The Oregon Trail To Beer

In 1845, a man named Joseph Avery came all the way from Illinois to stake out a land claim here on this side of the U.S. He said he knew that steamboats were going to come up that river (The Willamette) and he wanted a town there waiting for them. By 1850 there was a population of over 600 people. By 1870 there were 1200. And the only reason they could do it was because almost every person who showed up had to contribute. They built stores, and roads, and schools. The courthouse, the post office, and the first meeting hall, the Opera house. If they couldn’t build, they farmed. If they couldn’t farm, they taught, or transported, or communicated, or just plain gave what they had.

And yes, they built a brewery. Corvallis Brewery was both a beer brewery and distillery. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of info on it. It burned in 1870, but along the same portion of river in 1987 a new incarnation of brewing appeared in the Old World Deli in Corvallis. After remodeling the corner of the deli building, they were up and running with 20 barrels a year. Now, just as they did then, all the grain is hauled all the way to the top story. When brewing, it is fed into a grain hopper that is set into the floor and feeds directly to the mash tun. It saves space in what is a very tiny (1800 sq feet vertically in three levels) brewery. It took hard work and cooperation to get that brewery up and running. Reinforcing floors and moving restrooms is not an easy task.


At the time there were only three other breweries in the entire state of Oregon. Widmer, Full Sail, and Bridgeport. Microbrews were still not popular at this time in Oregon. Even having to battle over every single tap handle they gained, Oregon Trail began to win over customers with their consistent brews. In 1989 they won a silver for Oregon Trail Brown at GABF. The brewery prospered and increased to 300 barrels per year.

Poised to increase to 1200 barrels per year, disaster struck. The owner at that time, Jerry Shadomy, fell into hard times and brewery suffered. They lost tap handles in the community and it seemed that Oregon Trail was destined to fail completely by mid 1992.

Dave Wills, who had assisted Shadomy in renovating the space for the brewery decided that he didn’t want to let this piece of history die after so much effort had been put into it. While he had other businesses such as Freshops demanding his time and expertise, he threw his efforts in with Oregon Trail. He redesigned fermenting, marketing, and packaging. Instead of just kegs, they began to bottle and present their microbrew in a new way to the public. This gained them valuable shelf space, and customers. Dave hired new brewers who helped create quality, dependable recipes. Other breweries and the public have contributed, and even today when a customer offers pounds of hops or other ingredients they grew in their backyard, Oregon Trail Brewery is only too happy to accept. This makes the community part of this brewery.

Today Oregon Trail Brewery is at full capacity, 1200 barrels. They have continued to improve packaging and marketing. They hire brewers who have surprised us with their interesting ideas and tasty recipes such as sours and beers created with wine yeast. Their flagship brown still continues to be a prominent seller although they have added a wit, a solid IPA, and a ginseng porter to their regular lineup. They provide kegs as well as bottled beers aged in casks. It’s the only brewery in Corvallis that offers party pigs for those who can’t afford or transport a full keg.

You can go right into the brewery itself and on most any day, the brewer is happy to talk to you, give you tour, and a taste from the bright tank. Dave himself is more than willing to talk to homebrewers or even share hop starts. Every fermentor has a name, every piece of equipment a story, and every brewer a different view.

Other breweries have taken on many of the ideals that Oregon Trail started with and even though other breweries in Corvallis have expanded, all the breweries in Corvallis are still willing to share ingredients and make the public part of brewery life. It’s the way that Corvallis started and it’s what we will remember about Oregon Trail Brewing. Cheers! 

Photos by Che Dean (








Septembeerfest was REALLY awesome this year. For those who are not familiar with it, Septembeerfest is Corvallis Oregon’s large beer festival held each year in September. For an entry fee you get a shaker pint glass and some tokens to try tastes of beers presented there.

This year, Septembeerfest was held at Avery Park, which is a lovely tree filled park. We enjoyed great beer, great food, and great music!

Here are four of my favorite brews that were served at the event!

I’d like to thank all the people who gave their time to volunteer for this event whether it was running a tent, serving drinks, answering questions, or picking up trash. Corvallis is very community oriented with a strong vision of ecological responsibility. It’s a real pleasure to live here.

Proceeds went to assist Corvallis Benton County Food Share, who helps distribute food around the county. Their service is invaluable to us!



Homebrewing – Is It Cost Effective?

Here in the United States, standing in front of all the six packs of your favorite craft beer, you may wonder if spending anywhere from 8 to 12 dollars per six pack of bottled beer is worth the money. If you are feeling the pinch in your wallet but you just don’t want to give up your favorite libations, it may be time to consider brewing your OWN beer. But is it worth it financially in the end?

Lets compare. To simplify the process I’ll make a few assumptions. 1. I will assume you already have the equipment. 2. I will be assuming you are using a kit for extract brewing. These kits can cost anywhere from $25.00 to $60.00. Northern Brewer for instance has an American Wheat Beer extract kit that is about $27.00.  So for $27.00 you get the grain, the extract, the yeast, and the priming sugar necessary to make five gallons of beer.

A six pack of craft beer is approximately $8.00 here in Oregon. That’s 6 – 12oz bottles.

With 640oz in 5 gallons, you get about 54 -12oz bottles in five gallons of homebrew. That’s about 9 six packs of beer.

If you were to go to the store to pick up 9 six packs of beer, at $8.00 per six pack you’d pay a whopping $72.00.  That’s not counting any bottle deposit that your state might have.

Now, owing to spillage, evaporation, etc. I usually get about 48 bottles out of a whole 5 gallons of homebrew. That’s still 8 six packs of beer and at the store you’d pay $64.00 for those six packs. Even if you paid a top class price of $60.00 for a single five gallon brewing kit, you’d be coming out ahead. You can do these comparisons for your own area. Simply compare the cost of brewing a kit that you can get to the cost of purchasing the same amount of beer.

Your real cost is your initial investment in the equipment itself. After that comes the cost of your time. It takes a few hours for me to brew an extract batch of beer and get it into the fermenter. Not too bad. If you do anything other than extract brewing, you might spend a little less on a kit, but a little more in time brewing that batch. The real work involved is cleaning. Everything must be very clean to brew your beer and that means fermenting bucket, and everything that touches your beer after it is cooled off from the boil. Every bottle needs to be thoroughly washed and sanitized before being filled after your beer is fermented. This can be very tedious and you may come to the conclusion that either this is just not for you, or you need a simpler way to store your beer! Luckily there is kegging and various equipment for kegging that may make the process quite a bit simpler for you.

There are various sites on the internet that can provide you with the basic equipment to start brewing. Northern Brewer, Austin Homebrewing Supply, Adventures in Homebrewing, Midwest Supplies, Craft A Brew, Label Peelers, Brewer’s Best, and even the one you may see in your local Bed Bath & Beyond, “Mr Beer”.  Also, don’t count out your local brewing supply store. Not only can you get quality advice on a moments notice from people who have experience, but if you pick up your equipment from them, you don’t pay shipping.

Each site is a little different from the next and have different prices, but no matter which site you choose, you could very easily get going from this:

to this

and be happy not to have to pinch your wallet every time you reach for a glass.



Oatis Stout Stew

Cooking with beer is often a choice beer drinkers who also cook consider at one point or another. The choice of beer as well as the balance of beer to other ingredients is very important. A stew is one of the easiest ways to start putting beer into your food. It is relatively easy to put together and cooks slowly, providing you an opportunity to “fix it and forget it” for awhile. The smell of stewing meat and vegetables will fill up the rooms in your home providing a welcome appetizing aroma.

When you cook a soup or stew with beer, remember to balance the beer with broth. If you use only beer, you may wind up with a very bitter tasting stew. At least one quarter of the liquid should be broth.

This pork stew uses Ninkasi’s Oatis Oatmeal Stout for a thick texture and smooth, almost nutty flavor.

Cooking: You can cook this recipe two ways. If you want to use your oven, pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to use a pot that can be used in an oven and use pot holders to remove the pot. OR brown the pork and onions together in a pot on the stovetop before transferring to the slow cooker. Make sure to use a setting that will allow you to cook the stew for at least 4 hours. A low setting for 8 hours is also very good.

  • 2 pounds cheap pork cut into chunks
  • One handful of flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1- 12 oz bottle of Ninkasi Oatis Oatmeal Stout
  • 1 1/2  to 2 cups of broth (Beef is best)
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  1. Toss the chunks of pork in flour until they are covered.
  2. Brown the chunks of pork in the bottom of a stewpot that can go into an oven. Oil or shortening is best to avoid burning.
  3. After browning the meat, add the onion and cook together for a minute or two
  4. Turn off the heat add the butternut squash
  5. Add the bottle of beer and the broth. Make sure the liquid comes up to the level of the meat and vegetables. If there isn’t enough liquid, add more broth.
  6. Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and garlic.
  7. Mix gently and put a lid on the pot.
  8. Put into the oven and let it cook for at least 4 hours.
  9. Remove and taste test the pork. It should be tender and easy to chew.
  10. If you like your stew thicker, you can mix a few tablespoons of cold water to a tablespoon of cornstarch, stir well with a fork and add to the hot stew.
  11. Serve with warm bread toasted with cheese as the perfect accompaniment.