“The ancient Sumerians worshipped the beer they made, and praised the Goddess Ninkasi for the miracle of fermentation. Beer is a staple of civilization…”
Week 3, Reason I’m excited #3: Beer sponsored by Ninkasi
Your ticket to Agency also gives you two drink tokens which you can exchange at one of the FIVE bars for beer or wine provided by our amazing sponsors. In order to ensure that you will be getting a quality beer experience on the night, I sacrificed a day at the office to travel down to Eugene, OR to check out this year’s beer sponsor, Ninkasi Brewing Company. That’s how much I care about your party experience – I was even willing to taste the beer for you!
My afternoon at Ninkasi was wonderful and I cannot even begin to express how friendly the staff there are – and friendly staff equals even better beer in my opinion. Not only are they friendly but they are fun too – they have a slide in the brewing room. More workplaces need slides in my opinion.
I’ve never heard of Ninkasi – who are they?
No need to be ashamed if this is you – I hadn’t heard of them until December 2011 myself when I had my first taste of Tricerahops Double IPA. Located in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, OR, Ninkasi Brewing Company is the fastest growing craft brewery in the history of craft breweries, expecting to brew 72,000 – 75,000 barrels of beer this year. And they have plans to expand more in the next year or so. They moved into their current space in 2006, and have already had to increase production considerably, including both the size and number of fermentation vats in order to keep up with demand, and now they need to expand yet again. Their rapid growth reminded me a bit of how far Agency has come since our first party in 2010…
During my visit, Nigel took the time to give me and my photography buddy a tour. The first thing that struck me as soon as I arrived is how attractive the Ninkasi facility is.
I’m quite new to the world of craft breweries and found the whole process fascinating. From finding out that as far as possible, the ~25 varieties of malt and ~30 varieties of hops are locally or regionally sourced, such as the pelletized hops from Yakima, WA to realizing how scientific and precise the whole process is, and how this varies for each type of beer. (Side note #1, there is one particular grain that has to come from Germany as it is especially unique). (Side note #2, the hops refrigerator smells deliciously of beer).
The fermenters they are now using are 480 barrel fermenters – there’s 31 gallons in a barrel (and 15.5 gallons in a keg). They are huge. But then they have to be: last year Ninkasi produced (and it’s always best to be exact about these things) 57,804 barrels of beer. The main bottleneck (pardon the pun) in the whole brewery is that there aren’t enough fermenters to keep everything else operational all of the time. Good thing they are expanding to a new building across the street then.
I could go on at great length about my visit, I really could (and no doubt there are those of you who think I already have!). I was very thorough in my investigations:
Among other things I learnt that while on average fermentation takes up to 2 weeks, the Hells Bells German-style larger take twice as long to ferment. And that larger fermentation takes place at a much cooler temperature (40 degrees, compared with 70 degrees for other styles).
I think that part that I found most surprising was that they bottle and keg their beer right there in the same room – through my albeit limited exposure to breweries, I’d not seen this before. When I inquired where the bottling and packing materials came from (sustainability is something we talk a lot about in global health) I was impressed that Nigel was able to proudly tell me that as far as possible Ninkasi uses regionally based suppliers for such things – from Oregon and California for the most part.
Can’t wait to try Ninkasi?
If you can’t visit Eugene, OR, and you can’t wait to try Ninkasi at Agency 2012 (which I would totally understand) they have a nifty section on their website where you can type in your city or zip code and they will tell you where your nearest Ninkasi retailer is.
I hope you are now super excited about drinking Ninkasi beer at Agency. Tomorrow I’m off to the Chateau Ste Michelle winery in Woodinville so that I can thoroughly investigate our wine offering too. I love my job.
My sincere thanks to Ninkasi for sponsoring Agency 2012 and for making my visit so memorable.
Ninkasi is best known for their flagship beer, Total Domination IPA. They have a tasting room at the brewery and so we were able to try eight beers currently in production (though, sadly, not all are readily available at locations around Seattle ). Some of their beers are available year-round and others are seasonal for only a few months, such as the Spring Reign Ale.
The beers we tried:
Commonwealth Multi-Grain Beer made to commemorate the City of Eugene’s 150th anniversary. This was probably my favorite.
Spring Reign Ale which has a “lightly toasted British-style malt flavor” so naturally I was a fan (seasonal release).
Radiant Ale is the perfect complement to a glorious summer day (or any Seattle-summer day if it’s not especially glorious) (seasonal release).
Total Domination IPA. The name says it all.
Believer Double Red Ale; caramel, toffee, date, fig, subtle chocolate and a hint of roasted malt… what more could you want?
Oatis Oatmeal Stout is a champion for dark beers, and if market share is anything to go by (porters and stouts make up about 10%), vastly underappreciated. It’s food pairing suggestions includes brulee’s – who doesn’t want beer and a brulee?
Babylon English-Style Double IPA described as having a hop aroma that begins with intesnse earthiness from the prolific use of English-Style Fuggle hops. Fuggle. Wonderful. (Also the strongest beer we tried, at 9.1%)
Tricerahops Double IPA is dangerously easy to drink and, according to Ninkasi, guaranteed to satisfy. I’m sold.
Until tea time next week, Agency folks, thank you for reading. Over and out.
Photography by Perry Hanson