“Oregon welcomed me like a beloved child, enfolded me in her cool arms, shushed my turbulent thoughts, and promised peace through her whispering pines. ” — Colleen Houck
by Ami Melaine
Photos by Ben Wilson
We all know the writerly clichés of scribing in bustling coffee shops, or hammering away at pages while sitting at a bar and drinking hardly a beer. I’ll admit these images are comforting. Part of the experience of being a writer, and my right after having taken up this profession, is sitting in some obscure corner to observe in moderate isolation while the world bustles by and only halfway offers inspiration.
Where I live, these melancholy little corners are hard to come by. Well, I found one, ladies and gentlemen, sleuth that I am. You walk into this place that looks a bit like a rustic, homey museum to the glory of dairy farms. It smells like home—assuming home has concrete floors, baking pizzas, frying mozzarella sticks and brew bubbles. Mia and Pia’s is an entirely too well-kept, yet most delightful secret of Klamath Falls, OR.
It’s a brewpub, folks, that was once a laundromat and has since been transformed into a darkly paneled, history-rich space. The exposed beams, concrete flooring and hanging dairy tools give the place a rural feel. I’ll admit that I spent a lot of time looking around while sipping their Otto Mulligan’s Irish Stout.
On the particular evening that I (accompanied by some friends) walked in, the Master Brewer happened to be in the kitchen cleaning some dishes. He sat down for a couple of hours and told us about his beers, about beers in general, and about how Mia and Pia’s got started.
What started as a happy beer tasting afternoon at the Northwest Micro Brew Expo in 1995 turned into kismet as the brewpub’s owner and founder, Rod Kućera, discovered that the family’s old dairy tanks would be perfect for brewing—this last bit of information was gleaned from a Vince Catone convention titled, “How to Make a Brewery with Milk Tanks.” When I asked Rod why he decided to start brewing, he said that he liked beer! He likes to make beer because he likes to drink beer. It turns out there was a business opportunity in his love for beer all along. Of course, he makes really great beers.
Oregon is known for breweries. We’re known for wineries and distilleries. We’re known for a delicious good time on some breezy, backcountry deck surrounded by the sounds of live folk music and clinking glasses. The sun sets on our parties, and it often rises again on the same ones. I say “we” because I’d like to think that by living here I am part of the team. Really, I just enjoy good beers.
Rod makes an expansive variety of really good brews; from the tangy Irish Stout, to the darkly sweet Doppelbock, to his fresh hops IPA, the Applegate Trail Pale Ale, and the Spencer Creek Amber—an ale dedicated to the Andersons who homesteaded the creek by that name—and last but not least, Rod’s Rodeo Red – named for Rod’s days as a rodeo professional.
Rod and his apprentice start in the early morning and work until the middle of the night, sometimes, manually adjusting nobs and vents and ingredients. He buys everything locally within the
state of Oregon, and when possible, from Klamath and neighboring counties. Rod and co. grow their own hops and use them green, or dry them, depending upon which type of beer they’re making.
Every pint of beer from Mia and Pia’s is $4.50. I know you’re waiting for a catch. I certainly was.
Sadly, these beers are not widely marketed because the brew pub is a bit off the grid. Very few tourists of Oregon breweries have time for Klamath unless they’re stopping for gas, nor do they realize that Mia and Pia’s is even here, or that Rod and his family have built the historical and delectable beer tradition that they have. In fact, you can buy growlers of his beers, but if you plan to get them anywhere but from the source, Frankenstein’s in Grants Pass is the only way to go. Frankenstein’s is so fond of Rod’s beers, they’ll sometimes send their own trucks over to pick up growlers and take them back to the store.
Located at the southern end of Oregon, Klamath Falls is hardly known at all in other parts of the country, except perhaps for its proximity to Crater Lake, “the deepest lake in America,”† and I would argue, one of the most beautiful. But if you do find yourself in K-Falls sometime, I highly recommend you stop into Mia and Pia’s for a pint (or a pitcher) and, oh yeah, some pizza. I skipped right over that, but the stuff’s amazing, and like the beer, quite affordable.
†Forsha, Emily. “7 Wonders of Oregon: Crater Lake.” Travel Oregon. February 5, 2015. Accessed May 29, 2015.