Oregon Dreamers

Susan Seubert,  Photographer
January 12, 2012 (Updated January 11, 2014)

Jamie Floyd put down deep roots in the Eugene community during the early 90s as an undergrad at the University of Oregon. The Bay Area native was roaming the Oregon campus just as craft brewing was beginning to take hold in the Pacific Northwest, and Floyd’s interest was piqued. He started home brewing with a roommate, and every winter when they’d taste Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale, they’d be inspired to make their own brew better.

By the time he graduated, with a degree in sociology, Floyd knew he’d either become a teacher or launch his own business. And he’d do it in Eugene. A temporary job at Steelhead Brewing as a line cook led him to nearly a decade of brewing for that company. Floyd says during this time he focused on developing his palate and learning the intricacies of crafting great beer.

At some point, between the brew kettle and the boxes of hops, an idea frothed—he’d open his own brewery and make beers the people of Eugene could claim as their own using water from the McKenzie River, the town’s pristine water source. Then he honed the idea even further: his brewery would be named Ninkasi, after the Sumarian goddess of beer.

Around that time, Floyd met Nikos Ridge, who’d recently returned to his hometown of Eugene after a stint on the east coast. Ridge had lived in Brooklyn, where he attended New York University. He stayed on to work in the financial industry, but found himself missing the quality of life and access to the outdoors he loved in the Pacific Northwest.

With a background in business, Ridge was ready to bring his skills to a startup, and in 2006, Floyd and Ridge brewed the first batch of Ninkasi beer: Total Domination IPA, an apt name considering what’s happened since. In its first year, Ninkasi produced 2,000 barrels of beer, and the business partners say that this year they expect to make 50,000 barrels of their now ubiquitous Northwest brews. In the meantime, Men’s Journal named Total Domination IPA one of the top 25 beers in 2010 and Wired magazine crowned Believer Double Red Ale as Most Wired Beer.

After quickly outgrowing its first space, Ninkasi Brewing Company built its own brewery in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. Eventually they added a cool, modern tasting room, which features a large outdoor patio with monolithic fireplaces and picnic tables.

Stop by to sample Ninkasi’s four year-round beers—Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA, Believer Double Red Ale and Oatis Oatmeal Stout—plus whatever seasonal happens to be on tap.

If you’re lucky, you’ll run into Ridge and Floyd, who cycle and walk to work. You may find Floyd talking about the beauty of a big, hoppy ale or how beer has shaped humanity for thousands of years. As for the way beer has influenced his own Oregon experience? “It’s simple,” Floyd says. “Magical things happen when people love what they’re doing.”

About The

Lucy Burningham
Lucy Burningham is a Portland-based writer who covers food, drink and travel for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Bicycling and Lonely Planet guidebooks, and she frequently writes about craft beer. In 2012, she co-authored “Hop in the Saddle: A Guide to Portland’s Craft Beer Scene by Bike.”