By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
You might call it destiny.
Before they first met, both made ale in their home kitchens. Both longed for a brewery in Coos Bay. Both spent months crafting crude sculptures in a ceramics class at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
“He doesn't remember me from that," Annie Pollard told me amid light January rain outside her brewpub. “I was never gutsy enough to talk to him. I was afraid I'd get rejected."
Apparently, he didn't date much.
The year was 2003. Managing a Dutch Bros. Coffee shop, Carmen Matthews worked the grind — literally. Self-defined as “very picky," he’d been single for a while.
"I didn't know Annie was in that class because she was hidden from me," he said with a smirk. "She was a wallflower, and I was schmoozing with all the older ladies.”
By 2007, Pollard was a grad student, studying marine biology at the University of Oregon campus in Charleston, where Matthews lived, nine miles west of downtown Coos Bay.
"We'd cross paths, but he still didn't know who I was. I kept seeing him because he was in a band and he worked at Dutch Bros. and he volunteered everywhere. Finally, I told my friends that I had a crush."
A mutual friend threw a bash.
"We were all hanging out in a room," Matthews said. "Suddenly, everyone evacuated -- except Annie and I."
Pollard: "Our friends shut the doors on purpose and leaned on them so we couldn't get out."
"They were all in on the plan to get us together!" Matthews said, laughing. "Just lock 'em in a room ... But it worked! By the end of the party, we were on the couch, awkwardly making out like teenagers."
Within a year, they’d domesticated in Charleston. Next came the 7 Devils genesis and many odd jobs, including seasonal gigs in Alaska and Antarctica, where Pollard researched penguins — and from where, in February 2012, she flew to meet Matthews for their Kauai beach wedding.
They hadn't seen each other for 90 days.
"I'd fallen on ice and broken a tooth," Pollard said, chuckling at the memory. "I had Carmen bring me the dress and the jewelry. He planned the whole wedding — I just showed up! It was awesome."
Matthew's dad performed the ceremony, which was followed by barbecue and a classic Hawaiian sunset.
"It was super romantic," Matthews said, winking.
But today, four years on … how's the love going, guys?
"We have two relationships," Pollard said. "We're business partners, and we're life partners. If you let it, the business side will dominate — you've got to make sure that doesn't happen. In the first couple of years, the business side [of 7 Devils] was so all-consuming for us, and it was hard. But now that things are in place, our personal life is flourishing again. It's nice."
We three were chatting two days after the two brewers had returned from a well-deserved stint on the Big Island, where, mentally, 7 Devils did not exist.
"I barely knew that I owned a brewery," Matthews said. "We're good about 'turning it off' when we’re out of town.”
What about while in town?
“We'll be at home having dinner, or sitting next to the fire, and we end up talking about work,” he admitted. “That can be a little bit of a cloud over the evening. We don't want to talk about work all the time, so we have to be really conscientious about focusing on each other and our relationship and our hopes and dreams beyond the brewery."
They balance each other out, he assured.
“I'm a spender, Annie's a saver — you would think that would cause a lot of clashes, but we've met in the middle. And when Annie is stressed out, I know exactly why, and vice versa. It's easier to be sympathetic. There's more understanding because you know where your mate is coming from.”
“Not all business partners are good business partners," Pollard said, "but because we were excellent life partners, we had a good chance of being good business partners. If we can work with money together, travel together and sleep in a van together, we can run a brewery together."
"But the brewery isn’t our only baby," Matthews said, grinning.
The couple is due to birth a girl in July — 7 Devils' busiest month.
"I'm a little terrified about the timing," Pollard said. "And I won't get to take maternity leave."
"It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out," Matthews said. "We're really excited."
"Yeah," Pollard laughed. “We're gonna need a bassinet in the brewhouse."
7 Devils Brewing Co.
(a) 247 S. Second St., Coos Bay
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Love 'em or hate 'em, pumpkin beers are a fall staple that vary widely from pale, sessionable offerings to heavy, hearty brews. One of the best in Oregon falls in the latter camp and comes from 9-year-old Oakshire Brewing in Eugene. Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter gets a rating of 94 out of 100 on RateBeer, so while it might not be everyone's cup of tea there are plenty of people that enjoy the boldly flavored beer.
Oakshire's head brewer, Matt Van Wyk, brought the recipe for Big Black Jack with him when he started there six years ago. The first small batch was brewed the following year and started out as many specialty beers do — being a keg-only offering. Beer drinkers took to it quickly, however, and within a couple of years Oakshire began selling it in 22-ounce bottles as well.
The recipe has basically remained the same since Matt started making it, with only minor malt changes based on availability. He describes it as a hands-on beer due to the spices — nutmeg, dried ginger, whole cloves and cinnamon chips — that go into every batch. Similar in variety and amount to a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend, Matt's hand weighing ensures the beer comes out just the way he intended. After weighing, the spices are put into mesh bags, the equivalent of gigantic tea bags, which are then placed into buckets marked with the time each will be added to the boil. Just as "mise en place" allows a chef's process to flow smoothly, having the "tea bags" ready allows the Oakshire brewers a smoother brew day. Most brew days, the team is juggling three batches, transferring them from tank to tank, one after another. A delay with one batch could throw off the entire brew day. And even when Matt isn't leading the brewing, his process helps grease the wheels for the making of Big Black Jack.
In addition to the spices, each batch of beer gets solid dose of 70 percent dark chocolate and cacao nibs — 10 pounds of each. Unlike spices that might float to the top, these ingredients risk falling to the bottom and scorching the brew kettle. To avoid that problem, hot wort is poured over the chocolate and nibs in a separate bucket to create a sauce of sorts that’s then added to the boil. Lucky for the brewing staff, there’s always plenty of wort-chocolate to spare and Matt traditionally treats everyone to sundaes by bringing in ice cream the days the beer is brewed.
Pumpkin brews are often a point of contention for beer lovers because they tend to hit the shelves and taps before the pumpkins could realistically be harvested most years. But Oakshire plans ahead while using pumpkins from Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis. The team roasts, purees and freezes pumpkin every year, so the puree used in this year's batch of Big Black Jack actually came from last year's pumpkins. It's a method that eliminates the unpredictability of the growing season and allows the beer to be brewed in August, well before any local pumpkins could be harvested and processed, with the finished product reaching craft beer drinkers' lips in early September.
Being a spiced beer, Big Black Jack is one that is best when it’s fresh in order to experience the full spice profile. But the fact that it's also an imperial porter, coming in at 7.5 percent ABV, the beer can hold up to a bit of aging. Its flavor will change after a couple months, with the spice notes retreating, allowing the chocolate and roasty characteristics to become more assertive.
Knowing his beer was suitable for aging, Matt went one step further last year and aged part of the supply in two Heaven Hill bourbon whiskey barrels. A recent sampling confirmed that as it has aged, the spice notes have mellowed out — almost to the point of being absent. In their place is a rich, wood flavor from the barrels that complements the imperial porter. Fans of barrel-aged beers will likely have to visit Oakshire's Public House in Eugene for a sample, although it's possible that a keg or two may escape and surface at a special event in the Portland area.
Big Black Jack joins a host of other pumpkin beers from Oregon breweries with fall availability.
Oakshire’s Big Black Jack Imperial Pumpkin Porter is made using pumpkins from Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis. The squashes are actually roasted, pureed and then frozen the year before in order to eliminate the unpredictability of the growing season. The method also allows the beer to be brewed in August.
Oregon-Brewed Pumpkin Beers
7 Devils Brewing Co. | Winter is Coming Pumpkin Porter | 5.4% ABV | IBUs N/A
Agrarian Ales Brewing Company | Cucurbita | 4.5% ABV | 10 IBUs
Agrarian Ales Brewing Company | Von Tassel | 6% ABV | 15 IBUs
Breakside Brewery | Sweet Potato Mole Mild | 4.2% ABV | 10 IBUs
Burnside Brewing | The Dapper Skeleton | 5.9% ABV | 11 IBUs
Cascade Brewing | Pumpkin Smash Sour Ale | 11.9% ABV | <10 IBUs
Climate City Brewing | Galloping Hessian Pumpkin Ale | 4.5% ABV | 35 IBUs
Ex Novo Brewing Company | Pumpkin Biere de Garde | 8% ABV | 20 IBUs
Fearless Brewing | Smoked Pumpkin Ale | 8.35% ABV | 28 IBUs
Fort George Brewery | Squash Buckler | 6.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Great Notion Brewing | The Great Blumpkin Ale | ABV/IBUs N/A
Green Dragon Brew Crew | Bring Me Pie | 7% ABV | 25 IBUs
Griess Family Brews | PJ's Pumpkin Pie | 5.4% ABV | 13 IBUs
Ground Breaker Brewing | Squash Ale | 5.7% ABV | 30 IBUs
Hair of the Dog | Greg | 5.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Laurelwood Public House and Brewery | Laurelwood Pumpkin Ale | 7.5% ABV | 25 IBUs
Lompoc Brewing | Bibbidi Bobbidi Brew | 5% ABV | IBUs N/A
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery | Duskbringer | 6.06% ABV | 14 IBUs
McMenamins Kennedy School | Pumpkin Porter | 6.19% ABV | 12 IBUs
Misty Mountain Brewing | King Under the Pumpkin Russian Imperial Stout | 8.7% ABV | 40 IBUs
Oakshire Brewing | Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter | 7.5% ABV | IBUs N/A
Opposition Brewing Company | Nickabod Cranium | 6.4% ABV | 37.9 IBUs
pFriem Family Brewers | Pumpkin Bier | 6.9% ABV | 15 IBUs
Portland Brewing | Rico Sauvie Pumpkin Ale with Spices | 6.5% ABV | 30 IBUs
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery | Name TBD | 5.5% ABV | 25 IBUs
Rogue Ales | Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale | 6.1% ABV | 25 IBUs
Seven Brides Brewing | Heiser's Pumpkin Ale | 6.7% ABV | 15 IBUs
Silver Moon Brewing | Twisted Gourd | 6.8% ABV | 25 IBUs
Stickmen Brewing Company | Imperial Sour Pumpkin Lager | 9.8% ABV | 11 IBUs
StormBreaker Brewing | Pumpkin Peddler | 7.3% ABV | 13 IBUs
Three Mugs Brewing Company | "A Clever Pumpkin Name" Ale | 7.5% ABV | 35 IBUs
Vagabond Brewing | In Gourd We Trust | 5.1% ABV | 25 IBUs
Vertigo Brewing | We Don't Know Jack III | 6.3% ABV | IBUs N/A
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 Gail Oberst
A few blocks from Coos Bay’s boardwalk along Coos River, I am stopped in my tracks by a gigantic map of the bay area, spread across the front of a building that once housed an appliance and electrical repair shop. Warming themselves by the fire in front of 7 Devils Brewery are owners Carmen Matthews and Annie Pollard, who tell me the map shows the circa 1928 Coos Bay. Annie, a marine biologist, points to the places that have been filled or changed. It is a fitting introduction to the 30-something couple who met over a potter’s wheel, fell in love over a home-brewing kettle, and today own a popular brewery and taproom – Coos County’s only commercial brewery.
Like 7 Devils, clad in local décor I’m dubbing “eclectic coastal craftsman,” the couple represents a segment of Coos County society that defies the south coast stereotypes: They are energetic, well-heeled and cultured. The couple has invested their savings, family money and a substantial loan into re-outfitting the long-vacant shop into a working 7-barrel (soon to be 15) brewery with a taproom and restaurant that features local art and artists. Oriental rugs warm the floors. Original glass art drips from the ceilings, local paintings hang on the walls, ceramics decorate the tables, which are also handmade from local materials. If you order chowder, it will most likely be served in a bowl turned by Annie.
Almost all of the funds raised from the sale of 300 special pint glasses went to purchasing and creating local artwork hanging from the walls and ceilings at 7 Devils. The couple has apparently hit on something appealing to Coos Bay glitterati (Fishermen, professionals, newcomers and old-timers). The Wednesday night I visited, the tables were filled and a short line was waiting to be seated.
And the beer? Great, in my humble opinion. And, judging by the number of beers being slurped by patrons, I wasn’t the only fan. Musicians have showed up almost every night in February to entertain guests, Carmen said. “It’s made from coastal waters by coastal folks,” he said. Half of the brewery’s production is sold in house, the rest to Coos Bay/North Bend-area accounts. By press time, the company will be bottling (with a manual 4-head line) in 22s. Three of the 7 Devils labels -- a session, a pale ale and an IPA – will begin appearing in local stores and bottle shops.
The 7 Devils Brewery opened Oct. 30, 2013, and already the couple has made plans to expand the dining area. The pub food is an assortment of seasonal favorites and local fare. Clams from Coos Bay and locally-baked focaccia and pretzels are menu staples. A variety of seasonal greens and vegetables are supplied by local grower Valley Flora and its affiliates. Their poutine (an upscale version of cheese fries) features Face Rock cheese curds, from the Bandon creamery 20 miles south.
But their dedication to craft beer, local arts and seasonal food products is just the beginning: outside, under the giant 1920’s map, electric car charging stations sit next to the first “ocean-friendly beer garden,” according to Carmen. The City of Coos Bay assisted the company with a storm-water retention system that holds roof-water run-off from the brewery building, slowing its release into rain-swollen Coos River and decreasing flood pressure. Heavily insulated walls and windows, energy efficient fixtures and other energy-conserving methods are in place now. Solar panels are in the offing. In the summer, the outside gardens may house a local food cart and pizza oven.
The brewery’s success has created a whirlwind of responsibilities for the man who – just three years ago – was working for Dutch Bros—and the woman whose science work took her to Antarctica to study penguins three months of the year. Now, the company has 15 employees and a fan club of locals who depend on them to grow the business.
“Our customers are people who are interested in this community. We take that seriously,” said Carmen.
7 Devils Brewery
( a ) 247 S; Second St., Coos Bay
( p ) 541-808-3738
Owner/Brewers: Carmen Matthews, Annie Pollard
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.