By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Reedsport wasn’t Jed Smith’s cup of tea. Or pint of beer, had the frontiersman visited today.
In 1946, 118 years after his nearby fiasco, a 3,600-square-foot mercantile was raised on Route 38, aka Fir Avenue, today Old Town Reedsport. Newly etched into its heart is Defeat River Brewery, where, one bright Sunday morn in this burg of 4,000, I meet two age-thirtysomething co-owners/co-brewers/brothers-in-law: Levi Allen, previously a realtor/house cleaner, and Trevor Frazier, previously a medic. (Defeat is also co-owned by Herb Hedges, not here today.)
Frazier, arms crossed, leaning against the rustic copper bar: “I thought, sure, I can be a full-time paramedic and Levi can be a full-time dad and business owner, and we’ll just brew when we feel like it and we’ll make it work. No, you can’t do that!” he laughs. “If you’re going to do something, do it 100 percent. Don’t half-ass two things. Full-ass one thing.”
The room radiates grit. Iron, sawdust, fresh cement. Most of its industrial/Wild West aesthetic, including large quantities of repurposed metal and old wood, came from the sweat and toil of the three owners, plus close friends and family, to make a beautifully meticulous, personalized, 10-barrel brewhouse.
“This space is 70 years old,” Allen says, “but everything in it is brand new. It’s everything we’ve wanted to see in a brewery.”
But, Levi — where’s the Defeat River?
In July 1828, Jedediah Smith and his merry band of fur trappers slogged upcoast from California. They camped at the end of what’s now called the Smith River, a 90-mile tributary of the Umpqua.
“There was a dispute over something ridiculous, like a stolen ax,” Allen says. “Smith’s men ended up whipping one of the natives, which created some tension.”
The Indians ambushed, killing 15 of Smith’s 19 men. He and the remaining few fled. Three months later, he revisited the site to retrieve beaver pelts. His friends were there, rotting on the sand. Smith named the river Defeat, and it was posthumously renamed for him, draining as it does into the great Umpqua estuary, a half mile from this pub.
“The most interesting part of the story is those skeletons are still buried over there,” Allen says. (That’s 188 years of tide and sand and river movement.)
In 2012, the brothers-in-law had traded their valley and high-desert lives for coast. And, as in-laws are wont to do, and like Smith vs. the Indians, there came disputes — but no massacres — along the brewers’ slow, rutted road to publicly pouring their beer.
“It’s not been easy to make this happen,” Frazier tells me, looking around the room, up at the ceilings, at the custom light fixtures, down at the concrete floor. “We’ve worked hard and had a lot of stubborn arguments to ensure this place is as cool as it is.”
How did you guys get here?
Allen: “I was a realtor, homebrewing in Albany. I met Trevor and got him into it. My free time started shrinking as he was getting deep into brewing and the science of it, and soon it became a case of the student teaching the teacher. So the majority of our recipes are his.”
Both brewers are wed to Reedsport-born-and-bred sisters who work at Highland Elementary, the same school the women attended in the 1990s.
“We wanted to move because our in-laws and aunts and uncles and cousins are here,” Frazier says.
“They (the Allens) moved first because his wife got a job as a teacher here, in her hometown,” Frazier says. “My wife moved to get a job at the same school. I was trying to get a job as a paramedic. Ended up getting one in Coos Bay, so I moved from Bend, and that’s when the brewery plan really took off — when Levi and I resumed homebrewing together.
“Growing up in Bend and being able to drink fresh beer in a craft brewery was something I missed when I moved here. It was hard because I was used to heading down to the pub for a few local pints. Wasn’t happening here. Something had to be done.”
At a 2013 homebrewing contest in Bend, Allen’s hybrid pale ale won a blue ribbon.
“It’s every homebrewer’s dream to go pro and do a legit brewery,” he says. “Generally, if you talk to a homebrewer and they say their goal is not to brew professionally, they’d be lying. Before we moved, we considered the steps to build a brewery. We knew there had never been one in Reedsport. And Old Town was attractive because rent was relatively cheap and—”
“—there was nothing here,” Frazier adds.
“Yeah,” Allen says. “We thought a brewery could be a foundation or an anchor for something really cool—part of a movement, maybe.”
A year ago, the surrounding storefronts were vacant. Now they include an arcade, a dog-groomer, an antique shop, an art gallery, a beauty salon.
Frazier: “Reedsport was given a Main Street-improvement grant, which helped a few people improve the facades of their businesses. And folks knew our brewery was coming, so that got them thinking about a new era. This was a busy district before fishing and logging died. Lots of people left. But if you visited, say, Bend in 1985, there was nothing there. Now look at it. I don’t think (Reedsport) can have quite the same sort of boom; we’d like people to see the potential of this area as a destination. Not just our place — everywhere on this street. And beyond.”
Initial 2016 summer rollout of Defeat’s core styles include Thor Cascadian dark ale, The Bravest Pale Ale, and 1.21 Jigahops IPA. Born in steam-fired Stout Tanks and Kettles equipment from Portland, the beers are pure Oregon — Crosby hops from Woodburn, Wyeast from Odell, and floor-malted Mecca Grade barley, estate-grown in Madras, a stone’s toss from the Deschutes River. Defeat is the first draught-producing brewery to use Full Pint, Mecca’s proprietary malt.
“Some people had brewed with it, but it’s mostly been used for whiskey,” Frazier says. “Last year I contacted Seth (of Mecca) because I wanted to get a bag of malt to homebrew with. When he learned we were starting a brewery, he got excited.”
The two aim to get all their malt from Mecca, including planned specialties via estate expansion. Defeat’s goal is to have 12 rotating taps — core, seasonal and specialty — supplying the bar, plus regional wines and guest beers. Food trucks are likely.
Allen believes a town can reinvent itself. Even tiny Reedsport — 20 minutes from Florence, 20 minutes from Coos Bay, 90 minutes from Eugene. “Business-wise,” he says, “much of what we’ve done is plan for the worst and hope for the best. It’s a seasonal economy here. Places close in October and they don’t reopen until April or May. We wanted to make our pub attractive for people to come and drink beer year-round.”
“It’s not just about finally being able to pour our beer for people,” Frazier says, “which we’re very proud of. Or that it’s taken considerable effort getting this place going. It’s not just about the beer. It’s about the atmosphere we’ve created for you.”
Defeat River Brewery
[a] 473 Fir Ave., Reedsport
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Community is the fifth element in brewing to go with water, yeast, barley and hops, according to Oregon brewing pioneer Dave Logsdon.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ founder recently gave an insider’s detailed, and often funny, history of brewing in the Columbia River Gorge and the rest of Oregon. He recounted the roots that were established by Full Sail Brewing Company along with the past decade’s rapidly growing brewing culture in Hood River and nearby scenic towns about an hour east of Portland.
“It is really a story of people working together,” Logsdon said to a room of about 120 people in February. His speech was part of a Sense of Place Lecture held at Hood River’s Columbia Center for the Arts. With him was his wife Judith Bams-Logsdon, a native of Belgium and his muse for beer styles and Belgian menu at their downtown Hood River tasting room.
Logsdon has the authority to re-tell the area’s brewing saga because he was there from the start — first as a leader in the homebrewing revolution in the 1970s and later as co-founder of three anchors in Oregon fermentology: Full Sail, Wyeast Laboratories and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.
“Full Sail was the gathering point for homebrewers and other like-minded folks, and people saw it was successful,” he said. “When I think of the sense of place, to me it’s mostly about the people. Yes, we have a beautiful valley and river and environment to live in, but it’s the people who have lived here and shared their community to make things possible and make the community what it is. And that’s what I have to say about the brewing community,” Logsdon described. He added, “Even before craft brewing and Brewers in the Gorge (BIG), the large professional brewers had a tradition of working together about science and innovation in order to brew the best beers possible.”
Logsdon’s experiences during the last 40 years span from garage brewing to being a leader in the 500-employee, $50 million Gorge beer economy.
“I left the Midwest in the early 1970s and there were still regional beers with flavor, but as soon as I reached the West Coast, I noticed a distinct difference in beer quality,” he said. “They were all pretty much light lager beers. Working my way through school, I didn’t have the resources to enjoy the beers I wanted to drink, so I started brewing beer.” In 1985, he opened Wyeast Laboratories, which was then a small operation.
“Wyeast was a big part of my life here in the Gorge and part of what I did to bring the fourth element of brewing to the neighborhood. We have abundant hops on both sides of us, acres of barley and the best brewing water in the world, and it was nice to work with my family to bring this fourth aspect of it to the Hood River Gorge.”
He later jumped at the chance to help get Full Sail off the ground with Irene Firmat and Jerome Chicvara. Logsdon remained at the brewery until the mid-1990s.
“We pooled all the resources we could from family and friends and worked for a year to get it financed,” Logsdon said. He said it would not have happened without longtime Parkdale residents Jack and Kate Mills. “They believed in us, invested in us and also helped us raise another large chunk of money through the Oregon Lottery,” he said. What emerged was first called Hood River Brewing Company.
A building that protruded halfway into Columbia Street and a chain-link fence were both in the way of constructing the Full Sail facility. “We knocked it out to get the brewery going,” he said. “Things have changed a lot, and it started with a huge amount of energy. And many of the brewing community members were very encouraging of Full Sail, which became two blocks of Hood River.”
Craft beer, he said, “is here to stay and it has had a huge impact on everything we consume and our approach to life and the values we have in what we create.”
He was part of the “’86 Club,” as he puts it — the brewers who were there when it became legal to brew beer and sell it in the same location. Logsdon pointed to fellow pioneers including Brian and Mike McMenamin, Kurt and Rob Widmer, Karl Ockert, Fred Eckhardt, Art Larrance, Fred Bauman and Jack Joyce.
Logsdon presented a “family tree” of Gorge brewers, with Full Sail brewers moving on to either work for, or found, all but one brewery in the Gorge (Backwoods Brewing Company in Carson, Wash.) Standouts include Double Mountain founder Matt Swihart, pFriem founder Josh Pfriem and Solera brewer and co-owner Jason Kahler.
“The brewing community itself has very deep roots and strengths going back to big breweries working together in sharing knowledge,” Logsdon said. ”Overall, besides of all these good things we have, it’s as much to the credit of the open-mindedness and the progressive thinking you find in Oregonians. It’s the people and the energy putting those things tighter — the willingness to create and take a chance and do what you think is right and work together.”
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Dave Logsdon has been a key player in the craft beer world for more than 30 years. And for all that time, Hood River has been his home base.
His involvement with Full Sail Brewing Company is well known. He co-founded the brewery in 1987 and was the main brewer for a few years. But even before that in 1985 he founded Wyeast Laboratories, selling yeast cultures and other fermentation ingredients.
His newest brewing experiment is Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, founded in 2009. The 15-barrel brewery is in the barn on his rural property south of downtown Hood River off Highway 35. “The beer is influenced immensely by the terroir,” said Erika Huston, general manager of Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom. For example, The Conversion Northwest sour ale is brewed the traditional way by allowing the liquid to cool in an open, shallow vessel, resulting in spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast.
Huston said, “Our main challenge is to educate people to the palate about this style of beer. One of the first questions we hear is, ‘What is your IPA?’ We don’t have one.”
Logsdon characterizes these beers as Belgian saisons. Traditionally, they are malt forward with some fruit tastes and a dry, tart carbonated finish. Historically, they were brewed in the winter and served in the summer to farmworkers. Saisons have a very clean finish, but are complex to brew.
Last fall, The Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom opened in downtown Hood River. The idea for a taproom evolved as the reputation of the farmhouse ales grew. The brewery on his rural property was considered agricultural land and not eligible to host a taproom, according to Hood River zoning laws.
The Barrel House & Taproom was designed to resemble a Belgian-style brasserie café. Dave’s wife Judith Bams-Logsdon, a native of Flanders in Belgium, is in charge of the menu. Huston said, “She is very passionate about food. The menu was designed to be like what you would find in a Belgian cafe, and the beer and food share complementary flavors.”
The menu includes items like broodjes, Belgian sandwiches, and croque-monsieur, toasted ham and cheese on white bread. There are also seasonal entrees, such as a classic Flanders beef stew, Belgian waffles and crepes for dessert.
“We are definitely interested in spreading the word about the Belgian food emphasis here. It’s unique. There’s nothing else like it in Hood River,” said Huston.
The taproom has 12 rotating taps; one is a guest tap. “Logsdon beers are very unique. You won’t find them regularly in Portland. People are excited about our taster trays. They like sampling what they won’t normally see.”
The four core beers, available year round on draft and in 375-milliliter and 750-milliliter bottles, are Kili Wit, Seizoen, Seizoen Bretta and Straffe Drieling Tripel. “We’ll be adding the newest one, The Conversion Wit, like the regular but with wild yeast.”
Logsdon’s ales have won several awards, including a gold for the Seizon Bretta at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, and are now available in local restaurants. Initially self-distributed, the ales are now distributed by Maletis.
“Many people have the idea that all Belgian beers are the same. The challenge is getting people to expand their horizons,” said Huston.
She has been a fan of Logsdon’s beer for several years. She previously worked at Saraveza in North Portland as a beer buyer and coordinator of the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Festival, usually held the last weekend in March. She met Dave and Judith in 2013 and loved their beer. When the opportunity came up to manage the taproom, she took it and moved to Hood River last October.
Last summer there was talk of a sale and move to Portland that never materialized. Logsdon and company are more firmly part of Hood River than ever before. Future plans are to “become a stronghold in the community,” said Huston. Logsdon is involved with Breweries in the Gorge, which is a nonprofit that promotes the beer makers in that region. The program is similar to the Bend Ale Trail, where customers can get stamps at each brewery they visit. And even though the founder hopes to step away from day-to-day operations, he will continue to oversee quality, develop new beers and participate fully in the Hood River community.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At Thunder Island Brewery in Cascade Locks, you cannot improve on the view, but the folks behind this strikingly scenic brewpub are gearing up to improve on the beer.
Thunder Island owner Dave Lipps and marketing and operations manager Caroline Park installed three new insulated fermentation tanks in October, marking one of two major changes in the last half of 2015 in the former storage building leased from the Port of Cascade Locks.
After first making a mere 6 barrels after starting up in 2013, then upping production to 27 barrels in 2014, this brewery beside the Columbia River is about to boom — eightfold within a year or so.
“We will have more and better beer,” Park said.
The brewery’s changes happen largely thanks to the able hands of Brian Perkey, hired as head brewer in June. He installed the tanks while taking time to fix the dishwasher, too in September and October.
After getting a new employee, Thunder Island marked its second anniversary Oct. 17 with a party that poured over into the next day thanks to the town hosting 1,000 competitors in race three of the River City Bicycles Cross Crusade series. The brewery’s association with biking and hiking groups and events, including the Pacific Crest Trail Days every summer, have helped define Thunder Island’s distinctive place in the Northwest brewery map. Easily visible from the brewery are the namesake Thunder Island and Washington’s Table Mountain, Greenleaf Peak along with other gorgeous crags. The pub has seating for 20 inside at white pine tables made by Lipps and double that many on the patio. Long-term, Park and Lipps are looking at building on WaNaPa Street, the main drag in Cascade Locks.
The brewery will find broader distribution but remains oriented to place. If you’ve never been, go to Marine Park just east of downtown, carefully proceed under the rail trestle and take an immediate left and go all the way past the campground, until you get to the end of the road. The spot was mostly a working yard and storage facility until two years ago when Thunder Island moved in. The founders squeezed in a small brewing system — one with modified Navy soup cauldrons and the third brewery to use them. Besides that, there wasn’t much else: a two-top table and four-barstool pub. But that was enough to start creating tasty beers. The patio came later along with a roll-up door and expanded indoor seating.
In the back of the brewery sit a tall, gleaming brite tank and fermenters, which can double as brites. They’re supported by a glycol cooling system installed by Perkey. He and Lipps brewed the last batches in the old two-fermenter system in mid-October and switched over on Oct. 21.
“It’s been hard work, but we only had a short break in production,” Lipps said Oct. 15, noting the chalkboard featured just three beers at the time, down from the typical five or six.
The expansion amounts to an extra 10-15 kegs a week, while also achieving Perkey’s goal of keeping the beer in tanks for three weeks instead of what had been 10-14 days.
“In terms of volume with these tanks, just trying to keep up with our summer demand, we were pushing beers out way too early,” Perkey said.
“Hiring Brian is a game changer for us," Park said. “From a small business standpoint, the best thing is he kind of 'figures it out.' And from a growth perspective, he brings this creativity and energy and ideas that's really exciting for us as we're installing this system and we're kind of mapping out the next couple of years,” Park said. Perkey started at BridgePort Brewery in 1992, worked at Full Sail, Wyeast Laboratories, Gordon Biersch in San Diego and is co-founder of Hood Valley Hard Cider.
Perkey said, “To take 25 years of doing this and parlay it into this growth opportunity that's going on here — plus working for these two, who are super-cool, I come to work every morning and it's like falling in love all over again.
“What's in the tanks, it's alive,” Perkey continued. “It lives and breathes just like you or me. It has a rhythm to its life cycle — from sweet wort off the grain to fermentation to the keg, there's a cycle. There's a flow. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of."
Perkey plans no new beers for a while but will focus on freshening the library of ales, including Flower Power IPA, Scotch Porter and others. With the new system in place, Thunder Island will reach 300 barrels by December and 1,000 or so by summer 2016 — with more to come. The goal is to adequately serve pub customers as well as meet the needs of existing tap clients, located mostly in the Gorge. Lipps said the expansion will give Thunder Island far better potential for tap handle presence “beyond just our one-offs.”
By Valerie Smith
For the Oregon Beer Growler
You know from instinct how certain music and sounds make you feel — relaxed, happy and energetic. It might even evoke vivid memories. Music is diverse and exists in every culture around the world. Humans like music. Plants even respond positively to exposure to music. Studies have shown that high-frequency sounds produce more antioxidative enzymes in plants. Would it surprise you that not only do you and your plants “like” music, but beer yeast cells do too? Sounds far-fetched, but it isn’t.
Metabolomics is the study of small molecules in the cells of an organism. In 2011, metabolomics researchers from the University of Auckland (U of A) in New Zealand did a study involving music and yeast cell growth. They used the single-celled organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae), the species of yeast used since ancient times by brewers, winemakers and bakers. These forward-thinking lab geeks tested how S. cerevisiae reacts to sound pressure waves by putting the yeast in shake flasks along with a food source -- a glucose broth with vitamins — and let it sit overnight. They then piped in high- and low-frequency sonic vibration to the rooms where the flasks were being kept. The control for the study was a silent room. The study showed that the brewer’s friend, S. cerevisiae, grew 12 percent faster with music playing. High frequency produced slightly better results than low frequency, so it seems that any music therapy for yeast will prove successful!
Michael Kora, brewmaster and owner of the soon-to-open Montavilla Brew Works, appreciates the U of A’s findings. Kora received a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. He played and taught drums and guitar years before delving into Portland’s brewing community. Because of his background, Kora believes music’s effect on yeast makes sense. “I think since yeast are living things, they may have some sentience, maybe on some form of preliminary consciousness. At any rate, I think that music on a very fundamental level is full of vibrations, wavelength and frequency patterns. All these measurements seem to correlate on some level with the rhythm of nature and definitely the fermentation of beer and yeast-powered products.”
Kora begins with the yeast selection when building recipes for Montavilla Brew Works. According to Kora, “Yeast is the unsung hero -- they do so much work! You treat (them) like a living thing and they’ll react like that. It’s almost like they’re human in a way. If you’re good to them, keep them healthy and happy, they’ll give back to you.” He nurtures beer development with seasonal music tracks: reggae, funk and the Grateful Dead in the summer, classical and blues in the winter and everything in between at other times. Jimi Hendrix and rock play during the cleanup.
The expansive and beneficial relationship between music and yeast may have come about because of brewer intuition, superstition or other cultural influences during the millennia. Today, the U of A’s metabolomics study proves serenading developing yeast has more benefits than anyone previously recognized. So play whatever rocks your brewhouse and the yeast will love you back.
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