Beer Me

A Newberg Brewery Battles a Surprising Foe

Young microbrewery Wolves & People wants to launch a weekend chef event series. A neighbor wants to shut it down completely.

By Ramona DeNies January 23, 2017

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Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery, viewed from alongside the entrance to the tasting room parking lot.

Christian DeBenedetti’s farmhouse ale brewery sits a jig north of 99W just outside the city of Newberg. Wolves & People may be new—its massive Doug fir doors (salvaged from Rainier’s original brewery) swung open just this past May—but DeBenedetti certainly knows the property. Some 50 years ago, his parents bought the sprawling country farm and called it home.

Still newer to the area? DeBenedetti’s neighbor David Wall, a California transplant who moved in across the road this past summer—after the microbrewery began welcoming weekend guests onsite to sample its wild-fermented, farm-inspired saisons and sour beers.

Over the past nine months, Wolves & People has built a reputation that extends well beyond its corner of the Willamette Valley. Wall, however, seems unimpressed.

In early November, Wall filed a last-minute appeal with Yamhill County to challenge the brewery's agritourism permit request—one approved by the county just weeks earlier. The permit allows the brewery to hold a year-long series of up to 18 onsite, chef-driven events for up to 250 people each.

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A snifter of farmhouse ale with a backdrop of Wolves & People's mature hazelnut trees.

Last Thursday, Wall's appeal was heard by the county planning department at a public hearing. At the meeting, Wall made it clear that his aim, as reported by the McMinnville News Register, goes beyond shutting down the series. At that meeting (video here), Wall told county officials he wants to shut down the brewery itself

“Make no mistake,” the News Register quoted Wall as saying, “I’m not going to have a bar across the street. I’m not going to have 250 cars going in and out of the parking lot.”

During what the paper described as "rambling testimony consuming more than 45 minutes," Wall variously called the brewery’s all-ages tasting room (run out of a restored 7,000-square-foot barn that sits out-of-sight from Wall’s newly-built home and closes no later than 10 p.m.) a “tavern,” “nightclub,” and a “fire hazard.” Wall questioned the farm’s hazelnut production, the safety of the beer, and the legitimacy of the county’s own appeals filing fee.

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Wolves & People's outdoor seating area this past summer.

DeBenedetti tells Portland Monthly he’s fairly sure his new neighbor has yet to set foot on the Wolves & People property. If so, he says he could show Wall firsthand that the beer is safe to drink, that 10 acres of producing hazelnut trees surround the facility, and that the brewery’s parking lot doesn’t have space, anyway, for the 250 people (not cars) that the agritourism permit allows.

“These are things we could have settled over a beer,” he says.

Wall’s appeal now follows a three-week review process: interested parties are invited to submit testimony for consideration through Thursday, January 26, after which Wall and DeBenedetti will have a week to produce additional materials. DeBenedetti will then have one final week to respond to all concerns. 

DeBenedetti says he wants to work with neighbors who feel concern over potential issues, from increased traffic to shining headlights. But he insists that the foodie events he's planning for the farmhouse brewery will be tranquil affairs that provide a clear benefit to the local economy.

“We’ve called this home, with our family, for over 50 years, so we understand that when new people move to the area, they might view it one way,” says DeBenedetti. “But things are slowly changing. The Willamette Valley is full of incredibly wineries and restaurants—it’s vibrant, and exciting, to be a part of that. We hope to keep moving in that direction.”

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