Conceived on a family-owned filbert farm, surrounded by the Chehalem Mountains appellation of Oregon wine country, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery is an entity all its own. To explain or understand exactly what it’s all about is to immerse oneself in a one-of-a kind locale, the terroir it offers, and a creative approach less often explored in American brewing today.
Founded in 2016 by Oregon native Christian DeBenedetti, Wolves & People is the realization of a decades long dream of opening a brewery. Having dabbled in homebrewing during college, at its conclusion Christian had the opportunity to spend a year exploring Western Europe and West Africa to study brewing history, having been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. It was this time spent visiting the traditional Lambic producers around Brussels that forever changed his perspective of what beer can be, but more so cemented the idea of opening a destination brewery on this family’s Newberg, Oregon farm.
After years spent as a freelance travel, food, and drink journalist in New York, he briefly returned home to the West Coast before an 18 month odyssey across the country to write The Great American Ale Trail, an award-winning brewery travelogue released in 2011 (since revised and greatly expanded in 2016). This time further acquainted him with the brewing process, enabling conversations with brewery owners about possible pitfalls for a start-up, and thus began to game plan his own endeavor: to create beers that reflect, in the glass, the specific location where they’re brewed.
As for the name of the brewery? Wolves & People was partially inspired by games of tag they’d play as kids at night on the 21 acre farm.
By 2014, things began to take shape at the farmhouse. The year-long undertaking of renovating the barn which houses the brewery, the hiring of a head brewer – Jordan Keeper from Jester King, the harvesting of yeast from the plum tree on the property, and thus a heavy dose of learning, experimenting, and finding ways to make the whole thing work. This year also saw a crowd-sourced raising of funds through Crowdbrewed to enable the straightening of the barn and a buildout of the brewhouse.
After an extra bit of time (about a year) spent brewing test batches and getting things in place, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery officially opened to the public on May 14th of 2016.
Over time, a vast number of particularly Belgian, French, and German-inspired beers have come to into the world at Wolves & People, though it’s always been with an eye toward experimentation and the utilization of what the farm’s been able to provide that’s been at the center of their endeavors.
Yes, there’s been plenty of wild, mixed culture, brett & barrel-aged styles – what they’ve always been known for, though there’s also been some modern takes on hoppy Lagers, refreshingly light table beers, or even bigger English styles like their Nut Farm – a Robust Porter conditioned on 50 pounds of filberts/hazelnuts harvested on the farm. Nothing is off the table when it comes to the brewery’s place-based focus.
As they continued to grow and blossom, more experimentation came to the fore. The propagation of wild yeast on the property from that first plum, to fir tips, rose hips, and spontaneous fermentation projects continued as well. Not to mention the addition of honey bees to the property, offering another source of local yeast, as guided from friend Evan Watson of Plan Bee Brewery in New York.
This later evolved into working with Nick Impellitteri of The Yeast Bay, a propagator & supplier of specialty yeasts in Portland. They were able to single out a number of yeast strains sourced from Wolves & People’s honeycombs, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. Boulardii, commonly found on the skin of wine grapes. This has become the newly created Forager strain, utilized in their currently available Wild Queen hoppy farmhouse ale.
Since the beginning of the pandemic they’ve continued to grow and buildout their unique, destination farmhouse space on the outskirts of wine country. While Jordan Keeper moved on to the Brussels Beer Project, they now have two regular brewers: Paul Rey, formerly of Little Beast Brewing and Michael Mattern, formerly of Other Half Brewing. Holding down the rest of the operations includes Christian’s partner and financial director John Kresge; Taproom, Marketing, and Cellar Society Manager Kevin Mayer; Brewery Artist and Label Designer Jason Sturgill.
Just last year, Wolves & People placed 9th on Craft Beer & Brewing’s Readers Choice poll for favorite Saison brewery and 18th overall in the realm of all small breweries worldwide. This week we’re so excited to begin working with Wolves & People, bringing their liquid labor of love to places near and far across Oregon. Here’s what we’ve received alphabetically, for starters, and you’ll be seeing even more of their delicious creations as the seasons progress:
Brutaal – Belgian-style Pale Ale – Meaning “cheeky,” “bold” or “audacious” in Dutch, Brutaal is a classic Belgian pale ale in honor of Orval, one of the first three recipes ever developed at W&P, that pours a coppery red and wafts spicy aromas of faint clove, pine, and orange rind, having been fermented in oak with our house saison-brett strain, and dry hopped with Styrian Goldings – 6.5%. Available on draft.
Crushpad Pilsner – German-style Pilsner – All German grains & hopped with fresh Hallertau Mittelfrüh. This lagerbier was brewed for our local winemakers, cellar workers, and harvest interns – 4.5%. Available in 16oz cans.
Eye of Pi – Table Beer – Featuring Wallonian farmhouse yeast, this delicate table beer with Indian Coriander, is about as refreshing as saison gets. Soft spice & citrus zest. Slightly rustic, insanely drinkable. First brewed for Honeypie Pizza in Newberg – the house beer. Coming to cans – 3.14%. Available on draft.
Foothills (2021) – Barrel Aged Saison – Saison brewed with pineapple sage, Szechuan peppercorns, and lemongrass from their gardens, and tucked away in barrels for a full calendar year. The resulting liquid is herbaceous, tart, oaky, and boasts characters of lemon zest, & mint – 7.7%. Available in 500ml Bottles.
Green Limousine – West Coast IPA – Classic, crispy, bright, old-school West Coast IPA: it’s becoming somewhat of a rare sight these days. Kind of like a GREEN LIMOUSINE. Ever seen one? Like that stripe of pine-colored plush carriage, our West Coast IPA is a thing of emerald excellence, with bright, fresh, lush hop character, a backbone of calibrated bitterness and malty flavors, and an orange-y red hue that looks like the best kind of spectral, left coast sunset. Inspired by the great West Coast IPAs of yore (Blind Pig, among others), San Fran vibes in the Summer of Love, and even 60’s icon Marlon Brando’s dark green limousine and a South Pacific paradise found (yes, true story) – 6.2%. Available in 16oz cans.
Honeycone – Unfiltered Farmhouse IPA – Brewed with pounds of local raw honey, heavily hopped with Mosaic, Amarillo, & Citra, & fermented with a hazy mixed culture of wild Belgian & American IPA yeasts – 7%. Available in 16oz cans and on draft.
Landbier – Franconian Dark Lager – this Franconian-style Black Lager has a substantial base of German Munich malts combined with a generous hand of Noble hop in soft water, subsequently fermented low & slow for a clean finish. Heavy gulps lend flavors of rich molasses, brown sugar, rustic bread, and Noble spice behind subtle milk chocolate & malt driven aromas – 5%. Available on draft.
Landbouw From Oak – Oak Fermented Grisette – This grisette was one of the absolute first beers brewed in the barn. Over the years, iterations have molded into something we are quite proud of; all-Oregon grown. Oak fermented table saison with entirely Mecca Grade malted barley, wheat, rye, and Oregon grown Crosby Hops Goldings. Fermented in former pinot blanc puncheons from friends here in the valley, it splashes across the palate with balanced pale malts and a lemon-curd zing, backed by a mild, Brett-forward tartness. Light, refreshing, dry. Saison lovers rejoice – 4.1%. Available on draft.
La Truffe – Stout with Truffle infused Hazelnuts – Our rich, complex table stout (at a sociable 5.1%abv) aged on our farm hazelnuts & incredible whole Oregon white truffles, overlays the roasty, cocoa-like brew with nutty, exotic aromas. Pair it with your honey glazed ham, creamy spring peas, scalloped potatoes, roasted rack of lamb, buttermilk biscuits, or pop it open for dessert with a hefty scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or tiramisu – 5.1%. Available in 500ml Bottles.
Nut Farm – Robust Porter with Cocoa & Hazelnuts – Robust porter brewed with cocoa nibs and conditioned on 50 pounds of farm grown filberts – 6%. Available in 16oz cans.
Parrett Mountain Pils – Italian-style Pilsner – A deliciously hoppy Italian-style Pilsner Named for a nearby 1250’ summit in the Chehalem Mountains just behind the farm, this crisp & floral lager is brewed to enjoy in high summer when temperatures hover high like red-tailed hawks. Our first Italian-style dry hopped pilsner with Weyermann Barke pilsner malt and Alsatian Mistral hops – 4.6%. Available in 16oz cans.
Pesca – Barrel Aged Wild Ale with Peaches – Pesca began its life as a menagerie of Belgian-style ales brewed with floor-malted pilsner, Vienna, Munich, American wheat malts, and rolled rye, fermented 100% in French oak barrels (sourced from local Oregon Pinot noir producers) with our house culture of wild yeasts and bacteria including our estate-grown Sebastian strain. To this blend of complex beers we added bushels of fresh local peaches from Baird Family Orchards for three months of refermentation in stainless, then laid the beer down for gentle bottle-conditioning. The result is a coppery, pleasantly sour ale overlaid with vibrant peach aromas and flavors, complex malt character, an almond-like nuttiness, and the tantalizing tang of our wild yeasts – 8%. Available in 500ml Bottles.
Piquette Grisette – Brett Saison with Riesling Piquette Grapes – Starting with a delicate base Grisette fermented in French-oak with a Saison-Brettanomyces strain, then blending in local Riesling Piquette grapes to create a highly thirst quenching, dry, mildly tart table saison. Notes of classic saison fruity esters and earthiness, subtle rustic funk, flowery aromas, earthy undertones, and nat white wine – 4.7%. Available on draft.
Sebastian Sour – Mixed-Culture Saison – A blend of mixed-culture oak-puncheon fermented saisons, with some aging done on second use local organic peaches. A delicious touch of stone fruit character, balanced, yet lively acidity, fresh blended citrus juices, tart white grapes, & honey – 6.2%. Available on draft.
Sterling River – Oak-fermented Brett Saison with fresh hop Crosby Farms Sterling hops – 6.3%. Available on draft.
Two Barns – BA Dark Farmhouse with Figs – BA Mecca Grade biere de garde with farm figs, bottle-conditioned. A collabo with Wheatland Spring in VA – 7.9%. Available on draft.
Wild Queen – Table Saison – Brewed with FORAGER, our own unique wild yeast gathered from our meadow’s busy hives, this innovative saison-style sipper is brewed into a large oak foeder with the finest floor-malted & local Oregon malt and fragrant noble hops. Blooming with floral, spicy, abundant aromas, this light yet satisfying table beer, ideally shared over a meal, offers a flower-filled field of possibility in every pour – 4.7%. Available in 16oz cans.
Content for this article sourced from: Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine Podcast, The Newberg Graphic, Imbibe Magazine, CraftBeer.com, Eater PDX, Willamette Week, Seven Fifty Daily, The Yeast Bay.