Craft beer is big business, and it’s getting bigger every day. That’s what makes turning the focus on “nano breweries”, brewing operations usually run by one or two independent entrepreneurs creating in small batches, so compelling.
Fueled by pure passion and love of homebrewing, these brewers put heart and soul into creating locally crafted beers for their communities. Meet Jonathan Kaiser, the founder of Oregon’s Kaiser Brewing. He’s taking his love of great beer, his family and friends, and the brewing business and putting them together to become one of beer-crazy Oregon’s most talked about new brewers.
Steve: What inspired you to start Kaiser Brewing?
Jonathan: A large part of inspiration for starting Kb comes from our passion for community. In the years I have been home brewing, the best part was opening the garage door and having friends, neighbors and even strangers come up with curiosity about what I was doing.
Beer brings people together. Great conversations start; strangers and acquaintances turn into friendships that deepen over time. It is our mission field, plain and simple. So to move from a home brewer and actually starting a brewery, it all comes back to wanting to be more engaged with our community.
Steve: Are there any breweries or people out there that inspire you to keep pursuing to to reach your goals?
Jonathan: Starting on this path there have been many bumps in the road, and still are (a new one was just raised today!). But along the way, I have reached out to numerous breweries to ask for guidance, and they are always happy to chat. My wife and I also try to visit other breweries as often as we can on “date nights,” tasting their beer and talking recipes.
The brewing community is amazing, and experiencing it first hand with those who have faced the same obstacles themselves and can provide advice has helped me and continues to inspire and encourage. The best support, though, comes from my family, friends and the community to keep at it no matter the bumps, the doubts, the frustrations. I try hard to not let things get to me. A thick skin and repeating the mantra of “it is, what it is” helps a lot, too.
Steve: So craft beer is incredibly popular, especially in Oregon. What’s Kaiser Brewing doing to stand out and get recognized? What sets you apart from other great craft breweries?
Jonathan: Craft beer sure is incredibly popular, and there are many, many new startups continuing to pop up. We are just one of many getting into the ring; not to fight it out though; rather, to compete and collaborate well with others because brewers really are a tight community.
I can’t think of another industry where everyone plays so well together and is there to help out when needed. The Craft Beer industry really shines there. So how are we going to be recognized and be set apart from the other greats who are well established?
I don’t know and only time will tell. We are not setting out to be the “greatest,” or even the biggest. It is easy to define the biggest because that can be measured, but what is greatness? It can have so many meanings. Is it defined by popularity, by revenue, by charitable donations, by knowledge, by awards, all of the above?
We are doing this to make great beer for our patrons and to get out and about in communities with our product. Right now, because of our size we have the ability to work privately and create a special batch/recipe for individuals or private events (parties, weddings, etc.).
We only make ales for now and have many styles to provide. My wife and I are always thinking of new fun tastes and flavors to try, so, to us, creativity is something that we hope to be recognized for. That, and a hell of a IIPA!
Steve: Describe your current brewing operation. How much beer are you brewing and how are you able to distribute it?
Jonathan: We are a nano-brewery out of our detached garage at 1bbl a batch (50gal kettles) size. We are still waiting TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) approval so while we are not distributing at this time, we will be self distributing to local pubs/taverns and also going mobile, out into farmers markets, festivals and events. At 1 bbl we will provide 1/2 and 1/6th kegs, and have a growler-fill station out of our garage.
Steve: Do you use any locally sourced ingredients? What’s your process like for collaboration with local farms or brewpubs?
Jonathan: Right now most of our supplies/ingredients come from local home brewer shops, but we are actively looking to partner/contract with local hop and grain farms, as well as donate our spent grain to ranchers for feed.
We do grow about 5 hop varieties in our back yard to use but its not nearly the volume we need so we are eyeing Crosby Hop Farm in Oregon and The Country Malt Group in Vancouver who seems the closest malt distributor, but nothing has been initiated just yet.
Our process for collaboration thus far has been direct and indirect. A lot of conversations through emails and social media messaging, to direct in person conversations with brewers at the breweries themselves.
I got to do a 7bbl collaboration batch with Uptown Market in Beaverton after winning a home brewing competition with our IPA. After funding them through a Kickstarter campaign, I was able to work a day with Ex Novo Brewing in Portland as well. We will continue to meet and network with other brewers and brewpubs about how we can collaborate in the future as well.
Steve: Well, it sounds like Kaiser Brewing is about to really make an impression on the Oregon beer scene! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your brewery and your ambitious goals. I wish you the best of luck, and can’t wait to make a personal visit to sample your craft!
Here’s where you can learn more about Kaiser Brewing: