By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sedition Brewing’s glasses will make the grand announcement: “100 years in the making.” In 1916, Columbia Brewery, which had been operating in The Dalles since 1867, stopped producing beer when Prohibition took effect in Oregon. After a very long wait, craft brewing has returned to the historic city with two new breweries set to open this year: Sedition Brewing Company and Freebridge Brewing.
Before getting into the beer business, Sedition owners Aaron and Kelley Lee ran Maison de Glace Winery for several years in the same century-old building on Laughlin Street in the heart of the city’s historic downtown neighborhood. Brewmaster Kyle Rossman will be working with a 7-barrel system and the Lees anticipate a 1,000-barrel-a-year capacity to start. Together, they plan to start serving the public in early March.
“It’s close — so close we can taste it,” Aaron said.
Sedition's soft opening will feature a limited food menu and three beers: an IPA, a porter and a third to be announced.
"I'm surprised how many people in this town love dark beers," Rossman said. "It's surprising how many requests we have to 'Make sure you have some dark beer.' It's good to see people moving away from IPA as the sole beer world, and we will do something different — a little left field besides a pale or wheat. We're still trying to settle on what that will be. Probably a saison." He admitted he doesn’t limit himself when it comes to styles and appreciates how all of them are good if brewed well.
One of the earlier experiments will be a classic American-style pilsner, brewed as a tribute to Columbia Brewery, the last to occupy The Dalles. He’ll also do “a new take on an adjunct lager.” Instead of using barley, Rossman will incorporate corn or rice. Meanwhile, plans for the food menu include five appetizers and six to eight paninis and salads, with pizza to join the mix later. “We want to do it a little different than you typically see. I want to tie the beer in: beer sauces, beer bread — bring it all back to the beer as much as possible,” Aaron said.
When asked about the near-simultaneous opening of two breweries in The Dalles after 100 years, Aaron echoed the founders of Freebridge Brewing, located just blocks away, who were featured in January’s Oregon Beer Growler:
"I think it’s a positive. Having been in the wine game, and seeing wineries go up and down, I don't think the Portland market is necessarily going to come down here for one (brewery). They want one, two, three or four. To have two gives us that foot in the door outside of the area."
Before opening the brewery, The Lees have been transforming the old Stadelman Ice House — a big, brick structure with walls that are 3-feet thick. And it turns out, those are perfect for making beer, according to Rossman. "We get really consistent temperatures in the brewing and keg storage areas. When it's 110 degrees outside, it's mid-60s in here."
The historic structure does present some challenges, though: remodeling isn’t always an option. For example, after planning to expand one pub room, the Lees discovered that the walls are weight-bearing, so they opted to keep the space as a separate meeting room. “It will take three to four years to completely finish all the areas the building needs, from masonry repairs to creating an office area.”
Eventually, customers will be able to tour the space, which is nearly 10,000 square feet with high ceilings, the original boiler and some of the ammonia pipes used for cooling. The building is not only full of history; it even comes with personal significance to the Lees. In the early 20th century, Kelley’s grandfather, Jesse Mason, made deliveries for the ice house. "We discovered the family connection when we leased the building," Aaron said.
The Lees ran their winery out of the same building before deciding to switch to beer. "It just never really took off," Aaron said of Maison de Glace. "We kind of broke even, broke even, broke even.” Maison de Glace is still around in bottles and there are plans to serve it as the house wine at Sedition.
Those who keep tabs on the Oregon beer scene and watch for openings may have noticed that Sedition was set to open as Defiance Brewing Company. That plan came to a halt in late 2015.
"Right at Thanksgiving we discovered a potential trademark issue. There was actually a Defiance Brewery, LLC out of Hays, Kan. and a Defiant Brewery on the East Coast,” explained Aaron. Even though they had the name as far back as 2012, they decided it would be best to avoid a court battle. “So we spent a weekend thinking of names, and the name Sedition came up. And I liked it. I actually like it better as far as the direction and labels.” He also added that it’s pretty difficult these days getting a name that hasn’t been trademarked.
One thing that won’t change: the raised fist logo that is displayed prominently on the old Ice House building.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Commercial brewing is returning to The Dalles for the first time since pre-Prohibition.
Freebridge Brewing, 710 E. Second St., is about to open in the historic Columbia River Gorge city. Steve and Laurie Light took over the historic Mint building and plan to open Freebridge to the public on Jan. 15. The name originated with the first bridge over the Deschutes River, which was crossed by pioneers traveling along the Oregon Trail. Legend has it that the “Freebridge” was blown up by the Moodys, who ran a toll bridge near the mouth of the Deschutes.
Steve is taking five years of intensive homebrewing experience and turning it into a second career. He’s now making beer on a larger level after spending 20 years as a fly fishing guide on the Deschutes River, which meets the Columbia 17 miles east of The Dalles. Laurie has worked in retail and industry supply over the years. She was born and raised in the city to a family of multigenerational wheat farmers.
“This has been a long time coming,” Steve said. “People around here talk about how this town of 17,000 has had no brewery, while Hood River, a smaller community, has five. People here in The Dalles also want good, local beer.”
The Dalles has had several outlets for regional craft ale, including Clock Tower Ales, Rivertap Pub, and the new Route 30 Bottles & Brews downtown. Now, with Freebridge starting operations and Sedition Brewing Company opening a few blocks away, The Dalles gets two new breweries at virtually the same time. The last place beer was made in The Dalles was the old Columbia Brewing building near the Columbia River.
“People have said, ‘What took you so long?’” joked Steve.
After charging up the glycol system on Dec. 13, White and master brewer Mike Boler dropped their first beer shortly before Christmas. They will focus on traditional styles, including pales, stouts and lagers, starting with pub and keg sales and adding bottles later this year.
“There aren’t many lager makers around. They’re more expensive and take longer, but we know there is a real desire for this style of beer. We vetted the demographic, spending a lot of time in the brewpubs in the Gorge and elsewhere,” Steve said.
Freebridge also plans on producing a Belgian saison, a pilsner and a German wheat, using local grain when possible (The Dalles being wheat country, after all). The brewery’s glistening new 10-barrel system was designed by JV Northwest of Canby. Freebridge debuted at Main Street Uncorked in October, with an American pale ale and an IPA that the Lights made at home. The brought their beers to the public again at a Chamber of Commerce event in December at Sunshine Mill, the beautifully refurbished winery and artisan plaza. That time, in addition to the pale ale, consumers got to sample a dry, bourbon-aged Irish stout. Steve “dry hopped” pieces of bourbon barrel wood after initial fermentation. The steeping process gave the beer a “creamy, silky quality,” he said.
“That definitely helped build some hype, but we have to say that our reception has been great. The support of the community of The Dalles, and the entire Gorge, has been really gratifying,” Laurie said.
The brewery will employ the Lights, two brewers and four or more pub workers once the operation is up and running. The pub will offer 10 taps, reserving some for guests and for cider.
“The pub will start simply — pub fare including sandwiches and soups, and we’ll expand as we get busier,” Laurie said. Look for charcuterie and cheeses from Olympia Provisions and Ancient Heritage Dairy. New furniture and some interior tweaks are planned, but guests will recognize the relaxing vibe created by the previous inhabitant, Erin Glenn Vineyards.
“We want people to see it — to have that connection to the making of the beer,” Steve said.
He said he’s refined his skills during the past five years, but bringing Boler on board was essential to the success of the Freebridge beers.
“Mike is a real student of the craft. He has the knowledge and skills to ensure we are successful,” Steve said.
The Dalles’ Second Street is shaping up into a destination neighborhood for the fermented arts, between the Freebridge, Sunshine Mill and the forthcoming Sedition Brewery. Sedition is planning on a February 2016 opening. Owners Aaron and Kelly Lee started out as Defiance Brewing Company, but they decided last month to formally change the name to avoid a trademark dispute with a company back east. But if you’re familiar with their raised fist logo, that will remain the same. It will fill one of the walls inside the pub.
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