Day Trip: Christian DeBenedetti of Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery

christian debenedettiChristian DeBenedetti grew up on a hazelnut farm in Newberg, Oregon, where he built his converted barn-brewery, Wolves & People, in 2015. With a focus on cultivating many of his own ingredients and working with a small crew, DeBenedetti has days that are nothing if not diverse. What’s a typical day like in the life of a craft brewer? DeBenedetti takes us along for the ride.

7 a.m.: I go check on some of our favorite farm residents before they wake up—the bees! About a year and a half ago, I established three honeybee hives in a meadow near the barn-brewery. The goal with natural beekeeping is to: A) improve overall farm health; B) not get stung; C) harvest raw natural honey for our beers like HoneyCone (a hazy, mixed-culture, farmhouse-style IPA); and D) score some of the good stuff to spread on toast. Later today, I’ll start a yeast culture using a bit of the healthy, microbe-rich honeycomb that we’ll deploy in a saison, a technique I learned from Evan Watson of Plan Bee Brewery in New York. The little guys look good—a few ant invaders, no stings. I’m sweating like a pig in the bee suit and consider a swig of cold beer, but opt for coffee. It’s going to be a long day, with supply deliveries (and emails) starting to rush in.

9–11 a.m.: You know the old saying, “It takes a lot of good beer to make wine”? We tend to practice the reverse. A mobile canner comes to help us package an IPA brewed with a bit of Pinot Noir juice taken straight off the press from nearby Argyle Winery. I snap a photo of the bright blue cans to post on Instagram. I pop over to a killer local food cart for lunch with the crew, then I’m headed to Anne Amie winery with a hefty beer donation in exchange for some fresh Chardonnay Musqué juice we’re co-fermenting in another barrel-aged brew. We have more than 70 oak casks in our cellar, all formerly used for making Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and various spirits—but little room to spare, so the brewery often functions like an exhausting, live-action game of pallet-jack Tetris.

12–6 p.m.: Production is underway! I swing by a nearby drying operation for 100 pounds of dry-roasted kernels for a pair of new beers: Nutfarm, an imperial porter aged on our farm’s filberts (what old-time Oregonians call hazelnuts), and a grisette with a kiss of rye. I love the sights, sounds and smells of the brewery in harvest season. It reminds me of being a kid in the barn: dusty and loud, clattering with activity. All day, folks stop in to buy four-packs of pilsner, bottles of biere de garde aged on local cherries, and an IPA brewed with foraged huckleberries. I sort merch for the tasting room and online store, then sneak a sample from a low-fill off the canning line.

7 p.m.: One of our goals is to raise (and brew with) ingredients grown on this farm. Working with one of my old professor friends, Pat Hayes, a scientist at Oregon State, we’re now farming some varieties of experimental barley alongside nitrogen-locking cover crops like crimson clover and fava beans (and super-fragrant western meadowfoam for the bees) to see if site selection influences flavors. By dusk, after rototilling a 2,000-square-foot area in a huge cloud of dust, I sow thousands of seeds into 100-by-4-foot rows. Once the grains are ready, we’ll harvest and malt in small batches at OSU, then brew up a batch. By now I’m really thirsty, and I pour a tall glass of Neuberg, our gold-hued amber lager. Delicious.


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