Ninkasi Brewery Makes Beautiful Music

Drink Features

Call it the natural evolution of all good things. Ninkasi, the Eugene-Oregon-based brewery whose beers have already won accolades here at Paste, continues to exercise the perfect confluence of “the important things in life” with its pioneering music artist sponsorship program. And with a new studio slated to open this spring, it seems fitting to congratulate them on championing two things that lie close to this publication’s heart: good music and great beer.

The sponsorship program stems from the beer-maker’s love of music, but it was spearheaded by James Book, Ninkasi’s VP of Marketing and former base player for The Flys, who brought his Top Secret Records label to the brewery in 2009. Today, the program covers everything from monetary and design support to booking assistance and recording sessions in Ninkasi’s own studio. Ninkasi even provides beer and swag for musicians on tour.

Today, the program boasts a hearty roster of more than 30 West Coast musical acts, ranging in genres from bluegrass and country to “soul-tronic dance” and the “pirate gypsy blues” of Unkle Nancy. They also continue to sponsor the Last Band Standing concert series—now in six different northwestern cities. If you win, your band gets a free trip to Eugene to record at the brewery’s studio. But perhaps most importantly, partnering with Ninkasi assures that the bands won’t have to navigate the shark-infested waters of the major labels. Oh, and the brewery supplies plenty of beer on tap at the studio to fuel the musicians’ inspiration.

Ninkasi also features music regularly at their downtown pub house. They also host the annual Whiteaker Block Party in its home town of Eugene; sponsor the Northwest String Summit in North Plains, Oregon; and has been a steady participant in the musical orgy known as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Named after the Sumerian goddess of fermentation, Ninkasi’s holistic approach to the good things in life extends beyond creating killer beer and offering financial and psychological support for musicians. The brewery installed a 160-panel solar array in late 2011, and deploys a variety of water conservation efforts to reduce their overall footprint on the climate. As much as 60 percent of its bottles use post-consumer glass from Portland, they always use locally sourced ingredients, and the cardboard of its six-pack carriers and four- and 12-pack cartons contain 100 percent recycled product. Not surprisingly, all future updates to their already-extensive facilities align with their goal to becoming fully LEED-certified. They also donate to legions of non-profits (600 in 2012 alone) as part of their “Ninkasi Beer is Love” program.

Now…if only it were easier to find those amazing beers outside of their current distribution. Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, consider yourselves blessed by that Sumerian goddess.

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