By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
In a city in the Southern Hemisphere some 7,000 miles away from Portland, Argentinians are learning how to pronounce “Willamette.”
“It was a hard word for people to learn,” said Casey Rakoczy, who explained it would often come out as “Wee-sha-mett-eh.”
One of Oregon’s major waterways isn’t the only attraction locals in Argentina have gotten to know — at least by name. On the hardscrabble outskirts of Buenos Aires — miles from the cosmopolitan restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings and bustling traffic that helped the city become known as “the Paris of South America” — you’ll hear people ask for “Saturday Market,” “Forest Park” and “Mount Hood.” These are actually beers at Portlander Fermentation Lab, a brewery co-founded by Rakoczy after he upended his life in Portland three years ago to fulfill an urge he just couldn’t shake. Sure, it’s the dream of many a homebrewer to turn pro. But most try to make a go of it in their hometown — or at least in the same continent they’d been living. But Rakoczy had a bigger goal in mind. He wanted to shape the craft beer culture in another country.
“My mind was on the brewery in Argentina more than it was on work in the U.S.,” he said. “And that weight became heavier than what I was doing here [in Portland]. But I needed to, like, do it. I needed to leap and go.”
Before making that hemispheric jump, Rakoczy had been introduced to Argentina by two friends, Manu Lopez and his wife Inez, who had come to Portland for graduate school. He joined the couple on vacation a handful of times — exploring Patagonia’s vistas and glaciers on one trip; the surging Iguazu Falls on another, which Rakoczy describes as “Niagara times 10.” When back in Portland, the trio enjoyed what was then a burgeoning craft brewing scene. Rakoczy couldn’t help but compare the quality and variety with what he thought was lacking in Argentina.
“I kept seeing the beer here is not that great, but the country has a lot of natural resources,” he said.
With that in mind, Lopez and Rakoczy decided it was time to launch a brewery in Buenos Aires … well, after Lopez established one important factor.
“And he asks, ‘Can you brew?’” Rakoczy recounted. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, of course I can brew!’”
As a hobby fermenter who polished his skills with distance-learning classes in Oregon State University’s Fermentation Science program, followed by a week of hands-on instruction, Rakoczy felt confident in the skills he’d acquired to advance to the commercial level. With Lopez, he found a 200-liter system (approximately 1.7 barrels) for sale online in Argentina and they split the cost. Meanwhile, Lopez developed the distributing and pub side of the business. After becoming established, the brewery began hosting students who wanted to make their own special batches for parties. Rakoczy led them through the process — from recipe building to yeast pitching — and customers would return several weeks later for their finished keg.
“The idea of it was not necessarily just a brewery, but it was also a place where people could come and learn about how to brew,” he said. “We’ll make our money off of the beer, but we’ll also hold courses where people can come and I’d teach them and supervise.”
Aside from leaving his job as a footwear developer and a home in Portland for several years to embark on this passion project, Rakoczy said another challenge he encountered once in Buenos Aires was encouraging drinkers to order something other than Quilmes, which is the region’s version of Budweiser. And even adventurous palates didn’t have much to choose from as many smaller producers tended to stick to the same three styles.
“Everybody that was doing craft beer was doing like rubia, roja, negra, which is blond, red or black. And that was usually the only selection you had,” Rakoczy explained. “So when we started brewing, I said ‘I’m not doing any of those. We’re going to make IPA. We’re going to make amber. We’re going to make brown.’”
And that variety got him handles. Bar owners would buy Rakoczy’s beer in order to offer patrons something besides rubia, roja and negra. The names, of course, also helped his product stand out — titles familiar to anyone from the Rose City, foreign to someone who’s perhaps never even heard of Portland.
“The idea with the branding side of things was for us to deliver notoriety to what we felt was the authority in American craft brewing. And that was Portland, Oregon,” said Rakoczy, the self-described Yankee brewing in an area primarily dominated by German- and Belgian-inspired beer producers. Putting a Northwest stamp on style and atmosphere might be one way to get people on the opposite end of the globe to pay attention to a new beer mecca. And if “Burnside Amber Ale” or “Willamette River Brown” don’t spark the interest of the “portenos” (residents of Buenos Aires, a port), the hulking mural of bigfoot on the brewery’s new Palermo-area bar provides a colorful summation of the Pacific Northwest.
“Sasquatch is wearing a flannel shirt, a [beanie] hat and he’s holding a beer,” laughed Rakoczy. “It’s so hipster Portland. They couldn’t have got it more perfect.”
Rakoczy never planned to permanently relocate to Buenos Aires — at least not at this point in his life. He trained the next head brewer, a native Argentinian, before returning home last year. As the Portland partner of the business, he visits periodically and is excited by the changes he’s witnessed to the culture of craft beer. Rakoczy compared it to Portland 15 years ago. New breweries are taking root, quality beer appears on a growing number of menus and the IPA craze has just begun. Rakoczy finds fulfillment in the way he’s nudged the industry’s development, whether through training future brewers, assisting established beer makers with quality and consistency or by simply exposing a drinking population to new flavors.
“It’s kind of like I’m a beer missionary that went out and spread the good word,” Rakoczy concludes.
By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Walking into Public Coast Brewing in Cannon Beach immediately gives you the sense that you are sharing another persons' labor of love: gleaming new brew tanks, handwritten tap lists, warm, inviting seating areas, and large windows that invite onlookers to watch the brewing process. Above it all, taking up most of one wall reads: “Beaches Forever, Beer For Everyone.”
It's a statement, a motto, a rule for the beer revolution unfolding on the Oregon Coast. Located at 234 E. Third Street – the site of former Cannon Beach eatery and watering hole The Lumberyard – Public Coast was the longtime dream of owner Ryan Snyder. Snyder, president of Martin Hospitality, purchased The Lumberyard in 2004 with the goal of one day turning it into a thriving, convivial brewery.
“It was my dream all along,” he says. Though that dream had to be put on hold several times over the ensuing decade, Snyder's patience has paid off: Public Coast welcomed its first customers the first week of June, turning an idea into the physical hustle and bustle inside one of the Oregon Coast's newest breweries. That's not to say the transition from daydream to reality wasn't without its complications. Delays in the federal approval process pushed the proposed February opening to June.
“Never in a million years would I have planned on opening a new restaurant in June,” Snyder says. “But at the end of the day, we're ready to make a product that stands out in the crowd.”
Snyder is no neophyte to the ins and outs of the brewing industry; his experience dates back to the early ‘90s with Big Dogs Brewing Company in Las Vegas. Snyder says his vision for Public Coast is the pairing of the freshest possible ingredients for both food and beer, a destination where both things combine to create a story.
“It's not just a 'beer place' or a 'burger place,'” he says. “We want both to be the story. Not one or the other, but how did it all work together."
To capture the best of both those worlds, Snyder brought his longtime head chef Will Leroux on board as head brewer. While it may seem like a giant, uncharted leap to make from the dining room to the brewing room, Snyder says Leroux was the first and only name that came to his mind as Public Coast began to take shape. Utilizing his contacts at Big Dogs, Snyder sent Leroux to Las Vegas for a month-long tutorial on brewing. Leroux returned and hit the ground running, using his experience as a chef to get the balance in Public Coast's beers just right.
“Brewing is not unlike baking; both involve a certain amount of science,” Leroux says. Snyder adds that Leroux's culinary touch is the perfect fit for what he's hoping to achieve. “What's really cool is that Will has created this great balance, which you would expect from a guy who is so methodical in his processes. He's the ultimate craftsman”
Public Coast boasts five tanks and all of their beers are brewed onsite. Additionally, every Friday the brewery taps a limited-edition keg. Recent offerings have included Jalapeno Bitter Pale Ale, Bumble Berry Blonde and Dried Cherry Stout. Playing with flavors has allowed Snyder and Leroux to find some happy mediums for patrons.
“The Bitter Pale, for example, has a pale ale finish that has a bittering on the palate like an IPA,” Snyder says. The response from people who normally don't care for IPAs has been overwhelmingly positive. For younger palates, there are non-alcohol beverages, including house-made root beer. Snyder also took care to provide 10 guest taps, in order to show some love to all of the breweries that supported his undertaking.
The food menu has been simplified in order to place focus on quality and offers three core items: burgers, fish tacos, and halibut and salmon fish and chips. There are also gluten-free options – all locally sourced. Additionally, Public Coast stands ready for the dark coastal days of Oregon Coast power outages with a complete power generation system. “In the event of a power outage, this place is set to be a refuge, a place where people can gather. Food and beer will always be ready,” Snyder says, adding that making the community feel welcome was an extremely important element of the new undertaking.
Keeping that sense of coastal community at the forefront is reflected in the brewery's name. Public Coast is a nod to the landmark 1967 Beach Bill, signed into law by Gov. Tom McCall, which forever kept Oregon beaches free and public. Being just a few blocks from the beach only helps enforce that notion. Looking ahead, Snyder has plans for a tasting room, a barrel-aging room and regular live music. In the here and now, however, Snyder couldn't be happier with how Public Coast is unfolding. “We want to serve the absolute highest quality,” he says. “We're following up on a dream.”
Public Coast Brewing
[a] 264 E. Third St., Cannon Beach
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Mike Boyle said of his new business in Sisters, Hop In The Spa. “And of course people just love it when they get here.” Hop In The Spa was inspired by beer spas that can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped. Photo courtesy of Hop In The Spa
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are seemingly endless ways that Oregon has tried to cash in on the beer tourism craze. The latest evidence of that trend: a spa where you soak in beer.
Ever since Hop In The Spa opened in Sisters in February of this year, it’s been nearly non-stop business, according to Mike Boyle, co-founder of the spa.
Some of the reason for that? It’s gotten a ton of free publicity in the form of mainstream press coverage for what is America’s first “beer spa,” an idea that Boyle and co-founder Sally Champa ported from Europe. Hop in the Spa has been featured in the likes of Time, Newsweek, CNBC, Maxim and Men’s Journal.
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Boyle said. “And of course people just love it when they get here.”
Boyle even said the Travel Channel was sending a camera crew in July for part of a special that would feature the spa that is still just a few months old.
The story of how Hop in the Spa came to life has been well told in most of those publications. Last fall, Boyle, a longtime Sisters resident, got into a car accident and his doctor recommended that he go to a massage therapist. That’s how he met Champa, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the newness of the idea and all the press coverage has helped Hop In The Spa’s fast rise, it’s also rooted in the service it provides.
The core idea and novelty is the soaking in “beer.” Technically, you’re not soaking in beer as much as hop-infused water with minerals, oils and some beer added in. The soaking mixture is brewed onsite. Beer spas can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped.
Many of the packages at the spa include a massage after the soak, and the two things work hand-in-hand, according to Boyle.
“The soak kind of tenderizes and marinates your body,” Boyle said in describing why Hop In The Spa has gotten early rave reviews. You also get a beer with the treatment. “You’re not getting inebriated, but the whole experience gets you so prepared by the time you get on the massage table.”
Of course, beer is a big part of the experience as well -- Hop in the Spa has a deal with Bend’s Deschutes Brewery. Boyle says that it has the biggest selection of Deschutes beers available anywhere outside of its pubs. The spa is also close to opening a beer garden on the premises.
Based on the early returns, Boyle said franchising the Hop In The Spa idea appears to be in the cards. Spas could be coming soon to Hawaii and California. And Roanoke, Va. — the site of Deschutes Brewery’s new East Coast brewery — is also a possibility.
But for now, the only place in the U.S. to get in a “beer soak” is in Sisters. And based on its popularity, you better make your reservations early if you want to get in the door.
Hop In The Spa
[a] 371 W. Cascade Ave., Sisters
By Patty Mamula
McMenamins Old Church and Pub in Wilsonville weds old and new in an historic compound that forms a comfortable plaza oasis, screened by trees and landscaping from the bustling urban center around it.
The 1911 church is the focal point for one side of the McMenamins quadrangle, facing busy Boones Ferry Road.
A new 350-seat McMenamins pub, built using reclaimed lumber to resemble a historic hop barn, is the opposite side of the square that faces the shopping center parking lot.
Connecting these two is a grassy amphitheater, surrounded by native plantings, that descends to a courtyard area with tables and chairs, adjacent to the church basement bar and brewery.
The property seems to have organically grown on this spot, even though the church was moved here and the pub is only three years old.
Still, it’s already earned a reputation as a summer hot spot.
Brewer Justin Azevedo, who started here in November, has heard about the summer crowds. He expects the first week of July, when they will pour an IPA for Oregon Craft Beer Month, to be crazy. “IPA madness. I’m excited and nervous. I might have to brew the IPA three times a week.”
His regular routine is to brew three or four days a week. The Old Church brewery has four fermenters, and Azevedo said the average turnaround is eight to nine days.
A typical brew day for him starts at 9 a.m. and ends between 4:30 and 6 p.m. “A bigger beer like an IPA means a longer day because it has more materials,” he said. Likewise, the higher alcohol beers can take up to 12 days to develop, while a beer like Ruby usually takes about seven days.
Azevedo has worked as an assistant winemaker at Illahe Winery in Dallas, Ore., and completed viticulture courses at Chemeketa. He’s also
been home brewing for nearly four years. After completing an AmeriCorp assignment in Gresham, he started at the Highland Pub there and worked as pub staff before moving up to brewer here.
He compares winemaking to sculpting and brewing to painting. “Think of the grapes as a piece of stone with a will of its own. The winemaker’s job is to discover what’s best for them,” he said.
“Beer is a blank canvas where you add colors to make a picture, it’s more like cooking.”
When he came to the Old Church brewery Azevedo worked with the previous brewer for a few weeks. He was already familiar with commercial scale equipment and cleaning procedures. The
challenge was getting acclimated to a new system. “The other challenge is anticipating what kind of beer will sell here, anticipating demand,” he said.
In addition to the home pub, you’ll find brews from the Old Church at the Sherwood Pub and the Mission Theatre in Portland.
McMenamins standards are always on tap but the rest of the taps are at the brewer’s discretion. “We make our own one-offs and some of these move faster than others,” he said.
“This is the greatest property. I have flexibility in schedule and freedom in brewing,” he said.
The Old Church
The classic white clapboard church was built in 1911 by the Wilsonville Methodist Society. It was located near the Willamette River and the historic Boones Ferry crossing, named after Daniel Boone’s grandson, Alphonso.
In the ensuing years, the settlement shifted further south and the church was purchased and moved to its current location off I-5 at Wilsonville Road. Today, the brewery and small bar are in
the basement but the main floor of the renovated church is available for special events such as rehearsal dinners, family reunions, business meetings, baby showers, weddings, political events, funerals and parties. The former church sanctuary will hold 100 people seated with tables and 200 reception style.
All the hardwood in the church – the flooring, stage and wainscoting, are original. The wood downstairs in the bar and floor area comes from the Crystal Ballroom. The stained glass windows are also original with new crystal pieces added to repair breaks.
Typical of McMenamins’ attention to local history, most of the Old Church artwork in the event space depicts crops that were originally grown in the area and people who were important to the town’s development.
The church is open to the public during McMenamins’ regular hours.
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