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Brewing in a historical setting

Wolves and People Farmhouse Brewery looks to open in Newberg


Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - Construction underway - Founder Christian DeBenedetti and brewmaster Jordan Keeper are in the prep stages of  opening their new brewery, Wolves and People, in Newberg.There’s something unique about walking into an old barn and imagining its history. For Christian DeBenedetti, it’s something he’s embracing.

“The barn has been here since 1912,” DeBenedetti said. With a history ranging from hazelnuts to wine, he’s turning the family barn into a brewery. “I’ve been planning it for a long time.”

Located off Highway 99W and surrounded by farmland, Wolves and People Farmhouse Brewery is just starting to take shape.

“Things have accelerated recently,” he said. The barn needs a nearly complete overhaul, including a new floor for the brewing equipment and renovations to create a tasting room for guests.

“If everything goes well in terms of building the brewery out, we could be brewing in a couple of months,” he said.

Just last week his head brewer, Jordan Keeper, moved from Austin, Texas, to help get things started.

“It’s a huge undertaking, especially for one person, but now I have Jordan here helping out,” DeBenedetti said.

This includes the tough work, like cleaning everything out, and the fun stuff like coming up with beer names and recipes.

“I love the Belgian, German style, the old world styles that have been reimagined in American breweries,” he said, “that new American tradition of being innovative and experimenting. One of the cool things that happened last summer, we harvested yeast from our plums and cultured it for brewing. So we’ll be able to use yeast from the farm.”

The well water will find a place too.

“What we’re trying to do here is express the different characteristics of the land and this specific location,” Keeper said. “The water is a huge part of that. We also want to take advantage of the yeast coming off the fruit. The fruit itself is also going to make an appearance.”

Although the beer will be drier and not characterized as a fruit beer, Keeper said there will be a little zing here and there.

“I think it can be kind of representative of this little plot here,” he said. “It has a lot of history and I’m looking forward to Wolves and People being part of that history. We’ve already listed this series of people who were here, the series of businesses, it’s really fun to add to that and be the next ones and find ourselves meshed into the community.”

As for the name itself, Wolves and People has a historical basis as well.

“Wolves and People is the name of a game we played as kids on the farm growing up,” DeBenedetti said.

Similar to tag, players had to run from one end of the farm and back without being turned into a wolf.

“That’s the literal name for us, historically, is the tag game but it goes beyond that,” he said. “Hops’ Latin name is humulus lupulus, which means little wolf among weeds, and that’s a key ingredient in beer. There’s a lot of other layers to it. We want to make beer with wild yeast here too, that definitely plays into the themes of wild beers, sort of an untamed character coming together with people to enjoy it and form community.”

Community will play a large role in the brewery’s success, as DeBenedetti said he plans to launch a fundraising campaign soon to help offset some of the costs. The extensive cost to get started is one reason it took DeBenedetti so long to start something he said he’s been planning since he first started home brewing in college.

“It’s my passion,” he said. “It took a long time to save up money to buy equipment. I actually paid my first deposit with a 20-pound bag of hazelnuts.”

If everything goes as planned, the brewery should open in time for the Craft Brewers Conference in April in Portland.

“It’s all about 2015 at this point, given we’re not too far away from that,” he said. “We’re kind of eyeing (the conference) as a chance to throw the doors open. Certainly we’ll be open before that, but it’s a chance to get some folks in here.”

To learn more about Wolves and People and their progress, visit www.wolvesand people.com.

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