By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Jammie Taylor, Tim Schaaf and Emerson Lenon are posing for a picture in an empty 5,700-square-foot warehouse. On the wall behind them, and brewery dog Kava, there is a splash of blackboard paint. Faintly written there, but unseen in the photo, is what the trio hopes will fill this space (and realize their dreams): beer.
“What Tim said the other night,” Jammie remembers, “was really good. I just want people to taste my beer. Successful is people knowing your beer is good.”
As does beer, this dream began in hot water. Emerson and Tim were sitting in a natural hot springs one night drinking good beer with some friends. “We thought we should try to make something like this. We got a little kit and started making beer.” Emerson boasts “people drank it faster that we could make it. Tim talked about making as much as we possibly could and it never was enough. That gave us the courage to take the risk.”
This trio is used to taking chances, together and separately. Emerson and Tim met as undergraduates at Lewis and Clark College. Emerson had moved to Portland from Montana and Tim from Michigan. Tim stayed in Portland, graduated and became a printer. Emerson moved south, earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Jammie is an Air Force brat born in Germany and raised in several states and three countries. She had graduated college and was living in Hawaii when she met Emerson. The pairing stuck and they moved back to Montana. The trio re-formed when Emerson got into Lewis and Clark law school. He is a practicing attorney and Jammie has a master’s degree and is a school counselor.
Why sidestep careers and dive into beer? “Why not?” Jammie asks. “We’re young. We’ve limited our risk. We have a series of investors who’ve only put in the money that they are able to afford. So it’s not like anyone’s going bankrupt if it doesn’t work. And if it does work, how amazing would it be to be brewers? I think it is that American Dream.”
For a better chance at success, Emerson says, they went to bartenders to find out what people are drinking. “In this market, IPAs dominate.” But there have been some taste shifts. “People want lighter beers, pilsners, kölsch-style ale, traditional saisons that are lower in alcohol content.”
It is those beers Tim has been studying. His IPA will be “bright, bold — with big hop punch and a smooth citrusy finish.” The saison aims for a lighter body and the kölsch will be a “lower ABV ale with a light body and a dry finish.”
While Tim tweaked his recipes, Emerson did what lawyers do — looked for ways to insure a solid shot at success. “My dad owned his own business and I kind of learned from him some of the pitfalls, the ins and outs, and that kind of gave us a leg up in the beginning. One of the people who invested in the company has been involved in startups. He had a lot of good feedback as well.” He says he also learned by reading the blogs of other new breweries and by seeking advice from state and federal regulators.
The empty warehouse off Highway 212 in Clackamas County, with “beer” written in chalk on the wall, already has power and water. Gas hookups are coming, as are two 15-barrel fermenters and a 15-barrel bright tank. The first beer out of those tanks could be coming to those taps within a 15-mile radius of the Drinking Horse brewery this spring and the Horse’s own taproom.
As you sip one of these new beers you might ask, “Why the name Drinking Horse, Emerson?” “Well, it’s kind of evocative of our Western roots -- of the watering hole, of stopping on your trip of whatever journey you’re on.” And wouldn’t it be good for business if some of those trips were being made by the folks working in the warehouses straddling Highway 212 in that part of the county? “There are a lot of people here,” Emerson points out. And Jammie adds, “That’d be great to have regulars.”
Drinking Horse Brewing Company
[a] 11517 SE Highway 212, Clackamas
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.