By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
One of the first questions that visitors to this Southeast Portland brewery often ask is, “What does Grixsen mean?” While the word is a mashup of the three partners’ surnames, it also symbolizes the communal focus of the 4-month-old brewery. Scott Petersen, who handles business operations and branding, says “We wanted to come up with a name that encompassed what we had as an ideal. The model of Grixsen is someone who works hard, does the right thing and celebrates together.”
That theme shaped the brewery’s evolution and was part of the founders’ ethos even before they knew they wanted to start a business together. DJ Moxley, Grixsen’s head brewer, met Petersen through a family member in 2012 when he was still in college. Their recommendation landed him a summer internship at Petersen’s strategy and design firm in Portland. Moxley had already been homebrewing for several years, and he quickly became Petersen’s collaborative partner for all things beer. They brewed their first batch together, a Scotch ale, at Portland U-Brew in Sellwood as part of a team-building exercise with Petersen’s employees.
When I ask Moxley why he started brewing, he replies, “Wine is romantic, but I think beer is just as romantic. I got into beer because of American history. I was a huge history fan throughout school and learned that our country was pretty much built on breweries and pubs. I wanted to be part of that somehow and create something that can have that big of an impact.”
As Moxley completed his studies and graduated from Gonzaga, he and Petersen continued making test batches of homebrew in Petersen’s garage. Eventually, their collaborations led to discussions about opening a brewery together. While it was tempting to seek out investors to expedite their new business venture, they ultimately decided to personally fund the entire operation, which allows them to retain full control over the company. Petersen explains, “We wanted to experience the bootstrapping that’s required to launch a new brewery.”
They immediately began looking for a building to house the business. “Our goal was to find a location that would be affordable plus would allow us to grow into it in terms of production,” Petersen states. Giving credit to serendipitous circumstances, they signed a lease on a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in December 2014.
The build-out process took longer than expected due to changes in building codes as well as the overall physical labor required to turn the space into a brewery and tasting room. Enter Kurt Gritman, the third business partner. The team refers to him as “a workhorse within the operation” and mentions that the majority of the work on the build-out was done by himself, Moxley and Gritman, with the exception of electrical and plumbing.
Moxley is now brewing on an American Beer Equipment system that was originally designed for another company, but fits the Grixsen space perfectly. It’s a 10-barrel, 3-vessel operation, which means they can do continuous brewing cycles. They have two 20-barrel fermenters and two 20-barrel brite tanks with two more 20-barrel fermenters already ordered.
When asked about the beers he is brewing, Moxley mentions Funkwerks in Fort Collins, Colo. as the inspiration for his Hopped Saison, along with The Commons Brewery in Portland. Petersen elaborates, “We want to embrace the craft movement in terms of the craft over the experimentation side of it. For the most part, we’re brewing standard variants of traditional styles, but with a Northwest take on it.”
The tasting room, which welcomed the public during this year’s Zwickelmania while still under construction, officially opened in April. The design melds perfectly with the brewery’s focus on sophisticated craft and American heritage. The walls are made of reclaimed wood from a friend’s fence. If you look closely, you can see pellets and BBs that were embedded in the boards during their previous life. Petersen’s dad built the bar, which showcases 12 taps plus two nitros. They also sell wine.
The tasting room seats 30 and has a 52-inch flat screen TV, which is only on at low volume for live sporting events. Otherwise, you’ll be listening to the bartender’s choice of streaming music, which will soon be played on a new Sonos sound system. An adjacent private room seats around 10 people and features an 80-inch flat screen TV, making it the perfect spot for fantasy football or other friendly gatherings.
Kids and dogs are welcome in the brewery area, which already has a few tables and chairs as well as a pool table, but will soon have more games like cornhole. Currently they do not serve food but coordinate with a food truck to park near the brewery entrance. Outside food is welcome.
As for future plans, Petersen says they are hoping to sign with a distributor this month and plan to start packaging in 22-ounce bottles. They’ll be making more beer styles and have already started barrel aging; first up is a bourbon barrel imperial stout. While they have just hired a taproom manager, you’ll continue to find all three partners alternating shifts in the tasting room. After all, they are still busy building the Grixsen brand which embodies “giving an honest effort, following the righteous path and celebrating the uniqueness in everyone.”
Grixsen Brewing Company
[a] 1001 SE Division St., Suite 1, Portland
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
An unusual pub crawl in Southeast Portland on Oct. 10 proved that the ninth time can be a charm, too. After a series of eight walks that invited “brewers to go on nature hikes and make new beer inspired by edible and medicinal plants on the trail,” eager consumers burned a little more shoe leather as they made the trek from pub to pub during the Beers Made By Walking tapping. Oregon Beer Growler covered the original hikes in the August 2015 issue with the article “A Beer Walk in the Woods” and wanted to follow up on the process.
The Portland tapping featured 15 beers and one cider made by 11 commercial breweries, a homebrew club, and a cidery. All four participating pubs were within walking distance of each other. BMBW founder Eric Steen says that the beers “create a drinkable landscape portrait of Forest Park.” The bar hop, which transformed beers made by walking into beers consumed by walking, allowed people to literally drink in what Portland’s landscape has to offer.
While many people joined the informal walking tour, which started at Belmont Station at noon, members of the High Street Homebrew Club gathered at the last stop, Bazi Bierbrasserie, where their brew, Spruce Lee IPA packed a bright punch. Club member Bizzy Gross said the brew took some extra effort. “Spruce tips are out of season and distilleries buy them up to use in whiskey. But we finally found a supplier in Canada that sold us a pound for $50.” The inaugural tasting of the collaboration, made at Portland U-Brew, created a festive atmosphere. Club member Jax Zajdel spoke for many by saying, “It tastes like Christmas.”
The rest of the lineup at Bazi featured Belgian-style beers: Base Camp’s barrel-aged saison made with wild yeast harvested from an old-growth ancient forest preserve; The Commons’ saison featuring redwood and cedar bows and pine-smoked tea; Hopworks’ Belgian pale with licorice fern, wild ginger and maple syrup; and 10 Barrel’s sweet cherry beer with Belgian yeast.
The owners of Likewise, artists Adam Moser and Nancy Prior, also hosted one of the tappings thanks to a personal connection to Steen, who was Moser’s classmate at Portland State University. They also share a philosophy regarding support for fellow artists and a love of beer. “Art formalizes conversations in many different ways,” Moser said. “And beer is all about conversation.”
The lineup at Likewise included an IPA with cedar by Ecliptic, a strong ale with tips from four different trees by Hopworks and a German pilsner with wild red huckleberries by Widmer Brothers. Michael and Meredith Westafer, visiting Portland from Chapel Hill, N.C., said the event encapsulates what they think of the city. “The event brings two Portland institutions — beer and Forest Park — into public life,” said Meredith over a pint of Hopworks’ ale with vanilla leaf.
The Horse Brass Pub offered a grape root gruit by Burnside and Coalition, a saison with Hawthorn berries and lemon balm tea by Humble. While finishing an ESB by Hopworks, Carl Singmaster said he not only appreciated the fresh take on brewing that BMBW offers, but also the fact the event outgrew Belmont Station, which he co-owns and where the tapping exclusively took place from 2012 to 2014. “Local beer doesn’t get any better than this,” he said. Belmont Station’s offering included a red ale with cedar tips by Hopworks, a strawberry gose by Laurelwood, and a Reverend Nat’s cider with Hawthorn berries, dandelion and burdock root as well as a bagged garnish of Western red cedar wood chips.
Proceeds from the event benefited Forest Park Conservancy. Cody Chambers, who serves as the organization’s trails and restoration coordinator, led several of the walks. The program has not only brought people into the park; Chambers said, “it’s intriguing to see the brewers’ creativity bring the beers from inception to consumption.”
Because foraging in Forest Park is not permitted, brewers had to find ingredients they identified on their walks elsewhere. Brewers at Hopworks, where Steen works a day job as a communications coordinator, foraged for ingredients on trails along the Sandy River. The challenge for him this year, as the organizer of the tapping event, was identifying the right tapping locations. “Walking from bar to bar was a satisfying fulfilment of all those negotiations.”
This year, BMBW events were held in eight cities across five states. The Eugene tapping takes place Nov. 5 at The Bier Stein, with eight beers and ciders inspired by three walks in the area. Learn more at www.beersmadebywalking.com.
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In pursuit of their dream of opening a brewery, Joe St. Martin and Sean Oeding took the road less traveled: they opened a beer cart. And then another one.
When St. Martin moved from San Francisco -- where he sold his beer at small events — to Portland, he bought a food cart and refurbished it to serve beer. In the summer of 2014, the first Scout Beer Garden opened at the Good Food Here pod at Southeast 43rd Avenue and Belmont Street, and shortly thereafter the second one became the anchor for the Tidbit Food Farm and Garden pod at Southeast 28th Place and Division Street. Each cart serves up to 12 brews, including St. Martin's own craft beer and a cider.
Adventures in Brewing
“It was a bit of an adventure,” St. Martin says. While he has acted as the brewer and day-to-day manager, Oeding has provided financial backing. The duo's dream of brewing came true last February, when St. Martin poured his first two creations: a peanut butter porter and a marionberry red ale. He says, “You could serve them separately or as a black and tan to make a liquid PBJ.”
The following month Scout Beer Garden introduced the Pretty in Pink IPA, with grapefruit and pink peppercorns. And on April 13 they launched their fourth brew, the Kentucky Coffee Stout, with bourbon and hazelnut.
Pod Bar Blazes the Way
As unique as Scout Beer Garden may be, it isn't the first beer cart to open in Portland. Captured by Porches Brewing Company’s Mobile Public Haus beer bus launched the phenomenon in 2010. While successful, it was an extension of the brewery, operating with a brewery license. Strictly speaking, it was not a food cart, says Brett Burmeister, editor of the Food Carts Portland blog.
The first dedicated beer cart with a full liquor license was Pod Bar, at the Carts on Foster pod at Southeast 52nd Avenue and Foster Road. The pod and bar owner Steve Woolard today laughs about the now-notorious episode, when the City of Portland fought the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's award of the license, but eventually backed down in 2012. “They're out of office, we're still in business,” he quips.
To get the license Woolard had to add a covered, enclosed seating area to the 1956 Aloha trailer made in Beaverton. On a March Saturday, during a lull between lunch and happy hour, a family with small children enjoyed a late lunch and brews, and a steady stream of craft brew aficionados kept the barkeep, Larry Walters, busy with filling growlers.
The beer cart was a natural extension of food carts, says Woolard, who used to brew at Yamhill Brewing Company and now runs the Spring Beer and Wine Fest. “If the food is so good, why not serve beer too?” he thought. Pod Bar scratched his beer itch, Woolard says, and the constantly changing beer list makes it so “you never know what you're gonna get.”
Beer Carts as Community Hubs
Though he knew the neighborhood needed a place with good food and good beer at a reasonable price point, Woolard says, “I didn't expect it to become such a family destination and a neighborhood hub.”
According to Burmeister, beer carts contribute to creating community spaces. The Tidbit pod buzzes with activity, with families, groups of friends, couples, and tourists alike crowding picnic tables, noshing on various world cuisines and quaffing pints to live music. St. Martin says, “I love being able to be a part of the local community.”
The Future of Beer Carts
Burmeister forecasts that, rather than each pod featuring a dedicated beer cart, regular cart vendors will offer drinks that are unique to their cuisine -- e.g., a Vietnamese food cart serving Vietnamese beer — and that beer carts will expand their offerings by including cider and wine.
For St. Martin, the future lies in brewing. For now, he makes beer at Portland U-Brew. He is seeking contract breweries to increase production of the IPA and the red to keep them on tap permanently and make them available elsewhere.
“I am lucky,” he says. “I get to make a living with a unique little business and share it with people.”
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