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Creativity, Sustainability Are Vital For Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing

It’s often been said — to the point of cliche — that life is about passion. While people can disagree on this simple maxim, one small business in Eugene, Oregon, is combining a handful of its passions to create a veritable mecca of what one of the owners, Jamie Floyd, refers to as his “nerdy pastimes.”

In this case, Floyd is referring to craft brewing! The Business Download had the opportunity to speak with the owner about his love of craft beer, comics, and his Pacific Northwest brewery, Ninkasi Brewing.

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing 

Floyd said his “nerdy” interests have been a mainstay his whole life. He became particularly interested in home-brewing beer more than 30 years ago.

“So, I started home brewing beer at least in college — back in 1990. I’d been doing some hard cider fermentations in high school and stuff but started brewing; then I moved from the Bay Area to Eugene to go to the University of Oregon,” Floyd said, laughing a bit.

“Homebrewing was just one of my nerdy pastimes … this was well before the internet existed and stuff. So it was kind of a different world back then.”

“When I graduated, I ended up getting a job at a brewpub in Eugene called Steelhead,” he continued. “After about a year of working there, the head brewer needed an assistant, and he asked me if I was interested … And I didn’t know that I could even be a brewer … That’s how closed the door was back then.”

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing 

Just like that, Floyd was off on an adventure that would lead him from humble beginnings. By simply following a passion, he became a leading business owner in his region in an “industry that is as old as civilization.”

Fast forward a few years to 2006, and Floyd and his business partner and friend, Nikos Ridge, co-founded Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. Floyd said they had a couple of reasons for staying close to home in Eugene. 

“It was my intention to stay in Eugene, partly because the water source is so clean, pristine here,” he said. “And because I really felt like we could serve our community best here versus a place like Portland or bigger cities or other communities. Eugene, at the time, deserved to have a regional brewery.”

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing 

Over the past nearly 20 years, Ninkasi Brewing has expanded not only its product line but also its reach within its local Eugene, Oregon, community. It has done so with an eye on serving its area through tasty craft beers and being good environmental stewards, implementing various sustainable practices to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

“We have a pretty decent solar array on our buildings, on one of our main buildings at least,” Floyd said. “And that’s been really nice. We also engaged in Smart Energy, Oregon Smart Energy, so a lot of the energy that we get comes from wind power and other sources than coal.”

“We have neuro boilers on site, which use about 60% of the energy that it takes to get the same DTU unit out of a traditional boiler, which is nice,” he continued.

“We installed the nicest wastewater treatment facility in our county for what we do … You know, I also like to talk about, you know, preventative maintenance is a really important part of sustainability. Having the budget and ability to keep equipment running is really helpful on a lot of levels.”

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing 

Pivoting a bit as the conversation winds down, Floyd shares another “nerdy” pastime that Ninkasi Brewing has incorporated into its milieu of passions that drive them daily: comic books! A lifelong passion and a college friendship led to the creation of Ninkasi Comics, with one volume released in 2020 and another forthcoming.

“It’s an idea that I had a long time ago, that’d be fun to write a Ninkasi comic book,” Floyd said. “And then one of my college buddies was back then the vice president of marketing for Dark Horse Comics in Oregon.”

Photo Courtesy Ninkasi Brewing 

Throughout the discussion, Floyd repeatedly returns to themes centered around his lifelong interests, like brewing, comic books, and even dinosaurs, after which many beers are named. Toward the end of the interview, he seems to sum up his and Ninkasi’s central operating ethos.

“Finding ways to do your passions — beer was always a great place for that …You know, craft beer is a place where you can have a lot of fun and inspire a lot of creativity,” he said.


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