Worldwide raspberry shortage hits Oregon beer

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Hammerhead Pale Ale, Terminator Stout, Nebraska Bitter: There’s plenty of beer varieties being made at the McMenamins brewery in Corvallis. But the company’s famous Ruby beer, created in 1985, isn’t among them. The raspberry-flavored beer hasn’t been part of the plan for a few weeks now. That’s because of raspberry crop failures — first in the Northwest, then worldwide.

“The number one raspberry producing country in the world is Serbia,” said McMenamins brewery manager Rob Vallance. “And they had a horrible, horrible crop as well.” It wasn’t always this way. “The easiest berry to get was raspberries for a long time,” Vallance said. “We grow them locally and there was an abundance.”

That’s why McMenamins chose the berry to be in the when it created the first fruit-flavored beer in the US. But it takes 42 pounds of pureed raspberries per vat — or about three and a half pounds per keg — and there just aren’t enough berries out there this summer to meet the demand. “It’s a hugely popular beer, especially during the summer because it’s refreshing,” Vallance said of Ruby. “The shortage probably couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

McMenamins has created a substitute, a boisenberry beer called Purple Haze. And Vallance promises that fans of Ruby will be able to see red in a few weeks, when the new Northwest raspberry crop comes in. “Ruby is a staple of ours,” he said. “We are going to continue to make it.” But Vallance said there has been an upside to the shortage: Purple Haze has become such a big hit, McMenamins even plan to keep serving it once Ruby is back.