By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
It wasn’t that long ago when the dirge for the American family business began to crescendo. Big box stores and transnational corporations had pushed and prodded small mom-and-pop operations ever closer to the grave. But there’s at least one industry where the family-run model has thrived — craft beer.
The business of brewing has long involved kin. For instance, Anheuser and Busch were joined by a hyphen only after the families joined in marriage. Closer to home, the most well-known relatives to start a brewery — Kurt and Rob Widmer — also helped launch the craft revolution in the 1980s. But they’re not the only brothers who’ve decided to make beer under the same roof. That duo is joined by the Hughes behind ColdFire Brewing; the Coombs, founders of Alesong Brewing & Blending; and Three Mugs Brewing Company had the Jennings (before the older brother departed); just to name a few.
While siblings seem abundant in the beer industry, one type of family pairing is rarer to find: the father-daughter team. Much of that is likely due to the fact that men still outnumber women employed in brewing. But that doesn’t seem to bother Lisa Allen, who joined her father Rick Allen at McMinnville-based Heater Allen in 2009. In fact, working closely with each other on a near daily basis in physically demanding roles has only strengthened their relationship over time. And while there certainly have been challenges along the way, right now both are more focused on Heater Allen’s big accomplishment — 10 years in business.
Lisa Allen never pictured herself hovering over her dad’s brew kettle or cleaning tanks as a full-time job. In fact, she didn’t even have full confidence that his mission to make good, local pilsner on a commercial level would ever take off.
“I remember thinking when my dad first started kind of like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see how long this lasts,” she recounted. “When he first was working on recipes and stuff like that, I would come and brew a couple of times and that sort of stuff. I was interested in the process and I’d been interested in craft beer for a while, but I never really thought that I would actually be brewing.”
Instead, she was focused on a different fermented beverage: wine. Lisa Allen spent several years living the life of a vineyard vagabond. It’s not unusual to jump from tasting room to tasting room and even follow the harvest from the West Coast to the Southern Hemisphere since regular positions can be hard to come by. Lisa Allen guesses she moved at least once a year after finishing college, including stints getting grapes off their vines in California and New Zealand. Even her dad thought she was bound for a career in that industry.
“I have to admit my first thought was that she was going to dominate in another male-oriented field, and that’s wine,” said Rick Allen. “Because she’s always had a terrific palate and always been someone who basically could detect flaws and, you know, really kind of understand the whole sensory analysis side of things.”
But after a while, Lisa Allen discovered that brewing was more fulfilling than winemaking. The seasonal downtime with wine didn’t keep her as busy as she liked to be, so the year-round nature of the beer business was one plus. Another is the more hands-on nature of brewing — providing assistance to those microorganisms that complete the crucial task of turning sugars into alcohol.
“The thing that I really like about brewing is that you’re not just relying essentially on nature. You actually get to create something,” described Lisa Allen. “I mean, the one thing I always found coolest about wine was the fermentation process. I wasn’t actually as interested in the growing process and stuff like that. I was much more interested in the actual fermentation.”
Lisa Allen’s experience with winemaking helped her easily transition to the brewhouse. However, there were still obstacles.
“When we first started out, there was a certain amount of yelling and screaming and people going away mad,” said Rick Allen. “In the past, there have been a few times where things were thrown. I don’t think anything’s been thrown for a while,” he added with a laugh.
Aside from hurtling objects, working with a family member has several hazards — there are hurt feelings, head butting and moments of miscommunication. Not everyone would work well with a relative, particularly a parent or offspring. But with time, the Allens figured out how to pull it off.
“When my dad and I first started working together, I would say it took about a year to kind of know how we work together,” explained Lisa Allen. “I think part of the problem is that we are pretty similar in our personalities. We both kind of like being in control and doing things a certain way. And I still sometimes have to tell myself I take things too personally.”
Rick Allen said they’ve both become more sensitive to the way they give and receive feedback. And their similarities began to work in their favor. Rick Allen noticed areas where his daughter could improve were some of the same issues he once struggled with.
“It’s always easier to encourage them to spread their wings and understand their weaknesses or the things they need to work on a bit better,” Rick Allen said.
And that begins to touch on the unique benefits of working alongside a family member — you witness improvement and mastery over time. Few parents have that opportunity once their child reaches adulthood.
“You’ve got your own flesh and blood that you’re working with and they’re taking over and they’re taking more responsibility, and you get to see the growth up front and personal that you don’t normally get to see with your children,” Rick Allen described. “I don’t get to experience that with my son who’s off doing something else. But I can see that with Lisa.”
Both father and daughter take pride in the fact that they work a little harder and care a whole lot more about a brand that doesn’t just stand for quality beer. It also represents their family.
“It’s a family product, so I do think I have more investment in it than someone who would just work at a random brewery,” said Lisa Allen. “You know, it’s my name on the label as well, so I want that product to show really well.”
Lisa Allen is marking eight years with the brewery, and she knows she’s fortunate to have bypassed some of the discrimination other female brewers face — particularly those outside of Oregon. That’s not to say it never happens, though. There’s always the salesperson who wants to talk to a man at the brewery, the vendor who will only address Heater Allen’s male buyer instead of the woman who will actually make the purchasing decisions about equipment. And even getting singled out as a “woman in beer” can be a bit exhausting.
“I mean, it would be nice to just be seen as a brewer and not a woman brewer,” Lisa Allen said. “But because it’s a male-dominated field, that is going to happen. You are going to be seen as a woman brewer because there’s not that many of us.”
One way she’s reached out to support that industry minority is by participating in a group meetup that includes other female brewers from the Portland-metro area. They invite new women to join in order to share, learn or just seek camaraderie. While Lisa Allen described Oregon’s overall beer community as encouraging and helpful, she said meeting solely with women provides a safe space that’s free of judgement.
“It’s good for women to have a support group in a male-dominated field,” she said.
Many of those women are likely to pay the Allens a visit on Saturday, May 27 for the business’s 10th anniversary party. There will be a special zwickel beer tapping, a release of their kolsch in 500-milliliter bottles, commemorative half-liter ceramic mugs and possibly even a cake. Neither Lisa Allen nor her dad are ones to go on bragging about their milestone. But it has sunk in that they’ve done something pretty special in an industry that’s grown increasingly competitive.
“To think that it’s been 10 years is pretty amazing,” said Rick Allen, “because I really had no idea where this was going or how far it would go. But it’s gone further than I ever thought it would.”
“And I will say that even the impact on the Oregon beer culture too — no one else in Oregon made a craft pilsner before we started our Pilsner. And now there’s a bunch,” Lisa Allen said. “It’s really cool to think that we’ve been around for 10 years, so hopefully 10 — maybe 20 more.”
Heater Allen Brewing
907 NE 10th Ave., McMinnville
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s difficult to believe Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing is already 10 years old.
But from its humble beginnings, the quickly growing brewery is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, complete with another pub opening this spring in its hometown.
A lot has happened in those 10 years, including the now-famous purchase of the brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014.
The new brewpub, which is located on 10 Barrel’s east side Bend campus, is part of a larger expansion. A new building in excess of 60,000 square feet will be where all of 10 Barrel’s packaging and shipping takes place. It also includes warehouse space. 10 Barrel had easily outgrown its current facilities.
“It’s going to be great to be able to spread out in new offices, to have a little more room.” 10 Barrel brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit told Oregon Beer Growler.
But for people in Bend and fans of the beer in Oregon, the brewpub is perhaps the most exciting news.
10 Barrel’s original brewpub on the west side of Bend is a cozy affair, and often overflowing with guests during peak hours and on weekends.
The new pub will offer a similar intimate experience to that one, but will feature some of the same feel as bigger 10 Barrel pubs in Portland, Boise, Denver and San Diego (scheduled to open in April) with exposed wood, concrete and steel.
Display windows in the pub look into the new 10 Barrel facility. Patrons will also get views of the Cascade Mountains from the patio.
The new pub should do well as soon as the doors open, as the east side of Bend is underserved in terms of brewpubs, with only Worthy Brewing in the vicinity. (It also comes as another of Bend’s biggest breweries, Boneyard Beer, has plans to open a pub this year near downtown.)
Lovers of 10 Barrel’s beer will be happy to know that there are 22 taps on site. That gives the pub the ability to offer a variety of exclusive brews in addition to 10 Barrel’s flagship and seasonal-run beers.
Ian Larkin, formerly of Bend Brewing Company, will head up the brewing for the pub. That reunites him with Tonya Cornett, another Bend Brewing alum working at 10 Barrel. Bend Brewing has consistently produced award-winning beers before and after Cornett’s departure.
Seifrit said he plans to turn Larkin loose to make cool and unique beers, including special barrel-aged and sour beers.
“I told him I want him to come in here and go crazy, and take every idea you want to do, and do it,” Seifrit said. “My mantra is not to micromanage. My job is to give guidance and be an enabler — put the materials in their hands and do the best beer they can.”
10 Barrel tells Oregon Beer Growler that the new pub’s “estimated opening is the end of May," with an exact date still up in the air as of press time. You can find the new pub at 62970 NE 18th St. in Bend. 10 Barrel is also hosting a 10th anniversary party on campus on Saturday, May 13th, featuring a free concert headlined by hip-hop group De La Soul.
The pub is perhaps the biggest change in town. But the new facility is obviously going to change things for 10 Barrel far beyond Bend. The company and Seifrit maintain the brewery holds onto its roots, no matter how big it gets.
“Now, as we’re able to increase capacity, we’ll slowly start sharing the beer with people around the country,” Seifrit said. “But No. 1, we’re always going to focus on our core market — that will be tried and true until the day we die. As a company, we never want to forget where we came from and the people that supported us.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The craft beer scene in Central Oregon is constantly evolving, with new breweries and events every year, and changes to the existing ones. Here’s a look at what to watch for in Bend-area brewing and beyond.
The most anticipated craft beer attraction in Bend for next year is an easy one: the coming brewpub from Boneyard Beer. One of the biggest beermakers in Bend has skipped out on having its own brewpub until now, with just a tasting room for samples and growler fills. But it has plans to open a pub on Northeast Division Street in the first half of 2017, after initially hoping to launch in 2016. Co-founder Tony Lawrence says patrons can expect to see 16 beers on tap — mostly Boneyard but a few guest taps, too — along with food, outdoor seating and a specialty cocktail bar. Also in 2017: Look for bottle-conditioned sours from Boneyard sometime in the first quarter.
10 Barrel’s Expansion
The Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned craft brewer is in the midst of a major expansion — more than 60,000 square feet — on the east side of Bend that will more than double its current space. While most of that new room is dedicated to production and distribution, The (Bend) Bulletin has reported that a restaurant and outdoor patio are part of the plans, although 10 Barrel Brewing has been mum on the details.
The Hopservatory — a giant telescope run in conjunction with the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver — should be open by January. Part of a major construction project at Worthy Brewing Company, the telescope is definitely the most unique offering from a Central Oregon brewery. Both public and private tours of the facility will be available for a fee.
Bend Brewing’s Beer Garden
Bend Brewing Company is hoping to have its outdoor space open for business by summer. After years of being surrounded by empty lots, it should be a big upgrade for one of Bend’s oldest breweries. The beer garden is likely to feature a pouring station, a fire pit and an area for live music. Bend Brewing is also actively looking to increase its production and distribution, so you may be able to find its beers on more taps in the not-too-distant future.
Prineville’s Second Brewery
Crooked River Brewing won’t be offering up its own beers when it opens in January, joining Ochoco Brewing Company as the second brewpub in the town. But it will have more than a dozen craft brews on tap in its expansive space on North Main Street, according to owner Jesse Toomey. Visitors will also be able to play a variety of games, like cornhole, pool and foosball. Crooked River’s own beer should come sometime in the second half of 2017, once the proper permits and licenses are acquired.
Terrebonne’s First Brewery
Another brewery on tap for 2017 is Terrebonne’s Good Earth Brewing. On the site of Smith Rock Hop Farm, the brewery will use any hops the farm doesn’t sell in its own beers. Good Earth hopes to specialize in styles one wouldn’t normally see in the region: from barrel-aged saisons to kriek lambics.
Rob Widmer provided his assessment of changes in the brewing industry during the last 30 years. His take on brewery acquisitions: “Make sure you’re making the decision that you’re still making the best beer that you can. That’s what we’ve done. Haters gonna hate. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to explain the relationship to A-B, I rarely have anybody walk away with a continued negative attitude.” Photos courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oregon’s brewing industry is changing faster than ever, and few people have seen as many changes as Rob Widmer, co-founder of Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland. In this conversation, Rob looks back to his early days with his brother and fellow co-founder Kurt, discusses the industry and looks ahead.
Q: It’s been 30 years since you and your brother introduced Widmer Hefe. What has kept you engaged in this industry all these years?
A: Kurt and I started as homebrewers. It’s been our love and passion for brewing. For me, that extends to how I love pubs and pub culture. I enjoy the people who drink beer. I haven’t lost that love and passion for beer. It’s one of the things that makes life worth living.
Q: Is the bubble going to burst, or is there enough market for growth to continue?
A: Things were so different when Kurt and I started in the ‘80s. The term craft beer hadn’t been coined. No one knew brewers or homebrewers. People didn’t talk about style. Now there are people who never knew any other time. It’s amazing to me. Back in 1985 when we were trying to sell beer, at first pub owners thought it was illegal. Second they thought it would make people sick.
It’s a great time to be a beer drinker. Oregon is probably the best place in the world to live if you’re a beer lover. You can get examples of any style you can imagine. The pace of breweries opening has actually been accelerating. There’s a ton of run room for people, maybe not so much in the Pacific Northwest, but where people haven’t been introduced to it before.
Q: If you and Kurt were starting now, what would you do differently?
A: There’s always going to be room for a small brewery: nano, less than 10 barrels, with a pub. If you were trying to start a larger size, you’d have to have something pretty special or it’d be a tough go. The farther we got from Portland in the ‘90s, the harder it was to get distribution. The Anheuser-Busch arrangement is how we solved it. It’s a distribution agreement, though people have tried to paint it negative things.
People ask if I thought it could grow like it did. I say that our original plan in 1984 — 10 pubs pouring our beer and had our own tasting room — was to sell enough beer that he and I could make a living in Portland.
There were things we needed: really good people, we did that. We had to have excellent brewing, we did that. We had to have access to capital, we had that. But one of the things key to growth was access to market. Distributors are the unsung heroes of the beer business.
Q: What would you say are the top three most notable changes in the industry this year?
A: In no particular order:
Ballast Point selling for a billion dollars. That was breathtaking. It’s an indication of how hot the industry is.
The acceleration of brewery openings.
The retirement of Kurt Widmer was a pretty big deal, at least for me.
Q: Since your brother retired, how has your day-to-day work changed?
A: It really hasn’t. He was doing his thing, I was doing my thing, and that just continued. Where I bring the most value is to be out in the trade, as we say, and that goes back to how I love pubs, I love drinking beer with people, and I get to do that. It’s an important part of my job. There aren’t a lot of breweries where the founder still gets out, and I like to do that. When Kurt retired, I said, “Don’t expect me to work overtime. I’m one of the industry elders at this point. Take it easy on me.”
Q: How has CBA evolved over the years?
A: Being too big for your britches is something that we’ve been hearing since back in 1986, when Hefe was taking off. But growth enables you to do things, like attract really talented people, get better training for your staff. Growth enables you to afford really great equipment, all those things.
As CBA has evolved, we’ve grown and I couldn’t be more proud of the crew we have — our breweries. If it was still me and Kurt, jumping in and out of tanks, I don’t think I could physically do that anymore. I don’t try to lift kegs anymore. CBA has really been awesome. Brewing on a small scale is really physical. I don’t know any brewer who doesn’t want from growth the ability to do things like automate, get a forklift, ease the physical side.
Q: Advice for new breweries?
A: Make sure your beer is good. Don’t put out anything you’re not proud of.
Q: What do you want the new Innovation Brewery to accomplish?
A: We had a small 10-barrel brewery in the Rose Quarter in 1996. Every brew then was an innovation. The Rose Quarter brewery was 20 years old, worn out and it was difficult to operate, a half-mile away.
Innovation has been the essence of craft brewing and at Widmer since we started. I like to remind people that beers like Hefe blew people’s minds in 1986. No one had ever seen a cloudy beer or cloudy wheat domestically. A lot of what we’ve done over the years has been overshadowed by Hefe. We were one of the first to do hop-forward beers, Cascadian dark styles, but Widmer and Hefe are so synonymous that it can be hard for people to think of us as innovative.
Q: Why did CBA decide to pursue contract brewing with Anheuser-Busch breweries?
A: We wanted to have that door opened should the need arise. For Widmer specifically, we just completed a major expansion in Portland. We have a lot capacity to do Widmer beers and do them here in our backyard.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve taken a lot of heat for our relationship with A-B. A lot of breweries see the large breweries as the enemy. We see them as fierce competitors, not enemies. I’m pretty beer geeky, but there are times where I like to have a domestic lager. I admire how well they’re made.
Sometimes people find it fashionable to bash the large companies. Any kind of negativity around beer is a bad thing. Beer is a positive thing that brings people together, and that’s the spirit that should pervade the industry.
Q: What is your advice to breweries as they weather negative feedback from the public when their brewery is bought by or takes investment from a larger brewery?
A: Make sure you’re making the decision that you’re still making the best beer that you can. That’s what we’ve done. Haters gonna hate. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to explain the relationship to A-B, I rarely have anybody walk away with a continued negative attitude.
Our deal was strictly about distribution. They’ve never been able to tell us how to brew, what to brew, how to market. It’s a quirk in our society that big is bad. But when you pursue people on why it’s bad, it becomes an emotional thing, and they can’t put their finger on it. But then they’re carrying an iPhone, drive a Toyota and are wearing Nikes.
The good news is that beer is really emotional for people. It’d be worse if people didn’t care at all. We’re still doing what we were doing in 1985. There hasn’t been any boogeyman. I met some of the top folks at A-B InBev here in the U.S. They’re like us. They love beer, they love to learn, they’re really nice.
Q: What is one of your favorite fall beers?
A: A lot of my favorite beers right now come from the homebrew community. Homebrewers set the stage for what’s coming.
Q: What are some of your outlooks for the industry?
A: This infatuation with hops is peaking. The next big thing is people are going to discover the flavors of malted barley, and it’ll be coming back to helles, pils, and styles like that. I’m seeing that in the homebrewing community.
Q: What are some things in the works for Widmer?
A: After 30 years, I’m still working on getting people to pronounce Hefe correctly. [Editor’s note: it’s “hay-fuh,” by the way].
It’s back-to-school season, and if you’ve been wanting to learn more about the craft brewing industry it might be the perfect time to enroll in Portland State University’s Business of Craft Brewing program, which began in 2013. Director Mellie Pullman teaches two classes and has a wealth of knowledge as brewmaster and co-owner of Utah’s first brewery and from her experience as associate professor in PSU’s business department. Photo courtesy of Portland State University
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Remember those days growing up when summer wouldn’t even be half over and you’d be bombarded with the dreadful “Back to School” advertisements reminding you that classes were just around the corner?
Now imagine if your lesson plans took place in a virtual brewery. Or cidery. Or distillery.
With Portland State University’s Business of Craft Brewing program, your fun doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt when summer is over.
In fact, you might actually enjoy yourself. How do I know? I took the introductory class earlier this year — and, honestly, I can’t remember ever having this much fun in school (sorry Ms. Miller).
But don’t just take my word for it. Benjamin Morgan completed the program last summer before getting promoted to the marketing department at Firestone Walker Brewing Co. By April, he was approached by Anheuser-Busch for a job offer in Portland as a trade activation manager.
“The program is awesome for anybody looking to learn more about the industry. It's great for those who just need a kick in the ass to get their own project started and/or a better understanding of what it takes to be a part of the industry. The resources, quality of knowledge and experience of the instructors are the best out there, hands down.”
While a career with A-B InBev may not be the first thing that comes to mind when signing up for the Business of Craft Brewing, the program is actually quite diverse.
Since the program began in fall 2013, around 900 people have been enrolled in the various courses. Some people take four or five courses (earning the certificate and beyond) while some only take one or two courses, depending on their needs.
But the program isn’t just for Oregon beer lovers — or even beer lovers at all. Although beer is the No. 1 focus of students, about half as many students focus on cider. Spirits are third, with mead and kombucha rounding out the fourth.
According to program director Mellie Pullman, there was a heavy Northwest student base in the beginning, but now only about one-third of those enrolled are from Oregon and Washington. The other two-thirds of students come from all over the world. Thirty-seven states are represented, as well as Puerto Rico, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, U.K. and Africa (where there are Peace Corps and aid workers preparing for U.S. return).
“It's great to have people sharing ideas of where they think there are business opportunities. Also, people learn what's going on in different states and countries. Often they meet people from their own state and then get together with each other to see if they want to work together or just help each other in their own efforts,” Pullman said.
Pullman, who currently teaches both the basic business class and the business management class, has a wealth of knowledge. She is not only an associate professor of operations management in the PSU School of Business, but also was brewmaster and co-owner of Utah’s first brewery, Wasatch Brewery (along with many other accolades). As the first female brewmaster in modern American history, I’m sure Pullman is undoubtedly pleased that women make up 30-40 percent of the classes, with there even being a full scholarship awarded once a year by Teri Fahrendorf’s Pink Boots Society.
In addition to Pink Boots, there is also a full scholarship awarded each year for one active or veteran military personnel, with more scholarships being added as the program moves forward.
Just like there is no shortage of diversity among students, the instructors and courses themselves offer a nice variety that evolves from year to year.
In order to complete the program and earn the certificate (as well as an investor-ready business plan), a student needs to take four required courses: the basic business class and the business management class and then two electives of their choice (which expand and get upgraded every year).
Bryan Shull of Trap Door Brewing in Vancouver, Wash., is an example of a student who didn’t need to complete the program, but said that taking the first two courses was enough to get his business plan in shape for bank financing. Shull is not a brewer, but was in need of better business information to decide if he even wanted to open a brewery. The program must have done the trick, because Trap Door Brewing will be opening its doors later this fall.
When it comes to starting up a brewery, Shull claims the program has helped him in “every way,” from cost projections, profit and losses, equipment sizing, vendor selection, business plan data to networking. He even plans to take the strategic craft beverage marketing class this winter.
Shull’s words of sage advice? “Stay on task, do not get behind EVER. This is a fast-paced course with volumes of information that build on previous weeks’ work. Getting behind is a recipe for wasted time and money.”
While this is a fully online program that requires a great deal of self-motivation, don’t let that deter you. There are plenty of attention-grabbing field videos that feature interviews with industry professionals working in their element, weekly live sessions with guest speakers from all over the country, and as I may have mentioned, a uniquely awesome virtual brewery experience.
“I still keep in contact with instructors, guest lecturers and fellow students today. The program is such that you get what you put into it, and it's worth every penny to give it your all,” Morgan concluded.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge about the craft brewing industry, look into the Business of Craft Brewing. I promise you won’t be singing any Alice Cooper songs when “School’s Out” for summer.
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