By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Not a day has gone by in the last two years where somebody didn’t ask Jerome Grant about what was happening in the old restaurant perched above the water in Depoe Bay.
Construction doesn’t go unnoticed in this town of about 1,400 people, particularly not on a building that once housed the community’s beloved hangout. The Spouting Horn was shuttered in late 2014 after the owner decided to retire. But the nearly century-old building didn’t stay on the market for long. As soon as Grant saw the “For Sale” sign, he jumped at the opportunity. Not only would he end up restoring the historic property, he’s also injected the city with renewed enthusiasm by installing a brewery.
It’s no wonder, then, the questions kept coming.
“When they found out what we were doing with it, they were just thankful that we didn’t tear it down,” Grant said. “And then for the last year it’s been, ‘When is it going to open?’”
The answer to that came in early December when The Horn Public House & Brewery, its name a nod to the previous occupant, hosted locals for a few invitation-only soft openings. The general public debut followed later that week. And while the brewery hasn’t started production just yet — the auger is set to arrive this month and federal paperwork was pending as of press time — there’s much to admire in the revamped space.
When the project began, Grant actually wasn’t sure he was going to preserve the building, which has been everything from a sandwich shop in the 1920s to a Coast Guard barracks during World War II. Years of neglect, though, almost doomed the restoration.
“We just tried to make the decision of what we wanted to do: save the building or not,” Grant recounted. “After I put on the new roof, then we were committed to the project — started cleaning out everything. All hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds of everything.”
And that “everything” included unsalvageable equipment, dusty furniture and even a bit of history. While pulling up the kitchen floor, Grant stumbled across a newspaper from the 1930s. That little piece from the past didn’t make it into the finished restaurant, but other more valuable items did. For instance, if you peek under the bar the redwood paneling should look familiar to anyone who patronized The Spouting Horn when it was open. The strips used to hang on the walls and were gathered on the beach by the family of owners — Grant figures it must’ve been in the 1960s — after they got word that a lumber barge overturned.
A mix of new and old shapes the interior: smooth planks that once lined the floor of a bowling alley now have a second life holding pints of beer on Grant’s tables and upstairs bar while the ground-level countertop, crafted especially for the pub, is a slab of Oregon bigleaf maple with grain mimicking tiger stripes. Every handpicked feature is a point of pride for Grant, who will lead you room to room in the sprawling 7,500-square-foot space with the zest of a new homeowner. And then there’s the view. On a busy summer day, it’ll be tough to come by a window seat overlooking “The World’s Smallest Harbor,” where seal heads bob up and down in the choppy waves, their slick bodies darting among charter boat traffic that passes under the neoclassical arch bridge.
The setting alone helps set The Horn apart from the scores of other breweries located across the state. But Grant said the ambition of his brewer will be another distinction. Chris Jennings, who also writes Oregon Beer Growler’s Homebrew Hints column, left his position as Alameda Brewing’s cellar master to take the new role late last year.
“And he’s really confident in his ability to brew a variety of beers,” Grant said, “and I’m going to give him free rein back there. When I said, ‘Oh, I’d like to just have four handles for our own beer out of the 12,’ he said, ‘Why not 10 or 11?’”
Grant’s response to that: “‘Oh, I like the way you think, Chris!’”
Jennings’ journey to head brewer is a story that’ll surely be the envy of every home cook out there, because that’s where he started and gained most of his experience.
“I don’t have any formal training,” he described. “Self-taught, as it were. I’ve probably read every brewing book that’s ever been printed.”
And he made time to apply that knowledge. In 2010 alone, for example, Jennings said he produced 700 gallons of beer, 10 gallons at a time as he helped run Brew Brothers, his family’s homebrewing supply shop in Hillsboro. They later opened Three Mugs Brewing Company in the same storefront, where Jennings began brewing commercial batches. He sold his portion of the business to his brother when Alameda brought him on. And while he was learning new things working for another brewery, he also lost the autonomy and creative freedom he was used to. Once The Horn’s equipment is finally all in place, which couldn’t happen a moment too soon for Jennings, he’s eager to develop his own recipes once again.
“I’m going to get back to the experimenting I liked to do when I was brewing at Three Mugs, because that’s all it has ever been for me is experimentation,” Jennings said.
He also feels vindicated, to a certain sense, by the promotion after experiencing some disdain for his lack of brewing credentials. Jennings didn’t just interview for the Depoe Bay job; he was put through a series of math and science questions selected by brewery consultant Marc Martin from the UC Davis brewing program — questions that Jennings would go on to easily answer and pass the test. That’s the side of brewing, he contends, almost anyone can learn in the classroom or the brewhouse. But the key to becoming a great brewer can’t be taught.
“Brewing is like cooking to me,” Jennings explained, “or like art of any kind. You either got it or you don’t. Sure, you can go to school for it, but if you don’t have it you’re going to be good at it to a point. And then you’re never going to get past that point because you don’t have the capability to move past that point in your head.”
Though confident in his capabilities, that doesn’t mean the new responsibility comes without pressure. When asked about one thought that’s been on his mind since being named head brewer, Jennings’ response was, “Don’t fuck up,” which he followed with a big laugh. To avoid doing just that, he’s been researching the town’s palate — asking locals what they like to drink and surveying which kegs tend to drain at area bars. To start, he expects a lineup of five stable styles and five taps where he’ll let his imagination shape the offerings. One unique idea he’s already considering is a gose with a salt content that mirrors the neighboring bay.
As residents await the first beers from Jennings’ Practical Fusion system, Grant and his wife and co-owner Clary are getting accustomed to operating a restaurant in its infancy. The pair have owned the venerable Gracie’s Sea Hag since 2006, but taking over a decades-old establishment isn’t quite as challenging as founding one.
“And we just kind of kept [the Sea Hag] going. It was flawless in turnover of ownership,” Clary Grant described. “But this is totally different, because it’s like…”
“This is ground up,” Jerome Grant added.
But if anyone in Depoe Bay is equipped for such a massive undertaking, it’s this couple. They actually met at the Sea Hag when she was a bartender and he was a customer in “love at first sight” who over tipped for two weeks in an attempt to get her attention. They furthered their stake in the community when Jerome Grant began to pursue roles in public office. Some races he won, some he lost. But his commitment to the well-being of Depoe Bay and the belief that a resolute voice can make a difference never wavered. Now with The Horn, the Grants have revived what urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg affectionately called “that place on the corner” or “the third place,” a public realm for civic engagement and casual socializing that exists between work and home.
“It’s like an anchor, a source of pride. It’s that especially for a small community that, you know, we do have some identity here with the commercial fishing, but that’s past,” Jerome Grant said. “I feel like they think Depoe Bay is actually going to produce something that people can take with them.”
Only time will tell, but this public servant may end up having a more profound impact on the community in his latest position as the local publican.
The Horn Public House and Brewery
[a] 110 Oregon Coast Highway, Depoe Bay
Alex McGaw, head brewer and owner of Two Kilts in Sherwood, stands in front of his shiny 15-barrel Practical Fusion system that replaced the homemade 7-barrel original system he pieced together before opening in 2011. McGaw is focusing on increasing production, exposure and distribution in the new year. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For Oregon Beer Growler
With new craft breweries opening on what seems like a daily basis around the state, a brewery that’s been around for five years is considered an established commodity. That’s the case for Two Kilts, a brewery in a semi-industrial area of Sherwood that Alex McGaw opened in 2011.
McGaw, the head brewer and owner, gave a strong nod to his Scottish heritage in choosing the name. He also developed a solid reputation for making excellent Scottish beer, winning the gold medal for Scottish Ale in 2014 at the World Beer Cup in Denver.
Still, McGaw is quick to point out, “We make all different kinds of beers.”
His winter seasonal beers include an oatmeal chocolate stout and a wheat.
McGaw arrived in Eugene in 2004 from the small, rural town of Dassel in south central Minnesota and immediately fell in love with craft beer. From landscaping he transitioned to delivery work for McMenamins in 2006 when he moved to Portland.
Naturally, he was interested in brewing. “I was in and out of different breweries and locations. I knew all the managers and all the brewers. By the time I started shadowing some brewers, I was also doing some homebrewing.”
One year later, he was a McMenamins brewer. After a three-week training stint at John Barleycorns in Tigard, he moved to the Fulton Pub in Johns Landing. During his four years there, he discovered he had a real knack for brewing beer.
“I like cooking and baking,” said McGaw. “I became pretty good at brewing. I was what you might call a technical, mechanical brewer.”
Eventually, he moved on to a larger McMenamins facility — the Crystal Ballroom with its numerous bars and spaces for live music. There he worked with several different brewers and gained more firsthand brewing knowledge and experience. “I learned the business of brewing. A lot of people were enjoying my beer,” he said.
On his own time, he started assembling a brewing system. Everything came together for him to start his own brewery when he found the Sherwood location in 2011. For two hectic years, he worked two jobs, sometimes around the clock. During the day he brewed for McMenamins at the Crystal Ballroom and at night he brewed at Two Kilts and ran the taproom.
“I thought I was going to get a break with the Crystal Ballroom gig, working four days on and three off, but it didn’t really turn out that way. Still, it was fun. I loved having my own place, working for myself and brewing beer,” said McGaw.
In 2013 he was able to leave McMenaminns and devote himself full time to Two Kilts. “I was finally able to pay myself a livable wage,” said McGaw.
Last summer, he took some Fermentation Science courses at Oregon State and gained a thorough overview of the process. In addition to online work, he spent a week at the Corvallis campus. “I learned the science behind beer and found out how to set up a lab. That’s very important, especially when you start to package your beer,” he said.
Until McGaw gets his own lab up and running, he has turned to fellow brewers for their assistance. “One of our best supporters is Jeff Edgerton at Bridgeport. He takes our samples to his lab to check.
“I love this business because it’s such a supportive community, competitive, yes, but supportive in learning the skill. We’re all trying to make us look good,” he said.
In the past year, McGaw has increased production and marketing. His beers are available around the state, but in small doses. “We’re trying to cover more territory,” he said.
Bottles and cans are available at New Seasons and Plaid Pantry stores, about 100 in all. Right now Two Kilts IPA, Crystal Sunshine and Scottish Ale are available in 12-ounce cans, and the Pale Ale, IPA, Scottish Ale and Cocoa Porter are available in 22-ounce bottles. “We’re trying to expand locally and working on increased distribution to growler shops and other outlets,” he said.
His full-time sales manager, Michael Fiaschetti, has really pumped up sales. “Everyone knows him. He’s made a nice mark for us,” said McGaw.
In addition to a whole new system — a 15-barrel Practical Fusion system with 30-barrel brite tanks, McGaw is adding new beers to the lineup and packaging more for retails sales.
The Crystal Sunshine, popular this summer, he describes as especially crisp and drinkable. “Our Scottish Ale is standard. I’m revamping the IPA to make it bolder. We had a fresh-hop version in the Oaks Park festival this fall,” said McGaw.
He’s thinking of adding an IPA series and a seasonal kettle sour.
With the goal of increased exposure, McGaw has entered Two Kilts in many of the state’s beer and food festivals, including the Bend Brewfest, Feast Portland and the recent Holiday Ale Festival. This was a first for the December fest, which requires brewers to make something that’s not on tap anywhere else.
The Two Kilts contribution was called the Earls of Orkney, a wheat wine with the following description: “A very big mouthfeel is present due to the insane amount of wheat malt that goes into this beer.”
McGaw is brewing three to four times a week. Last year the production topped out at 1,000-plus bottles and he’s planning to double that in 2016.
“We’re trying to support our local community of Sherwood and participate in community events,” said McGaw. He’s looking for another location in Sherwood to expand and add a food menu.
“What’s grown this place is word-of-mouth,” he said. “We’re looking to get into a more visible spot and provide our customers with a great experience.”
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It took 20 years, but Tim Hohl was finally living a homebrewer’s dream. He had a world-class brewer cornered and was going to make him taste his latest, made-it-in-the-garage creation.
Hohl is the news director at Portland’s KPAM radio and hosts the weekly “First Edition Beer Geek” program. “I had met Dave Fleming as part of an interview,” Hohl explains. “He was at Lompoc as their head brewer. I knew he was sort of beer royalty when it came to brewers in Portland.”
Hohl had made a batch of Cascadian dark ale and, while he had Fleming in studio, asked him to try it. Fleming remembers, “I get a lot of home brews given to me. Ninety percent of it is just OK. But Tim’s beer was quite good.” In fact, Hohl says, it was so impressive they brewed a 7-barrel batch of it at the New Old Lompoc brewery in Northwest Portland. “We called it ‘Black Hole’ and it was gone within two weeks,” says Fleming.
A similar meeting between two like-minded men also happened in Oregon about 170 years ago. It would, eventually, give name to what Hohl is about to open.
But first, back to the obvious question you ask a new brewery owner: Why beer? Before talking beer, or about using a kit to make his first batch, Hohl admits, “it’s less about a love of beer and more about a fascination with the people in the industry. It’s such a creative, collaborative environment. It’s more about people.”
Being about people is why Hohl chose an Oregon City location for his brewery. “It’s a beer drinking town.” And it’s his love of what people do — make history — that gave him an idea for a beer program. “We want to brew a regular line of heritage ales, beers based on historical recipes. Our second flagship beer will be what we are calling ‘George’s Honest Ale.’ It’s based on a recipe that is in one of George Washington’s journals.” Hohl says the beer is made with a lot of molasses, since that was the primary fermentable in Washington’s day. Hohl and Fleming did a test batch and say it got good feedback.
It’s also the newsman’s sense of history which prompted the name for Hohl’s brewery. Had he been around in 1845, Hohl might have reported: “It was at a dinner party in Oregon City’s Ermatinger House where two bearded men were squabbling about what to name a 640-acre clearing along the Willamette River. Someone suggested a coin toss and dug a copper penny out of a pocket. Asa Lovejoy, from Boston, called tails. Francis Pettygrove, from Portland, Maine, called heads. The shiny coin was flipped in the air. The light of kerosene lamps caught the image of Lady Liberty on one side of the spinning coin and the words ‘one cent’ on the other. Three times the coin was launched toward the ceiling. Twice it landed heads up. The city of Portland had a name." And, 170 years later, so does Hohl’s brewery — it’s "Coin Toss."
But starting a new brewery is anything but a simple coin toss for Hohl. “I’m really focused on doing it right. How do you make it something you love but also a viable business model? We decided it’s going to be 10 barrels, which is a lot, but then let’s figure out how to make this a business we can get off the ground and build.” Fleming gave Hohl his “face reality” speech by explaining, “There’s no money in this.” But he then jumped in with some advice for attracting customers: “Let’s make Oregon City ale that’s a lighter beer that will get people in the door to check us out.” Fleming calls that matriculation ale. It teaches customers what you can do and makes it more likely that they’ll try more flavorful brews.
Hohl thinks he could be at the front door of a beer boom in Oregon’s first incorporated city (Editor's Note: Astoria was Oregon's first settlement). He sees the possibility for a handful of new breweries to arise in Oregon City in the next year or so. If he’s right, maybe folks will forget that other coin toss and just enjoy the one at 14214 Fir St. in Oregon City. It opens this summer.
Special thanks to Colin Preston, owner of Practical Fusion in Portland. He is making the brewhouse for Coin Toss, just as he has for dozens of other breweries around the U.S. He sat in as I talked beer with Tim Hohl and Dave Fleming.
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