By Gail Oberst
It’s no secret that a new brewery is popping up in Oregon every few days. Some of those breweries are expanding from already-established beer-related businesses.
Like their clients, the owners of homebrew stores, bottle shops, and restaurants aim to tap into Oregon’s passion for craft brews by opening brewing operations on site.
Among the first to make the leap from homebrew shop to brewery was Falling Sky, in Eugene. Jason Carriere bought the failing Willamette Street Homebrew Shop in 2002, changing it to Valley Vitner and doubling its size at its new location on 13th Avenue. In 2005, employees Scott Sieber and Mark Zarkesh proposed adding a brewery and pub in the warehouse behind the homebrew shop, and the seed was sown. “I agreed to pitch my lot in with them and help work on the plan,” said Carriere. A few years later, Rob Cohen, a former Ithaca, N.Y., restaurateur joined the business and created, what is now, the Falling Sky brand. The homebrew shop was renamed Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop. An additional deli and taphouse opened in last year in the Whiteaker district. The Pour House & Delicatessen is on Blair Street.
Portland U-Brew has been a homebrew shop since 2010 with quality brewing equipment available for use by the brewing public. Owner Jason (Jay) Webb had a 20-year history of brewing in the Northwest, so it was no accident that the homebrew shop had an attached brewery and pub. “From day one we began serving what was brewed here. Our business model always included drinking beer as well as making it and selling supplies for it,” Webb said. Dozens of people each week attend workshops and make their own beer on Portland U-Brew’s equipment. Recently, Portland U-Brew has added a new dimension: contract brewing. The company has added three new 55-gallon fermenters with an aim to brew beer for hotels or restaurants wanting to feature their own label or recipe. When I visited the shop, Jay was working on a special brew that would be served at a Portland wedding, with a recipe developed to the bride and groom’s tastes. To accommodate their growing business, Portland U-Brew improvements have included digitally-monitored electronics that control temperatures, designed by Cliff Webb, Jay’s dad to maintain control of the brews in the special rooms for fermenting lagers or ales.
In Hillsboro, Brew Brothers’ partner Chris Jennings leans on his new bar and talks about his brewery, Three Mugs, attached to the back of the family’s homebrew shop.
“A brewery was always in the master plan,” said Chris. “We started the homebrew shop because we were already buying grain for our own brews.”
The long-time home-brewers father and son Chris and Jay Jennings began selling extra supplies to friends and then in 2010 opened a homebrew shop that was supposed to transition quickly to a brewery and taphouse. But the shop’s business grew and expanded into another building, delaying the brewery. But the wait is over. Today, Three Mugs is on tap in the bar, where guests can get beer from the brewery at six of the 19 taps. The other taps are for guest beers and rotating beers, mostly from the Northwest. The new taproom also has a walk-in cooler, where kegs and corny kegs from Three Mugs and other breweries can be purchased.
As if the current expansion is not enough, Chris said he hopes to expand to a 10-barrel system and add food service within a year. Already, the family is looking for an additional location.
About 9 miles southeast of Brew Brothers on the edge of Beaverton is Uptown Market, in a building that until 2011 had housed a 7-Eleven store. AJ Shepard, his brother Chris, and their partner Stuart Faris upscaled the store to feature a bottle shop and tap house, with homebrew supplies and classes. In November, the store expanded to 18 taps to meet neighborhood demands for craft beer. This year, the company hired brewer Jason Rowley, a young gun with a long homebrew history who had worked for a time with Two Kilts Brewery in Sherwood. Uptown bought a used system and began practicing on it in November last year. They offered first tastes from the 7-barrel system at the Zwicklemania tour in February.
The company had brewed an Irish dry stout, an imperial red ale, an ESB and a U.S. session ale. In the future, Uptown Market Brewery’s partners plan to expand the brewery area to accommodate a larger fermenter and add more Uptown beers to their taps. Most of the beer is designated to be sold on site, either from the taps or by kegs, but who knows what the future holds, AJ Shepard said.
“The market will direct us. I’m just excited to see what happens,” he said.
Across the Cascades to Bend, where new breweries are as thick as rattlesnakes, The Brew Shop in Bend opened in 2011 in a former church on busy Third Street, AKA Highway 97. In addition to homebrew supplies, the shop has an extensive bottle collection, offering more than 600 beers. The downstairs floor of the building features Platypus Pub, a taphouse and a popular restaurant, home of tastings, live music and beer events every week. Recently, the pub began featuring a few of its own beers, brewed offsite. It brewed its first beer in September last year. In February, it released its second beer, the Platypus Pub Flat Tail Pale Ale, available on tap.
In Roseburg, Dogbarrel Homebrew Shop opened in January last year, but its owners immediately began making preparations for a brewery and tasting room, attached to the shop near the busy intersection of Roseburg’s Stephens Street and Garden Valley Boulevard. Thomas Anderson and his brother, Russ, are starting out with a 1.5-barrel pilot system before expanding to a 7.5-barrel system once recipes are perfected. There have been a few delays, but the brothers are intent on opening the brewery later this year.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.