A Peek Behind The Legend of Ninkasi

If you’re a fan of Ninkasi, you’ve probably noticed a new look and some new beers the last few months. Or maybe you stumbled on our comic giveaway and found us that way. Either way, our roots with nerd and pop culture go ways back. We’re excited to bring the Ninkasi comic universe to life through our Legend of Ninkasi: Rise of Craft comic we made with Dark Horse Comics, furthered by our Ninkasi comic cans featuring art by Dark Horse artist Eduardo Francisco.

We sat down with Ninkasi Co-Founder and Founding Brewer Jamie Floyd to bring you a behind the scenes look at this collaboration. View the full interview at the video link above, or read the transcription below. Cheers!


What inspired you to create a comic?

Jamie Floyd: I’ve always loved comic books. As a young child I really read Thor a lot. He was my dude. Then I got older and Batman became really important to me. I don’t know – it might’ve been the only child in me or something.

But as I became a college student is when I really dove deep into comics. I’d read all of the Marvel and DC stuff as a kid, but things really started changing in the early nineties: we had Alan Moore write Watchmen and reimagine Swamp Thing and even wrote “Killing Joke” for Batman, one of the greatest Batman stories. It was an incredible time in which artists like Frank Miller were redefining what a comic can look like and Grant Morrison was creating these amazing characters and Neil Gaiman was distributing Sandman and even that special character, Death, that he created that I really got attached to. But there was a swirling around of art and concepts in a way that comics were done in the early nineties and me and all my friends swallowed it up.

When I started college is when I really started homebrewing as a hobby and collecting comic books was basically happening at the same time. You know, when we first started, I at some point or another it just occurred to me that Ninkasi would make the great premise for a comic book. And through some early discussions I met a guy here in the neighborhood, Dale Eisenbacher, who was a fantasy artist – still is a fantasy artist – but in the seventies he worked with [Frank] Franzia and all the greats. He and I would talk about this stuff and he even made me a bronze casting of Ninkasi herself at one point and did a lot of cool drawings, one of which I even have as a tattoo on my back of Ninkasi on the back of Tricerahops, which, that image gets used, or, redesigned as you will, in the future.


Why did you want to collaborate with Dark Horse Comics?

So one of my best friends in college was Matt Parkinson. We met each other in the creative arts dorm at the University of Oregon. He was such an incredible musician back in the day – he could play bass, keyboards, incredible composition skills… I really admired his connection to music. But, ironically, after he graduated from college, he ended up being the VP of Marketing for Dark Horse Comics. He even got to drink my homebrew back in the day, so it’s really kind of one of those things it comes together.

Over the course of years, we sort of ended up in these dream jobs and we’d look for ways to collaborate with each other. I know he always wanted to come to The Great American Beer Festival, as a beer lover, but it competes the same week with Comic Con in New York City, so it hasn’t happened yet.

One year for San Diego Comic Con, they were releasing a comic book for the band Slayer, which our Winter Seasonal was sort of named after (Sleigh’r). So we looked for the opportunity of maybe sponsoring a show that they were going to do as a release for their comic (talk about an amazing event for comic con and everything), but the venue that they were playing at had a contract deal for the beers that they served and they weren’t allowed to serve Sleigh’r [Winter Ale]. So, it just kind of fell through the cracks at that time.

You know, a couple years later the idea came about to really make the comic book and that we had this connection to a real comic book company in Portland, Oregon and my friend was a head of marketing. So we approached it that way and gave him a call.


What was it like working with Dark Horse? How did the comic come to life?

Working with Dark Horse was amazing. Meg McPherson and Katie Arto were sort of the managers of the project and they took us through each of the stage gates and made decision making really easy for us.

We were able to look through a bunch of different artists’ works and when we looked at Eduardo’s [Eduardo Francisco] work was amazing. His ability to draw animals and monsters was as on point as his ability to draw gods and goddesses and we really just thought his vision was perfect for what we were looking to do.

Jim Gibbons brought the story to life. As a beer lover and a Pacific Northwesterner himself he brought layers to the story that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own: sort of that forest from the trees sort of approach where there’s a lot of little subtleties about beer culture that are in there that I might have overlooked. And, so, together we were able to bring that story together.

Nikos and I would get it would get pretty much weekly updates about what would happen and we would get, say, sketches of ideas for what things would look like we sort of get on a vibe with that and send it back to him and he would get cracking on that. The storyboard would advance along and sort of get tighter as we went. You know, you have a 22 page medium that you’re working with to tell the whole story and so it’s really incredible to watch that process when you have all these ideas and then we need to get distilled down into a journey, if you will, that lasts 22 pages.

And, like I said, that that email that would come once a week was truly inspiring. It was just sort of this cool thing that would happen in the middle of your week where you’d see this incredible creative process continue to move on. Truly a dream come true for me to see a comic book from start to finish and it really triggered a lot of creativity in me.


Why do you think the Pacific Northwest has become such a hot spot for beer and comics?

Drinking a delicious beer and reading a comic book go hand in hand literally in the Pacific Northwest. I know when I was first starting in college, both homebrewing and reading comic books were solid hobbies in my life and they tended to be pretty popular hobbies in general at the time.

I think a lot of it has to do with our climate. We get a lot of rainy days here. I think we have to kind of dig deep to keep ourselves entertained and to really look into some creative cultural ways to express ourselves. We have an amazing farm to table food scene, we have incredible coffee and beer. The Pacific Northwest has a really high literacy rate with lots of book readers and also this region has a really strong history of both comic book writers and artists as well as comic con culture in general.

The Pacific Northwest has had deep roots in comic con culture for a long time. The last many years we’ve sponsored Rose City Comic Con, bringing comic branded beers, art, costumes, and now a comic book to help support comic culture as well as craft beer. Our beer Dawn of the Red has a running narrative of a zombie attack on Eugene in which the heroes are out fighting the zombies. It was really exciting to be a speaker at Rose City Comic Con, talking about how beer and comic culture blend together. Truly a dream come true.


What can readers expect in Legend of Ninkasi: Rise of Craft?

What you can expect from The Rise of Craft is meeting our heroes, the Goddess Ninkasi and her familiar, Tricerahops, set in the medieval times in the city of Eugenia. Ninkasi lives in her own dimension, and when trouble stirs in the brewing universe, she comes out to the prime material plane and find out what’s going on and makes sure that the human’s sacred ale is free to all those that want it.

The Goddess Ninkasi is concerned about all things sacred in beer. When humans created civilization, part of it was around the first creation of beer. The mysticism behind the alchemy -the original alchemy of humans – to create a recipe for ourselves is what brought about the Goddess Ninkasi herself.

Bringing the goddess Ninkasi and Trice to life is a true joy. The ancient goddess Ninkasi being reignited into the modern world with its roots tied to early civilization is fun, and the emerging characters are really amazing. Alan Moore wrote a comic book called Promethea in which the mere mention of the word Promethea created a goddess. In many ways this is the same way. There is also another story written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman called Good Omens in which gods and goddesses are only real as long as people believe in them. My hope is that these comics create enough creativity and stirring in folks’ souls that the Goddess Ninkasi really comes to life.


What came first: the comic, or the beer names?

The beer names came before the comics. Back when I worked at Steelhead, I made a beer called Hopasaurus Rex. I’ve always loved dinosaurs. That sort of imagination and creativity that comes from us as a kid I think goes well as an adult, too.

And when we started Ninkasi, you don’t bring names with you, so, I decided Tricerahops would be a fantastic name. It’s actually partially based on an art car for Burning Man called Triceratops that was made by a lot of friends of mine, including parts of which were made in our metal shop across the street that we’ve used for a lot of our projects. And I’ve spent some great hours on Triceratops cruising around the playa.

With Velocihoptor and Megalodom, it was a continuation of the dinosaur theme for us and at the time we were even sort of Jurassic Park-ing it a little bit. But as the comic book developed we saw ways for these characters to emerge with a lot more depth and complexity as the narrative continues.


Why did you decide to extend the comic art onto cans?

We realized that we can bring more comic book culture to people through the branding of our art. By writing new stories, we can draw new customers to our beers as well as to company culture. For some, this is really cool can art. For others, it unlocks a portal of creativity to think about while drinking a delicious beer.


Tell us about the beers!

Tricerahops is eight percent alcohol and 84 IBUs, brewed with Summit, Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Palisade hops blended together to create an earthy and floral delicious expression of a classic double IPA.

Velocihoptor is 6.6 percent alcohol and 50 IBUs, sporting a juicy mouthfeel and a touch of honey malt featuring the complex hop flavors of melon, papaya, and orange featuring some of the new world hops like Lotus and Bru-1.

Megalodom Legendary IPA is ten percent alcohol and 70 IBUs. This is a bold beer, yet balanced with a sweet and slightly smooth finish.


What’s next for the series, and/or for Ninkasi?

Creativity abounds at Ninkasi! We’re in the process of filming several videos about the beers coming out that will help fill in some of the pieces of the Ninkasi universe.

I’m also doing a panel interview with the author Jim Gibbons coming up soon (edit: this event has now passed and the replay can be viewed here) and I’ve also plotted out most of book two, which will be the origin story of how Ninkasi and Tricerahops met andd will introduce the characters Megalodom as well as the Velocihoptors. I’m super excited about all the fun on that side of things.

What we’re hoping for is that people love these books enough that we can continue to do them. Nikos and I love Star Wars and so originally we thought of this as a trilogy, but already this has taken a life of its own through multimedia and we’re excited to see where this journey continues.

Looking for Tricerahops, Velocihoptor, and Megalodom? Be sure to check out our Beer Finder to locate them near you!

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