By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Once upon a time, a sad, run-down former auto body shop sat on a dreary street corner in Astoria. Though its storied history could be traced back to some of the city’s prominent business founders, there was a time during the 1990s and early 2000s that no one paid it much attention.
It was just there, crumbling away under the winter rain and summer weeds, kept upright by the boards hammered across the broken out windows.
While it seems like a lifetime ago, it’s only been a little more than 10 years since business partners Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill chose the spot as the future home for Fort George Brewery.
Time flies when you’re having fun and working feverishly, a combination that has Fort George primed for the next 10 years.
“We’re really proud of the work that went into the building and the hub it’s become,” Harris says.
Now, it’s hard to picture the corner at 1483 Duane St. without what has become known as the “Brewer’s Block.”
While so much has happened since 2007, Harris says Astoria’s welcoming embrace holds special meaning for him.
“We were immediately accepted by this community,” he says. “It evolved into kind of becoming a living room for the town.”
The official anniversary date landed on March 11, and in typical Fort George fashion, it was an all-day affair, complete with three bands, a cake-cutting ceremony and a beer release featuring a 10th Anniversary Pinot Barrel-Aged Barleywine brewed for the occasion.
“It was just a huge party all day long,” Harris says.
The cake — decorated with a U-Haul and tornado — was a nod to Fort George’s very stormy beginning.
In 2006, Harris and Nemlowill took a cross-country trip to secure brewing equipment from a brewery for sale in Virginia Beach, Va.
After taking the brewery apart, they loaded the large tanks onto a rented flat-bed truck and stored the smaller items inside a U-Haul, which Harris and Nemlowill drove.
When they hit Nebraska, they came face-to-face with a tornado that touched down just a few hundred yards off the interstate.
“We came close to losing all that stuff — we had no insurance or anything,” Harris says.
Safe and sound back on Oregon’s north Coast, the team decided to create an IPA to commemorate their adventure.
Harris, who’d already been brewing professionally for a number of years at that point, had never made an IPA.
“Chris being the business man, he knew we needed to make an IPA because he actually wanted to make money at this venture,” Harris says.
Thus, Vortex IPA was born — one of Fort George’s signature brews.
Harris gives credit to Nemlowill for Fort George’s evolution, who he calls “the visionary” of the team.
“I’m always focused on the task at hand, Chris is always looking ahead,” he says.
Speaking of looking ahead, Fort George has purchased a parcel of land in nearby Warrenton for the future construction of a distribution center.
Harris says the current warehouse has reached its limit and they want a spot to make it easier for customers to purchase larger orders and kegs.
Groundbreaking likely won’t occur until late 2017 or early 2018.
While brewing great beer is an essential component of their success, Harris says Fort George’s role in the community takes on a greater importance. Launching a weekly lecture series, participating in charity events and brewing special beers are just some of the ways Fort George gives back to Astoria.
Harris says they also encourage current and prospective employees to find a community cause they care about and become involved.
“I have no interest in running a business just to make money, there is no point in that,” he says. “Our hearts are with anything we can do to give back and make this a better place to live for the locals. It’s really the only reason to be in it for me.”
With hindsight always being perfect, Harris laughs when asked what he’d do differently if he could give his past self any words of advice.
“I’d probably go run and hide,” he says. “But it’s such a privilege to be in this industry and be in this town.”
Fort George Brewery
1483 Duane St., Astoria
By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If, as Ben Franklin is said to have opined, beer is indeed proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then Astoria is well on its way to becoming a beer-lover’s paradise.
Case-in-point: Reach Break Brewing, the sixth brewery to set up shop in the North Oregon Coast town. Officially opened in February, Reach Break is rapidly proving one town can never have too much of a good thing.
Owned and operated by brothers and Coos Bay natives Josh and Jared Allison, Reach Break is a labor of love for a pair of avid homebrewers who made a leap of faith after circumstances gave them a nudge.
Josh Allison, with a background as a biologist, has been homebrewing “religiously” for over a decade. An injury made him look at new avenues and brewing professionally seemed a logical fit.
The term “Reach Break” is a reflection of his biology experience as it describes the exact location where two rivers or streams merge — a point where everything comes together.
Josh says it fit the brewery perfectly. “At Reach Break, we are bringing everything together in one location: hoppy, juicy IPAs, farmhouse-inspired saisons, big flavorful stouts and long-term sours,” he says.
Astoria is even located adjacent to a reach break, where the Youngs and Columbia Rivers merge.
Reach Break is also the confluence of the Allisons’ aspirations.
“Opening a brewery has always been a dream for my wife and I,” he says. “Me, because I absolutely love it. And she really wanted her kitchen, garage and shed back.”
Josh dove into learning about the business side of brewing, enrolling in the online Business of Craft Brewing program at Portland State University, which is geared toward people who brew at home and want to take things to the next level.
All the while, he was hoping to find a spot for a coastal brewery and spent time scouting out possible locations that would fit his needs, which included facilities for long-term barrel aging.
Jared, likewise a devoted homebrewer, honed his craft in Eugene with the “Brew of O” homebrew club, soon working his way into a job at Ninkasi Brewing and then several other commercial breweries.
“That really took his game to another level and he developed quite a resume,” Josh says.
The two connected while Josh was preparing to open Reach Break in Astoria and Jared was living in Tillamook. Jared came on board as an owner/operator.
The downtown Astoria location at 13th and Duane Streets originally housed the Lovell’s Used Car Center. The parking lot is where autos were showcased and the repairs took place inside where the brewery and taproom are now located. Later, the location played host to several other businesses, including a bicycle shop and various retail operations. Turning the building into a brewery was no small task.
“We had to do a lot of cleaning and work on the facility to get it ready for beer production,” Josh says.
That included the installation of a large walk-in cooler, running a glycol system for their tanks, upgrading the main water and natural gas lines, and general utility work, such as plumbing and electrical.
Now up and running, the cozy space features a taproom with a bar, couch and table seating. Reach Break has licensed the former parking lot for beer consumption outside when the weather improves this summer. Rather than having a commercial kitchen, Reach Break will rely on food trucks, which will be located just outside the taproom.
“We really wanted to focus on making the best beer possible and to allow somebody else to focus on making the best food possible,” Josh says.
Creating the best beer possible is already well underway. Several stouts were on tap during Stout Month in February, for example.
“We also are going to be producing a lot of hoppy, juicy, hazy IPAs. Jared has been developing some recipes for a while,” Josh says.
Those include Amoeba Session IPA and Evolution Of An IPA Part 1, both of which Josh says ran out much quicker than expected. As the name implies, The Evolution Series will be an ever-changing line of IPAs. “They will always have a similar genetic backbone, but we will tweak something every batch, like hops, malt, yeast, water,” explains Josh.
Mykiss and Citrus Mykiss, two saisons, have also been popular with customers and the brothers are looking forward to doing more variations.
“We also have mixed-culture beer fermenting and aging in oak barrels downstairs in our barrel cellar. We are opting for a longer-term fermentation process, so those beers should begin to make their debut in the future,” he says.
Reach Break has a 7-barrel system that came from Stout Tanks and Kettles in Portland. That includes an oversized mash tun and boil kettle, allowing the team to do some fun things with higher-gravity brews.
“All of our ‘clean beer’ — IPAs, stouts — that are fermented with domesticated brewer's yeast are kept upstairs in one of our four stainless fermenters,” Josh says. “Our mixed-culture beers that we ferment in oak are stored downstairs in our barrel cellar. We have a very unique facility that allows us the opportunity to do a lot of fun varieties that you wouldn't typically see in just one brewery.”
Reach Break is also planning to use unique ingredients that are sourced from smaller-scale farms. For example, Cradle to Grave Farms in South Dakota has been cultivating hops that Josh is eager to use.
“They are also experimenting and developing some new packaging processes and farming techniques that will directly translate to a better finished product. We are very excited to be working with them,” he says.
With the doors open, it’s time for Reach Break to dream big in the form of an expanded barrel program and fermentation capacity. However, perfecting their signature brews remains the No. 1 priority.
“We are blessed with a unique location where we are able to brew a lot of different styles of beer,” Josh says. “We always want to have a variety of styles and to make the best beer that we can possibly create. Ultimately, we will always focus on making great beer that we are proud to serve. That should be the primary goal of any brewery.”
Reach Break Brewing
1343 Duane St., Astoria
BY GAIL OBERST
The dust has finally settled in the old metal building where 8th Street meets the Columbia River. In Astoria, Oregon, a former cannery is enjoying reincarnation asthe city’s newest brewery.
Buoy Beer Company opened its taproom earlier this year in the 90-year-old cannery once occupied by the New England Fish Company, and most recently by Bornstein Seafoods. Design and construction of the remodel –all done with local labor and talent–took care to retain the character of the building, and repurpose certain elements to ensure its story would remain intact.
The taproom is situated in the former cold storage area, and its four-inch-thicK tabletops are made from wood salvaged during the remodel. The bar and restaurant area features an original fish ladder used to haul fish from the first story to processing on the second. A transparent panel in the floor provides a peek at the near century-old pilings, as well as the occasional sea lion.
The brewery includes a 3-barrel pilot brewhouse that first brewed in mid-December 2013, and a production brewhouse filled with twenty 20- and 40-barrel tanks that were fired up mid-April 2014 to help supply the taproom and beyond. The brewery, taproom, bar, restaurant and kitchen occupy about 12,000 square feet of the 44,000 square-foot building. There will also be a full bar and restaurant featuring a full view of the Columbia River, and are nearing completion, with plans to open in the spring of this year. The taproom, open now, accommodates up to 60 people and serves a carefully curated menu with a focus on fresh local seafood. Dishes are designed specifically to pair with the brewery’s craft lagers and well-balanced ales.
Buoy Beer Company was the brainchild of Luke Colvin, a local arborist and entrepreneur looking for bigger opportunities. With one successful company already under his charge, Colvin had enough of a track record to attract a small group of local investors who could see his vision for the brewery and were willing to back the project. Colvin then assembled a team representing all of the skillsets a successful brewing operation would require. The “founding five,” including Colvin, Dave Kroening, Andrew Bornstein, Dan Hamilton and Jerry Kasinger, were joined last fall by Kevin Shaw, former head brewer and 14-year veteran of BridgePort Brewing Company in Portland.
In the kitchen is Eric Jenkins, former executive chef at Oregon State University’s Seafood Cooking School, and his sous chef Jennifer Chapman.
Buoy Brewing Co.
[a] 1 Eighth St., Astoria
Owners: Luke Colvin, Dave Kroening, Andrew Bornstein, Dan Hamilton and Jerry Kasinger.
Head Brewer: Kevin Shaw
Above, Workers at Crosby's Hop Farm near Woodburn.
Following -- Emily Engdahl put this great list together for the Oregon Beer Growler's print edition. Those who want to hold this list in their hands can pick it up Oct. 1 here. If you want to see Emily's list on her website, go to http://oregonbeercountry.org. Thanks Emily!
List compiled by Emily Engdahl
For the Oregon Beer Growler
10 Barrel | Crosby Farms Harvest Ale | 5.5% | 55 IBU
Base Camp | Golden Hopportunity Belgian IPA | 10%
Base Camp | In-2-Tents |
Base Camp | Hopularity Contest Pale Ale | 5.3%
Breakside | Fresh Hop Citra | 6.5%
Brewers Union 180 | Little Green Men Cask Cond’d IPA | 5.5%
Bridgeport BridgePort | Hop Harvest | 8.0% | 60 IBU
Claim 52 | Whoa-Dang Fresh Harvest Ale | 5.5% | 55 IBU
Coalition Brewing | Green Pig Fresh Hop Pale Ale | 5.0 % | 50 IBU
Coalition Brewing | Simply Dank Fresh Hop ISA | 4.0% | 40 IBU
Crux Fermentation Project | Cruxtennial Belgian Pale Ale | 7.0% | 35 IBU
Crux Fermentation Project | Off the Fence
Crux Fermentation Project | Crystal Zwickel
Deschutes Bend | Hop Trip | 5.4% | 38 IBU
Deschutes Bend | Chasin’ Freshies | 7.2% | 65 IBU
Deschutes Bend | Cinder Cone Red | 5.9% | 47 IBU
Deschutes Portland | Fresh Hop Bitter | 5.0% | 43 IBU
Deschutes Portland | King Cone Deluxe | 6.4% | 55 IBU
Deschutes Portland | Fresh Hop Mirror Pond | 5.0% | 40 IBU
Deschutes Portland | Oktoberfest | 6.1% | 30 IBU
Double Mountain | Killer Green IPA | 7.5% | 75 IBU
Double Mountain | Killer Red IRA | 7.2% | 97 IBU
Double Mountain | Killer Brass IPA | 7.9% | 88 IBU
Falling Sky | So Fresh, So Green Fresh Hop Lager | 5.7%
Falling Sky | Nuggets of Wisdom Fresh Hop | 5.5%
Fort George Brewery | Co-Hoperative Ale | 5%
Fort George Brewery | Fresh Hop Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale |5.3%
Fort George Brewery | Fresh Hop Belgian | 7.5%
Fort George Brewery | Hopstoria | 5.6%
Full Sail | Full Sail Fresh Hop Pilsner | 6.0% | 60 IBU
Gilgamesh Brewing | Fresh Prince of Ales Fresh Hopped DIPA | 6.9% | 100+ IBU
Harvester | Harvester Fresh Hop Meridian Pale Ale | 5.3% | 30 IBU
Hop Valley | Citra Self Down “Fresh Hop” Pale Ale | 6% | 40 IBU
Hopworks | Bitchin’ Camaro Fresh Hop Lager | 6.0% | 60 IBU
Hopworks | Fuggin’ A Fresh Hop IPX Single Hop Ale | 5.7% | 48 IBU
Humble Brewing | Larch Creek Harvest Ale | 7% | 66 IBU
Laurelwood | Fresh Hop Mother Lode Golden Ale | 5.1% | 25 IBU
Laurelwood | Workhorse IPA | 7.5% | 80 IBU
Laurelwood | Fresh Hop Pale (Project 21) | 5.9% | 35 IBU
Laurelwood | Free-Range Red | 6.1% | 60 IBU
Lompoc | Harvestman Red | |6.1 % | 60 IBU
Lucky Lab | The Mutt | 3.6%
McMenamin’s | Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale | 6.9% | 44 IBU
McMemamin’s | Roseburg Station | Hopqua | 6.8% | 67 IBU
McMenamin’s | Old St. Francis (Bend) | Golden Sparrow Fresh Hop | 5.2% | 45 IBU
Migration | Glisan Street Fresh Hop Pale Ale | 5.1% | 33 IBU
Migration | Wild Style Fresh Hop Farm House Ale | 6.1% | 39 IBU
Migration | Better Off Fresh IPA | 7.5% | 85 IBU
Ninkasi | Total Crystalation IPA | 6.7% | 65 IBU
Ninkasi | Hop Fraiche | 5.2% | 40 IBU
Oakshire | ‘Bout a Hunerd Hops Pale Ale
Oakshire | Rogue Red Rye IPA
Old Market Pub | Schrader Brau Fresh Hopped Oktoberfest | 4.5% | 12 IBU
Old Town Brewing | Cent’s and Centsability Pale Ale | 5.5%
Old Town Brewing | Freshtoberbrau | 5.8%
Pelican Brewery | Elemental Ale | 5.4% | 55 IBU
Pfriem | Fresh Hop Mosaic Belgian Wheat | 5.1% | 18 IBU
Pints | Seismic Upgrade Imperial IPA | 8.2% | 100+ IBU
Pints | Oktoberfresh | 5.7% | 17 IBU
Pints | Crystal Lite Lager | 4.1% |10 IBU
Portland U Brew & Pub | Freshy Foystons Pale Ale | 5.8%
Portland U Brew & Pub | Papa Paul’s White Wall Pale Ale | 6.0%
Salem Ale Works | Triple F IPA | 6.0 %
Santiam Brewing | Hoppy Froppy | 6.3%
Santiam Brewing | Hopville Rye Pale Ale | 5.2%
Santiam Brewing | Fresh Hop Brown Ale | 4.8%
Sasquatch | Oregon Session Ale | 4.7%
Sasquatch | Woodboy IPA | 6.8%
Sasquatch | Red Electric IRA | 6.7%
Sasquatch | Healy Heights Pale | 5.6%
Sasquatch | Celilo CDA | 8.0% +/-
Silver Moon | Hoppopotamus Fresh Ale | 6.5%
Sky High | Fresh Hop Ale | 5.0% | 25 IBU
Solera | Chubby Bunny Fresh Hop DIPA | 9.5%
Stickmen | Single Malt – Single Hop (SMaSH) | 5.8% | 34 IBU
The Commons | Fresh Hop Myrtle | 5.3%
Three Creeks | Cone Lick’r Fresh Hop Ale | 5%
Three Creeks | Hop Wrangler Fresh Hop Red | 5%
Upright | The Hop and the Abstract Truth Belgian style pale/triticale saison | 5.1% | 30+ IBU
Vertigo | Hop Harvest IPA | 5.3% | 45 IBU
Viking Braggot | 100 Day Anniversary ESB | 5.5% | 50 IBU
Widmer Brothers | Dark and Dank Fresh Hop Lager | 5.1%
Widmer Brothers | Bring the Boom Fresh Hop IPL | 6.6%
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