By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
One of the first questions that visitors to this Southeast Portland brewery often ask is, “What does Grixsen mean?” While the word is a mashup of the three partners’ surnames, it also symbolizes the communal focus of the 4-month-old brewery. Scott Petersen, who handles business operations and branding, says “We wanted to come up with a name that encompassed what we had as an ideal. The model of Grixsen is someone who works hard, does the right thing and celebrates together.”
That theme shaped the brewery’s evolution and was part of the founders’ ethos even before they knew they wanted to start a business together. DJ Moxley, Grixsen’s head brewer, met Petersen through a family member in 2012 when he was still in college. Their recommendation landed him a summer internship at Petersen’s strategy and design firm in Portland. Moxley had already been homebrewing for several years, and he quickly became Petersen’s collaborative partner for all things beer. They brewed their first batch together, a Scotch ale, at Portland U-Brew in Sellwood as part of a team-building exercise with Petersen’s employees.
When I ask Moxley why he started brewing, he replies, “Wine is romantic, but I think beer is just as romantic. I got into beer because of American history. I was a huge history fan throughout school and learned that our country was pretty much built on breweries and pubs. I wanted to be part of that somehow and create something that can have that big of an impact.”
As Moxley completed his studies and graduated from Gonzaga, he and Petersen continued making test batches of homebrew in Petersen’s garage. Eventually, their collaborations led to discussions about opening a brewery together. While it was tempting to seek out investors to expedite their new business venture, they ultimately decided to personally fund the entire operation, which allows them to retain full control over the company. Petersen explains, “We wanted to experience the bootstrapping that’s required to launch a new brewery.”
They immediately began looking for a building to house the business. “Our goal was to find a location that would be affordable plus would allow us to grow into it in terms of production,” Petersen states. Giving credit to serendipitous circumstances, they signed a lease on a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in December 2014.
The build-out process took longer than expected due to changes in building codes as well as the overall physical labor required to turn the space into a brewery and tasting room. Enter Kurt Gritman, the third business partner. The team refers to him as “a workhorse within the operation” and mentions that the majority of the work on the build-out was done by himself, Moxley and Gritman, with the exception of electrical and plumbing.
Moxley is now brewing on an American Beer Equipment system that was originally designed for another company, but fits the Grixsen space perfectly. It’s a 10-barrel, 3-vessel operation, which means they can do continuous brewing cycles. They have two 20-barrel fermenters and two 20-barrel brite tanks with two more 20-barrel fermenters already ordered.
When asked about the beers he is brewing, Moxley mentions Funkwerks in Fort Collins, Colo. as the inspiration for his Hopped Saison, along with The Commons Brewery in Portland. Petersen elaborates, “We want to embrace the craft movement in terms of the craft over the experimentation side of it. For the most part, we’re brewing standard variants of traditional styles, but with a Northwest take on it.”
The tasting room, which welcomed the public during this year’s Zwickelmania while still under construction, officially opened in April. The design melds perfectly with the brewery’s focus on sophisticated craft and American heritage. The walls are made of reclaimed wood from a friend’s fence. If you look closely, you can see pellets and BBs that were embedded in the boards during their previous life. Petersen’s dad built the bar, which showcases 12 taps plus two nitros. They also sell wine.
The tasting room seats 30 and has a 52-inch flat screen TV, which is only on at low volume for live sporting events. Otherwise, you’ll be listening to the bartender’s choice of streaming music, which will soon be played on a new Sonos sound system. An adjacent private room seats around 10 people and features an 80-inch flat screen TV, making it the perfect spot for fantasy football or other friendly gatherings.
Kids and dogs are welcome in the brewery area, which already has a few tables and chairs as well as a pool table, but will soon have more games like cornhole. Currently they do not serve food but coordinate with a food truck to park near the brewery entrance. Outside food is welcome.
As for future plans, Petersen says they are hoping to sign with a distributor this month and plan to start packaging in 22-ounce bottles. They’ll be making more beer styles and have already started barrel aging; first up is a bourbon barrel imperial stout. While they have just hired a taproom manager, you’ll continue to find all three partners alternating shifts in the tasting room. After all, they are still busy building the Grixsen brand which embodies “giving an honest effort, following the righteous path and celebrating the uniqueness in everyone.”
Grixsen Brewing Company
[a] 1001 SE Division St., Suite 1, Portland
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As the executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, one of Brian Butenschoen’s main responsibilities is publicizing and promoting the organization. Yet, he avoids publicity and promotion about himself. He prefers to stay out of the Oregon Brewers Guild picture and keep the member breweries front and center.
The Oregon Brewers Guild was established in 1992, originally named the Greater Oregon Brewers Association, and is the second-oldest nonprofit trade association for brewers in the U.S. Its mission is to protect and promote Oregon breweries.
With new craft breweries popping up daily in Oregon, the Guild continues to grow, both in size and influence. Membership includes 156 brewing companies, 125 associates that aren’t breweries but provide business services to the craft beer industry, and 3,500-plus enthusiasts called SNOBs — Supporters of Native Oregon Beer.
Brian always refers to Guild activities in the first person plural construction, as in “We print 75,000 copies of the Brew-Ha! map, showing all the member breweries.” Or, “We put on a 900-person dinner for all our supporters and friends every year.” However, since Brian is the only full-time employee, he surely deserves most of the credit for any and all Guild activities. He is the third executive director, a position he’s held since 2005.
One of the Guild’s primary vehicles for promotion is special events and festivals. Probably the best-known and certainly the most popular is Zwickelmania. The one-day open house held on the Saturday of President’s Day weekend began in 2009 and attracted 6,000 visitors to 20-30 breweries that year. Compare that to 2016 when 45,000 people visited 120 participating beer makers who provide brewery tours and special tastings.
Brian said, “It started with six of us sitting around a table and someone came up with the idea of an open house. When would be a good time? We agreed that it should be on a holiday weekend when breweries were NOT busy, when they wanted to see more people visiting them. That’s how we came up with the Saturday of President’s Day weekend.”
Now most participating breweries are so busy on Zwickelmania, they schedule extra staff and often have to control the number of people allowed through the door at one time. The event takes its name from the zwickel sample valve on beer conditioning tanks that allows brewers to take samples during the fermentation process.
What does it take, behind the scenes, to put on this event? The Guild — as in Brian — does all the promotion, signs up the breweries, handles the public relations and marketing, lists the participating breweries on the Guild website and creates maps for the six regions of Oregon. Suggested itineraries are also posted, grouping participating breweries by location.
The Guild sponsors two other main events in Portland. Cheers to Belgian Beers started 10 years ago and was held in May in 2016. Then there’s the Portland Fresh Hop Beer Fest, which has happened every fall. Now in its 13th year, the harvest celebration is slated to take place Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at Oaks Park.
In addition to a few other collaboration events with The Portland Mercury newspaper, like the Malt Ball, Brian tries to make sure the Guild is represented at many of the other festivals around the state. “We have tables and booths at the Spring Beer and Wine Fest, at the KLCC Microbrew Fest in Eugene, at the Oregon Brewers Festival, the North American Organic Brewers Festival and the Great American Beer Festival in Denver,” said Brian.
Events, large and small, mean planning, planning and more planning. Each one starts with a budget. Next, participating breweries are lined up. A venue is selected. People are informed about the event through public relations campaigns and marketing sales and website updates. Food vendors are arranged along with infrastructure providers who set up tents, tables, chairs and the ever-essential porta-potties.
Again, Brian is the main person responsible for coordinating and arranging these events.
Brian’s interest in beer stems, in part, from his family’s background in homebrewing. Following his great-grandfather and uncle, Brian took up the hobby in 1999 and decided to enroll in the Beer Judge Certification Program that same year. Brian also served as vice president and president of the Oregon Brew Crew, Oregon’s oldest homebrew club. Around that time he also started working at Belmont Station. He was fortunate enough to snag shifts on Fridays — free beer tasting days — which meant face time with the brewers who attended these events. He stayed on there until 2006, overlapping with his start at the Guild.
Events and promotions, important in their own right, are only part of the Guild’s duties. The other responsibility is protecting the industry.
“The Guild participates in decision making at the local, state and federal level. We stay out of lobbying and leave that to our individual members,” said Brian. “But we alert members and our board, by email and meetings, to legislative issues and other concerns.”
Oregon is one of the few states where the entire legislative congressional delegation is part of the Small Brewers Caucus, he said. “They all support the lower excise tax for U.S. brewers. Last June, Sen. Wyden sponsored a bill to give all alcohol manufacturers some excise tax relief. It has 24 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 100 in the House.”
Every June, right before Oregon Craft Beer Month in July, Brian holds a press conference about the economic impact of craft beer in Oregon, including information about the number of direct and indirect jobs created, number of barrels produced and sold here, the amount of charitable contributions and other economic indicators. For more information about the industry, upcoming Guild events or to learn how to become a SNOB, go to oregoncraftbeer.org.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Michael Kora has been planning on opening his own brewery for years. So when it came time to get real and meet with an architect, he knew exactly what he wanted. “I wanted to design a place where people would want to hang out,” he said.
That was the beginning of the comfortable, neighborhood-gathering place — Montavilla Brew Works.
A lifetime ago and halfway across the country, Kora was a professional musician -- a drummer -- and a homebrewer in his hometown of Detroit. He moved to Portland in 2006 with the dream of one day having his own place.
“It just made more sense to come here where the craft beer saturation was high,” he said. He planned to work for a brewery.
Instead, he started at Ponzi Winery. The job was anything but glamorous. Kora worked on the harvest crew from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for three months. “They wanted a hearty, Midwest guy with plenty of upper-body strength,” he said.
“I had fun punching down grapes,” said Kora. “And the crew was great. They loved beer, so I would bring in my homebrews for them to try after hours.”
Once the harvest was over, Dick Ponzi asked Kora about his plans. Kora told him about his brewery idea and Dick sent him over to talk with Karl Ockert at BridgePort Brewing Company.
He started working at BridgePort, soaking up anything and everything he could about brewing. Although he was working in the warehouse and other areas, he routinely took in his homebrews. “Those guys would analyze them for me, run them through their tests,” said Kora. “I asked questions constantly.”
He also started scaling up his recipes and brewing at the Green Dragon Bistro & Pub. Several of those experimental recipes proved popular and ended up on Montavilla’s taps, including the Simarillo IPA.
“I experimented with different barleywine recipes for five or six years. It helped me get my hands on bigger gravity beers. It was fun and challenging at the same time,” said Kora.
When he and his wife Melissa moved to Portland, they landed in the Montavilla neighborhood where they have been ever since. The neighborhood has blossomed in recent years and Kora wanted to start his brewery there.
A deserted concrete building at the corner of Southeast Stark Street and 78th Avenue was the spot he picked. “This place had nothing but an incredible location,” said Kora. The only original part of the old auto garage is the shell.
After two years and a new roof, new windows, new floor and new cold and dry storage fixtures, only then could construction of the taproom and installation of brewing equipment begin. That started in October of 2014 and was finished in June 2015. Opening day was July 17, last summer. “I didn’t want to open on a holiday and I wanted to avoid the Oregon Brewers Festival,” said Kora.
The interior of Montavilla Brew Works feels warm and cozy on a wet, dark Portland afternoon. There are exposed wooden beams and assorted seating arrangements, including a couple of larger picnic tables and high tops, with the bar running the length of the back wall. However, the brewing system is the scene stealer — exposed, yet separated from the customers in the front corner of the room. The building’s rollup garage doors are perfect for opening up the place on a warm day, and the outside area can seat as many people as the inside space.
“This is a neighborhood place, a part of the community. I wanted the name to be about the neighborhood,” said Kora.
Some of his beers reflect certain aspects of the neighborhood, like the Bipartisan Porter, named after the nearby Bipartisan Cafe, and the Stark Street Amber Ale. Since opening, Kora has brewed his Stick and Frame Blonde Ale three times. “It’s one of my favorites with a nice hop aroma to it,” Kora said. Even though several of his buddies advised him against it, suggesting he might want to start with a beer that he could fudge a little, he made up his mind to have it be No. 1. “It was a home run out of the gate. People know it all around town.” The Red Krush Red Ale is another of his popular hoppy brews.
Kora originally planned on using a 7-barrel brewing system, figuring he could turn over the beer faster and he could gauge the neighborhood response more quickly. Everyone advised him to get as big a system as he could manage. He decided on an all-new, 10-barrel system that’s working out well. Right now, he brews about once a week. In addition to the brewery’s regular lineup, he’s made a couple of one-offs, several pale ales, five or six IPAs, some lagers, a Dortmunder and a bock, and he’s working on a Helles that he’s pretty excited about. For summer, he will brew a pilsner.
“We don’t spend a lot on advertising or promotions. We’re mostly a word-of-mouth place, a neighborhood brewery where people come in and enjoy being together.”
Upcoming plans include special beer releases, monthly events and participation in Zwickelmania. Once summer rolls around, he’ll start brewery tours and open the patio. Also plan on a first-year-of-business celebration.
Montavilla Brew Works does not serve food, but there are several nearby restaurants and pizza places and guests are welcome to bring food. However, children are not allowed in the brewery.
Montavilla Brew Works
[a] 7805 SE Stark. St., Portland
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
This is my idea of paradise: A seat in the sun-warmed sand at sunset, driftwood log for a backrest. To my right is a small cooler, with an assortment of beers made on the Oregon Coast. I pop the top of a favorite -- Pelican’s Silver Spot is one -- and raise the bottle to the giant orange-magenta ball sinking into the Pacific. The setting serves as a romantic getaway year-round, whether you’re storm watching with a beer inside a brewery or enjoying a summer sunset with a growler on the beach. Life is good with an Oregon beer in your hand. These days, with the burgeoning craft beer business in Oregon and here on its coast, life is getting really good.
Ten years ago, there were just a handful of scattered breweries on the coast. Today, there are at least 20, with more in the offing. Like the rest of Oregon, craft breweries are popping up all over, offering visitors another reason to stay and play.
Coastal visitors and residents have long had access to a few great beers. Established in 1986, McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub in Lincoln City claims to have reintroduced craft brewing to the post-prohibition Oregon coast. Although there were other coastal breweries that are long gone now, McMenamins thrives, hosting an August brewfest every year that features a “tiny brewer” art contest and samples from most of McMenamins’ 24 Oregon and Washington breweries.
Three years after Lighthouse, Rogue Ales’ founder Jack Joyce moved his small Ashland brewery’s headquarters to Newport’s waterfront. In 1996, developers Jeff Schons and Mary Jones opened their Pelican Brewery in an old brick building in off-the-beaten-path Pacific City. Pacific Rim Brewery, now Astoria Brewing, opened in 1997. The same year, Bill’s Tavern owners Ken Campbell and Jim Oyala opened a brewery in a refurbished 1923 building in Cannon Beach. But the days of far-between breweries are blessedly gone. Now the longest drive between breweries on the coast is about 50 miles -- the distance between Yachats and Reedsport. The passion for craft beers has hit the coast like a tidal wave.
Today, the elder breweries continue to produce award-winning brews: Pelican Brewery has been named “Small Brewing Company and Brewmaster” champion at the World Beer Cup. Pelican’s success expanded to a Tillamook brewery with an additional tasting room and restaurant there.
The baby breweries are also collecting bling. Chetco Brewing in Brookings celebrated its first anniversary with a Great American Beer Festival medal for its Block & Tackle Stout in 2013. And when it was less than a year old in 2014, Arch Rock won gold at the Great American Beer Festival. Arch Rock celebrated the win with a grand opening party. The same for newly-minted Buoy Brewing in Astoria, which won GABF silver for its Dunkel just months after it opened.
The Oregon coast’s unique mixture of beauty, isolation and innovation borne of necessity has produced a wide variety of beers, some so unusual that they attract devotees from afar. De Garde Brewing in Tillamook is a fine example, and a unique tasting experience for beer tourists and experts alike. De Garde’s brewer exposes his brews to the ripe coastal breezes to produce a wild beer aged in barrels. This process, more akin to winemaking than brewing, yields beers unlike any others.
South in Coos Bay, two youthful natives in 2013 opened 7 Devils Brewing Co., which showcases local history, art and food, as well as their own beers. It’s not Coos Bay’s first brewery, but it’s the county’s only one -- for now. The brewery began expansion within a year.
The recent surge of coastal breweries has prompted official and unofficial celebrations of craft beer. Many coastal bars and restaurants (even hardware and farm stores!) are expanding their taps to include local brews. Growler fill stations (you bring the bottle; they fill it with beer) and craft beer sections in grocery stores are now commonplace on the coast. Life is good. Cheers!
Following is a list of a few of the celebrations that feature coastal beers:
Oregon Coast: Zwickelmania – This statewide event is on Presidents’ Day weekend each year. Visit oregoncraftbeer.org/events/zwickelmania/ for a map to participating coastal breweries.
Astoria: Fort George Brewery’s Festival of the Dark Arts is in February each year and features stouts and local arts – from tattooing to fire dancing. Details can be found here: https://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/festivalofdarkarts/.
Seaside: Pouring at the Coast is March 6 and 7. It is a craft beer festival, homebrew contest and brewers dinner. Updates are at pouringatthecoast.com.
Newport: Brewer’s Memorial Ale Festival is a dog-centric brewfest hosted by Rogue Ales, but features many other brews from the coast and other regions. It’s typically held the third weekend in May and you can get an update at www.brewersalefest.com, which will connect you to their Facebook page.
Lincoln City: McMenamins Lighthouse Brewfest is generally the third Saturday in August each year. Meet McMenamins brewers at their wackiest party. More info at www.mcmenamins.com/1485-mcmenamins-brewfests-lighthouse.
Astoria: Pacific Northwest Brew Cup, held on the last weekend of September, is an Oktoberfest-like event on the riverfront’s boardwalk. It features family-friendly events and more than 30 beers. Details are at pacificnorthwestbrewcup.com.
Lincoln City: Artober Brewfest, Oct. 3, combines art, culinary treats and great Oregon craft beers, Updates are on the event’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Artober-Brewfest-Lincoln-City-Oregon.
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With more than 80 breweries in the Portland metro area and 183 in the state of Oregon*, one might think that all the niches have been filled. BTU Brasserie proves that incorrect and brings a solution to a long-standing problem: finding a place that makes great Chinese food and craft beer.
BTU, which opened Aug. 2014, is located on a triangular corner on the south side of Northeast Sandy Boulevard. If you frequent the area just east of Laurelwood Brewing you may recall this building used to be a Chinese restaurant, and one that was vacated rather abruptly. But it was still a property that business partners Chris Bogart and Nate Yovu saw as promising. Their vision required extensive renovation due in large part to the installation of the brewery as well as a reimaging of the dining space. The focal point is a 13-seat bar with tables lining the perimeter of the room and an adjacent private room designed to accommodate groups.
The brewery contains a 7-barrel system heated by a steam boiler that was created by local fabricator Portland Kettle Works. By Nate's own admission, the installation of the boiler was an additional expense, but one that the duo felt was important to the soul of the operation. Both beer and Chinese cooking require massive amounts of heat, the extent of which can be expressed as Btus, or British thermal units. Most of BTU's beers fall in the range of 5 to 6 percent ABV, a range that includes lagers. Customers should know that the brews are designed so that more than one can be enjoyed during a sitting and they are meant to be paired with the food.
Chris comes from a restaurant background, having worked in classical Chinese restaurants before relocating from the East Coast and taking a position at Burnside Brewing. Nate represents the brewing half of the equation, with a background that includes graduation from the American Brewers Guild and time at Captain Lawrence Brewing in New York. While his focus is on brewing, he commented that "Food is a huge emphasis for us." To that end, they convinced Dusty Berard, who worked for Chris's father's restaurant in Vermont and for Ming Tsai in Boston, to head their kitchen. The menu offers many familiar dishes – dumplings, sesame noodles and spring rolls – from a kitchen focused on turning out food that will leave you wondering which was more carefully crafted, the food or the beer.
As 2015 begins, BTU will call upon their Chinese influence and release a doppelbock to recognize the Year of the Goat on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The bock style was originally brewed in the German town of Einbeck and was later adopted by Munich brewers who, due to their Bavarian accents, pronounced "Einbeck" as "ein Bock," or billy goat. In addition to the doppelbock release, the kitchen is gearing up to celebrate Chinese New Year with a prix fixe menu. The weeklong celebration begins Feb. 19 and comes on the heels of a big celebration here in Oregon: Zwickelmania. Along with many other breweries, BTU will be swinging open their doors and inviting the public in for a closer look at the setup.
Whether you enjoy a comforting bowl of peanut noodles, which pairs nicely with their single-hopped Polaris Wheat, are looking for something more assertive, like the dry-fried green beans whose smokiness intermingles deliciously with the roasty qualities of Dark Helmet Schwarzbier, or are craving a decidedly different place for weekend brunch, BTU has you covered.
*As of October 2014. Provided by the Oregon Brewers Guild.
[a] 5846 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland
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