By Michael H. Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“Bandon? Ain’t no brewery in Bandon!”
Leaning against the yellow cedar bar he made, sipping a pint of ale he made, Jonathan Hawkins laughed at the memory — a quip he heard at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival — one month after Hawkins first brought his Portland Kettle Works 5-barrel Hopmaster online.
“It’s a great little system,” he told me, gesturing at the shiny steel tanks behind him. “A Cadillac for its size.”
A lifelong beer lover, Hawkins, 43, spent much of his time between Gold Beach and Lake Quinault, Wash., where his mom ran a resort. In April 2013 he moved to the quaint seaside village of Bandon “chasing Nicole,” his wife and business partner who he originally knew from high school. Years later, they were reacquainted at a mutual friend’s party in Portland.
With his background in professional construction, Hawkins launched his own business. In 2015, he and his wife purchased the historic 9,500-square-foot McNair Building as a new home for Bandon Vision Center (Nicole has been a local optometrist for 13 years) that briefly shared walls with the pizzeria Hawkins ended up buying. In September 2016, his construction company started work on vision center on one side, brewery/pizzeria on the other.
“I told Nicole that if I was going to take on a restaurant and do pizzas, I wasn’t going to do conveyer pizzas. I was going to do wood-fired pizzas and I was going to make beer. She was gracious enough to agree with that, and away we went.”
His first taste of hands-on commercial brewing occurred via weekly trips to Labrewatory, run by Portland Kettle Works in Portland, where he tested and refined recipes before hopping headfirst into Oregon’s coastal craft beer scene. “It’s been a phenomenal experience,” he said. “Brewing has been the most collaborative industry I’ve been a part of. So many people have been encouraging and supportive, showing me their operations, offering advice and suggestions.”
Bandon Brewing’s grand opening was Sept. 8, which coincided with the 71st annual Bandon Cranberry Festival. The reception was “fantastic,” Hawkins said. “I feel fortunate I got to be the one to do this here. Residents and visitors have really embraced us.”
Near the mouth of the Coquille River, at the entrance to Old Town Bandon, near the nautical-themed we hope you are enjoying bandon sign arcing over the road, the cedar-shaked McNair Building was originally a hardware store. In recent years it was managed by Bill McNair of Gold Beach. “We called Bill and asked him if he’d be interested in talking about a sale,” Hawkins said. “Nicole and I met him at Redfish [a restaurant in Port Orford] with the intent of just discussing some possibilities, but three-and-a-half hours later, we walked out of there with an agreement. We wrote out the terms and everything right there in Redfish. It happened fast. Totally unexpected.”
On being one of the Oregon Coast’s newer breweries amid the nation’s craft beer boom, he viewed the building’s current ambiance as a natural progression. “There used to be churches and taverns,” he said, “and they competed and tried to put each other out of business, basically. You had the diabolically opposed on each side, and taverns kind of opened that space up. I call [brewpubs] the new churches, places where people from all walks of life can get together and discuss ideas, art, jokes — whatever. It’s a great environment. And I don’t know of a single town I visit where I’m thinking, ‘Damn, there are just too many breweries.’”
So far, Hawkins has made instant classics like One-Eyed Jacque IPA (named for his one-eyed schnauzer), Pacific Puffin Porter, Camp 7 Coffee Porter and Rogue River Red. From this year’s harvest, he has plans for a cranberry saison, a tribute to Bandon’s large cranberry industry. Ultimately, Hawkins aims to offer nine taps of in-house beer, plus five for guests. “Having guest taps is awesome camaraderie,” he said. “I’m not asking anybody else to carry my beers, but I’ll always be happy to carry other beers from Southern Oregon.”
To help with brewing and imminent expansion, Hawkins has hired James Petti, who, after five years at Karl Strauss Brewing Company in San Diego, launched Wavelength Brewing Company in Vista, Calif. “I’m gonna put him right to the fire when he gets here,” Hawkins said with a laugh.
From the copper-covered oven, my pizza emerged. Hawkins and I took seats in the airy dining area, warm with golden midday autumn sun that radiated off the brewpub walls, all coated with gorgeous reclaimed wood from Redmond’s Barnwood Industries. Out on the street, a horseman rode past. It was a lovely Bandon day for pizza and beer.
“The Bandon area has some phenomenal coastline,” Hawkins said, quaffing some Camp 7. “From Brookings to Florence is some of the prettiest coastline anywhere. Being in the Navy and also having sat on the back deck of a crab boat, I’ve seen the whole coast: from Cape Flattery all the way down to San Diego. And guess what? We’re right in the middle.”
Bandon Brewing Company
395 Second St. SE, Bandon
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In March, Portland’s Metalcraft Fabrication shut down after facing a federal lien, causing the company’s bank funds to be emptied, according to industry insiders. Owner Charlie Frye acknowledged the bank had closed accounts, but did not address this specifically when asked for comment.
The closure came as somewhat of a shock since Metalcraft was one of the greater success stories in Oregon’s craft beer industry. Co-owner Charlie Frye came from well-established manufacturer JV Northwest to found an innovative brewery-centric fabricator. Metalcraft reportedly made more than 1,000 tanks for businesses in 30 states and three countries in the last 10 years, including equipment for some of our state’s best breweries like Breakside Brewery and pFriem Family Brewers.
Many are left wondering how a company that was once praised by beer makers and business journals alike can suddenly close and see some of its relationships with clients go sour.
Charlie Frye and his then-wife Jen Baque opened Metalcraft in 2007, starting off welding furniture and building facade components before picking up work fixing tanks and equipment for breweries. By 2015, the business expanded by moving into a huge new warehouse to become one of the few U.S. fabricators that could make larger equipment — tanks more than a couple hundred barrels and brewhouses beyond 30 barrels. And just last year, Metalcraft teamed with Pelican Brewing Company to develop a new dry-hopping method. The resulting “Hopinator” received a rave review from brewmaster Darron Welch, who said Metalcraft “perfected a design that was exactly what we wanted. Not every fabricator would have been that patient.”
However, it wasn’t long after that when Metalcraft began scrambling to keep the doors open long enough to finish millions of dollars’ worth of projects.
“A number of factors contributed to Metalcraft’s demise,” said Frye in my original article breaking the closure for newschoolbeer.com, “the greatest one being several unforeseen challenges associated with our expansion.”
Metalcraft entered the brewery fabrication business at just the right time — before the big boom that would become the industry’s largest period of growth, post-2010. Growth was quick and used equipment became scarce, which led to longer lead times and down payments. Industry sources familiar with the matter indicated these upfront down payments ranged from 15-40 percent.
“The company got themselves into a cash crunch,” said Thad Fisco of Portland Kettle Works, another local fabricator that has offered to help finish Metalcraft’s work for clients. “[Metalcraft] ignored some basic fundamentals to maintain cash to finish deals. You begin to burn those deposits to finish projects that were contracted previously.” There are no rules against operating this way.
According to Fisco, this is “unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence in the manufacturing industry.”
The practice of taking on new jobs and even discounting them in a mad dash to use that money to finish past work that may not have even gotten underway “unintentionally turns into a Ponzi scheme.” Fisco says this is a critical issue for the industry overall and one that he expects could cause a few more fabricators to go bankrupt.
You might be wondering if this has anything to do with the unsustainable growth of the craft beer industry. Yes, a little. As brewers get bigger, and some more desperate to compete, they may plop down huge sums of money upfront without checking a fabricator’s creditworthiness.
Meanwhile there is mounting competition from China where fabricators routinely offer a cheaper but lower-quality product. Some American companies have even stooped to selling Chinese equipment and marketing it as U.S. made, according to Fisco. However, the larger the tanks, the higher the shipping costs, and that can decrease margins and any competitive advantage.
According to comments Frye made to me in March, he laid off 35 employees, which would’ve been a significant cut to the 50-60 people he reported would be hired by 2015. He also hinted at some financial mismanagement, saying “a business owner should always be aware that their finances are in order and those trusted to manage them are qualified to do so.”
Frye declined to answer additional questions, stating “I'm not prepared to give any more interviews at this time.” For now, then, it’s impossible to know the full story of what happened to Metalcraft. But its failure is bad for both the brewery fabrication business as well as brewers and should serve as a wakeup call to each.
When fabricators go bust, some brewers who have sunk large sums of money into equipment will have invested too much to recover. That may include some of Metalcraft’s clients. Bill Baburek of Infusion Brewing Company in Benson, Neb. is one of those affected by the closure. “They took $45,000 dollars in deposit money from us in late December,” Baburek said, “for a $60,000 tank order, and now we get nothing for it!”
“If another company the size of Metalcraft or bigger goes down, it’s going to be a big deal,” warned Fisco. “It starts to tear the fabric of the system that is in place ... people that are looking to buy right now should take a moment to check the credit of the people they are looking at doing business with. Find out what’s going on with the business before jumping in with both feet.”
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Longtime friends AJ Tuter, Matt Hill and Bryan Ireland had been homebrewing together in Roseburg for years, and members of their informal beer club kept telling them they should go pro. When they decided to make the leap, their search for a brewery name turned out to be down the street. Tuter’s home — and site of their garage homebrewery — was near Main Street, or “Old 99,” a north-south highway that runs the length of the West Coast. After getting licensed in 2013, Old 99 Brewing Co. has been at the vanguard of Roseburg’s growing craft beer scene, and a receptive public leaves Yelp reviews such as “hidden gem” and “small, friendly and has a whole bunch of passion and character.”
“We’re not on Old 99, but it’s perpendicular to it,” explains Tuter. “We thought Old 99 would be a good way to associate the Northwest for us. It’s been fun, it’s been a good brand to build. People like our shirts, our logo, that story.”
Today Old 99 is keeping a focus on slow growth, good beer and fun times. All three owners share brewery duties while holding other full-time positions: Tuter as a firefighter and paramedic who works in Eugene but lives in Roseburg; Hill as a network engineer in Roseburg; and Ireland, who works in Portland as a replenishment specialist and commutes to Roseburg.
Tuter describes Old 99 as being about “community, gathering, connections and above all, dedication to craft beer.” That focus is paying off. Starting with a 1-barrel system, Old 99 quickly moved to a 3.5-barrel system, on which they would double-batch into 7-barrel fermenters. “We did that for a while. It was hard duty,” says Tuter. “Every time you brewed you had to double-batch, and it made for a long brew day.” Since late 2014, Old 99 has brewed on a 7-barrel system from Portland Kettle Works. Along with a 15-barrel tank, the brewers have made other improvements to streamline the brewing process. While still double-batching, now Old 99 has been doubling capacity during the last seven months and is on pace to increase annual production from 300 barrels a year to, for 2016, an estimated 600-700 barrels.
While the partners share tasks, they also specialize in particular areas while also making sure everyone is communicating about what’s happening in different parts of the business. “It’s all collaborative,” says Tuter. “We all have different jobs, and everybody comes together and gets it done.”
Along with the partners, their wives help with different parts of the business. Old 99 also has four other employees, two in the tasting room and two doing cellar work in the 6,800-square-foot space. Currently Old 99 is sticking to its limited hours, but the partners are looking at expanding hours and adding staff in the future.
Sunday is typically a brew day, with additional brew days during the week as needed. By Thursday, all hands are on deck to prep for Friday and Saturday. Old 99 also recently started opening to the public on Thursdays. “It’s a challenge to balance working in the brewery, getting those tasks done and then doing the tasting room thing,” says Tuter. “But we like being in the brewery, with the equipment, where people can ask questions. The person who served the beer is more than likely the person who made it. That’s what I like about how we did it.”
The beers pouring today are similar to the beers that first poured when Old 99 opened three years ago. For The Win IPA, usually just referred to as FTW, came out of a 10-beer experiment to become their most popular beer. Another flagship, Billy Bad Ass Double IPA, has such a local following that “people refer to that beer almost like a person that they know,” says Tuter, prompting the partners to work up a graphic of what Billy might look like.
Infrared Northwest Red Ale can also be found on a few other taps in Douglas County. Old 99’s Pale Ale has undergone some changes over the years though. The inaugural Yard Sale Pale Ale has since been replaced by Tioga Pale Ale. Named after a section of the North Umpqua Trail, Tioga uses piney hops to make it “feel like a walk in the woods.” Keeping it simple on the dark side of things, year-round Fogline Stout got its start in the homebrew kettle and today remains a four-ingredient stout. “It’s just a Northwest stout, super smooth, a fan favorite.”
Lastly, Infidel Cascadian Dark Ale/Black IPA is a “beer geek beer,” says Tuter, but one that also won Best of Show at a brew fest in Klamath Falls last year. “A lot of people think they don’t like dark beer, but when they try this they’re impressed. They almost think they’re drinking a Guinness-type beer, but the hops are in your face with tropical and citrus notes, and it’s unexpected to have those coming out of a dark beer.”
Earlier this year Old 99 began limited distribution through Bigfoot Beverage, but Old 99’s focus remains “making sure Douglas County is taken care of first.” Tuter expects distribution to continue gradually expanding. In advance of that, Old 99 is starting to appear at more Oregon beer events, such as Lane County brew festivals and the Bend Brewfest in August. Old 99 also has added a crowler machine for filling and sealing 32-oz cans in the tasting room, similar to filling growlers. In August the brewery will celebrate its anniversary.
“We plan on growing, but we want to grow healthy,” says Tuter. “We’re going to do well with what we have, and not have to sacrifice beer quality. It’s beer first, grow later.”
Old 99 Brewing Co.
(a) 3750 Hooker Road, Suite A, Roseburg
Mellie Pullman, who was the first woman brewer at a brewery in Park City, Utah, broke ground again as the first female college professor to launch an online course on the business side of craft brewing. She’s seen here at Terminal Gravity in Enterprise. Pullman lives in Eastern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Mellie Pullman
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Mellie Pullman’s adventures with beer have come full circle. In 1986 she was the first woman brewer at Schirf Brewing in Park City, Utah. Today she is the first female college professor to launch an online certificate program focusing on the business side of craft brewing.
Pullman brought her homebrewing experiments, mechanical engineering degree, some experience at a construction company and a truckload of bravado to Park City while on a ski trip there in the ‘80s. When she noticed a business plan for a new brewery lying on a table at her friend’s condo, she had to read it. Instantly, she decided the job was tailor-made for her.
Soon she was the partner and brewer in charge of production, bottling, hiring and training. “We packaged Wasatch beer (Schirf Brewing) from the day we opened in the fall of 1986,” she said. “We had to ramp up big for the ski season.”
Pullman stayed for three years and Schirf doubled in size every year. Then she moved on to a startup brewpub chain in Arizona. Eventually she returned to Utah to round out her business education. She got her MBA and then her Ph.D., changing direction from brewing to teaching.
In 2005 she moved to Portland to teach at Portland State University’s School of Business Administration. She has concentrated on supply chain management courses, incorporating her extensive background in restaurant work and interest in food into her courses. While teaching and conducting numerous research projects, she became interested in online courses as a way to expand access for students. Several years ago, she floated the idea of a program that focused on the business of craft beverages. With the support of her dean, Pullman began developing the first ever online certificate program for craft brewing, which consists of four courses that take about five weeks each.
The first two courses are Basic Business for Craft Beverages and Craft Beverage Business Management. “It’s a condensed version of business school, focused on how to run a business,” Pullman said. Topics like schedules, cost of product, the most efficient way to market and accounting are covered.
Pullman learned about the ins and outs of online classes by creating them. She designed the curriculum. There are no books. “I took information from the supply chain management course and went out into the field and video recorded people on site. For example, we recorded how a company did labels.
“I have developed the entire content but collaborated with a marketing, finance, accounting and distribution person on their particular classes. I give them guidance and help shape the videos and curriculum. I am not the video star for those classes.
“We were on a shoestring budget. The first videos I shot on an iPhone.”
In an average week, students will watch three to four video lectures, complete several readings and an assignment as well as participate in a live session. At first, Pullman kept herself out of the spotlight, feeling that the experts were the best industry representatives. But in time, she became more comfortable sharing her expertise in front of the camera.
Many local breweries, distilleries and auxiliary businesses are participating in the program, including Cider Riot, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Great Western Malting, New Deal Distillery, Portland Kettle Works, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, Rose City Labels, Worthy Brewing Company and more.
“The demand for the program is high,” said Pullman. “We were totally oversubscribed within two weeks when we rolled the program out about three years ago.”
While she said the ideal number of students in a class is 50, the entry level classes are always around 60. The course was offered three times this year because the waiting list was so big. At least one-third of the students in the program are women.
The program is global with students from the U.S., Latin America, Europe and China. Originally, there were many people from the Northwest, but that market has become very saturated. Pullman is interested in doing more work internationally and has changed many of her spreadsheets into metric dimensions. “The broader our appeal, the better it is for PSU’s branding.”
Students can enter the program through any of the individual classes except for Craft Beverage Business Management, which requires the introductory course be taken first. Students must also then complete two of the three electives for the certificate. The program can be completed in 20 weeks. Some people use it to get a better job. One of her students was with Firestone Walker Brewing Company and he’s now the craft beer guy at AB InBev.
In addition to teaching, Pullman is involved with several grant projects focusing on sustainability. Recently, she and another instructor supervised three PSU students who entered an international sustainability competition. Each student invested more than 50 hours researching how to strategically sustain business investments for their chosen client, Hopworks Urban Brewery. They won the oikos Case Writing Competition, which supports the development and use of cases on sustainability, along with 5,000 Swiss francs (about $5,200 U.S. dollars). Pullman and her fellow social entrepreneur instructor are writing a teaching manual based on the project for other academic institutions.
Pullman works in Portland, but lives in Joseph on acreage with a giant vegetable garden and apple trees. “I am a skier and mountain person but prefer the rural emptiness of the Wallowas,”she said. At home in Eastern Oregon she is involved with an emerging craft malt team. And in her spare time this summer, she is completing a book on craft beverage business management with John Harris of Ecliptic Brewing that is expected to be available in August.
The Labrewatory’s manager Chris Sears is pictured here with some of the equipment at the North Portland brewery. The 3.5-barrel craft beer lab can serve as a bridge for brewers who are leaving one brewery and starting out on their own. Additionally, those firmly rooted in bigger brewhouses can experiment and collaborate at the new site. Photo by Jim McLaren
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The intersection of North Interstate Avenue and Northeast Russell Street is a good place to catch a snapshot of Portland beer culture: past, present and, perhaps, even the future.
On the corner there’s Widmer Brothers Brewing, a craft beer founder and icon. A block or so east, there’s the White Eagle Saloon & Hotel, part of the ubiquitous McMenamins chain.
Now, go a couple of more blocks to the east. At 670 N. Russell St., you’ll find a white, one-story building fronted by a couple of glass-paneled garage doors. Over one door it says:
Portland’s Craft Beer Lab
Sitting at the concrete-topped bar, manager Chris Sears explains the owners “thought there was a need for a place where people can come in and have a laundry list of experimentals and collaborations.”
The concept is simple — sort of. If it works, true Beer Geeks will have nirvana in their own backyard.
The idea for a “craft beer lab” begins with Thad Fisco, owner of Portland Kettle Works. The company is a full-service brewery fabricator that has been making steel for breweries from Norway to Japan, from Canada to Costa Rica. Just as importantly, Fisco has a long-running partnership with Jon Kellogg, a commercial real estate developer. The duo worked on rehabbing two blocks of North Williams Avenue in what Portland Monthly called the “reinvention of old streetscapes that harnesses PDX’s entrepreneurial spirit and love of the past.”
As it turns out, Fisco owned a rundown taxi cab garage that needed some reinventing. He also had an idea for making beer. But, in a unique way, without making beer. Huh?
Explanation — the folks making your favorite beer at most breweries may not have the space to make test batches of their beer daydreams. Even if they do have the room and time, they might not want to risk having you turn up your nose at their experiments.
That’s where The Labrewatory’s 3.5-barrel system comes in. Manager Sears says a brewer can whip up a batch of their latest concoction or work on a collaboration with another brewer and do it in a very quiet, pragmatic way.
The facility will be producing enough beer so that any brewer can make an inexpensive batch and split tap sales with The Labrewatory. The brewer then has a built-in test audience. Sears says they “will have public comment forms so people can give their opinions of new beers or you can go online to comment on beers by number. You won’t know who made the beer.”
It’s a win-win-win for the brewer, The Labrewatory and you.
The “craft beer lab” can also be a bridge for brewers leaving one brewery and starting out on their own. “We have the former head brewer from pFriem. He’s ventured out on his own.” Sears explains, “They’re a little delayed in their project, but he wants to get his brand going so he can get beer out and build his brand.”
The Labrewatory will, someday, have a head brewer. “We’re in the process of finding a head brewer — somebody with, obviously, experience in brewing and also a good personality because they will be working with other brewers a lot and, kind of a requirement too, the head brewer needs to pour beer at least once a week.” That brewer will be an educator, tutoring customers about the mystery beers and helping the beer makers digest customer input. Sears provided an example of that type of feedback, saying a brew “seemed to be received very well minus a couple of things. Let’s make a couple of tweaks and run it through again or let’s make the tweaks and make a decent-sized batch, put our name on it and sell it.”
Since all beer makers start small, this brewers’ playground will make room for the guy fresh out of his garage. The Labrewatory will offer advice and a chance to put a hobby to a public test. Amateurs will learn how to scale up recipes to commercial size and find out from people, other than family and friends, whether their best is good enough. But, unless they have a license, they won’t be able to take their beer home. It will have to be sold at the The Labrewatory.
The Thad Fisco project, overseen by Chris Sears, has a look as fresh as its business plan. The interior has a gleaming industrial look with metal light and bar fixtures custom-made at Kettle Works. The side of the room across from the bar features burl wood tables against a wall made of wood reclaimed from the old garage. The bar’s centerpiece is a thick tap tower with 16 handles.
The day I was there, you had numerous tasty choices, such as pFriem Blonde IPA, Upright Seven and Epic Brainless Raspberries, each for $4 per glass. As you sit at the smooth, wide bar, you can look toward the back of the building and catch a glimpse of the brewhouse. You can also raise your snifter-shaped glass and appreciate the beer against the backdrop of a well-lighted, subway-tiled, white wall.
“We kind of wanted to give it more of … old-school laboratory vibe,” Sears says. “Of course, in a lab you want it to be bright so you can see what you’re doing and analyze. That plays into the type of consumer we want to bring here. It’s hard to check out the color of your beer if it’s dim lit.”
It’s also hard to imagine that The Labrewatory won’t soon become a “must” for locals and beer tourists.
The Labrewatory hours: 3-9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday
Tamale Boy is serving Mexican fare from a food cart to customers at The Labrewatory, but the business is in the process of building out the space next door.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.