By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Even at 218 or so breweries, Oregon has yet to reach peak status. True, industry growth is slowing and real estate in popular places like Portland and Bend are harder to come by. But there is still room for the local brewpub. Some large towns — like La Grande — don’t even have a brewery yet, but 2017 looks to change that. Here are our top 10 major breweries scheduled to open this year.
Bodega Beer - Portland
This 15-barrel brewery and taproom will open on the corner of Southeast 14th Avenue and Stark Street right across the street from Meat Cheese Bread and their taproom/bottleshop called Beer. Ex-Laurelwood brewer Steven Balzer will be on board to focus on hop-forward beers with a lager and some international styles represented. They won’t have food, but will have a food cart on site.
Breakside Brewery Slabtown - Portland
Breakside Brewery’s third location was scheduled to open in the Slabtown neighborhood of Northwest Portland last summer, but it’s now on track for a spring 2017 launch. The space will feature a full restaurant, event room mezzanine and outdoor seating on both a patio and rooftop. Best of all — the 10-barrel brewhouse is going to pump out completely new, experimental hop-centric beers.
Crooked River Brewing – Prineville
The 4-barrel startup is taking over a 7,000-square-foot industrial space that used to house an antique shop. Prineville’s second brewery will favor IPAs and pizzas in a setting that will include outdoor seating, a conference room and pool tables. Brewing is still a good six months out or more due to city and federal permitting. (Read more on page 14).
Ferment - Portland and Hood River
Daniel Peterson moved to Hood River to work at Full Sail and then pFriem after experience with microbiology at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery. In 2015 he set out to open his own project with a brewery in Hood River and a taproom/restaurant in Portland, originally slated for the Yard development on the east side of the Burnside Bridge. Peterson said he’ll now look for a nearby ground-floor location that will be more accessible to foot traffic.
The Horn Public House & Brewery - Depoe Bay
Chris Jennings, one of the Hillsboro Brew Brothers before leaving to join the team at Alameda, now takes on the role of head brewer at this upcoming coastal establishment. From the owners of Gracie’s Sea Hag comes this 10-barrel, two-floor brewpub that is already open and should have its own beer on tap sometime after January. Jennings plans to make a variety of styles, with 10 house beers — plus guest offerings — on tap. (Read more on page 18).
Level Beer - Portland
A trio of all-stars came together to launch Level Beer: Bailey’s Taproom owner Geoff Phillips along with brewer/partners Jason Barbee (formerly of Ex Novo) and Shane Watterson (formerly of Laurelwood). Making its home on garden/farmland in outer Northeast Portland off I-84, there will be a tasting room (but don’t expect farmhouse beers).
Little Beast Brewing - Beaverton
When Charles Porter left Logsdon in 2015, he sought a warehouse space to open his own sour blendery, with a brewery off-site. But in late 2016, he found the defunct Brannon’s Pub & Brewery in Beaverton where he’ll start his business before eventually relocating to a space in Portland with more room for barrels. For now, he shares the building with The Westgate Bourbon Bar & Taphouse, which opened in December.
Reach Break Brewing – Astoria
This new 7-barrel brewery and taproom will focus on barrel-aged sour and wild beers, but will also pour clean East Coast-style IPAs and farmhouse brews. Customers can enjoy a covered outdoor beer garden with food carts and to-go menus from local establishments. If there aren’t any holdups, Reach Break could be open by the time you read this with non-wild yeast/bacteria beers and barrel-aged styles debuting as they are ready.
Ross Island Brewing - Portland
Ex-Alameda brewer Carston Haney’s inner Southeast Portland project has been hit with numerous delays by the City of Portland. After waiting more than a year, he hopes to open the taproom in January while work continues on the brewery. Expect big and sessionable English, German and American styles of beer in a cozy neighborhood pub with an outdoorsman's touch.
Side A Brewing - La Grande
When Eastern Oregon University professor Scott McConnell realized that La Grande was the only city in Oregon with a population of more than 7,000 that didn’t have a brewery, he knew he had to do something. Along with two partners, one with brewery experience and the other food and beverage, they are slated to open Side A Brewing in the historic Eastern Oregon Fire Museum this spring.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The pilgrimage was long and winding, but the pastor of pilsner has found his church. It’s in a former hummus factory on the backside of an old neighborhood, down a hill butted up against the railroad tracks in Northeast Portland.
Inside the brewery, Mike Weksler wants to get to the work of cleaning barrels, but takes time to sermonize about what he is making at Royale Brewing Co. “There are not a lot of people who make a year-round pilsner here. Upright makes one, Heater Allen makes an amazing Pilsner and pFriem makes one.” He continues, “It is my favorite style. I like a crisp, clean beer.”
That is all well and good, but — and this may seem sacrilege — Royale does not make an IPA (gasp). “I think by not doing an IPA you set yourself apart,” Weksler says. “We’ve done two IPAs, but we’ve done them as one and done. Don’t look for us to do it again.” In fact, he says he’ll fire his salesman if the heathen breaks that commandment.
But, tempting fate, I push back — No IPA???
“Think about this,” Weksler says patiently, “you throw a handful of tacks over there and they’re all IPAs. Can you find my tack real fast? But throw a handful of tacks with all the pilsner makers here and there’s only five or six of us. So I’m easier to find.” He elaborates, “I think you need to find the style you like best, and I really like Belgian ales and I really like pilsners, I like European beers. The Northwest style is amazing — I mean we’re fortunate to live up here, but the best way to differentiate yourself is to not do what everyone else in your neighborhood does.”
It’s not likely Weksler’s done much the way others have. Start with his college job. He was 19 and working as a busboy in a Louisiana bar. The owner required all employees to be ordained ministers. So, Weksler became a mail-order minister and has done three weddings. (There’s more on the weddings later.)
Before finishing college, Weksler left the Bayou State for Oregon and did not immediately fall in love. He thought the place was too gray and too damp. But he was too stubborn to tell his family he wanted to come home.
Eventually, Weksler turned to the bottle; not to drink from it, but to put beer in it. He is part owner of Green Bottling of Portland. The company has mobile bottling lines that can be trucked to small breweries that can’t afford their own.
The job gave Weksler a look inside a lot of breweries. “I’ve seen some really good breweries. I knew I could take the best of everything I’ve seen and make a very awesome brewery.” The pastor of pilsner began his crusade to be the best by contracting with Portland’s Alameda Brewing Co. The deal lasted a couple of years. All the while, Weksler had, as he still does, an eye on growing. “I would like to see myself be a regional brewery” he says without hubris, before adding, “I think the world is hungry for what comes from here. There’s a couple of epicenters in the universe for beer; fortunately we live in one of them.”
Royale Brewing is in an ancient brick building under a yoga studio. The old freight car parked on the tracks outside, with blue-and-white graffiti spelling out “Boosy” looks newer and in better shape than the dusty Royale delivery van tattooed with the brewery’s pig logo. Inside, the Royale (pronounced Roy-al) office is cluttered with barrels, posters and mismatched desks, chairs and tables.
The brewery has a 15-barrel system and six tanks with room for six more. There are three cold rooms, a new barrel washer and wooden barrels. Some of those are used bourbon barrels. One is a tequila barrel that has to be primed before it will hold an experimental batch of beer.
The man leading the experiments will be Paul Rey. The Siebel Institute-educated brewer moved to Portland just this year after spending time at Telegraph Brewery and Libertine Brewing Company in California. He immediately fell under Weksler’s pilsner spell. “It’s a glorious beer. Operations-wise, it is a nightmare because it takes so long because lager yeast ferments at a lower temperature and very slowly and typically creates a lot of sulfur compounds that take a long time to clean up. It’s just much slower in secondary fermentation, but the end product is a much more delicate, clean-tasting beer.”
There is integrity in the traditionalist approach Rey takes toward pilsners. He points out that American IPAs have moved a long way from what the British originally did. But, he insists with pilsners “you can’t stray from what the Germans and Czechs came up with. People do, but it ceases to be a pilsner once it’s a super bitter pilsner or a sweet pilsner. Once you start adding things to it, it’s not really a pilsner anymore.”
The Royale Pilsner — they also make ales, a porter and a wonderful coffee saison — is a clear golden color and has a floral aroma followed by a crisp, clean taste that makes you wonder what you ever saw in hoppy IPAs.
I’m converted to the church of pils. Amen.
One of the weddings Pastor Weksler officiated was that of Carston Haney, owner of Ross Island Brewing and former brewmaster at Alameda Brewing who was featured in the April issue of Oregon Beer Growler.
Royale Brewing recently opened a taproom, “The Garrison” at 8773 N. Lombard in Portland.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes a simple statement can tell the whole story — explain why someone takes a leap into an uncertain future.
Standing in front of the copper-jacketed, 7-barrel brewhouse he bought from Golden Valley Brewery, Carston Haney says, “I enjoy beer. I enjoy lots of styles of beer.”
Explaining that simple statement from the man who walked away from a job with Portland’s Alameda Brewing Co. takes some history.
Haney’s first brewing job was in Millheim, Pa. at Elk Creek Café + Aleworks. He followed up with an apprenticeship under a master brewer before moving to Portland in 2008 to take a job with Alameda as a secondary brewer.
After just three months at Alameda, Haney took over as head brewer and began a fast-track growth program. In 6 1/2 years, he grew Alameda from a 5.5-barrel system to a 20-barrel system, from making 800 barrels a year to making 1,800 barrels, from brewing in the back of the pub to brewing in a full-blown production facility.
Then it hit him “About a year ago I got to the point where I wanted to do something for myself,” he explains. “I think what it was, was brewing the same beers over and over again. It’s a fun challenge figuring out how to source raw materials, hop contracts, etc., to be able to grow. But just brewing the same beer over and over again, it gets a little old.”
But he also understands Beer Business 101 — don’t mess with a proven thing. You make what sells. So he decided it was time to step out on his own.
He found space in a building on the east end of the Ross Island Bridge that belongs to the family of a friend, then hired an engineer, an architect and a lawyer and began making friends with a number of city officials. He says that’s when bits of white began to creep into his full red beard. The business of beer was taking him away from making beer. “It’s been nine months since I brewed.”
There was also the question — will there be an audience for another brewery when he gets back to brewing? “I think with our business plan, we’re going to have a small tasting room. I’d like to do about 40 percent of sales in-house; the other 60 percent, self-distributing around town. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have the connections I do around town. It is a very tight-knit industry in Portland. I know bar owners, so it helps a lot.”
Haney has also taken note of something else affecting small breweries. “Where I see the pinch, what’s coming up here with breweries, every neighborhood can support a brewpub. This Brooklyn neighborhood definitely can. Where I see the pinch is on the grocery store shelves because now there is very little brand loyalty. Back in the day, people drank either BridgePort or Widmer. Now there’s such a variety and there’s only so much retail space.” Haney thinks that, in part, growler sales can make up for product being on store shelves.
While Haney explains why the head of a wildebeest his hanging on an office wall in the still mostly empty building at 730 SE Powell Blvd., (he thinks it will be an interesting conversation piece), he also talks about the first beer he plans to make in his rejuvenated brewhouse.
“The first beer I’ll brew is called Calibration Ale because it’s a good thing to do when you have a new brewery, is to run something fairly low gravity, kind of keep the malt bill on it fairly simple, 35 IBUs. Even if I brewed on the system somewhere else and moved it, in terms of evaporation from the kettle, it’s going to be different from one location to another — basically it takes about one brew on a system to dial things in. So I’ll start with a pale, then something dark, like a porter — a pale porter — then an IPA. I want to try to start off with English ale yeast. I’ll probably end up bringing in some lager yeast fairly quickly because I want to a have very clean, fresh pilsner on tap too.”
He likes crisp beers that grab a drinker’s attention. “I lean toward English-style ales with a Northwest twist. Something that is a fairly balanced beer, but has quite a bit more hop content than an English beer would have. I’d say by far my favorite beer to brew is a Southern California IPA — something that has some malt presence to it, not overly sweet though. There’s not a lot of crystal or caramel malt in it, and not overly bitter either. So a nice balance between malt sweetness and bitterness and then a whole lot of hops at the back end in terms of the flavor and aroma.”
He also wants to do some collaboration brews to help get the word out when he is opening.
Carston’s wife is just as committed to the project. She will be the initial beertender and when friends ask if they want to have children, she tells them, we’re having a brewery.
At the same time Ross Island Brewery is being built out, Daily Grind is putting a commercial kitchen into an adjoining part of the building and will make food available to brewery customers.
Ross Island should be opening in May.
Ross Island Brewing
[a] 730 SE Powell Boulevard, Portland
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