Aspiring to beer greatness

She's made home-brewed beer before, but when it was time for Acacia Baldner to make her first professional batch, she was so nervous she couldn't sleep the night before.

She needn't have worried — her nutty, rich batch of Butternut Brown was a hit among Standing Stone customers.

A Southern Oregon University intern at the popular Ashland watering hole all summer, Baldner studied the ins and outs of brewing from Standing Stone Brewing Co. brewmeister Larry Chase, who pronounces her solo brewing venture a success. "She developed the entire recipe and went solo on the brew date, ran the equipment, mixed the ingredients," says Chase. "I was pretty confident in her. She'd done a lot of brewing all summer."

Baldner recalls: "It was the day I took off my training wheels. It was scary but exhilarating. This is my passion, to get to this level, and I had a blast doing it."

The moment of truth arrived two weeks later, when the brew was done and beer-loving regulars were invited to a pre-tasting party in the back room, just before Butternut Brown was tapped for the public.

"I was nervous — all that hard work that goes to that one moment. It turned out great and was a success for the restaurant," she says, describing it as "a medium-bodied, malty beer that is very flavorful and has a mild, floral hop aroma."

"Each beer has a great story and people hear it and love the story, as well as the beer," Chase says.

Baldner's love of brewing extends to her childhood, learning to work with the hops her father grew on the side of their house in Bend.

"I loved doing it, loved the smell of the hops. It made me interested in learning the art, biology and chemistry of brewing," says Baldner.

In her internship, Baldner quickly learned that brewing is 75 percent janitorial work, as everything is about cleaning and sanitation.

A senior in biochemistry, Baldner did the internship as her capstone project and will attend the master brewing program at University of California at Davis.

She will look for a job as master brewer in Southern Oregon or Northern California in 2012.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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