Caldera strikes gold with Ashland Amber

by Greg Stiles, Mail Tribune, May 9, 2016

Lead brewer Adam Benson stands among vats of award-winning beer, including the Ashland Amber and Lawnmower Lager, at Caldera Brewing Company in Ashland.
Lead brewer Adam Benson stands among vats of award-winning beer, including the Ashland Amber and Lawnmower Lager, at Caldera Brewing Company in Ashland. Mail Tribune/ Denise Baratta

Caldera Brewing Co.’s Ashland Amber struck gold in the 2016 World Beer Cup with its Classic English-Style Pale Ale category.

Caldera was among the Oregon brewers that snapped up 16 awards doled out last weekend in the biannual global beer competition held in conjunction with the World Beer Conference in Philadelphia.

“It was a nice surprise,” said Caldera owner Jim Mill, who last claimed gold in the competition in 2006. “It had been awhile since we won a gold. With more than 4,000 breweries out there, there are more now than before prohibition.”

The World Beer Cup, regarded as the Olympics of beer competition, has been held on even years since 1996. Winners were selected by an international panel of 253 beer judges from 31 countries.

There were 6,596 entries from 1,907 breweries in 55 countries.

The competition is strong for both shelf space and recognition in the industry, Mills said. “We’ve won silvers and bronze, but we don’t win every time. We got skunked in 2008 and 2010.”

Of late, however, Caldera has been on a hot streak.

Within the last month, the Ashland brewery was named Best Brewery in Oregon by in its “The Best Breweries Across the 50 States” search. Then, Caldera’s Lawnmower Lager was chosen one of “20 Great American Lagers Not Named Budweiser” by

“Usually Deschutes does well in those kind of things,” Mills said. “There are a lot of good breweries out there that can’t win.”

Mills is nearing the two-decade mark at Caldera, which opened in 1997. The company now has 75 employees at its brewery, restaurant and tap house in Ashland and Caldera brews are sold in 15 states and seven countries.

“There are a bunch of breweries that are really small that can’t produce enough for that kind of demand,” Mills said, noting it took a while to get momentum.

Caldera is producing 12,000 barrels annually at its 28,000-square-foot facility, which opened three years ago, and has a capacity of 60,000 barrels.

“Quite a bit of it has been uphill,” he admitted. “I didn’t quite raise the amount of money I needed to get all the equipment I needed when I started, so it was pretty tough going. But if I would’ve raised all that money, it would’ve been harder to pay the loan. So we’ve worked to grow and pieced things together slowly and consistently.”

Caldera plans to introduce bottled beer to go with its canned brews that debuted in 2005. The 12-ounce bottles are primarily for export to Canada, Brazil, Malaysia and “a few countries not hip on cans,” Mills said. “Taiwan and South Korea like that format rather than 22-ounce bottles.”

This summer, Caldera plans to expand its non-alcohol lines, producing 12-ounce cans of coconut water to go along with 12-ounce cans of root beer, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda with hops, and hibiscus tea.

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Ausland Group | May 13, 2016

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