By Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I really need exercise.
An early-December Tuesday. Raining. It’s been raining — hard. I've been sedentary since Friday. Need to sweat outside.
Afternoon arrives. A rift in the clouds. A window?
I like windows.
And so, from Brookings, I drive up along the north bank of the River Chetco, flowing fast and fat, wide acres of murky brown embossed with wispy-white rapids and swirling eddies, poked with driftwood beneath a sky of polished lead.
I stop at Loeb State Park. Its air speaks of moss and camphor. Its evergreens contrast with the deciduous hardwoods, wind-stripped of their summer grandeur — now pretty, pre-winter groundcover amid salal and salmonberry.
The Riverview and Redwood Nature trails are two gems that seem custom-built for jogging. They thread several streams tumbling loudly to the Chetco, 56 scenic miles of river born deep in the Kalmiopsis, a wilderness area in the Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon.
I jog the moist myrtle-to-redwood-to-myrtle loop. Later, back at the trailhead, I’m thirsty. And naturally so. The swollen Chetco is front-and-center. Indeed, some of that cold rainwater will become delicious beer that I and many others will drink in the months to come.
Five hours later, I'm warm and dry in Chetco Brewing Company's snug taproom, feeling fit with a pint of award-winning Block & Tackle Stout. The beer was made with Chetco water in a repurposed home garage mere yards from the river itself — 3 miles from where it empties into the Pacific, 2 miles from the intake station that draws fresh water for Brookings and Harbor.
With me are seven members of Chetco Running Club, launched in September 2015. (The brewery was founded in 2011.)
"Welcome to the clubhouse!" brewmaster Mike Frederick says merrily, clinking his glass against mine. A bearded, beatific human who also owns a massage practice, Frederick is thrilled to make tracks again.
"I used to do a LOT of running in Minnesota and down in Los Angeles, but I sort of stopped when we moved to Oregon. We were so busy with other things, and I kept thinking I didn't have enough time."
But the popularity of his beer made a taproom imminent. When a clean, 768-square-foot space surfaced in early 2015, Frederick and his wife Alex wasted no time. Now, a year later, it's more than a quaint bar with a long beer menu.
"We had always wanted to be deeply involved in our community," Frederick says after a sip of IPA. "Providing jobs, hosting local musicians, supporting charities — stuff like that. I'd looked at several breweries that did different types of community involvement, and a couple of them, like Nevada’s Great Basin, had a running club. I thought that was a fantastic idea.
“When we finally got the taproom going, we were more in touch directly with the community, so I said, 'Let's start a running club, because then I'll have to run!'"
Having weekly group runs in and around town, usually on Mondays evenings, the club has also participated in a couple of 10Ks, and there was the official Chetco Brewing 5K held during 2015's rainy Oktoberfest in the middle of Brookings. "It was so great to have our small town draw a high number of enthusiastic runners of all levels," runner/taproom beertender Loretta Alcala says.
"And some of them are brutally competitive," Frederick says with a wink.
Overall, he wants the club to evolve and be as welcoming as it possibly can. "Anybody — anybody — can join,” he says. “If you're 80 years old and can walk a block, you should be able to do this. People who want to run a marathon should be able to do this."
In the future, Chetco Running Club would like to flourish for trail excursions, half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, and to be a team in events like the Wild Rogue Relay and the Warrior Dash, a 5K obstacle course.
"We can make one of those," Frederick says.
"We could have an awesomely muddy event here," runner Diana VaVerka adds. "We get enough rain, right?"
VaVerka is the group’s newest recruit.
"Running is such a culture of its own, and it can take some sort of level of insanity to truly enjoy it," she continues. "It's really nice to meet people who can share that level of insanity, and it keeps you sane!"
"It gives us something to look forward to,” Alcala says. “It keeps us accountable. It's social. There are people around here who want to be active outside."
"Yup,” runner Jackie Knudsen says, “and if you find someone you can compete with, it helps you improve, because you're always better or worse than someone else.”
"What's the connection between beer and the whole group athletic effort?" I ask.
"It's our motivation to run!" runner April Smith jokes.
"Yeah — we run, and then we get to come here and drink," Alcala says, grinning with her pint of porter.
But isn’t that detrimental to our good health?
Table consensus: Nope.
Not at all.
"Beer is not an unhealthy thing," Frederick says with sincerity. "For example, silicon builds stronger bones, and the lupulin from hops helps to prevent cancer.
"But, bottom line, anything that can be used to bring people together for a positive cause? That's the best health benefit in all of this."
I look at the dark beer in my hand; I think of my earlier jog. Two pursuits of mind, of exercise, of satisfaction, of well-being. Two concepts of joy, two things widely loved. I am here because of them.
Frederick is right. Welcome to the Club.
Chetco Brewing Company
[a] 927 Chetco Ave., Brookings
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Chetco Brewing, a tiny brewery founded in Michael Frederick’s garage near Brookings, is making some big beers these days. In 2014, less than a year into production, Chetco won a silver medal for its Block and Tackle Stout in the World Beer Cup competition. That year, he produced 111 barrels.
His award-winning, American-style imperial stout is on tap at places in Brookings, Grants Pass, Portland and a few other towns. And as of May, the stout and other brews are on tap at Chetco Brewing’s new taproom.
Earlier this year, with a goal to opening a taproom in Brookings, Chetco raised over $15,700 to renovate a former Radio Shack space. The taproom is now open Friday through Monday, 3:30-9 p.m. at 927 Chetco Ave. in Brookings. The adults-only space has room for 49 and is outfitted with 10 taps. The brewery is also organizing the first Oktoberfest celebration in Brookings.
Frederick is expanding a 1 1/4-barrel system (“if you’re being generous”) to a new 7-barrel system and a new brite tank. He said he needs to increase production more to make a living. “My hourly wages don’t really pan out yet,” he laughed. “It’s inefficient at a small scale.”
The new taproom promises a production upscale.
Michael’s wife and partner Alex Carr-Frederick maintains her work in real estate sales while Michael continues to work as a masseuse and a yoga instructor. But the new taproom heralds more work at Chetco Brewing in the future.
Michael’s interest in brewing hails back to the 1980s. His brother-in-law was a homebrewer, and later, his wife bought him a brewing kit. “It blew my mind that you could make your own beer,” he said. He immediately began brewing all grain.
When the couple moved to Oregon, they planted a small garden and began using some of their own hops and berries in the brews.
When a friend left them a small inheritance, Michael began making plans for a commercial brewery, registering it in 2011. Family hardships and then the prolonged illness and death of their dear dog and “chief snuggler,” Hazel, bit into their windfall. “Life is what happens while you are planning something else, right?” said Michael. Two years ago, they finally licensed the brewery and are forging ahead with their dreams.
And speaking of dreams. Michael and Alex live and brew in one of the most scenic breweries I’ve ever seen -- perched on a cliff above one of Chetco River’s most popular fishing holes. If you’re lucky enough to be counted as “staff,” you might get to sit in the deck hot tub and watch the salmon and steelhead twitch at the end of a lucky angler’s line. With a stout in hand, the sun setting in the Pacific a few miles west, what could be better? Watching the fishermen cast into the river below me while Michael filled a growler, it dawned on me where the inspiration came from for Block and Tackle Stout’s name.
Visit Chetco Brewing’s website at www.chetcobrew.com. The website’s “On Tap” button tells you where you may find the beers in Oregon.
Chetco Brewing Company
[a] 927 Chetco Ave., Brookings
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.