. They won’t take kindly to small artesnal cervezerias, and the ones who manage to thrive will likely be take-over targets.

That said, we wish our artesanal breweries in Patagonia good luck (suerta!) But, alas, theirs is a long and dusty road, full of potholes and river rock, with well organized banditos on every ridge. To break the iron grip of In Bev/Quilmes, the locals will need to do what we began doing in the early 1980s: work with veteran farmers to grow more aroma varieties (we grow more than 40 varieties in the US), design and build their own aroma-oriented pellet mill, commission talented breeders to invent new varieties and, in the interim, contract to buy great hops from the US, New Zealand and Europe.

Salud!

RGW

El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina
January 5, 2015