Ninkasi Brewing is not your typical brewery. With a strong focus on building community and promoting local musical talent with an in-house studio, Ninkasi stands out as a premier location for both beer and music. Today, ETV spoke with Ninkasi brand and experiential marketing director, James Book, and Beer is Love program manager, Emilie Hartvig, about how music and donation programs help Ninkasi Brewing stand out from the rest of the pack. Check out an EP released from the Ninkasi Studios here:
Ninkasi Brewing was co-founded by Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge in 2006. Together they used their combination of business and brewing skills to push Ninkasi to become the fastest growing craft brewery in the United States. The brewery has expanded its operations over the years while keeping a focus on helping the community, whether through its donations program or by helping local musicians produce records with an inhouse recording studio.
James Book, Ninkasi brand and experiential marketing director with two decades of experience in the music industry, operates Ninkasi Studios and provides expertise to Ninkasi partnered artists at no charge. He said the idea for Ninkasi Brewing to include a proper studio happened organically since the brewery already supported local artists through music production, recording, album pressing sponsorships and assistance in tours and bookings.
“In the early days of the company our former CEO and I intended to build a studio and then Total Domination IPA exploded in popularity in the NW,” Book said. “As marketing director at that time, I continued to sponsor bands with production time and pressing etc. and they organically would spread the word about us on tour. Bars and their fans took interested in the story and we made new account partners and new customers as result.”
The music produced at Ninkasi Studios is a mix of local, regional, national, and international talent. Book said Ninkasi has close partnerships with various artists and they call them first when looking for bands or solo artists to appear at new beer launch party tours and other events.
“We work the most closely with bands from SoCal, Washington and Oregon, naturally, but we have enjoyed working with others from further away including the amazing Gayle Skidmore who now lives in The Netherlands,” Book said.
The equipment in the studio includes the essentials of what any proper recording studio should have, from mics, a collection of restored vintage and modern instruments, and amps with a digital audio workstation running Pro Tools. Book said they work primarily “in the box.”
“Plus, it’s inside a brewery so the artists tend to appreciate that detail. No beer for the drummer until the drum tracks are laid!” Book said.
The first original musical offering to come out of Ninkasi Studios was the “Dawn of the Red Compilation EP” released in September 2015. The collection included music from Vokab Kompany + Kraddy, Sapient, Black Beast Revival, and Tyler Fortier, among others. The artists chosen for this compilation were specifically chosen based on where they were from.
“For the ‘Dawn of the Red Compilation,’ which was a concept record, we intentionally chose bands of completely different ‘flavor’/genres from specific target cities in line with our local strategies in those areas and asked them each to write a song called ‘Dawn of The Red,’” Book said. “They obviously asked ‘What should it be about?’ but we told them to authentically interpret it themselves and just include the phrase ‘Dawn of The Red’ in their songs’ choruses as it related to their lyrical themes. The album came out great and we pressed vinyl that the bands could sell on tour and that we could use at account promotions such as bar event giveaways and so forth.”
Ninkasi Studios has made several compilations allowing the artist to write an original song based on the name or theme of the flavor. The latest was the “Pacific Rain Compilation” base off the Pacific Rain Northwest Pale, which is crafted with lava-filtered water from the McKenzie River Watershed. The compilation features up-and-coming and established artists from the region performing Bluegrass, Roots and Americana music.
“Pacific Rain was a NW-centric beer release focusing on our quality of life up here,” Book said. “Given that we were also sponsoring Northwest String Summit bluegrass festival in overlap to the commemorative ‘Pacific Rain Compilation,’ we opted to make an entirely string/acoustic album in commemoration of the beer’s release where many of the artists we featured on the album also performed at the festival.”
Ninkasi Studios’ work in recording and producing indie and established artists has allowed the area of Eugene to gain more recognition as a legitimate place where talented musical artists can go to record. In turn, these bands also spread the word about Ninkasi, making the relationship beneficial for both sides.
Book said Ninkasi does not sell their artist’s music but they do use it internally for content and video soundtracks that are produced and they also offer the music to their non-profit partners to use as soundtrack for their promotional videos. Overall, Ninkasi Brewing is aware of the powerful combination that is beer and music can have and using it to help propel local artists in an intriguing way.
BEER IS LOVE
Floyd and Ridge have always made it a point to make donations part of their brewing culture. After donating beer to the community here and there, Ninkasi set up a donation programs called Beer is Love that offers beer donations to registered non-profit organizations.
“While the main focus of Beer is Love is to donate beer to non-profits, we also integrate an employee volunteer program,” said Beer is Love program manager, Emilie Hartvig. “If an employee wants to volunteer for a local organization, we work with them to make it happen. If there is a volunteer opportunity during the work week, we ensure that they are still able to get paid for their job while taking a couple hours out of their day to give back to a cause they care about.”
The program has worked with many types of non-profits. It recently narrowed its focus on the “Beer is Love DNA,” supporting non-profits doing work in five core categories: women, equality, recreation, the environment, and arts and music. Some of the non-profits they have worked with include McKenzie River Trust, HIV Alliance, SOMArts, Team River Runner, and Women Who Code. Beer is Love has found success in donating in progressive non-profits and it plans to continue doing more events in the future.
“We are a part of all kinds of events,” Hartvig said. “In the next couple weeks, we are donating to a concert in the park, an art exhibit opening, a local beer festival, and a small private celebration. The donations for these events range anywhere from four and a half barrel kegs to two cases.”
For anyone interested in getting involved with Beer is Love, visit the donations website at Ninkasi. To learn more about all the incredible beer and music related news going on at Ninkasi Studios, check them out at Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and their official site.