Lane County’s growing band of brewers soon will get another member — Falling Sky Brewing Co.
The grand opening of the brew house, tucked in an alley just south of 13th Avenue, between Willamette and Oak streets, is set for Feb. 7.
Inspired by Munich’s beer halls and London’s neighborhood pubs, Falling Sky hopes to become a local favorite for handcrafted beers and sodas, barrel-to-tap wines and food, with a heavy emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients.
The business is the culmination of the dreams of Jason Carriere, the owner of a local home brew shop; Rob Cohen, a seasoned restaurateur transplanted from Ithaca, N.Y.; and Corey Wisun, a Eugene chef with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.
The Eugene-Springfield area already is home to two well-known craft breweries, Ninkasi Brewing Co. and Oakshire Brewing, and a half-dozen brewpubs that serve their own beers. But people in the local beer industry said there’s room for Falling Sky.
“I think it’s a slam dunk,” said Mike Coplin, an owner of 16 Tons, a taphouse on 13th Avenue near Falling Sky’s home brew shop and brewpub. “They have a great base in the community. And Corey (the brewpub’s executive chef) has a following in his own right.”
Falling Sky’s main owners, Carriere and Cohen, have been overseeing the renovation of a former tractor repair shop at 1334 Oak Alley. German, copper-clad brewing equipment — bought secondhand from a failed brewery in Tokyo — will be the brewpub’s centerpiece. A mix of custom-made communal tables and individual tables will seat up to 70 people inside. Outside, the focal point will be a 24-seat beer garden.
Falling Sky’s owners declined to disclose the total cost of the project but said they spent $200,000 to $250,000 on the brewing equipment and cold processing area. They are financing the venture with their own money and a loan from Century Bank.
The brewers will be Carriere, Michael Zarkesh and Scott Sieber, all veteran home brewers. Sieber also was a head brewer at Eugene City Brewery, a Rogue brewery in downtown Eugene. The three have worked together for years at the Valley Vintner & Brewer shop on 13th Avenue, now called Falling Sky Brewing.
Falling Sky’s brew house plans to produce 800 to 1,000 barrels in the first year. The equipment’s capacity is 2,500 barrels. (A barrel is 31 gallons.) Their output will be much smaller than Ninkasi — the third largest craft brewer in Oregon, which produced 57,000 barrels last year — Oakshire, which produced 4,700 barrels, and Springfield’s Hop Valley, at 3,000 barrels.
But Carriere and Cohen said their goal isn’t to try to compete with Ninkasi and Oakshire.
“It’s not our goal to start bottling anything,” Cohen said. “Our goal is to make beer for here.”
That decision will enable Falling Sky to offer more styles of beer from around the world, Carriere said.
“Most brewpubs have six standard beers and two rotating taps,” he said. “We’d like three or four standard beers and four to six rotating taps, so people get a lot of variety.”
Carriere predicts that India Pale Ale — a Northwest favorite — probably will be Falling Sky’s most popular brew, but he said he also wants to offer lesser-known beers, such as an English-style bitter, a lighter ale with 31⁄2 percent alcohol, “which ironically is not bitter.”
Falling Sky also plans to introduce a gluten-free beer.
“Working in the home brew shop, we hear what people want,” Carriere said. “We’ve heard about people driving up to Deschutes (Brewery Portland Public House) for their gluten-free beer.”
Existing local breweries said that the opening of another brewery will help, not hurt, them.
“We think it’s awesome,” said James Book, Ninkasi’s marketing director. “It just seems like craft beer is exploding and nobody can make enough, so the more local beer the better.”
Carriere said that Zarkesh and Sieber, managers at the home brew shop, had wanted to start a brewpub for years. Carriere told them he would support them if they could find the right place and mix of people to pull it off.
“I was apprehensive about the restaurant part,” Carriere admitted.
Cohen pulled in executive chef Corey Wisun, who already operated Field to Table, a growing catering business and farmers’ market stand featuring seasonal foods. Wisun said his 3-year-old business will merge with Falling Sky. In addition to running the brewpub’s kitchen he will continue the catering business, renamed Field to Sky.