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The Business of Beer: Life, liberty and the pursuit of hoppy-ness

In a special report #LiveOnKVAL November 21 and November 23 at 5 p.m. & 11 p.m., reporter Ellen Meny takes a look at the Business of Beer in Eugene. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Beer is big business in Oregon.

The state's 218 brewing companies employed 8,500 people in 2015, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild.

Hop farmers in Oregon produce 15 percent of the nation's crop last year.

And many Oregon beer drinkers are patriotic about their beverage - as the saying goes, Think Oregon, Drink Oregon. The guild found that 22 percent of the beer consumed in Oregon is made here.

That culture has secured a spot in the state's politics, too: Sen. Ron Wyden ran advertisements in his re-election bid touting his support for craft brewers.

Eugene is home to 15 of those brewing companies. All told, the Willamette Valley - excluding Oregon - is home to 49 brewing companies.

That's given rise to tourism efforts, like the Eugene Ale Trail.

In a special report #LiveOnKVAL November 21 and November 23 at 5 p.m. & 11 p.m., reporter Ellen Meny takes a look at the Business of Beer in Eugene.

MONDAY, November 21 | Elk Horn Brewery and Viking Braggot Company

On Monday, Meny profiles two relatively new but ambitious breweries: Elk Horn Brewery and Viking Braggot Company.

Elk Horn Brewery has tripled in size since they opened, branching out to taps and store shelves.

"We want to be in grocery stores all over Eugene, Albany, Salem, in the next six months," Elk Horn co-owner Stephen Sheehan said.

Viking Braggot was a University of Oregon project that became a reality in 2013.

"It's tough to imagine standing here right now, even where I thought this was going to be three years ago, I mean, starting from just a college paper," Viking Braggot Company co-owner Addison Stern said.

WEDNESDAY, November 23 | Ninkasi and Hop Valley

On Wednesday, Meny visits two of the pillars of microbrewing in Eugene: Ninkasi and Hop Valley.

Ninkasi, named for the Sumerian goddess of fermentation, turned 10 this year.

"It's been a wild ride, for sure," Ninkasi co-owner Nikos Ridge said.

The company has grown to 100 employees.

"Most of the time we're not looking to copy other styles that are predominantly in the market place, so we try to be more niche that way," Ninkasi co-owner Jamie Floyd said.

Hop Valley had its humble beginning in 2009.

After that? It grew and grew and grew, banging out about 3 new beers every month.

Hop Valley has two brewpub locations, manufactures 200 cans of beer per minute, and recently entered into a partnership with Tenth & Blake, the craft beer division of Miller-Coors.

"We were growing at levels that no brewery had ever grown here in the Northwest," Hop Valley co-founder Chuck Hare said.

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