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Soda success: Mount Angel Brewing Co. wins root beer competition

By Don MurthaChris Blamer seals a tank of Mount Angel Brewing\'s soda for carbonation.

Taking on the big boys can be tough, but when you take first place at a competition you have an advantage.

Mount Angel Brewing Co. took home the honors of first place among the small root beer and soda producers in the Northwest at the Bridgeport Micro Brewers Root Beer Invitational. A total of 45 root beer brewers were entered.

“We won a $40 gift certificate and, most important, we won bragging rights,” said Larry Oien, one of the partners in Mount Angel Brewing Co. along with his brother, Hal, and Chris Blamer, who also serves as brew master.

Oien and Blamer said their business is “doing pretty well” with sales throughout Oregon and Washington.

“But we’re bucking the big boys. When we make a sales call in some places, they tell us that if they take our root beer, the big boys will pull out,” he said.

While their business is still young and growing, both partners have continued with their day jobs. Oien is manager of Walery’s Premium Pizza in West Salem and Blamer is a rural mail carrier with the US Postal Service.

The company’s sodas are available in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Cottage Grove, Bend and Sunriver as well as outlets in Washington.

The company recently welcomed big order of 40 cases for the Happy Valley Customer Appreciation Day sponsored by New Seasons Markets.

Mount Angel Brewing sells its sodas in cases of 24, 12-ounce bottles, by the keg (15 gallons) or in seven-gallon pony kegs. A case is $48, a keg is $65 plus $40 deposit for the keg and the pony keg is $32.50 plus the $40 deposit. The company will deliver.

Oien won’t divulge the secret of their recipes and brewing methods. All of their recipes are proprietary.

But he will tell what they don’t use.

“We don’t use corn syrup. It’s too hard to carbonate, has more calories than sugar and doesn’t have a natural flavor,” he said. “We use plain sugar. It is more natural, has a better flavor and has no glutens and we can force carbonate it.”

There also is no caffeine in their root beer and sodas.

In addition to the root beer, the company produces pops in three flavors, hazelnut, marionberry and “old-fashioned” orange cream soda. They will soon offer a black cherry flavor.

A result of Mount Angel Brewing’s first-place showing at the Bridgeport event has been an invitation to another competition.

“We’ve been invited to the US Beer Open. They have a Category No. 65 for root beer and we have our entry papers completed and in already,” Oien said. “We hope to come away from that with a prize that will give us an up on the big boys.”

The Mount Angel Brewing Co. can be reached through its website: www.mtangelbrewingcompany.com.

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