By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
All year we’ve examined the breweries in the Roseburg area. But before these relative newcomers were around, there was the McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery, established in April 1999. At the time, Roseburg was home to two other microbreweries: Umpqua Brewing (1991-2001) and Hawks Brewing (1996-2006). McMenamins has hung on — though the Roseburg location hadn’t even been planned.
Before it was a brewery, Roseburg Station served as the Southern Pacific train depot dating all the way back to 1872, linking the then-thriving timber town to the nation’s rail network. A bar seat places you near the site where the depot operator oversaw the telegraph. Trains coming through area carried Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman, frontier scout and performer Buffalo Bill Cody, musician Sammy Davis Jr., and even a dying President Warren G. Harding. During the 1980s the timber industry declined, and the station fell into disuse.
“A friend of my cousin owned the Roseburg train station property. When we heard he wanted to sell it, we all flew down to Roseburg to see it and take a tour,” says McMenamins co-founder Mike McMenamin. “We knew we wanted to buy the building right away. It was love at first sight.”
Renovation preserved the station’s vaulted, 16-foot-high ceilings, tongue-and-groove fir wainscoting and marble molding. Period photos and art provide a visual timeline of Roseburg’s history. Today, head brewer Tom Johnson makes 700 barrels of beer a year — both McMenamins standards and his own creations on a 6-barrel system.
“We had a core crowd from the beginning,” says Johnson, who came to Roseburg Station in 2001. “When Umpqua Brewing closed, a lot of their regulars started coming to our place, but growth was pretty slow for the first five or so years.”
Johnson’s own beer journey began with imported beers at a shop in Eugene in the 1980s, which was followed by his first taste of McMenamins in 1988 and a homebrewing class. His homebrews began performing well in competitions, and he went through the Master Brewers Program at the University of California, Davis. While pursuing various brewer positions around western Oregon, Johnson connected with Steve van Rossem (now brewmaster at Springfield’s Plank Town), who was brewing at now-closed Eugene City Brewery. A couple of days later, van Rossem told Johnson that McMenamins was looking for someone to brew at their new Roseburg location.
“I had been hoping to get involved with a startup or a small brewing operation,” says Johnson. “I wanted a lot of say in recipe development, brewing different things that I wanted to brew.”
Today Johnson enjoys that creative freedom, making beers such as You've Made Me So Very Hoppy (“dedicated to the woman I'm marrying”), a Northwest pale brewed with, aptly enough, Golden Promise malt. Lately he’s been brewing fresh-hop beers, such as Hopqua, which is a nod to the Umpqua River Valley where Roseburg is located. “Most hops come from a couple who lives here in Roseburg and have a sizable hop garden in their backyard,” explains Johnson. “A lot of people help us pick those, get them to the brewery that night and brew a beer the next day.” This year’s Hopqua was brewed with 54 pounds of fresh cones — “The hoppiest beer we’ve made here.”
Local hops star in another new release: Hubbard Creek Red Ale, brewed with Centennials from Melrose Vineyards. Winemaker Cody Parker planted three acres in 2012 to bring more local hops to the area’s growing craft beer scene.
Roseburg Station also supports different community organizations, such as the popular 600-acre animal park Wildlife Safari in nearby Winston. To support this year’s Tiger Oasis fundraising project, which will provide additional living space for the facility’s two Sumatran tigers, Johnson brewed Tiger Tales American Wheat Ale. The beer featured special ingredients like blood orange and a 48-ounce box of Tony the Tiger’s own Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
The experimentation and variety reflects the area’s changing palate. The local homebrew club, the Umpqua Valley Brewers Guild, has grown. Seven breweries are now in Roseburg and nearby towns such as Winston and Tenmile. “Brewburg” now has a vibrant Beer Week.
“More craft beer has become available, and more and more people are interested in craft beer and seeking it out,” says Johnson. “They bring their friends along and find out that they like it too. It all helps to promote craft beer and bring interest to other places as well as ours.”
McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery
[a] 700 SE Sheridan St., Roseburg
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes when people retire they are ready to just kick back with a cold one. But Mark Nunnelee decided that instead of merely drinking the beer, he should be making it.
While working with NASA, Nunnelee and his wife transferred from Southern California to Oregon in 2008, but took early retirement in 2010. “I wasn’t quite ready to retire, but I did. I had to do something though,” explains Nunnelee. “I love beer, and since moving here had discovered craft beer.” In 2011 he also discovered homebrewing. “Friends, family, even strangers were telling me, ‘You gotta sell this stuff!’ I got a lot of encouragement from a lot of people, even business owners who would tell me they’d sell it.”
The Nunnelees were living in the unincorporated community of Lookingglass of Douglas County. With a population of 855, the area is considered a suburb of Roseburg, which is 9 miles to the northwest. Nunnelee figured the peace and quiet made their property a nice spot for a small brewery. In 2010 they had constructed a shop near the house, and in 2014 the Nunnelees began converting the shop into a brewery while applying for an Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) permit.
After getting TTB approval in 2015, Lookingglass Brewery was licensed to sell beer on July 1, 2015, but Nunnelee was still setting up the brewery and equipment (today Nunnelee and his wife are the only people working at the brewery, though friends occasionally volunteer). Nunnelee wanted to set things up right — just the way he used to at NASA.
“The government harps on safety and quality. That’s the part that I think I brought with me from that job: quality and quality assurance,” he explains. “My goal is to have the highest-quality beer around. I’ll never cut corners as far as quality of the beer goes.”
On Nov. 2, 2015, the Nunnelees sold their first beers through Lookingglass.
“I wanted to test the market, so when we opened I only had two for sale: AnyTime Pale Ale and HappyTime Raspberry Red,” says Nunnelee. “They both did pretty well.”
Nunnelee added OverTime IPA, but kept the lineup at three beers until April 2016 when the Lookingglass Tasting/Tap Room opened with seven beers.
The tap room was a natural next step for the business. “Lots of people were asking where they could find our beers,” says Nunnelee. “We felt like we had to have a place where they could come and try them all.”
However, that somewhere didn’t work out to be the closest large city — Roseburg. “We looked all over the place — looked at locations in Roseburg, and things didn’t pan out for one reason or another,” says Nunnelee. But he kept eyeballing a place in nearby Winston (also home of the Wildlife Safari, which partners with Lookingglass sometimes for events), and his wife said they needed to check it out.
“It was perfect,” says Nunnelee. “Location. Space. It was just by chance. We’re the only brewery out there, so that’s nice.”
The 1,000-square-foot facility uses about 500 square feet for the 25 seats in the public area. In advance of football season, a new 65-inch TV hangs on the main wall, and a smaller 50-inch screen is above the bar. Nunnelee plans to open the tasting room on Sundays for pro games.
Lookingglass now has eight beers available, along with third-party cider and various local wines at the tap room. While the area’s newest brewery has some accounts in the Douglas County area (and occasionally as far afield as Albany), most sales are through the tasting room. In addition to the three inaugural beers, Nunnelee is working his half-barrel system hard to keep up with demand for SummerTime Blonde Ale, HopTime IPA, BreakTime Brown, SpringTime IPA, OverTime IPA, and PrimeTime Porter.
You might have noticed a commonality with the names there. “The time theme just came to me,” says Nunnelee. It started with the AnyTime Pale Ale. “It’s really just any time of day, any time of year. Some beers you want at a certain time of year, some you want anytime.”
Upcoming releases include a fresh-hop pale ale (with hops from a local friend) for the 2016 Umpqua Brewfest on Oct. 8. A stout will also be available during fall and winter, along with a “special, festive-type beer.”
Demand for Loogkingglass beers does have Nunnelee thinking hard about upgrading his current system: a 30-gallon kettle, 30-gallon mash tun and 20-gallon hot liquor tank. “I can get about 20 gallons per batch, depending on the style. We brew triple batches a couple of times a week. We’ll yield 60 gallons each time we brew,” says Nunnelee. “I’m looking to upgrade the system soon. Those small systems are labor-intensive. I want to expand, have a brewpub in town, get the brewery and tap room under one roof.”
Nunnelee also believes in giving back to the community. Ever since opening the brewery, he’s donated 10 percent of revenue to local causes, such as the benevolence fund through the church he and his wife attend in Roseburg. He’s also helped support local Fourth of July fireworks, and is currently looking for additional organizations and events to support in Winston.
The small-town feel is also part of what Nunnelee likes about basing his brewery in a tucked-away valley and having his tap room in a town of 5,379. “We’re small in a small area. We can do just about anything,” he explains. “If someone asks us to make a special beer, we can work with people and do it.”
After working in Southern California, Nunnelee figures brewing is a good reason to come out of retirement. The commute also can’t be beat.
“It’s a 20-foot walk to work.”
Lookingglass Brewery Tasting/Tap Room
[a] 192 SE Main St., Winston
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