By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A small city, a little off the beaten path, in a beautiful region, known for its outdoor activities and increasingly renowned for its craft beer. It might sound like Bend — but it can also describe Bend-based Deschutes Brewing’s recently announced new East Coast home: Roanoke, Va.
To be clear, this isn’t the mysterious vanishing colony you learned about in school (that’s Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina). Nicknamed “Star City of the South” for the 88.5-foot neon star atop Mill Mountain near downtown, Roanoke has been many things. Originally established in 1852 as Big Lick (it was the site of a large salt lick known for attracting wildlife), the city officially became known as Roanoke in 1882. The city of 98,465 has been a popular train stop and manufacturing town, and today is a scenic city to visit when driving I-81 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic National Parkway and All-American Road that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.
There’s a mix of Southern charm and an emerging New South. Like many other small American cities, Roanoke has been redefining itself with small, artisanal businesses in travel, food, art, the outdoors, wine — and craft beer.
“It’s similar to Bend 15 years ago,” says Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewing. “In Central Oregon there’s nearly 30 breweries, and most of those have developed in the past five to 10 years. Within Roanoke and a little outside, there’s a half-dozen breweries now.” Those breweries have also been welcoming neighbors. “They have been so gracious,” says LaLonde. “Every one of those brewers came to the announcement and sat down with us. There’s a similar ethos of getting along and working together that we see in Bend.” The brewing industry has other support too, with a brewing program at nearby Virginia Tech as well as programs at the local community college.
Founded in 1988, today Deschutes now distributes to 28 states and the District of Columbia. But as a brewery distributes farther from its base of operations, transportation and environmental costs increase — as does the risk of quality control problems. Like Full Sail, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, Deschutes decided to set up a new production and distribution facility east of the Mississippi — or, as LaLonde explains, east of Omaha, Neb., the midpoint between Bend and Roanoke.
The two-year search took Deschutes to hundreds of locations, and the decision could have gone a different way. Except that Roanokers launched a social campaign, #Deschutes2Rke, to persuade the company that a small valley city was a better fit than those bigger East Coast places who, as Southern charm dictates, will remain nameless.
“It was amazing,” says LaLonde. “They sent me Louisville Slugger bats engraved with #Deschutes2Rke. Local breweries sent T-shirts. One guy even wrote and recorded a song, sent us the lyrics and CD. They welcomed us with open arms and the hospitality was amazing.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the municipal water supply is similar to Bend’s, and that Deschutes found a slab-ready location (complete with access to a bicycle greenway and a creek). With site construction expected to begin in 2019, by 2021 Deschutes plans to have more than 100 personnel on site and be shipping beer throughout the region. With initial production of approximately 150,000 barrels, LaLonde expects the Roanoke facility to eventually become bigger than the Bend brewery. East Coast beers will include Deschutes’ three most popular flagship beers and four seasonal beers. Regional beers will also be produced and distributed more broadly if they prove popular in the market.
Although opening day is years away, Deschutes is already on the ground, speaking at engagements and sponsoring events. On Aug. 27, Deschutes will host a one-day setup of its 40-tap Street Pub. The family-friendly event will feature live music and cooking demonstrations, with proceeds going to a local charity.
“We were looking for a place similar to Bend where there was lots of outdoor activities that our employees could participate in,” says LaLonde. “We have people who love to trail ride, mountain bike, fly fish. Someone who was in Bend could move to Roanoke and feel comfortable.” LaLonde estimates 15-30 Bend personnel will relocate to Virginia, and there’s plenty of excitement — one person has already bought a house there.
Things to See and Do in Roanoke, Va.:
—See the city and surrounding Roanoke Valley from Mill Mountain Star, the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star
—Traveling with kids? Ride the Zoo Choo at Mill Mountain Zoo
—Drive or bike the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
—Tour the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Center in the Square and Science Museum of Western Virginia
—Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
—Go swimming in or boating on Smith Mountain Lake
Visit Area Breweries
--Big Lick Brewing Company
--Chaos Mountain Brewing
--Flying Mouse Brewery
--Foggy Ridge Cider
--Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
--Parkway Brewing Company
--Sunken City Brewing Company
--Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
--Twin Creeks Brewing Company
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Here in The Beaver State we are fortunate to have a wonderful array of local flowers to help brighten the landscape and our homes. Growing flowers in your garden can now not only make your house the envy of the neighborhood, but it can also help you add some unique features to your summer brews. There are a large number of edible flowers that would look great in our yards and taste good in our beers, however, this is Oregon, so let’s keep it local. And one of the blossoms most commonly associated with our area is the rose.
Growing the Plant
Roses seem to grow in every yard in Oregon and there is even a huge garden devoted to the flower in Portland. Despite their prevalence, they’re actually not as easy to grow and maintain as it may seem. If you already have a rose bush, the first thing you want to check is whether it is getting the proper amount of sun and water. Also be sure to keep up on pruning. Rose plants flourish when exposed to six hours of sunlight in the morning. This allows the dew that’s formed to evaporate, preventing mold. If the plant gets more than six hours of sun exposure, give the plant more water than you would a rose that’s shaded. Check for proper drainage by pouring some water at the base of the plant and returning a few hours later. If the ground is still wet or you find a puddle, consider moving the plant.
If you need to uproot a rose bush or plant a new one, the best time to do so is in spring. Dig a hole that’s deep enough so that the roots don’t bend. Once the plant is in the hole, fill it in with a mixture of fertilizer and topsoil. Top that with some sort of ground cover like mulch to protect the roots and prevent weed growth.
Adding Roses to the Brew
Although rose petals are edible, the most enjoyable part of the plant is the rose hip. These form after the blossom has bloomed. Rose hips are best harvested in fall right after the first frost. When collecting them, make sure they are soft to the touch, but not so much that they squash. If too soft, they may be rotten. After harvesting, you can use the hips immediately or dry them to preserve them. Of course, you can often find rose hips at your local homebrew shop, but simply buying them isn’t as much fun.
The hips contain seeds, but you don’t need to remove these when adding them to your brew. Just know you might get some tannins from those seeds. Rose hips have a lovely sweet floral flavor and will give your homebrew a delicate aroma. The best place to use the rose hips is as a dry hop addition. They also work well at flame out, but you will lose some of their flavor and aroma. When first experimenting with the hips, go easy on the hops to let the new ingredient shine. This will give you a good idea of just exactly what the rose will lend to your brew. Though there are many different flowering plants you can make beer with, nothing is more Oregon than having rose bushes and hop bines sprouting around your brew shed.
Swaying Hips [AG]
Swaying Hips [Extract]
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
One of the first questions that visitors to this Southeast Portland brewery often ask is, “What does Grixsen mean?” While the word is a mashup of the three partners’ surnames, it also symbolizes the communal focus of the 4-month-old brewery. Scott Petersen, who handles business operations and branding, says “We wanted to come up with a name that encompassed what we had as an ideal. The model of Grixsen is someone who works hard, does the right thing and celebrates together.”
That theme shaped the brewery’s evolution and was part of the founders’ ethos even before they knew they wanted to start a business together. DJ Moxley, Grixsen’s head brewer, met Petersen through a family member in 2012 when he was still in college. Their recommendation landed him a summer internship at Petersen’s strategy and design firm in Portland. Moxley had already been homebrewing for several years, and he quickly became Petersen’s collaborative partner for all things beer. They brewed their first batch together, a Scotch ale, at Portland U-Brew in Sellwood as part of a team-building exercise with Petersen’s employees.
When I ask Moxley why he started brewing, he replies, “Wine is romantic, but I think beer is just as romantic. I got into beer because of American history. I was a huge history fan throughout school and learned that our country was pretty much built on breweries and pubs. I wanted to be part of that somehow and create something that can have that big of an impact.”
As Moxley completed his studies and graduated from Gonzaga, he and Petersen continued making test batches of homebrew in Petersen’s garage. Eventually, their collaborations led to discussions about opening a brewery together. While it was tempting to seek out investors to expedite their new business venture, they ultimately decided to personally fund the entire operation, which allows them to retain full control over the company. Petersen explains, “We wanted to experience the bootstrapping that’s required to launch a new brewery.”
They immediately began looking for a building to house the business. “Our goal was to find a location that would be affordable plus would allow us to grow into it in terms of production,” Petersen states. Giving credit to serendipitous circumstances, they signed a lease on a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in December 2014.
The build-out process took longer than expected due to changes in building codes as well as the overall physical labor required to turn the space into a brewery and tasting room. Enter Kurt Gritman, the third business partner. The team refers to him as “a workhorse within the operation” and mentions that the majority of the work on the build-out was done by himself, Moxley and Gritman, with the exception of electrical and plumbing.
Moxley is now brewing on an American Beer Equipment system that was originally designed for another company, but fits the Grixsen space perfectly. It’s a 10-barrel, 3-vessel operation, which means they can do continuous brewing cycles. They have two 20-barrel fermenters and two 20-barrel brite tanks with two more 20-barrel fermenters already ordered.
When asked about the beers he is brewing, Moxley mentions Funkwerks in Fort Collins, Colo. as the inspiration for his Hopped Saison, along with The Commons Brewery in Portland. Petersen elaborates, “We want to embrace the craft movement in terms of the craft over the experimentation side of it. For the most part, we’re brewing standard variants of traditional styles, but with a Northwest take on it.”
The tasting room, which welcomed the public during this year’s Zwickelmania while still under construction, officially opened in April. The design melds perfectly with the brewery’s focus on sophisticated craft and American heritage. The walls are made of reclaimed wood from a friend’s fence. If you look closely, you can see pellets and BBs that were embedded in the boards during their previous life. Petersen’s dad built the bar, which showcases 12 taps plus two nitros. They also sell wine.
The tasting room seats 30 and has a 52-inch flat screen TV, which is only on at low volume for live sporting events. Otherwise, you’ll be listening to the bartender’s choice of streaming music, which will soon be played on a new Sonos sound system. An adjacent private room seats around 10 people and features an 80-inch flat screen TV, making it the perfect spot for fantasy football or other friendly gatherings.
Kids and dogs are welcome in the brewery area, which already has a few tables and chairs as well as a pool table, but will soon have more games like cornhole. Currently they do not serve food but coordinate with a food truck to park near the brewery entrance. Outside food is welcome.
As for future plans, Petersen says they are hoping to sign with a distributor this month and plan to start packaging in 22-ounce bottles. They’ll be making more beer styles and have already started barrel aging; first up is a bourbon barrel imperial stout. While they have just hired a taproom manager, you’ll continue to find all three partners alternating shifts in the tasting room. After all, they are still busy building the Grixsen brand which embodies “giving an honest effort, following the righteous path and celebrating the uniqueness in everyone.”
Grixsen Brewing Company
[a] 1001 SE Division St., Suite 1, Portland
By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Reedsport wasn’t Jed Smith’s cup of tea. Or pint of beer, had the frontiersman visited today.
In 1946, 118 years after his nearby fiasco, a 3,600-square-foot mercantile was raised on Route 38, aka Fir Avenue, today Old Town Reedsport. Newly etched into its heart is Defeat River Brewery, where, one bright Sunday morn in this burg of 4,000, I meet two age-thirtysomething co-owners/co-brewers/brothers-in-law: Levi Allen, previously a realtor/house cleaner, and Trevor Frazier, previously a medic. (Defeat is also co-owned by Herb Hedges, not here today.)
Frazier, arms crossed, leaning against the rustic copper bar: “I thought, sure, I can be a full-time paramedic and Levi can be a full-time dad and business owner, and we’ll just brew when we feel like it and we’ll make it work. No, you can’t do that!” he laughs. “If you’re going to do something, do it 100 percent. Don’t half-ass two things. Full-ass one thing.”
The room radiates grit. Iron, sawdust, fresh cement. Most of its industrial/Wild West aesthetic, including large quantities of repurposed metal and old wood, came from the sweat and toil of the three owners, plus close friends and family, to make a beautifully meticulous, personalized, 10-barrel brewhouse.
“This space is 70 years old,” Allen says, “but everything in it is brand new. It’s everything we’ve wanted to see in a brewery.”
But, Levi — where’s the Defeat River?
In July 1828, Jedediah Smith and his merry band of fur trappers slogged upcoast from California. They camped at the end of what’s now called the Smith River, a 90-mile tributary of the Umpqua.
“There was a dispute over something ridiculous, like a stolen ax,” Allen says. “Smith’s men ended up whipping one of the natives, which created some tension.”
The Indians ambushed, killing 15 of Smith’s 19 men. He and the remaining few fled. Three months later, he revisited the site to retrieve beaver pelts. His friends were there, rotting on the sand. Smith named the river Defeat, and it was posthumously renamed for him, draining as it does into the great Umpqua estuary, a half mile from this pub.
“The most interesting part of the story is those skeletons are still buried over there,” Allen says. (That’s 188 years of tide and sand and river movement.)
In 2012, the brothers-in-law had traded their valley and high-desert lives for coast. And, as in-laws are wont to do, and like Smith vs. the Indians, there came disputes — but no massacres — along the brewers’ slow, rutted road to publicly pouring their beer.
“It’s not been easy to make this happen,” Frazier tells me, looking around the room, up at the ceilings, at the custom light fixtures, down at the concrete floor. “We’ve worked hard and had a lot of stubborn arguments to ensure this place is as cool as it is.”
How did you guys get here?
Allen: “I was a realtor, homebrewing in Albany. I met Trevor and got him into it. My free time started shrinking as he was getting deep into brewing and the science of it, and soon it became a case of the student teaching the teacher. So the majority of our recipes are his.”
Both brewers are wed to Reedsport-born-and-bred sisters who work at Highland Elementary, the same school the women attended in the 1990s.
“We wanted to move because our in-laws and aunts and uncles and cousins are here,” Frazier says.
“They (the Allens) moved first because his wife got a job as a teacher here, in her hometown,” Frazier says. “My wife moved to get a job at the same school. I was trying to get a job as a paramedic. Ended up getting one in Coos Bay, so I moved from Bend, and that’s when the brewery plan really took off — when Levi and I resumed homebrewing together.
“Growing up in Bend and being able to drink fresh beer in a craft brewery was something I missed when I moved here. It was hard because I was used to heading down to the pub for a few local pints. Wasn’t happening here. Something had to be done.”
At a 2013 homebrewing contest in Bend, Allen’s hybrid pale ale won a blue ribbon.
“It’s every homebrewer’s dream to go pro and do a legit brewery,” he says. “Generally, if you talk to a homebrewer and they say their goal is not to brew professionally, they’d be lying. Before we moved, we considered the steps to build a brewery. We knew there had never been one in Reedsport. And Old Town was attractive because rent was relatively cheap and—”
“—there was nothing here,” Frazier adds.
“Yeah,” Allen says. “We thought a brewery could be a foundation or an anchor for something really cool—part of a movement, maybe.”
A year ago, the surrounding storefronts were vacant. Now they include an arcade, a dog-groomer, an antique shop, an art gallery, a beauty salon.
Frazier: “Reedsport was given a Main Street-improvement grant, which helped a few people improve the facades of their businesses. And folks knew our brewery was coming, so that got them thinking about a new era. This was a busy district before fishing and logging died. Lots of people left. But if you visited, say, Bend in 1985, there was nothing there. Now look at it. I don’t think (Reedsport) can have quite the same sort of boom; we’d like people to see the potential of this area as a destination. Not just our place — everywhere on this street. And beyond.”
Initial 2016 summer rollout of Defeat’s core styles include Thor Cascadian dark ale, The Bravest Pale Ale, and 1.21 Jigahops IPA. Born in steam-fired Stout Tanks and Kettles equipment from Portland, the beers are pure Oregon — Crosby hops from Woodburn, Wyeast from Odell, and floor-malted Mecca Grade barley, estate-grown in Madras, a stone’s toss from the Deschutes River. Defeat is the first draught-producing brewery to use Full Pint, Mecca’s proprietary malt.
“Some people had brewed with it, but it’s mostly been used for whiskey,” Frazier says. “Last year I contacted Seth (of Mecca) because I wanted to get a bag of malt to homebrew with. When he learned we were starting a brewery, he got excited.”
The two aim to get all their malt from Mecca, including planned specialties via estate expansion. Defeat’s goal is to have 12 rotating taps — core, seasonal and specialty — supplying the bar, plus regional wines and guest beers. Food trucks are likely.
Allen believes a town can reinvent itself. Even tiny Reedsport — 20 minutes from Florence, 20 minutes from Coos Bay, 90 minutes from Eugene. “Business-wise,” he says, “much of what we’ve done is plan for the worst and hope for the best. It’s a seasonal economy here. Places close in October and they don’t reopen until April or May. We wanted to make our pub attractive for people to come and drink beer year-round.”
“It’s not just about finally being able to pour our beer for people,” Frazier says, “which we’re very proud of. Or that it’s taken considerable effort getting this place going. It’s not just about the beer. It’s about the atmosphere we’ve created for you.”
Defeat River Brewery
[a] 473 Fir Ave., Reedsport
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
“I always wanted a water tower.”
“You ever climb up there and hang out and drink some beers at the top?”
“Matter of fact that would be correct. Yes.”
That’s how my conversation with Craig Coleman began while touring the concrete remains of homes nearly swallowed by tall, yellow grass in an Eastern Oregon town that’s nearly gone but not quite forgotten. Ordnance, which is a mere 7 miles from a Walmart parking lot teeming with people in Hermiston, feels like its hundreds of miles away from civilization. But just several hundred feet from an exit off I-84 sits the ruins of a place that’s had several lives — first, as a home for men who worked at the Umatilla Army Depot and their families; second, as a farm where pigs were raised; and now, it’s become a ghost town where Coleman sometimes drinks beer from the prominent perch of a water tower that also serves as the logo for his brewery.
By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of Ordnance Brewing, which is named after the fallen down town just east of Boardman. And that’s an accomplishment on its own given that the business has only been open to the public for a year and the facility is located in a city most Oregonians never visit. Boardman is probably best known for the sprawling farm of perfectly aligned rows of poplar trees you whiz by on the freeway on your way to another destination. But as one of the managing partners who helped launch the brewery, Coleman has now given people a reason to stop.
In its first year of business, Ordnance has been defined by aggressive growth, despite its distance from the more populated side of the state. Already the brewery boasts a sales and marketing team of five people, a partnership with General Distributors and an upgrade from a 7-barrel to a 50-barrel system, which was scheduled to go into production in July. So how, exactly, has a modest onion shed on the edge of town become a major beer factory at such an accelerated pace? Turns out, it simply takes Coleman’s knowledge of cultivation that he’s applied to his farms for decades as well as the creativity and brewing experience of Logan Mayfield.
“Logan’s got a way with flavors that I don’t understand. I think it’s an intuitive thing. I’m not that guy. But he seems to make stuff that people don’t absolutely despise,” Coleman laughed.
And Mayfield certainly has to be mindful of the fact that he’s making beer for a variety of consumers based on region — a factor many Willamette Valley brewers don’t have to worry about. While Oregonians on the western side of the state might embrace hop bombs or funky sours, those types of beers aren’t necessarily what locals would immediately order when sitting at a table made of a repurposed wooden spool in the Ordnance taproom just feet away from where Mayfield works.
“We’re definitely a little behind compared to the Eugene-Portland area. But at the same time, not as behind as I expected when I got here,” Mayfield explained. “There’s probably the majority of people here are used to drinking Coors Light, Keystone Light, Bud. When I got here, I started making beers that would appeal to them.”
And that strategy has made his kolsch and honey golden ale best sellers in Boardman. The styles are so popular, he admits they’re hard to keep on tap. Easing reluctant drinkers into craft with lighter beers has proven effective. Customers take delight in sharing with Mayfield that the FMJ IPA is the first IPA they’ve ever tried and then finished. The head brewer believes it’s because he leans toward English styles, so his IPAs aren’t the IBU boundary-pushers that have dominated the taps in recent years.
Perhaps the person you’d least expect to be knocking back domestic, light lagers — the Saltine of beers — would be Ordnance’s co-founder. But even after Coleman helped open the Hermiston taphouse Neighbor Dudes in 2013, he said he and his friend/business partner Mark McLeod would order Keystone Light and Coors Light even though an array of other beers sat just a tap handle away. He’s not sure how his tastes eventually shifted, but figured “it was just time for something new.”
Change is certainly part of Coleman’s professional life. While a farmer by trade, he’s started a variety of different businesses, including the small chain of Neighbor Dudes taphouses. The conversation about opening the first shop began when the two actual neighbors, Coleman and McLeod, “had just enough beer to think this is a good idea,” which is a phrase that ended up on one of the business’s T-shirts. After starting the Hermiston Neighbor Dudes in the building with the cheapest rent they could find, the party expanded to Silverton and Wilsonville. And while Coleman never set out with the goal of founding a brewery, it eventually seemed like a natural next step.
“And it’s one of those things where we figured, ‘Well, heck. If we can sell beer, why don’t we just make beer?’ And it just kind of went from there. You know, you try something new and we just kind of followed the path of least resistance and ended up with a brewery,” Coleman said. After seeing what they could do with a 7-barrel system he “decided, ‘Heck, if we can do a little bit, let’s do a whole bunch.’ And that’s kind of right now, we’re in the ramp-up stage of that.”
Ordnance also got off the ground thanks to a unique partnership with the Port of Morrow. Coleman knew general manager Gary Neal through his agriculture operations and when the brewery planning was underway, the Port offered assistance. A partnership formed and that’s where some of the brewery’s financing came from. Coleman said the Port continues to support Ordnance by encouraging visitors to stop by.
Once Coleman decided he wanted to make beer, he needed to find someone who could actually do that, so he turned to an online forum that’s sort of a digital classifieds space for brewers. Perhaps it was lucky for Mayfield that Coleman found the process of sifting through applicants rather dull because he decided to stop his search primarily out of fatigue once he got to the brewer who was located in Denver at the time.
“I got resumes and I phone interviewed probably four of ‘em and kinda got really bored with that,” Coleman described. “Logan just might’ve been the last guy on the list. I said, ‘Hey dude, come on out. If you’re not an absolute POS, you got a job.”
Mayfield sputtered into town in a beat-up Toyota on four different tires, as Coleman remembers it, along with a little U-Haul in tow. “And I don’t know how in the hell it got from Denver to here, but he made it. I figured, well I think he’s stuck here now because I don’t know if that thing would make it back,” said Coleman.
The move for Mayfield meant two things: he’s closer to family in his hometown of Ashland (“but far enough that I don’t have to go home for every holiday,” he laughed) and this is the most creative freedom he’s ever had in a brew house.
“You know, it’s actually kind of funny,” Mayfield said “because before I came here, I mean, I’d only brewed two of my own batches on other systems ever.”
“I’m not sure if you told me that or not…” Coleman responded.
“I don’t think I did!” Mayfield laughed.
Despite that little omission on the resume, experience at a number of Colorado breweries like Great Divide Brewing Company and Bull & Bush, which Mayfield said had the greatest influence on him because of its focus on English styles, prepared him for the role of head brewer at the new operation in Boardman. He found the experience a bit lonely at first since he was making beer solo in a cavernous building that wasn’t yet ready for customers. “But once we opened our doors I started to meet people and the community was pretty accepting,” Mayfield said. And you can see it in the taproom when he emerges from his shop in the back — customers are eager to shake his hand and praise his work. The brewery has also given the community a place to gather, celebrate and build an identity that isn’t just defined by the poplar farm, the Port or the bigger city next door.
As Mayfield prepared to transition to the 50-barrel system that came from Rogue in Newport, he was looking forward to improving his efficiencies as well as producing more beer. In early July, Ordnance was on track to surpass 630 barrels, which was the total amount that came out of the brewery last year. Mayfield wouldn’t be surprised if they brew 2,000 barrels in 2016 — possibly even more. Meanwhile, there are still plans for the 7-barrel equipment. Mayfield will use it to make sours and other specialty brews that will begin to fill a barrel-aging room that’s the size of an industrial kitchen. He’s working on his own version of a Flemish brown by brewing a batch every three months. The aged concoctions will then be blended together and released once or twice a year, if successful. Mayfield also acquired freshly dumped cabernet sauvignon barrels, which are currently filled with an imperial blonde ale infused with lemongrass. These collaborations will debut in bottles that are co-branded with the wineries.
While Ordnance has given its building in the Port of Morrow a new purpose, history is not scrubbed away. The walls inside actually serve as a historical record of the area. Colorfully labeled onion bags line a beam in the back, a reminder of the industry that used to occupy the space. In the taproom hang photos of the city of Ordnance that inspired the brewery’s name. One picture is simply of a patch of dirt covered with empty beer bottles. It’s a shot of the aftermath of workers at the Umatilla Army Depot celebrating a work milestone. A taproom server explained that the men were told they could have the drinks for free if they completed 100 storage mounds in one day. Turns out, the promise of beer was a powerful motivator.
I was lucky to get a tour of where these men would’ve lived during World War II by Ordnance’s only dignitary and mayor, Coleman. He knows where the old mercantile used to be and pointed out the building that was the schoolhouse. We walked through the gymnasium that also doubled as a movie theater, the doors long gone and windows broken out, and Coleman described how he once found an ancient reel of “The Wizard of Oz” there. Streets that used to be named after explosives and artillery are lined with slumping, skinny houses — many just foundations at this point — but one survived and actually has a renter. Deer, owls and too many pigeons to count have taken up residence in what’s left of the other structures. Coleman explained that after the war, Ordnance emptied out as people moved to other cities. Eventually, two brothers bought the whole place and turned it into a pig farm around 1960, removing some of the buildings’ walls to allow the animals to move around more freely. And those living near Ordnance were highly aware of the town’s new purpose. “If I say ‘hog farm,’ everybody knows what that was because it was not the most pleasant thing to drive by,” Coleman said.
Ordnance was largely abandoned again when the closest livestock slaughtering facility moved to a state that was inefficient and costly to ship to. About a decade after the brothers stopped raising pigs, Coleman made his dream of owning a water tower come true and bought the property for $1. Sometimes he’ll get visitors— people who grew up there looking for any sign of their past, searching for whatever might be left. That might not be much these days, but just down the road there is a brewery that’s keeping the ghost town’s history alive while reinvigorating another city you might not otherwise have bothered to visit.
[a] 405 N. Olson Road, Boardman
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