Raise a glass to the 30-somethings

We dropped in on opening night at Swing Tree Brewing down on Hersey Street a couple of weeks ago. Wow. Great beer. Brandon and Tanya Overstreet have put their hearts into this start-up. You can taste it.

A pint of Brandon’s flavorful Lonely Trike Red Ale got us thinking. Young, highly motivated, self-made entrepreneurs like Brandon and Tanya are building the Southern Oregon economy of the future. Check out companies like Green Mountain Woodworks in Talent (value added products made from native woods) and Lomakatsi in Ashland (forest restoration and management). You’ll see that the class of ’00 and thereabouts is gaining business traction.

We have not given these kids (I have survived enough birthdays to use that word) a whole lot to work with. Titans of finance looted our economy in the previous decade with their collateralized mortgage obligations and other scams. Five years after the bubble busted, we still have not fully recovered. Meanwhile our political culture has been poisoned by a cartel of cynical billionaires who are trying to convince us that we really don’t need any government except the military part. And, yes, we are still fighting at least one expensive war on the frontier of an empire that is going bankrupt back home.

Ouch. That’s a pretty grim picture. But we see some hope down here in the underbrush. Like tiny mammals evolving merrily as dinosaurs thrash and die, our micro businesses are writing some interesting stories.

Take Caldera, for example.  Owner Jim Mills is about 15 years ahead of the Overstreets and he has blazed an interesting trail.  For one thing, Jim figured out how to export fine Southern Oregon microbrew. Today you might find a can of Caldera’s Ashland Amber in San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Bangkok, Thailand. With the cash flow from international sales and other growing markets, Jim recently built a big (for Ashland) new brewery and a fine restaurant over on Clover Lane.

So how can we help? Let’s start by eating, drinking and playing local. At Green Springs Inn, to name one local establishment, we serve as much local beer, wine, produce and other food as we can get. (Stand by for a future column about Box R Ranch grass-fed organic beef.)

Closer to home, stop by Swing Tree at 300 E. Hersey #7. They are open Thursday through Sunday from 4:00 to 8:00 PM, or as long as the beer lasts.
What about investing local? We don’t carry Swing Tree brews at our place because Brandon does not yet have enough capacity to supply us.  But you could double his production with a $1,500 stake. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Obviously there is more to economic development than beer, beef and trees, so this conversation needs to continue. Come by sometime and grab a pint.  We will toast Swing Tree and figure this thing out.