Lorane’s Alesong Does Beer Differently
Brewery finds home in the heart of wine country
By Aliya Hall
When Alesong Brewing and Blending was founded in 2015 by brothers Brian and Doug Coombs and veteran brewer Matt Van Wyk, the goal was to create something “a little different” in the Pacific Northwest.
Since then, the brewery has won 24 awards and honors for its beer, most recently taking home one gold and two silvers at Oregon Beer Awards 2019, as well as two golds and one silver at the Best of Craft Beer Awards.
It appears something different has found a welcoming home.
Nestled in wine country outside Eugene, Alesong is a brewery and tasting room next to King Estate winery in Lorane. The artisan brewery crafts small-batch beers with a focus on oak aging and Belgian-inspired techniques. The beers age anywhere from three months to three years.
Due to that slow production process, there isn’t a flagship Alesong beer regularly available to customers. However, the unique, small-batch brews give beer lovers something new and interesting to look forward to.
“We have this beer that not many people are doing,” Brian says. “The fact we’re 100% aged in oak and we’re doing sour beers and bourbon-aged
beers, it’s really something people in the industry aren’t doing a lot of.”
Brian, a formally trained professional chemist, transitioned into brewing when Matt brought him in to lead the quality program at Oakshire Brewing. With more than a decade of experience, Matt started a barrel-aged program as Oakshire’s brewmaster. It was there that Brian fell in love with making and drinking barrel-aged beers.
Before Alesong, Brian worked in production at King Estate. His experience there helped inspire one of Alesong’s award winning concoctions: beer-wine hybrids.
“One of the takeaways for us, and what we want people to be aware of, is the emerging trend in the beer industry of beer-wine hybrids,” Brian says. “It’s something we’re really excited about, and it feels that we can be at the front end of this new craft beer development.”
Alesong’s hybrids are known as the Terroir Series, with the pinot noir and pinot gris grapes and barrels coming from local wineries King Estate and Benton-Lane.
Their first two hybrids were awarded silver medals at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival.
“There’s no longer this invisible line that separates beer and wine lovers,” Brian says. “In fact, it’s more common that we find people enjoy and appreciate both, and that’s what we try to bring to life with these hybrid beers.”
Doug brings a wine background to the business. He has helped craft a tasting room and customer experience that is more akin to the neighboring wineries than a traditional brewery.
Alesong holds quarterly releases to introduce its new beers to club members and then the public. At the club-only release parties, each tasting
is paired with a small bite of food to bring out the specific flavors of the beer.
“We’re really passionate about how beer goes with food,” Doug says. “We often think beer gets overlooked as a pairing medium compared to wine. We want to break the tradition of going over to your in-laws for dinner and bringing a nice bottle of wine. A nice bottle of beer will do the same thing, if not better.”
Alesong’s winter release in February introduced four new beers: two of the wild and sour category aged in second-use wine barrels, and two aged in spirits barrels.
The wild and sour beers are fermented with “a slew of microbes” to make them dry and acidic, Brian says. All of the fruit Alesong uses comes from local producers in the Willamette Valley. Brian says it is important to partner with as many people in the community as possible.
“In May, we are releasing three more projects that utilized fruits from our local area, “ Brian says. “Kind of Blue is a sour beer refermented on biodynamic blueberries grown by our neighbors at King Estate. Terroir: Chardonnay was refermented on fresh-pressed chardonnay juice from Iris
Vineyards just down the road, and Common Nectar used nectarines from Detering Orchards in Harrisburg.”
Alesong has also used honey from Queen’s Bounty, which is in the neighboring area, too.
Brian’s favorite of the February release is Kriek, which was inspired by Belgian lambic brewing styles. The name Kriek is the Flemish word for cherry. That sour beer was refermented with cherries from Detering Orchards and nearby Hentze Farms.
Community collaboration continues with Alesong’s spirits- barrel aged beers. Mocha Rhino Suit is fermented in bourbon barrels, aged with chocolate from Chocolate Alchemy and coffee from Slightly Coffee Roasters, both of Eugene.
Asked how he feels once beers are released, Brian says, “It’s really cool, but I’m always my harshest critic. I always take notes and always try to perfect our beers and perfect the art. But it’s really exciting, too, because I’ve tasted it and worked on it for an average of 18 months. It’s such a long
process, and it’s fun to finally release it to our club members and have people be excited about it.”
Along with the brews, the tasting room brings something new to the Lorane community. Brian says there aren’t a lot of meeting spaces like it in the area, especially because the tasting room is both family and dog friendly and offers live music in the summertime. In addition to member events, the tasting room is open seven days a week for anyone to belly up at the bar or perch on the patio and enjoy the views.
“It’s community we have out here,” Brian says. “It’s been really fun. The town of Lorane has been good to us, too. People have their club meetings and birthday parties here. It’s nice to have the community support for what we do.”
Alesong’s location in wine country was not accidental. The intention behind Alesong is to take the brewing process slowly and naturally, and what better place to do so than in the countryside, Brian says.
“We’re closer to nature here and closer to local farmers and people living off the land,” he says. “That’s exactly what we wanted.”