For this edition of First-Person Shooter, we sent a camera off to Jesse Newhouse, a beer brewer at Ninkasi Brewery in Eugene, Oregon. Ninkasi recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, and though the microbrewery started as a two-man operation, the company now employs over 100 people, makes seven flagship beers, and was ranked one of the top 50 craft brewers last year by the Brewers Association.
Before he received a degree in fermentation science and joined the brewery, Jesse was big into brewing his own beer at home. He knows a lot about making stuff that will get you drunk, and at Nikasi he specializes in developing "fruiting beer." In this FPS, he snapped pics of various stages in the beer-making process, including a massive foam blowout that covered the factory floor. Here's what else went down when Jesse had the disposables.
VICE: How long have you been brewing beer for?
Jesse Newhouse: I have been with Ninkasi for two years brewing professionally. Before that, I had been homebrewing for around three years.
How'd you get into brewing?
I started out homebrewing and from there started studying Fermentation Science at Oregon State University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation and a Chemistry minor.
How does Ninkasi compare to a bigger brewery?
Ninkasi is a microbrewery, and we differ from non-microbreweries by being still being independently owned and operated, really focusing on the craft, and not just looking to make money. We are interconnected with the community on a deep level and support as many local business as ways we can in Eugene. We focus on local ingredients as much as possible, working with local hop farms and malting companies along with providing our spent grain to local farms for feed. At Ninkasi, we strive to perpetuate better living in every aspect of our work and beyond.
What's the deal with the foam covering the floor in some of your pics?
That's blow off from fermentation called Krausen. It is formed through fermentation as CO2 is produced from the yeast and off gasses. This CO2 off gassing is captured in proteins, hop particulate, and suspended yeast, which create the beer foam you see.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever made beer out of?
Not that it's super strange, but using oysters in the mash for an oyster stout was fun. This was done on a small scale before I was with Ninkasi. The main thing I have worked with at Ninkasi is fruiting beers, which is not weird on any level, but still very interesting. I really would like to play around with some recipes utilizing fruit woods for aging and fruit wood-smoked malts. The real fun thing to play with is all the varying strains of yeast and bacteria available to ferment beers. We have been working on sour beers, kettle sours specifically, which is a new avenue for Ninkasi, but is very interesting and can make delicious beer when done right.
What's a good entry point for someone to get into brewing beer at home?
A great start is to go visit a local homebrew shop and talk to the people there. Grab a few brewing books and then possibly join a local homebrew club. The brewing community is super friendly and always out there to help each other.
If somebody wanted to try the beer you make how would they do it?
Go check out our website to find out where we're distributing, read about our beers and company, and find our address if you want to check out the brewery and have a beer in our tasting room.