CALDERA BREWING COMPANY & RESTAURANT
For Jim Mills, owner of Caldera Brewing Company & Restaurant (590 Clover Lane), the secret to life is simple: “I absolutely love beer,” he said, “as long as it’s good beer.”
As someone who has homebrewed beers since he was 19 years old, Jim knows the business. In fact, when he moved to Ashland in 1989 to finish college at SOU (“I didn’t care what I did as long as it was in Ashland,” he said), he worked and brewed for Rogue Ale on Water Street before the Flood of 1997 (see our article on page 26 for more on that). “I washed kegs for free,” he said, “just to get into the business.”
After the flood, Jim decided to branch out on his own. In 1997 he opened his own Caldera Brewing Company on Clover Lane, producing high quality ales and lagers with bold flavors.
“We self-distributed the product for the first six years,” he said. “In 2003 we partnered with Gold River Distributing and Mt. Hood Beverage Company in the Eugene and Portland markets to expand the business.”
For the first eight years, Caldera was draught-only until June 2005 when the Pale Ale was put into cans. “We were the first microbrewery in the state of Oregon to brew and can its own beers,” Jim said. “One thing that sets us apart from many other Northwest breweries—besides the beer clarity—is the incorporation of fresh whole flower hops into the brewing process. Whole flower hops have a cleaner taste than palletized hops.”
In 2009 he opened the Caldera Taphouse where the ole Rogue Ale was, and then in 2012 he built a 28,000-square-foot building on Clover Lane with a brewery, tasting room and restaurant, complete with a spacious outdoor eating area. Ten years ago, Jim divested himself from the downtown location and concentrated all his efforts at the brewery and new restaurant.
And it has turned out to be one of the more popular restaurants in Ashland, with a menu featuring appetizers, artisan pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, Mahi Mahi Tacos, desserts, entrees, pastas, salads, sauces, soups and desserts all made from scratch. Starting last month, Caldera is now open for Weekend Brunch (Sat-Sun 9am-2pm) with a great menu and specialty drinks. Happy Hour is Wed-Sun from 2pm-5pm with drink and food specials.
And of course, the selection of beers is extraordinary, from the popular Lawnmower Ale and Pale Ale to the Ashland Amber, IPA, and Mosaic, and of course, fun names like Hopportunity Knocks, Pilot Rock Porter and Coco-Nutty Blonde Ale. There are Brewery Dock Sales Mon-Fri from 9am-3pm.
Sustainability is the name of the game at Caldera. “We have always been dedicated to being green,” Jim said. “We strive to reuse or recycle everything we can, which is why the vast majority of our beer comes in cans. Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and weigh less than glass, which reduces shipping costs and reduced fuel usage. All of our spent grain, hops, yeast and filter sheets are composted to make rich, locally composted soil. Our used specialty grain bags go to employees for garbage bags.”
In the restaurant, water is served upon request; cooking oil is recycled into biofuel; the clear bar straws are corn-based and served upon request; food scraps are composted; and they use a nitrogen generator to pull nitrogen out of the air for their nitro brews and pushing beer from the kegs to the taps, eliminating delivery and use of nitrogen bottles.
For more info, the phone number at the restaurant is 541-482-HOPS, and brewery inquiries at 541-708-6001. You can also see them at calderabrewing.com or on Facebook and Instagram.