"... We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of." -Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.
It's a paraphrased quote that holds true, as it relates to the abundance of beer choices in this world. But some 50 years ago, another man with a famous name and family, purchased a failing brewery and gave birth to what we know today as craft beer. 50 years. Half a century. What would you reflect on if you were 50 years old? Now consider what you would reflect on if you were 1/5th as old. But these are really just numbers, they don't have any meaning right?
Ask anyone and they will confirm that there's an attraction towards numerals. 1 - your first birthday, the loneliest number, your first wedding anniversary. 2 - a couple, deuces wild, the 2nd day of the week (aka, Tuesday). 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 ... we can continue with numerals and their associations in our lives, but 10 is special. It's the first time two numbers are side by side, the first decade, and for owners Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge, it's the foundation towards the next 10 years.
Starting in 2006, inside a leased 15-barrel brewery at the now defunct "Sofia's Restaurant and Bavarian Brewery", Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge have sought to repel convention while becoming one of the fastest growing breweries in Oregon. In 10 short years, the brewery has grown from a borrowed 15-barrel brewhouse at 980 Kruse Way in Springfield to a behemoth in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. But really the business matured after blossoming out of the husk of Vos Plumbing, at 272 Van Buren Street.
Flourishing within this 13,400 square foot building was an experiment in sociability, as the brewery would often leave the doors unlocked for anyone to visit. Often this led to random visits by locals and ramblers alike. Word would eventually waft into dorm rooms and fraternities, as college students formed an attraction to this brewery comprised of renaissance-minded people. In time, the brewery dilated from its annual production of 3,000 barrels (in 2007) to its potential 110,000 barrels (annually) in 2016. Along the way, Ninkasi has given birth to a tasting room, two breweries, a distribution center, and an administrative building.
On top of this Jamie and Nikos have continued to break with tradition by sponsoring several hundred organizations, started a music label (Ninkasi Studios), spawned Ninkasi Metal (which produces their iconic tap handles and among other things, their gated entrances), host artists (through Artist in Residence) and recently created Team Domination (comprised of outdoor athletes and photographers who share a love of beer), while maintaining a work-life balance that many employees remain attracted to like a hypnotized moth. Not bad for a Eugene native (Nikos) and a child in Silicon Valley's Cupertino (Floyd).
This past weekend, while everyone else fulfilled their weekend obligations, we took the opportunity to hang with Ridge, Floyd, and a few hundred of their closest friends, family, and employees while celebrating those 10 years. We can tell you first hand, that every person we spoke with shared the same enthusiasm for working for (or having enjoyed) Ninkasi Brewing. And when confronted, Nikos and Jamie would tell you the secret is making everyone a part of the businesses growth.
Even today, with the development of beer recipes, Jamie continues to work with the brewery staff to come up with something unique and memorable. But he will be the first to deflect credit when it's bestowed, should the pioneering recipe originate from somewhere else. Maybe it has something to do with Jamie's years of working for others that consistently took the credit for his or other brewers labors. Or maybe it's Nikos business philosophy. Whatever it is, we can say that we can't wait to see where the boys are in another 10 years.
Northwest Beer Guide