By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The names of 14 beers are scrawled in chalk across two blackboards hanging over the taps at the newly opened Running Dogs Brewery in St. Helens. And after a particularly busy weekend in mid-December, the Claytons were down to just one of their own. A smoked hefeweizen was the sole survivor of an onslaught of eager drinkers looking to try what the locals made. In a way, it was a good problem. But Jaron Clayton knew he needed to get back in the brewhouse — a challenging task to schedule while trying to launch the business and working in another profession all at the same time.
“The one thing I definitely didn’t want was to be that one brewery where you go in and there’s only one beer of their own and all these other guest taps,” Jaron said. “And I quickly found out how hard that was to do, especially when you have another job.”
But Jaron is now a full-time brewer — about a year earlier than he anticipated — after the first two months of sales proved to be strong, allowing him to leave his position as a licensed administrator for a skilled nursing facility in St. Helens. It’s not often you celebrate a retirement while kicking off a new career, but that’s exactly what happened to Jaron with a party celebrating both occasions Dec. 22 at the taproom. Since opening the last week of October, the changes have come quickly. The business seems to be accelerating faster than the Claytons’ Hungarian Vizslas, part of the inspiration for the brewery’s name, set loose in a dog park.
When applying for an Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau license in 2016, Jaron planned on distributing his beer, but not opening a venue where customers could actually hang out and drink. Maybe in the distant future there’d be time and money to grow. However, the plan was a slow approach at the beginning. Running Dogs would’ve been more like a hobby that brought in some money rather than an occupation. But it was actually Jaron’s wife who suggested they go big.
“I came home one day and Maggie said, ‘Let’s open a taproom,’” Jaron explained. The announcement hit him like a kid being told they were getting a Disneyland vacation. “I said, ‘You serious?! ‘Cause I always wanted to!’”
From there, they started the search for a location, which resulted in the discovery of a vacant storefront once home to a cafe/bakery in an old two-story brick building across from the county courthouse. Once again, though, a deliberate pace was hastened. While applying for loans following months of fine-tuning a plan with the assistance of the Small Business Association, Maggie got word that they weren’t the only ones eyeing that property. A friend who works for the City tipped her off that another party was going to make a move on it.
“I remember it quite clearly,” Maggie said. “I was on the way to the gym and got a phone call. I pulled into the gym and turned right back around and I went straight to Jaron’s work. I’m like, we need to get this done now.”
So Jaron scrapped his plans for the loan, immediately secured a personal line of credit and got the landlord on the phone that very day.
“We put in the notice right before the other people did,” Maggie said.
“And so we got it,” added Jaron.
Almost as soon as the lease was signed, news got around town that a brewery was in the works and anticipation began to build. It’s easy to forget that there are pockets around Portland that look nothing like Beervana. On the drive along Highway 30 to St. Helens, a billboard for Miller beer juts conspicuously into the sky. Sure, you can find a Widmer Hefe pretty easily in Columbia County, but not much more when it comes to craft. Based on the Claytons’ descriptions, many bars in those parts are about 20 years behind with Bud and Coors dominating menus and only a sliver of space for something like a Drop Top — if you’re lucky. Moreover, the only beer producer around, Columbia County Brewing, closed in 2017 due to the owner’s terminal health diagnosis. St. Helens was ready for Running Dogs and hopeful it would actually open.
“So people saw that we were coming in and were like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ They didn’t believe it,” Jaron described. “How many times have we heard that you guys could single-handedly change St. Helens into what it should be? Especially this downtown area.”
But the community wasn’t going to leave it to the Claytons and simply wait. People scrambled to help and that’s how Running Dogs became a brewery built by its village. For instance, a contractor just happened to be walking by the taproom and popped in to offer his labor for the bar. Maggie’s walking/running group called Sole Sisters gave the interior a fresh coat of paint. And a high school student built every single wood-topped table for a senior project. Even the folks behind the counter, besides the couple, are pouring pints and delivering food as volunteers — and some of them don’t even like beer. They do it to support the Claytons and what their taproom provides for the town. Even the original artist who created a mural of St. Helens along one wall returned to paint several dogs throughout the setting to better match the brewery’s theme. There’s now a sign challenging customers to find them all in a giant, Fido-themed take on “Where’s Waldo?”
For only being open a couple of months, Maggie has organized a slew of events — from cookie decorating to ugly sweater crafting. During a normal day, you’re likely to see people huddled over a high-stakes game of Monopoly or celebrating when they’re the first to Connect 4. There are games spilling out of a shelf near the front window thanks, in large part, to donations. Maggie put out a call for them one day on Facebook and the response was surprising.
“Before we knew it, people were bringing in board games like crazy,” Jaron said. “That’s become a thing in and of itself. People come here with their families, get off their phones, disconnect and play board games. There’s been times where every table is full of families playing and interacting.”
Games aren’t the only draw, of course. There’s a reason the taproom was almost out of Running Dogs beer in December. Jaron was looking forward to putting his 1-barrel garage-based system back to work to resupply. There will be an ever-changing lineup of classic styles with a twist like his kolsch that incorporated local blackberries and blueberries. Don’t expect a flagship since the couple likes to experiment with flavors.
Jaron’s introduction to brewing began as many do: with a well-intentioned gift of a Mr. Beer Kit that never results in anything you’d actually want to drink. But his motivation to continue to brew with proper equipment is different than most. The hobby found him at just the right time — Jaron had returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq. Readjusting to civilian life while grappling with what was eventually diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder took a toll. But the hands-on task of learning to make beer helped him cope.
“I was in a funk. I was kind of depressed when I first got back home. And I didn’t really leave the house much. It was a bad place to be, mentally. And so our dog at the time helped because he was my comfort. But brewing gave me something physically to do,” Jaron said. “It was also something to keep my mind off of the struggle from being back home.”
Maggie also started brewing and, as the lone female competitor, recently won a homebrewing contest held by the St. Helens Booster Club. The two collaborate on recipes now for Running Dogs, but their approaches to the process couldn’t be any more different. Maggie is meticulous and well-researched while Jaron’s the kitchen sink-type of brewer.
“A lot like my cooking,” he explained. “I’ll throw in whatever and see if it works out.”
At that point, Maggie shook her head.
“We’re so opposite,” she said. “With his style, if it doesn’t work out, it REALLY doesn’t work out. But if it works out, it’s amazing!”
They’ve learned to combine their styles, with Maggie often acting as recipe writer and Jaron as the brew-tinkerer. Seven years of marriage has helped prepare the two to tackle the challenges that will come with the business, whether that’s a tossing bad batch or upgrading to a bigger brewhouse.
“I always reference the time I was in Iraq. I was there for a year. And that was probably the hardest time for our relationship. We were brand new and we worked through all of the initial struggles any relationship would have, but with great distance,” Jaron said. “And so we’ve obviously grown in the seven years together, grown as adults in a relationship and figured out that communication really well. With the business, it’s no different.”
Now they’re just getting used to their new roles.
“It still hasn’t fully hit me,” Jaron explained. “I mean, she’ll come home some days and say, ‘Jaron, we have a brewery. We actually have our own brewery.’ I’m like, ‘I know! What the heck?!’”
Running Dogs Brewery
291 S. First St., St. Helens
By the Brewers Association
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With more big labels snapping up smaller craft beer producers, the Brewers Association is making a move to help educate beer lovers about the origins of their beloved beverage. The not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers launched a new seal in July that’s meant to single out those businesses.
Featuring an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down, the seal captures the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer while informing beer lovers they are choosing a product from a brewery that is independently owned. These breweries run their businesses free of influence from other alcohol beverage companies that are not themselves craft brewers.
Independence is a hallmark of the craft brewing industry, and it matters to the brewers who make the beer and the beer lovers who drink it. A recent study commissioned by Brewbound and conducted by Nielsen found that “independent” and “independently owned” strongly resonated with the majority (81 percent) of craft beer drinkers. Increasingly, they are looking for differentiation between what’s being produced by small and independent craft brewers versus Big Beer and acquired brands. Beer drinkers, especially millennials, expect transparency when it comes to their food and beverages. That transparency and underlying ownership can drive their purchase intent.
“Independent craft brewers continue to turn the beer industry on its head by putting community over corporation and beer before the bottom line. They continue to better beer and our country by going beyond just making the beverage. These small businesses give back to their backyard communities and support thousands of cities and towns across the U.S.,” said Bob Pease, president & CEO, Brewers Association. “As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent. Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity — now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent.”
The seal is available for use, free of charge, by any of the more than 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers that have a valid Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Brewer’s Notice, meet the BA’s craft brewer definition and sign a license agreement. It is available to both member and non-member breweries of the BA. In the coming weeks, months and years, beer lovers will see it on beer packaging, at retailers and in brewery communications and marketing materials.
“Craft brewers build communities and the spirit of independent ownership matters” said Rob Tod, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors and founder of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. “When beer lovers buy independent craft beer, they are supporting American entrepreneurs and the risk takers who have long strived not just to be innovative and make truly great beer, but to also build culture and community in the process.”
While small and independent craft brewers represent 99 percent of the 5,300-plus breweries in the U.S., they make just 12 percent of the beer sold in the country. The rest of U.S. beer sales come from Big Beer along with imported brands. As large brewers continue to have unprecedented influence and acquire millions of barrels of formerly independently brewed beer, the seal differentiates in a crowded and increasingly competitive marketplace.
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
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s happened to just about anyone who homebrews: that 5-gallon batch came out a little short of its expected bottle yield. But for Paul Singleton and Lyle Hruda of Roseburg, batch after batch kept coming up about two bottles shy of two cases. The neighbors began homebrewing together in 2009 and in 2010 they decided to start pursuing a commercial brewery. That “two shy” label stuck with them throughout setting up a website, securing a location and doing their Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau paperwork. Licensed since 2012, Two-Shy Brewing is now a growing brewery in the Umpqua Valley city of 22,000.
“Everyone asks about the name,” says Singleton. “There’s a little self-deprecation in there, but then again, our tagline on our T-shirts is ‘not so shy.’”
The economic downturn got both men thinking of different ways they could be in business. “Every batch we brewed — we had a couple of loser batches — but the overwhelming feedback we got from friends and family for our beers was so positive, that we decided maybe we wanted to head in the direction of opening a brewery,” explains Singleton.
His parents were born and raised in Roseburg, and his family goes back six generations to the days of the Oregon Trail. Now 46, Singleton grew up in California but returned to Roseburg at 16. Hruda, 39, grew up in California, went to tech school in Arizona, and has lived in Seattle, Portland and Eugene. His professional background includes equipment maintenance for breweries such as Widmer Brothers Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing Company and Oakshire Brewing. He married and moved to Roseburg in 2009.
Together he and Hruda “bootstrapped” Two-Shy, incrementally expanding the brewery as time and capital allowed. During its lead-up to licensure, Two-Shy kept brewing, developing recipes and used events such as weddings and downtown wine walks to do “some real grassroots marketing, giving away beer all over the place,” says Singleton. “By the time we were really setting up, people had some recognition.”
Once licensed and officially able to open their doors — and taps — to the public, Two-Shy began opening for growler fills, says Singleton. “A few months later, we started having open hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Over time, we’ve built out and grown the taproom to be a pretty nice setup.” Currently, the co-founders keep the brewery as a side project, balanced with careers and families.
Inaugural beers such as Influence IPA, Dead-On Amber, Phat Odd Stout, Toby's Best English Session Ale and Reformation Red are still in production. Summer releases will include Everything Is Awesome (summer session rye ale), Ignition Double IPA, Island Hop Red and Permission Pale (featuring Mosaic hops). They’ll also bring out Oregon Rebel Stout, their first barrel-aged beer, which comes in at 11% ABV and exhibits “notable bourbon notes” from barrels sourced from Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend.
Being in a smaller urban area, Singleton and Hruda also realized it would help to have an introductory beer for people branching out from mass-market American lagers. Singleton calls Ignition IPA “unsettlingly drinkable,” and made for people who are new to craft beer.
Hruda manages mechanical operations and equipment build-outs. Singleton focuses on sales and marketing, including social media, graphic design and self-distributed beer deliveries to local accounts. “We shared and continue to share the brewmaster title,” says Singleton. “We all do recipe development and we are the brewers.”
Two-Shy currently uses a 3-barrel fermenter and a 7-barrel fermenter, giving some flexibility for brite tank space and brewing single or double batches. With 200 barrels in 2015 and 300 barrels estimated for 2016, Two-Shy plans to scale up production to 2,400 barrels a year within the next three years.
In addition to two taproom employees, Lyle’s wife Danielle manages the taproom and helps organize private events. Jason Mecham has also come on board as “our production guy, and he has been brewing with and for us for several months,” says Singleton. “He does cellar work, brewing and kegging. He's a great guy with a lot of mechanical and fabrication background, and he's sharp.”
Located a few minutes north of downtown, Two-Shy’s production brewery and tasting room opened a new outdoor area last summer and opened up more indoor seating space after a brewery expansion into the rear section of their building. In lieu of having an in-house kitchen, Two-Shy welcomes local food trucks to the property. The tasting room hosts live music, and Two-Shy supports other local functions and events based in the arts. During Roseburg Beer Week+ in May, Two-Shy unveiled its first pilsner, Ella, which is named for Hruda’s daughter and based on a recipe they enjoyed from their homebrew days.
Currently, Two-Shy focuses on taproom and dock sales, along with limited accounts in the local area. “Our taproom is pretty busy now, so we actually had to scale back distribution because we needed the beer in-house,” says Singleton. “It’s been essential to maintain taproom volume.” Two-Shy beers can also be found in Grants Pass, Bend, Eugene, Salem and Portland.
Through events such as Roseburg Beer Week+, breweries and the public are also doing more to raise the profile of local craft beer. “It’s a close-knit community. Being a timber town, we really hadn’t had anything defining us, in terms of a product or industry, since the timber industry,” explains Singleton. “Wine has helped Roseburg show up pretty well in food and drink culture, but beer is really putting us on the map.”
[a] 1380 NW Park St., Roseburg
[h] Thursdays 5–8 p.m., Fridays 4–8 p.m., Saturdays 2–8 p.m.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Bryce Morrow was sliding easily into his brewery project.
In five years he, his father and father-in-law went from stovetop brewers to having the first legal brewery in a home garage in Oregon.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau smiled benevolently on what Bryce was doing. His luck continued when, one day while the garage door was open, a dog-walking neighbor happened by and caught a whiff of brewing beer. The neighbor owns a barbecue joint and offered to carry some of Bryce’s beer.
Soon, Bryce and his father Craig -- both Oregon City boys — went shopping for a brewery location. They found it in an old auto showroom at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets.
While father-in-law Rajiam Pursifull was experimenting with brews -- a marionberry beer, a chocolate pale ale, a sour and, of course, the Oregon-requisite IPA — Bryce and Craig outfitted their new space for a 3-barrel brewing system and taproom. Oregon City Brewing Company opened Nov. 15, 2014.
On a concrete pad outside the taproom, below a tricky sign that seems, at first glance, to promise FREE BEER*, Bryce invited a rotating roster of food trucks to park and dish up. “People loved it,” Bryce and Craig agree. “We contacted the best food trucks that we liked in Portland. They did really well and the people, all of our customers, really love it.” Bryce wants the food for another reason. The OLCC allows parents to bring in underage children when the food trucks are on site and Bryce believes family business is key to success.
But then came the first bump in Bryce’s plans. He received a couple of cease-and-desist letters from Oregon City officials and found out why there aren’t any food trucks in Oregon City. A few years back, the city banned them from downtown.
The city will allow food trucks on the old Blue Heron mill site on the Willamette River if it is developed as is hoped. Also, the community development director has said he thinks city ordinances can be revamped to allow trucks elsewhere, but things are moving slowly. Bryce says he understands. “They’re busy and they’ve got a lot of things going. I don’t expect them to drop everything else they’re doing and take up this initiative.”
This is where good business and politics come together. Besides beer, Bryce also sells shoes. He is the CEO and co-founder of Solestruck, an online shoe company with just one brick-and-mortar store in Portland’s Pearl District. With a history, then, of giving people what they want, Bryce decided to ask Oregon City what it wants. He says an informal survey in the taproom garnered about 2,500 pro-food truck signatures in three weeks. Of course, some of the great political movements in history have begun over a beer or two and since Oregonians love to vote on things, the successful survey convinced Bryce: “We’re going to pursue putting it on the ballot in November, so it would be a voter initiative.”
Getting products, beer or shoes, to customers is what drives Bryce. After being open for just over six months, he says, “We’re going to eventually increase our capacity and we’ll upgrade our warehouse. But we want to make sure when we do that it is the right thing for us.”
Ahead of that, the brewery will soon be offering Crowlers. Bryce, smiling like a kid with a new toy, says “We have something unique coming that I’ve just ordered from Oskar Blues (a Colorado brewery), a Crowler system.” It uses a special machine to draft fill and seal a 32-ounce can in about two seconds. It keeps the beer fresh until you pull the tab and pour it out.
The Oregon City Brewing Company taproom offers more than OCB beer. Hop on a stool at the bar, look above the turntable and the shelves of vinyl records and you’ll see four big LCD screens. They are digital menus announcing 44 selections from other breweries, cider makers, wineries and even some root beer. All of it is aimed at helping people meet and fall in love with the best beer.
*And about that sign at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets -- it does say “FREE BEER” in large letters, but look closely. In smaller letters you’ll see the word “Wi-Fi” below “FREE” and the word “Great” above “BEER.”
Oregon City Brewing
[a] 1401 Washington St., Oregon City
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.