By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Gold Beach was named for the bonanza of gold found at the mouth of the Rogue River in the 1800s.
But now there’s a different source of gold in town. Arch Rock Brewing Company’s multiple gold medals have put a new sparkle in this scenic Southern Oregon coastal village. Since it opened three years ago, Arch Rock’s Gold Beach Lager has won prestigious gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and at the North American Beer Awards, as well as gold for its State of Jefferson Porter, also at the NABA. Additionally, the brewery was featured in a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled “Best Places for a Quickie,” referring to drinks, not the other kind.
Owners of the brewery, Larry and Marjie Brennan, and their production team, Kristen and James Smith, have filled the Brennan’s former cabinet shop with three 30-barrel fermenters, a 30-barrel brite tank, and a 15-barrel brewhouse. Since the unexpected accolades two years ago, brewer Smith said production has skyrocketed.
“People started taking us seriously,” Smith said. “Medals sure help to get your name out. The brewery is self-distributed for the most part in Southern Oregon, but also at a few bars and bottle shops in Portland. For the Cosmo-style “Quickie” experience, visit the brewery a mile or so off Highway 101, at 28779 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach. In a small alcove with a window to the brewery, visitors can taste what’s on tap. Growlers are also filled onsite.
For those who want to sip Arch Rock suds in the comfort of a country bar, Hunter Creek Bar & Grill next door carries Arch Rock’s lineup.
How did this wilderness shop become an award-winning brewery so quickly? Smith claims it is luck, but three-peats prove it is his talent.
Raised in a relatively liberal Utah Mormon family, James started homebrewing in 1999. He joined the ranks of Uinta Brewing’s crew and eventually began brewing for them. Everything changed in 2009, the year James met and fell in love with Kristen, a Grand Teton Brewing Company employee, at the Great American Beer Festival. He followed her to Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing, taking a job as a cellarman there. Within a few years, they started scouting out a small-town brewery they could run together.
At the same time, Larry and Marjie Brennan were looking for a better use of their cabinet shop space and had settled on a brewery. Together, the two couples hit gold -- medals, that is — within a year of opening.
“We’re both used to remote areas,” said Smith. “We wanted to be in a small town. This is perfect for us.” Kristen was born and raised in Michigan.
Today, the two couples run the business with help from a delivery driver. In 2014, Arch Rock sold 845 barrels. Last year, capacity expanded to 1,800 barrels.
Visitors to the brewery are welcome 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit their web page, archrockbrewingcompany.com or call 541-247-0555.
Josh and Annie Pfriem are preparing to expand their family brewery to the rest of the 20,000-square-foot Halyard Building in Hood River. The move brings extra stress and long hours, but finding time for themselves, along with a foundation of friendship, helps keep their relationship strong. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Few beer names are worth a battle royal for trademark infringement, but you couldn’t blame Josh and Annie Pfriem for going to court if they really wanted to dub a beer “Headlamp.” It’s a name used by at least three American breweries. But there likely won’t be any legal battles anytime soon — the owners of pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River gravitate toward more traditional names rather than relying on puns, places or physical objects.
But if they did go another route, “Headlamp” should be theirs by any romantic right.
Their love started with beer and a headlamp-lit glacier and it continued to grow while helping develop two breweries. Now with a family and a business — a brewery of their own that focuses on Belgian-style beers and brings home numerous awards — life is more complex, perhaps. But it’s also more rewarding. However, their relationship didn’t start out on such strong footing.
The two worked together as ski guides in British Columbia, Canada and when they met, “We really clashed,” said Josh, now 35. “I was arrogant and young and she was loud and emotional.”
Annie confirmed the description and added, “We were really young and I had broken up with my college boyfriend, and I was like, ‘I don’t need you.’”
The guide work was “a couple-year commitment, and it was a tight-knit group of like-minded folks,” Josh explained. “And we were friends for the first couple of years we knew each other, but at the start we actually didn’t like each other.”
A mutual dislike gave way after a beer recommendation.
“That first summer, we kept away from each other. But when we came back to the U.S. we hit Boundary Bay in Bellingham,” said Josh.
“His hometown brewery, you know?” Annie interjected while elbowing Josh.
“And Annie and I happen to sit next to each other and she was having trouble deciding what to drink, and I said, ‘Do you need a beer recommendation?’”
"'Even though I drink craft beer," Annie said.
“But she was stuck,” Josh said.
So Josh recommended a Blonde ale. She liked it, and that led to talking about skiing, and coming out that winter to snowboard at Mount Baker.
"And that's when our friendship took off and it led to a relationship," Josh said.
Shortly after they started dating, the first mountain they summited together was Sahale Mountain in northern Washington. But as they descended in the dark, that’s when the headlamp entered the picture: Annie’s broke, requiring her to follow behind Josh.
“It was an epic day and we learned later that both of us thought later on, ‘If we ever have a little girl, Sahale would be a pretty awesome name,’” said Josh.
Their first child, daughter Sahale, is now 10. The couple also have 6-year-old son Watou, named for a beer center in Belgium. Their other child, the brewery, was conceived at least 10 years ago when Annie and Josh realized their mutual fondness for the craft.
“I'd get home from brewing, and fire up the homebrewing, trying recipes,” Josh said. “pFriem Brewery was the plan all along, and Annie’s been part of the process from day one; together we're talking, visiting places — including Belgium -- building a vision of what we wanted to have happen.”
Today, “our employees love to see us working together,” Josh said. As they sit next to each other in the brewery’s cozy upper room, decorated by Annie and termed “The Library,” something sparkles as clear as a pFriem pilsner — their mutual willingness to tease and be teased, and that they can seamlessly finish each other’s thoughts.
“When we're here in the office and Annie gets too loud and I tell her to ‘Be quiet, it’s very not corporate,’” he said. “We go to beer events together and people see us as a couple, it shows more and more of what we're trying to do here at pFriem.
“I’m soft at heart but pretty go-go-go during my day to get things done, and Annie's pretty good at letting people know the softer side — when they need the Mama when Papa's a little too gruff.”
In fact, in the early part of their marriage, Josh took to calling Annie “Brew Mama.” It’s a nickname she puts on her business card and illustrates some of her chief brewery roles — ensuring “the touch and feel” of place, making sure the customers are comfortable and the atmosphere is family-like. She’s also in charge of donations and community outreach while assisting with the business’ social media presence. “But touch and feel is the little things you see around pFriem that you don’t necessarily see in restaurants or, more specifically, breweries.”
Of course, with success comes new challenges. This year, pFriem is planning to take over the rest of the 20,000-square-foot Halyard Building, which is owned by the Port of Hood River. That will provide more space for storage, fermenting, bottling and the office. While stress and long hours accompany any expansion, creating something together has its rewards as well.
Josh adds, “It’s really romantic that we're building something together. It’s like raising children, there's a romance to that."
How are beer and romance connected? “It gives an opportunity for love and joy,” Josh answered.
Annie was more to the point: “Beer is sexy,” she laughed.
As busy as they are with running a burgeoning business, they manage to find time for themselves and family.
“We have little breaks, and our kids have grown up in the mountains — between skiing and biking and camping and nowadays we mountain bike quite a bit,” Josh said. “That’s another way we connect outside the brewery. We try to get out on mountain bike dates, rather than going out to dinner. Since we do so much for events, we try to do non-beer things. But there's usually a beer at the end.”
Referring back to the origin of their relationship, Josh said that “we were definitely just friends for a long time, which has helped these times — some of them hard when you have the brewery and this business and the children,” he said. “We have this cement foundation of friendship.”
By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
You might call it destiny.
Before they first met, both made ale in their home kitchens. Both longed for a brewery in Coos Bay. Both spent months crafting crude sculptures in a ceramics class at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
“He doesn't remember me from that," Annie Pollard told me amid light January rain outside her brewpub. “I was never gutsy enough to talk to him. I was afraid I'd get rejected."
Apparently, he didn't date much.
The year was 2003. Managing a Dutch Bros. Coffee shop, Carmen Matthews worked the grind — literally. Self-defined as “very picky," he’d been single for a while.
"I didn't know Annie was in that class because she was hidden from me," he said with a smirk. "She was a wallflower, and I was schmoozing with all the older ladies.”
By 2007, Pollard was a grad student, studying marine biology at the University of Oregon campus in Charleston, where Matthews lived, nine miles west of downtown Coos Bay.
"We'd cross paths, but he still didn't know who I was. I kept seeing him because he was in a band and he worked at Dutch Bros. and he volunteered everywhere. Finally, I told my friends that I had a crush."
A mutual friend threw a bash.
"We were all hanging out in a room," Matthews said. "Suddenly, everyone evacuated -- except Annie and I."
Pollard: "Our friends shut the doors on purpose and leaned on them so we couldn't get out."
"They were all in on the plan to get us together!" Matthews said, laughing. "Just lock 'em in a room ... But it worked! By the end of the party, we were on the couch, awkwardly making out like teenagers."
Within a year, they’d domesticated in Charleston. Next came the 7 Devils genesis and many odd jobs, including seasonal gigs in Alaska and Antarctica, where Pollard researched penguins — and from where, in February 2012, she flew to meet Matthews for their Kauai beach wedding.
They hadn't seen each other for 90 days.
"I'd fallen on ice and broken a tooth," Pollard said, chuckling at the memory. "I had Carmen bring me the dress and the jewelry. He planned the whole wedding — I just showed up! It was awesome."
Matthew's dad performed the ceremony, which was followed by barbecue and a classic Hawaiian sunset.
"It was super romantic," Matthews said, winking.
But today, four years on … how's the love going, guys?
"We have two relationships," Pollard said. "We're business partners, and we're life partners. If you let it, the business side will dominate — you've got to make sure that doesn't happen. In the first couple of years, the business side [of 7 Devils] was so all-consuming for us, and it was hard. But now that things are in place, our personal life is flourishing again. It's nice."
We three were chatting two days after the two brewers had returned from a well-deserved stint on the Big Island, where, mentally, 7 Devils did not exist.
"I barely knew that I owned a brewery," Matthews said. "We're good about 'turning it off' when we’re out of town.”
What about while in town?
“We'll be at home having dinner, or sitting next to the fire, and we end up talking about work,” he admitted. “That can be a little bit of a cloud over the evening. We don't want to talk about work all the time, so we have to be really conscientious about focusing on each other and our relationship and our hopes and dreams beyond the brewery."
They balance each other out, he assured.
“I'm a spender, Annie's a saver — you would think that would cause a lot of clashes, but we've met in the middle. And when Annie is stressed out, I know exactly why, and vice versa. It's easier to be sympathetic. There's more understanding because you know where your mate is coming from.”
“Not all business partners are good business partners," Pollard said, "but because we were excellent life partners, we had a good chance of being good business partners. If we can work with money together, travel together and sleep in a van together, we can run a brewery together."
"But the brewery isn’t our only baby," Matthews said, grinning.
The couple is due to birth a girl in July — 7 Devils' busiest month.
"I'm a little terrified about the timing," Pollard said. "And I won't get to take maternity leave."
"It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out," Matthews said. "We're really excited."
"Yeah," Pollard laughed. “We're gonna need a bassinet in the brewhouse."
7 Devils Brewing Co.
(a) 247 S. Second St., Coos Bay
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes newlyweds return from their honeymoon and immediately prepare a room for a baby. But for Kiley and Michael Gwynn of Eugene, they returned from their 2008 honeymoon/first anniversary trip to Hawaii with a passion for a new hobby: homebrewing.
“We fell in love with Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut PorTeR, and that started us because it wasn’t available in Oregon,” says Michael. What began as a way to keep a beloved beer in the pantry, though, became an extension of something else. “It’s one more way for us to be connected,” he explains. “There are very few things we do separately. This is one more way to collaborate with each other. Like with any couple, you have so much going on, you don’t always see each other during the day, so this builds that connection even more.”
The couple focuses their time on work, craft beer, homebrew, “beercations,” and their dog, a red heeler named Penny. Today that Maui porter is a regular homebrew for the Gwynns, but their hobby has grown far beyond one clone. They started basic, but a “good tax refund” coincided with information that someone in Salem was getting out of brewing. The Gwynns bought his 10-gallon, single-tier, all-grain setup (though they now use a 26-gallon brew pot to accommodate larger batches). Their garage houses four 60-gallon wine barrels and a full-sized bourbon barrel. They maintain one bottling line for standard yeasts and a second for beers made with wild microbes. Members since 2009 of Eugene-area homebrew club the Cascade Brewers Society, in 2015 Michael, a learning specialist at University of Oregon’s University Teaching and Learning Center, became club president. (The Gwynns also keep the club’s Flanders barrel, and various other member barrels, in the garage.) A social media strategist at Oregon Community Credit Union, Kiley has promoted Eugene Beer Week and runs the Eugene chapter of women’s craft beer group Barley’s Angels.
“We brew things that aren’t as easy to get locally,” says Kiley. “The last year we’ve done a lot of Belgians, saisons, more beers for their sour character. This year we’re doing lots of British beers — ESBs, milds, real ales on a homebrew scale. It’s not something we’ve done before.”
Every year Michael and Kiley brew a different beer for holiday gifts. For 2015 they brewed a Belgian breakfast stout, modeled after Founders Breakfast Stout from Michigan. The Gwynns developed a variant they called Vanilla Latte, brewed with coffee beans and vanilla beans. Kiley designed labels and Michael worked with a mobile canner out of Salem for canning.
The couple met in 2001 while attending UO. “We met at a party, slowly got to know each other over the course of a year,” says Kiley. “It wasn’t an instant thing, but grew over time.” Six years after meeting, Kiley and Michael married in 2007.
A love of craft beer has been a constant. “Growing up in Oregon, you’re more steeped in craft beer than other places,” explains Kiley. “The cheapest thing I ever drank was Henry Weinhard’s.” When Kiley turned 21, her “first legal beer” was a growler of Bombay Bomber IPA from Steelhead. The next day Kiley went to High Street and brought home a Mason jar of Ruby. “My father was a Coors Light drinker,” Kiley recollects with a laugh, “and he just talked about how bitter it was.”
Michael came to craft beer in part through his love of cooking. “I’ve never been an exceptional cook, but I enjoy tinkering with food and flavors and have the do-it-yourself mentality,” he says. Already wading the shallow waters of the growing ocean of craft beer, a barrel-aged stout “blew me away with the flavors,” says Michael. “We had it with a meal where everything just worked together perfectly. I was heading for homebrewing, and that got me there.”
As with the rest of their relationship, both Gwynns cite collaboration as key to their homebrewing. Brews begin not over the kettle, but over discussion, says Kiley: “What do we feel like? What’s in season? What do we have? What could be different from what we have? We talk about recipe formulation together — hops and yeast.”
From there, the couple goes into a mode of division of labor. One gets a yeast starter going, one goes to the homebrew store. Brew day is on the weekend, after a full work week. “He does most of the work on brew day,” says Kiley. “He does the manual labor while I get other stuff done around the house or run errands. Some days we have a brew day together, but we are involved in so many other things related to beer, that we find those brewing hours work best with him brewing and me cleaning the house.”
For other homebrewing couples, both Kiley and Michael suggest collaboration as a top priority.
“Make sure you’re doing something that works for both people,” says Kiley. “If you only brew one batch at a time and you don’t have multiple years of beers to rely on, make sure you brew something you both can enjoy.”
Honest feedback is also key, says Michael, who considers his “nose and palate” to be less refined than his wife’s. “I’ve gone to Kiley multiple times with beer ideas,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times she’s shot me down. And I don’t take it as a slap to the face. With our relationship, we are each other’s best friends and we can be blunt with each other.”
They also make time to talk back and forth, bouncing more ideas off each other until they have a concept and recipe. Then, once the beer is in a glass, they compare notes and discuss the final product: Did it work the way they both intended? What worked well? What can be improved next time?
“Everyone has something to bring and be part of the conversation,” says Michael. “Things will work out.”
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