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 Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s the start of a new year, so time to brace yourself and get up to speed on some of the upcoming developments in the craft beer scene from Eugene to Roseburg to McMinnville.
Alesong Tasting Room and Beer Club
Currently the newest brewery in the Eugene/Springfield area, Alesong Brewing & Blending starts 2017 with additional developments: the opening of a rural tasting room and inclusion in a beer club.
Located on 4.5 acres bordering a winery about 20 miles southwest of downtown Eugene, the 3,500-square-foot facility will house a barrel room, production facility and tasting room. Co-founder Matt Van Wyk expects a spring opening.
Meanwhile, Alesong beers will be among the offerings in the Rare Beer Club, one of the memberships offered by monthlyclubs.com. “We were so happy to have connected with Alesong,” says Kris Calef, monthlyclubs.com president. “I can honestly say that I haven’t been as excited about working with a brewery as I was after tasting Gin Hop Farm. Outstanding beers.”
New Name for Mancave
After a year of ups and downs, including the loss of its brewery space, Mancave Brewing Company has established an alternating proprietorship arrangement with Elk Horn Brewery. To further mark the brewery’s new chapter, founder Brandon Woodruff has also renamed the business. With limited production of less than 25 barrels per month, Manifest Beer Company plans to release a beer per month, with limited keg distribution in the Eugene and Portland areas. The first release will be Exalted IPA.
“We wanted to give up more often than not, so many things piled against us at once,” said Woodruff on the brewery’s Facebook page. “Only two things kept us going: an insatiable search for beers unlike any other, and our family of followers.”
Oakshire Takes It Back to the Brewery
While visitors to Oakshire Brewing now come to its Public House in the Whiteaker area, the 10-year-old establishment wanted to take things back to its roots. The public will once again be welcomed into its production brewery, complete with a small tasting room — a tradition that had been abandoned for some time.
During the summer of 2017, Oakshire plans to resume Friday tastings “that were once a staple of the Oakshire beer experience,” says co-founder Jeff Althouse. “Beer, brewery tours, music and food carts will showcase the roots of our small company and allow our old and new friends to enjoy a beer at the location where it all happens.” More details will be announced in spring.
Oakshire will also bump up its CORE seasonal line: Sun Made Raspberry Berliner Weisse, with real raspberries, will be released in February 2017, followed by the original Sun Made Cucumber Berliner Weisse in May. Oakshire has added dedicated equipment for kettle souring and plans to release more sour beers.
Ninkasi’s Three Bs
Ninkasi goes into 2017 with a new distribution partnership with Bigfoot Beverages, a new director of brewing process development and a return of their popular Believer Double Red Ale.
Beginning this month, Eugene-based Bigfoot will distribute bottled Ninkasi beers to off-premise accounts in Eugene. This change will allow Ninkasi’s local distribution team to focus on sales to area bars and restaurants.
While completing his doctorate in Brewing Science at Oregon State University, Daniel Sharp interned at Ninkasi. Now with his completed Ph.D., Sharp returns to Ninkasi — but as the brewery’s new director of brewing process development. Drawing on his research on hop utilization and impacts to flavor and aroma in brewing, Sharp will focus on improving Ninkasi’s brewing capabilities as well as leading educational and research efforts.
And did you believe that Believer could come back? Originally released as a winter seasonal in 2006, the popular double red ale returns through April as part of Ninkasi’s Seasonal Release Series. A portion of all Believer sales will be contributed to three national nonprofits.
Lookingglass Looks Ahead
Lookingglass Brewing, located outside of Roseburg, aims to expand its brew system and Winston-based taproom, as well as add a bottling line, says founder Mark Nunnelee. “Ideally, we would like to expand to a 7-barrel system and increase the number of our sales accounts,” explains Nunnelee. “The number of accounts we can have currently is limited due to the size of our brew system.” Nunnelee is also exploring a partnership with Winston Donuts Cafe to bring food into the Lookingglass tasting room.
Backside Brewing Co. in Roseburg recently began bottling and self-distributing its popular flagship Axeman Red. Backside’s 22-ounce bottles initially will be available at the tasting room and in select locations in Southern Oregon.
“We’re really excited for bottles,” says owner K.C. Mckillip. “Getting beer on draft is great, but you only have one tap handle. The bottle gets our logo and image on the shelf. Axeman is one of our top-sellers, and there are so many more potential places for us to see beer now.”
Mckillip plans to extend distribution gradually, with the hope to have four packaged beers by summer.
Expansion/New Brewmaster for Salud
Roseburg’s Latin-inspired Salud Restaurant & Brewery is expanding. After naming a new brewmaster, Chad Northcraft, owner Manny Anaya has announced that Salud will be moving their brewery to an off-site facility. The new brewery will be walking distance from the restaurant, allowing more dedicated space for brewing, conditioning, packaging and distribution.
New Brewery Planned
A gluten-free brewery in McMinnville is in the works. Doppelganger Brewing applied for Oregon Liquor Control Commission licensure in October 2016. Its current address is on Northeast Riverside Drive in an industrial part of town.
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