Some of the most coveted brews on the Tap House wall have to be the beers from Ninkasi Brewing, one of the favorites among the northwest breweries. “It’s an explosion of citrus hop paradise,” Aaron Frohm, Tap House Manager, boasts about his favorite beer. When we started the idea of spotlighting some of our favorite breweries, Ninkasi was a top contender on our list of Breweries to feaure. Not just specifically that their beers are awesome, but also because the Ninkasi staff is incredible to work with. From helping to jumpstart the Tap House Grill Brewer’s 9 Ball Tournament during Seattle Beer Week, to getting us their most coveted beers when we need them, Ninkasi is just another example of why the Northwest has quickly become the hottest destination for microbrews.
Ninkasi Brewing began on June 15th, 2006 when Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge spent 17 hours brewing their first batch of Total Domination IPA in a leased space inside a German restaurant in Springfield, Oregon. Once a brewery, the building was equipped with a 15 barrel brew house set up for a brewpub. A year later, Ninkasi moved to its current location at 272 Van Buren Street, in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. The brewery now features a 60 barrel brewing system, and uses it to produce beer that is distrubuted throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, and San Francisco. The Ninkasi family of beers has grown from a single IPA (Total Domination) to include ‘Tricerahops’ Double IPA, ‘Believer’ Double Red, and ‘Oatis’ Oatmeal Stout, as well as some popular seasonals: ‘Spring Reign’, ‘Radiant Ale’, and ‘Sleigh’r’ Dark Double Alt.
The Ninkasi Tasting Room opened in November 2009 and is located in the brewery building. It has been remodeled and is a great place to taste the current seasonal beers as well as the flagship Ninkasi lines – ‘Total Domination’, ‘Tricerahops’, ‘Believer’ and ‘Oatis’. Visitors will also find a rotating selection of specialty beers and Ninkasi merchandise. The tasting room is open Noon to 9pm Sunday – Wednesday and Noon to 10PM Thursday – Saturday. The beer dock is even open Monday – Friday 9:30-5:30 and Saturday Noon to 4:30PM, for the purchase of kegs to go. Yes, you heard correctly, TO-GO!
In addition to making and selling locally oriented craft beer, Ninkasi supports all forms of positive community gatherings and non-profit organizations. So far, they have worked to promote sporting events and team sponsorships, musical events and bands, theater and the fine arts, a well as festivals and neighborhood parties. In early 2011, Ninkasi even teamed up with the local water and electric board (EWEB) to brew a special release beer to raise awareness of their 100th anniversary. All profits from the beer go to support the local nonprofit McKenzie River Trust in their efforts to maintain the water supply that feeds the brewery as one of the cleanest purest sources in the world. They also look forward on continuing to make great beers and having a positive impact in the communities where they do business.
Some other little known facts about Ninkasi that most people don’t know:
- Believer is a recipe that founder Jamie Floyd started working on as a home brewer roughtly 19 years ago.
- The Ninkasi logo is based on an Egyptian revival mirror.
- Ninkasi is one of the fastest growing craft breweries in US history! 35,000 Barrels in under five years.
- The Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist Jerry Garcia’s daughter Annabel did the ‘Maiden the Shade’ artwork for Ninkasi. Iron Maiden is one of her favorite bands.
- ‘Total Domination’ 22oz bottle is the number one selling 22oz in the Northwest! (IRI data)
- Ninkasi was top 10 nationally in 22oz bottle sales and they are only in 4 states plus San Fransisco.
- Nikos Ridge, one of the two founding owners, worked on Wall Street when he was 17!
- Jamie Floyd, the other founding owner, has 20+ years brewing experience!
- Sumerians worshipped Ninkasi the Goddess of fermentation in what was the first known documentation of beer making in 6000BC.
- ‘Tricerahops’ is the name of the art car for Burningman that was built by Justin Langphear who was the architect for Ninkasi’s beer garden. Jazz Kahlsa who makes Ninkasi’s tap handles and also built their bar, tables, chairs and gates also helped creat the truck. ‘Tricerahops was partially named from the Burningman vehicle and partly from the beer that Jamie used to make, Hopasaurus Rex at Steelhead, also in Eugene.
- Jamie Floyd worked with tattoo artist Paul Zenk on a design to be a potential beer label for ‘Believer’. The tattoo was too intricate to make a label but was later augmented by Tony Figoli, Ninkasi’s art director, to become the ‘Beer is Love’ design Ninkasi uses today. ‘Total Domination’ was Ninkasi’s first beer. Believer was their first winter seasonal and was so popular they turned it into a year round beer.
- ‘Oatis’ is the name of Ninkasi’s head brewer Matt’s dog.
- ‘Spring Reign’ originally was going to be called ‘Spring Loaded with two pistols crossed on the label and roses stemming from the barrel’s but the government denied them the label approval.
- Ninkasi has up to 60 employees now!
- Ninkasi will have a limited holiday seasonal coming out this year (2011) called ‘Imperiale’, a 9.1% Imperial Stout.
If you have not yet had the pleasure of trying the beers of Ninkasi on draft, please make your way to your nearest Tap House Grill. Seattle & Bellevue currently have ‘Tricerahops’ tapped and Seattle has ‘Maiden the Shade’.