Ron Kucera of Mia & Pia's Pizzeria and Brewhouse met me at their brewpub. He kindly placed a sample of his two-year old barleywine aged in a Jack Daniel's barrel in front of me. After a tour of the premises and a few small samples, I followed Rod out to his family's brewery. It's located at the farmhouse his parents bought 40 years ago. In those days they ran a dairy farm with 135 head of cattle. In 1987 Rod's parents opened Mia & Pia's Pizzeria. Rod was a professional bull rider on the rodeo circuit back in those days, but everyone knew he loved beer: his nickname on the circuit was "Suds."
In 1995 Rod and his dad were returning from an equipment auction in Salem. The radio kept advertising the KLCC Brewfest in Eugene. Fortune interceded and Rod convinced his dad to stop in. Rod went to a talk about the microbrewing industry there and the speaker mentioned old dairy tanks being used in breweries. The Kuceras had switched from dairy to beef cattle so they had a lot of old tanks sitting around. Rod asked, "What do breweries do with old dairy tanks?" The rest is history... within 1.5 years Rod & Jodi had their own beer at Mia & Pia's. When I was there they had 12 great beers on tap.
Out at the farm, Rod's mom served us big bowls of steaming beef stew. Jodi served her famous corn bread on the side (recipe below). Rod served his Pilsner.
It was quickly clear that the Kuceras truly represent the entrepreneurial spirit. Rod showed me his homemade modified dairy tank brewhouse - he'd taught himself how to weld stainless. He showed me the equipment he'd bought at auctions and installed. He showed me the grassy area where they'd hosted a wedding and planned to host more. He tied up the hop vines on twine twisted with his cordless drill. He showed me the piglets. He showed me his solar panels and the Jack Daniel cask he got from the local screaming eagles at the airbase. The cask he had aged his barleywine in.
I helped out a little: I taught Rod how to blog. You can catch his new blog at http://www.miapiabeers.blogspot.com/.
That night Jodi and their kids Kelsey and Clint met us in town for dinner. Back at the farm, I parked next to the hops for the night. The next morning Rod's mom made breakfast: Eggs, ham from their pig, pancakes, and Jodi's fresh blackberry cobbler. I took the cobbler to go. Rod gave me a growler of his delicious Pilsner for the road. Later I shared that Pilsner with Jon's Aunt Karen in Auburn. Ain't life grand!
Sweet, moist, simple… and delicious.
2.5 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
4+1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs slightly beaten
2/3 cups (10 tbsp) butter, melted
1+2/3 cup milk
Grease a 9” x 13” pan
Bake 25-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.