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
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.
OBG Blog Archives