Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery
What They Feed:
Wild, wood-aged & blended farmhouse beers in OR wine country using NW barley & hops, pure well water, indigenous yeast, farm fruits & filberts
The Farm: Springbrook Farm, a 20 acre family farm that has produced hazelnuts for over 50 years and is now home to a farmhouse brewery
Where You Can Find Them:
Bars & Restaurants: Bailey’s Taproom, Belmont Station, The Bent Brick, The Bitter Monk, Brooks Winery, Imperial, Interurban, Marukin Ramen, Noble Rot, Ruddick/Wood, Social Goods Market
Growing up on Springbrook Farm in Newberg, OR Christian DeBenedetti would play a game of tag with his 4 older brothers that they called Wolves & People. At that time there was no way of knowing that it would be the name of the farmhouse brewery he would open on the very same property 25+ years later.
The DeBenedetti Family moved to Springbrook Farm in Newberg in 1967. The 85-acre property had three dwellings and an old barn that was built in 1912. With sixty acres planted, the family harvested and processed hazelnuts on the farm, typically 60 – 100 tons per year. The DeBenedetti boys grew up helping with the family business.
Christian became interested in homebrewing in his freshman year of college and began experimenting with fermentation in his dorm. His first attempt at brewing was a brown ale called “Springbrook”. It was practically undrinkable, but Christian kept at it and eventually went to study brewing overseas, in Western & Central Europe and across West Africa, pursuing the Watson Fellowship in 1997/98. It was on his travels to farmhouse breweries in Belgium that the dream and idea of opening his own brewery on his family’s farm was born. When Christian returned to Oregon after his fellowship, the beer industry was far from thriving, as supply had surpassed demand. He applied for jobs at all of the 15 breweries in Portland at the time and came up empty-handed. So he started working in wineries and became a writer, with a focus on beer, craft brewing, and adventure travel.
In the meantime, on Springbrook Farm, the family had retired the old hand-built equipment in the old barn and Jim Prosser of JK Carriere Wines moved in in 1999. Jim made his highly-rated Pinot noirs in the barn until 2009, when he moved out and onto his own property.
Christian saw great success with his writing, being published in Travel & Leisure, The New York Times, Esquire, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and Outside magazine to name a few. In 2011 he released The Great American Ale Trail (Running Press, 2011), the ultimate coast-to-coast guide of craft beer. (A revised version of The Great American Ale Trail was released in April 2016, with updated listings and more than 200 new additions). Teaming up with Bottlenotes, Inc., Christian launched Weekly Pint in 2012, a website and newsletter about everything you ever wanted to know about craft beer, growing his audience to 90,000 email subscribers. (It’s since been relaunched as The Pint; Christian still guest-edits.) His most recent book, Beer Bites (Chronicle, 2015), written in collaboration with Andrea Slonecker, is a cookbook with “Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers”.
The old hazelnut processing barn on Springbrook Farm remained empty for 5 years, until 2014, when Christian founded Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery. And the long, challenging journey of bootstrapping and building a brewery from the ground up began. In the following months, Christian applied for permits, poured concrete, built drainage, applied for more permits, passed health and building inspections, acquired equipment and slowly built his dream.
From the Wolves & People website:
Wolves & People is dedicated to brewing modern American interpretations of styles that have been slowly perfected over many generations across the great brewing nations of Belgium, primarily, but also France, Germany, England, Scandinavia, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. From true farmhouse saisons to Belgian stouts, wild ales, sour and barrel-aged beers using our heirloom fruits and nuts, a few classic lagers and many styles both experimental and arcane, Wolves & People beers are designed to be, first-and-foremost, sociable.
In May 2016 Wolves & People opened its doors to the public, pouring over 750 beers in their first 8 hours. After years of thought, planning and hard work, Christian was finally able to share Wolves & People with family, friends and fellow beer lovers.
Wolves & People brews their farmhouse ales using untreated well water from Springbrook Farm. The water is a little lower in calcium and makes a for a silkier beer. They also use as much wild & natural yeast as possible. The Wolves & People house yeast, named Sebastian, is used in many of their beers and was actually collected from an old plum tree on the property and isolated by White Labs in San Diego. Jake Miller, who joins Christian from Oklahoma as the Wolves & People head brewer, is also a forager and loves to incorporate ingredients he finds on the farm and in the area in the farmhouse ferments. In Christian’s words, “when people come here they should know they’re tasting beers that to the highest degree we can, that it is a beer from this place, this farm, this valley that really reflects this patch of earth.”
“That flowery-sounding business plan is just that: a plan. Change is constant; pressure to open, not to mention brew to high levels is, too. To get through it all, sometimes you’ve got to “kill your darlings”—a phrase from the writing life—in order to progress. And sometimes you have to think bigger.” – Christian DeBenedetti, from Imbibe Magazine “On Opening a Brewery” (January 2015)
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