By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If, as Ben Franklin is said to have opined, beer is indeed proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then Astoria is well on its way to becoming a beer-lover’s paradise.
Case-in-point: Reach Break Brewing, the sixth brewery to set up shop in the North Oregon Coast town. Officially opened in February, Reach Break is rapidly proving one town can never have too much of a good thing.
Owned and operated by brothers and Coos Bay natives Josh and Jared Allison, Reach Break is a labor of love for a pair of avid homebrewers who made a leap of faith after circumstances gave them a nudge.
Josh Allison, with a background as a biologist, has been homebrewing “religiously” for over a decade. An injury made him look at new avenues and brewing professionally seemed a logical fit.
The term “Reach Break” is a reflection of his biology experience as it describes the exact location where two rivers or streams merge — a point where everything comes together.
Josh says it fit the brewery perfectly. “At Reach Break, we are bringing everything together in one location: hoppy, juicy IPAs, farmhouse-inspired saisons, big flavorful stouts and long-term sours,” he says.
Astoria is even located adjacent to a reach break, where the Youngs and Columbia Rivers merge.
Reach Break is also the confluence of the Allisons’ aspirations.
“Opening a brewery has always been a dream for my wife and I,” he says. “Me, because I absolutely love it. And she really wanted her kitchen, garage and shed back.”
Josh dove into learning about the business side of brewing, enrolling in the online Business of Craft Brewing program at Portland State University, which is geared toward people who brew at home and want to take things to the next level.
All the while, he was hoping to find a spot for a coastal brewery and spent time scouting out possible locations that would fit his needs, which included facilities for long-term barrel aging.
Jared, likewise a devoted homebrewer, honed his craft in Eugene with the “Brew of O” homebrew club, soon working his way into a job at Ninkasi Brewing and then several other commercial breweries.
“That really took his game to another level and he developed quite a resume,” Josh says.
The two connected while Josh was preparing to open Reach Break in Astoria and Jared was living in Tillamook. Jared came on board as an owner/operator.
The downtown Astoria location at 13th and Duane Streets originally housed the Lovell’s Used Car Center. The parking lot is where autos were showcased and the repairs took place inside where the brewery and taproom are now located. Later, the location played host to several other businesses, including a bicycle shop and various retail operations. Turning the building into a brewery was no small task.
“We had to do a lot of cleaning and work on the facility to get it ready for beer production,” Josh says.
That included the installation of a large walk-in cooler, running a glycol system for their tanks, upgrading the main water and natural gas lines, and general utility work, such as plumbing and electrical.
Now up and running, the cozy space features a taproom with a bar, couch and table seating. Reach Break has licensed the former parking lot for beer consumption outside when the weather improves this summer. Rather than having a commercial kitchen, Reach Break will rely on food trucks, which will be located just outside the taproom.
“We really wanted to focus on making the best beer possible and to allow somebody else to focus on making the best food possible,” Josh says.
Creating the best beer possible is already well underway. Several stouts were on tap during Stout Month in February, for example.
“We also are going to be producing a lot of hoppy, juicy, hazy IPAs. Jared has been developing some recipes for a while,” Josh says.
Those include Amoeba Session IPA and Evolution Of An IPA Part 1, both of which Josh says ran out much quicker than expected. As the name implies, The Evolution Series will be an ever-changing line of IPAs. “They will always have a similar genetic backbone, but we will tweak something every batch, like hops, malt, yeast, water,” explains Josh.
Mykiss and Citrus Mykiss, two saisons, have also been popular with customers and the brothers are looking forward to doing more variations.
“We also have mixed-culture beer fermenting and aging in oak barrels downstairs in our barrel cellar. We are opting for a longer-term fermentation process, so those beers should begin to make their debut in the future,” he says.
Reach Break has a 7-barrel system that came from Stout Tanks and Kettles in Portland. That includes an oversized mash tun and boil kettle, allowing the team to do some fun things with higher-gravity brews.
“All of our ‘clean beer’ — IPAs, stouts — that are fermented with domesticated brewer's yeast are kept upstairs in one of our four stainless fermenters,” Josh says. “Our mixed-culture beers that we ferment in oak are stored downstairs in our barrel cellar. We have a very unique facility that allows us the opportunity to do a lot of fun varieties that you wouldn't typically see in just one brewery.”
Reach Break is also planning to use unique ingredients that are sourced from smaller-scale farms. For example, Cradle to Grave Farms in South Dakota has been cultivating hops that Josh is eager to use.
“They are also experimenting and developing some new packaging processes and farming techniques that will directly translate to a better finished product. We are very excited to be working with them,” he says.
With the doors open, it’s time for Reach Break to dream big in the form of an expanded barrel program and fermentation capacity. However, perfecting their signature brews remains the No. 1 priority.
“We are blessed with a unique location where we are able to brew a lot of different styles of beer,” Josh says. “We always want to have a variety of styles and to make the best beer that we can possibly create. Ultimately, we will always focus on making great beer that we are proud to serve. That should be the primary goal of any brewery.”
Reach Break Brewing
1343 Duane St., Astoria
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.