By Michael H. Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“Horrific what could’ve happened here.”
James Smith — brewmaster, fly fisher, naturalist — nods at Hunter Creek, just 20 feet from us, flowing fast and rain-fat this cold, late-January Sunday. Ten minutes ago, in his tiny taproom, Smith topped our tulips with his Adipose IPA, an Arch Rock Brewing Company seasonal. Now outside, behind Smith’s brewhouse, we’re dodging rain, cramped in the gray light of his boiler room.
Smith is happy. Ten days earlier, U.S. Department of the Interior’s Janice Schneider signed a 20-year decree protecting Southwest Oregon sites threatened by strip mining — 101,000 public acres governed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
“This represents a tremendous grassroots victory,” Mark Sherwood, beer fan and executive director of Native Fish Society, later told me by phone. “It’ll safeguard water quality and habitats for more than a dozen wild salmon and steelhead populations. A huge step forward in terms of local river stewardship. We’re thrilled.”
Schneider’s pen reflected three years of core community activism to block industrial mining plans in the Rough and Ready Creek/Baldface Creek and Hunter Creek/North Fork Pistol River watersheds.
“This area is advertised as the Wild Rivers Coast, right?” Smith tells me, twirling an index finger. “Since the logging industry is not what it once was, we rely on tourism — Arch Rock does, along with most businesses here. Nobody really wants a British mining company to arrive, scalp our headwaters, make a bunch of money and leave.”
He’s referring to Red Flat Nickel Corporation, a subsidiary of St. Peter Port Capital in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, 5,000 miles from Curry and Josephine Counties, where the 101,000 acres lie.
“In 2013, my friend Dave Lacey heard of the proposed nickel mines and approached Arch Rock to locally start petitions and spread the word,” Smith says. “Our community was overwhelmingly against mining. You could just ask people if they swam in these rivers, if they fished in them and so forth. Also, here at the brewery, it’s imperative that I have clean water. Otherwise, I can’t make beer.”
The Adipose we’re drinking (James, may I have a refill?) has an additional tie to the area’s waterways.
“I’ve caught wild chinook and steelhead right here,” Smith says, pointing to the brambly, alder-lined banks. “The adipose fin means a lot to me because hatcheries clip them. That’s how you can tell if a fish is farmed or wild. With my IPA name, I try to bring awareness to wild fish, and I like to play around with the beer. It’s kind of wild in the sense that it’s my creativity.”
A half-mile west, Hunter Creek meets the Pacific, less than two miles from the mouth of the Rogue, a federal Wild and Scenic River. Before us is a small weedy lot poised to be Arch Rock’s tranquil beer garden, with views of wooded hills soundtracked by birdsong and the chattering creek. (Arch Rock is buying the adjacent property, too — expansion for fermenters, barrels and a pub.)
“We wondered how we could leverage beer-brewing toward helping save these watersheds,” Sherwood said during our phone call. “Unique water types all over the world have created great beers. Local water is vital. We thought we could form a community of breweries here willing to say how essential it is.”
Sherwood, Smith, Lacey and Smith River Alliance’s Sunny Bourdon launched the Wild Rivers, Wild Brews Coalition, including 16 breweries from Southwest Oregon. “It’s such a great fraternity of brewers,” Sherwood said. “They’re passionate about their environments and the beers they make. They get it.”
In 2015, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley plus Rep. Peter DeFazio and California Rep. Jared Huffman designed the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act, legislation to permanently protect the fragile watersheds, exempting them from the General Mining Act, a 145-year-old law giving ore mining priority over all other uses of federal land.
“Because the senators and congressmen knew their legislation wouldn’t pass in one year, and that there was an acute threat from strip mining,” Sherwood said, “with the support of the brewery coalition and city councils and elected officials, they were able to ask, on behalf of their constituents, that the USFS and BLM enact what’s called a temporary ‘mineral withdrawal,’ removing the watersheds from the 1872 Mining Act.”
Back on Hunter Creek with the tulip of Adipose IPA: “The way politics are,” Smith says, “it takes so long to get anything approved or disapproved, so these next 20 years serve as a buffer, giving us time to figure out how exactly these areas should be permanently protected without restricting access.”
In 2015 and 2016, the USFS and BLM held public hearings in Gold Beach, Brookings and Grants Pass. “Those hearings were packed,” Sherwood told me. “When James spoke about beer, he emphasized how critical clean water is — for not just Arch Rock, but for all breweries, and the beer industry is a big deal in Oregon.”
Out alongside Hunter Creek, the wind whips. Another cold front is pushing ashore. The sky sinks lower, darker. We watch hail pelt the roiling creek. Leaning against the open boiler room door, Smith continues.
“Throughout history,” he says, watching birds fly by, “people have rallied and things have gotten started in taverns and breweries. You don’t hear of people rallying at their local coffee shop, do you? People rally behind their local brewery. Beer truly brings us together.”
Arch Rock Brewing Co.
28779 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Gold Beach was named for the bonanza of gold found at the mouth of the Rogue River in the 1800s.
But now there’s a different source of gold in town. Arch Rock Brewing Company’s multiple gold medals have put a new sparkle in this scenic Southern Oregon coastal village. Since it opened three years ago, Arch Rock’s Gold Beach Lager has won prestigious gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and at the North American Beer Awards, as well as gold for its State of Jefferson Porter, also at the NABA. Additionally, the brewery was featured in a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled “Best Places for a Quickie,” referring to drinks, not the other kind.
Owners of the brewery, Larry and Marjie Brennan, and their production team, Kristen and James Smith, have filled the Brennan’s former cabinet shop with three 30-barrel fermenters, a 30-barrel brite tank, and a 15-barrel brewhouse. Since the unexpected accolades two years ago, brewer Smith said production has skyrocketed.
“People started taking us seriously,” Smith said. “Medals sure help to get your name out. The brewery is self-distributed for the most part in Southern Oregon, but also at a few bars and bottle shops in Portland. For the Cosmo-style “Quickie” experience, visit the brewery a mile or so off Highway 101, at 28779 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach. In a small alcove with a window to the brewery, visitors can taste what’s on tap. Growlers are also filled onsite.
For those who want to sip Arch Rock suds in the comfort of a country bar, Hunter Creek Bar & Grill next door carries Arch Rock’s lineup.
How did this wilderness shop become an award-winning brewery so quickly? Smith claims it is luck, but three-peats prove it is his talent.
Raised in a relatively liberal Utah Mormon family, James started homebrewing in 1999. He joined the ranks of Uinta Brewing’s crew and eventually began brewing for them. Everything changed in 2009, the year James met and fell in love with Kristen, a Grand Teton Brewing Company employee, at the Great American Beer Festival. He followed her to Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing, taking a job as a cellarman there. Within a few years, they started scouting out a small-town brewery they could run together.
At the same time, Larry and Marjie Brennan were looking for a better use of their cabinet shop space and had settled on a brewery. Together, the two couples hit gold -- medals, that is — within a year of opening.
“We’re both used to remote areas,” said Smith. “We wanted to be in a small town. This is perfect for us.” Kristen was born and raised in Michigan.
Today, the two couples run the business with help from a delivery driver. In 2014, Arch Rock sold 845 barrels. Last year, capacity expanded to 1,800 barrels.
Visitors to the brewery are welcome 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit their web page, archrockbrewingcompany.com or call 541-247-0555.
By Brian Yaeger
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the winter, Oregon gets fewer than nine hours of sunup. That’s a lot of darkness. Beer-wise, darkness is something our brewers do very well. Some of those stouts and porters get a big spotlight while others, pardon the expression, are generally left in the dark. There’s no arguing that Deschutes’ The Abyss is a world-class imperial stout or that Barley Brown’s Turmoil deserves to be the award-winning Cascadian Dark Ale that it is. But there are more than 200 breweries across Oregon. Some simply get less lip service; some stellar beers may be overlooked. So in honor of wintry dark ales, especially as imperial stouts get their major love-fest this Valentine’s Day at Fort George Brewery’s Festival of the Dark Arts, take a moment to try and seek out these other opaque and obscure onyx beauties.
Seaside’s eponymous brewery, Seaside Brewing Company gives the arcade and taffy-laden town what it really needed: a brewpub. Their imperial stout, Black Dynamite, lives up to its name in that it’s pitch black and explosively tasty. The beer with bourbon-soaked vanilla beans and cacao nibs (also getting the bourbon treatment) is a show-stopper from first chilled sip to last warmed drop that has the sweetness to not just pair with dessert but replace it, yet the bitterness and roastiness to enjoy snifter after snifter.
At the southern end of the coast in Brookings is Chetco Brewing Company. Michael Frederick and his wife Alex Carr-Frederick launched Chetco as a nanobrewery using their friend James Smith’s 1.5-barrel homebrewing system as their commercial setup. It’s how they make their super-small batch but mighty Block & Tackle. This stout achieves a unique viscosity after aging for six months, and the resulting notes of Baker’s chocolate achieve the right balance between a sweet and dry stout -- just ask the World Beer Cup judges who awarded it a silver medal.
Speaking of award-winning south coast breweries, the aforementioned James Smith is the brewer at Arch Rock Brewing Company in Gold Beach. Although he medaled at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for his lager, State of Jefferson Porter pours a chocolaty brown hinting at the deep chocolate flavor buried under the mocha aroma. Yes, there is a robust maltiness that suggests molasses and brown sugar, but it’s not syrupy on the tongue. The brew is rich from the roasted malts and holds up from first sip to last, then back to first.
In mid-Willamette Valley, two tiny breweries are making some of the most unique stouts in the state. Santiam Brewing is the passion project of nine buddies, only some of them homebrewers, who collectively formed the brewery and cozy tasting room in Salem. Pirate Stout is a rum-barrel aged “tropical export stout” (7.9% ABV) with a fudgy base of chocolate malt and de-bittered black malt that sails through the Bahamas in a dark rum barrel picking up a crew of toasted coconut flakes. Fans of Malibu Rum and Mounds bars are the obvious targets, but the allure of this rich, sweet, voluptuous stout is very easily enjoyed as the meal, not just dessert.
While farther down I-5 in brewery-happy Eugene, Viking is technically a brewery but I like to call it a braggotery since every brew they make has a large honey content. They make a bourbon-aged stout with Meadowfoam honey, which naturally tastes like toasted marshmallow giving it an overall s’more character. But they also make Winter Squash Porter featuring 150 pounds of delicata squash that is hand-roasted and given a honey backbone courtesy of turnip honey. The result is reminiscent of Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from their neighbors at Oakshire Brewing but bottles are even rarer to find.
One last pick from a brewery truly off the beaten path is the Chocolate Stout from Dragon’s Gate Brewery in Milton-Freewater near the northeastern corner of the state. Le Morte D’Arthur is a milk stout with cocoa nibs that was once described as a “Fudgsicle, but beer” and has developed a local cult following. Therefore, if you’re heading to this farm-based brewery near Washington’s wine country, bring a growler to share this decadent treat with friends.
Finally, even in Portland there are rare jewels to be treasured. Ex Novo Brewing Company is the most altruistic brewery, donating 100% of its profits to local charities -- but their new Moonstriker is still pure hedonism. This stout is a collaboration with Moonstruck Chocolates and debuted at the Holiday Ale Festival. It features nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and, of course, Moonstruck cocoa along with a fiery kiss of habanero. The result is a creamy, dreamy Mexican hot chocolate stout.
Clearly, the force is strong on the dark side of Oregon’s less-heralded brews.
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.
Oregon breweries in October claimed a total of 22 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, according to reports from the Brewers Association, which organizes the event in Denver each year.
Oregon Breweries brought home seven gold medals, eight silver medals and seven bronzes. As was the case last year, rural Oregon breweries won more medals than Portland metro brewers, who won seven medals. Breweries from Central Oregon won five medals, Eastern Oregon won four, coastal breweries won four, Columbia Gorge area breweries won one, as did Southern Oregon. About half of Oregon’s breweries are in the Portland area.
Winners were selected by an international panel of 222 beer experts from a field of 5,507 entries received from 1,309 U.S. breweries. For complete information, visit http://www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com/the-competition/winners.
Of interest, Brian Butenschoen of the Oregon Brewers Guild noted:
· Four breweries tied for most medals at the GABF, with three medals each. Two of these breweries were from Oregon: 10 Barrel Brewing Company and Barley Brown's Brew Pub.
· The gold medal winner in the most-entered category for the second year in a row in the American-Style India Pale Ale category with 279 entries went to Breakside Brewery.
· It was the second year for the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category and for the second year in a row the gold medal went to an Oregon brewery. This year it went to Barley Brown's Brewpub for Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA, which won the bronze medal in this category in 2013.
Also of note:
Carrying the south coast brewing banner was Arch Rock of Gold Beach, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this year with a prized GABF gold medal. James Smith is Arch Rock’s brewer. Earlier this year, tiny Chetco Brewery, a few miles south of Arch Rock in Brookings, earned a World Beer Cup gold medal as it celebrated its first-year anniversary. Apparently, south coast breweries know how to hit the ground running.
And the north coast is no slouch: Open less than a year, Astoria’s Buoy Beer Co. won silver for its Dunkel.
After name-changing trials at the beginning of the year, Ground Breaker Brewing of Portland took home the gold medal for gluten-free beer.
“Dark Ale was the first beer to feature a new recipe including roasted lentils in place of oats,” said James Neumeister of Ground Breaker.
Following, in order of gold, silver and bronze, are Oregon’s 2014 medal winners at this year’s GABF.
2014 GABF Medal Winners Made by Oregon Breweries:
Field Beer - Cucumber Crush, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
Fresh or Wet Hop Ale - Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
Indigenous/Regional Beer - Salmonberry Sour, Bend Brewing Co., Bend
Gluten-Free Beer - Dark Ale, Ground Breaker Brewing, Portland
Kellerbier or Zwickelbier - Gold Beach Lager, Arch Rock Brewing Co., Gold Beach
International-Style Pale Ale - Hand Truck Pale Ale, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style India Pale Ale - Breakside IPA, Breakside Brewery, Milwaukie
American-Style Wheat Beer With Yeast - Hefeweizen, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland
German-Style Wheat Ale - Weizenbock, 13 Virtues Brewing Co., Portland
American-Style Sour Ale - Myrtle, The Commons Brewery, Portland
American-Style Brett Beer - Peche ‘n Brett, Logsdon Organic Farm Brewery, Hood River
European-Style Dunkel -- Buoy Dunkel, Buoy Beer Co., Astoria
German-Style Kölsch - I’d Like to Buy the World a Kolsch, Old Town Brewing Co., Portland
Classic English-Style Pale Ale -- Caldera Ashland Amber, Caldera Brewing Co., Ashland
American-Style Stout -- Disorder, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style Strong Pale Ale -- Breakside Wanderlust IPA, Breakside Brewery, Milwaukie
American-Style Wheat Beer - Amber Waves, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
Belgian-Style Fruit Beer -- Poire du Pélican, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City
Indigenous/Regional Beer - Sage Fight IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend
English-Style Summer Ale - Surfer’s Summer Ale, Pelican Brewing Co., Tillamook
American-Style Black Ale - Turmoil, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
American-Style Stout - P2P, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.