By Gail Oberst
A few blocks from Coos Bay’s boardwalk along Coos River, I am stopped in my tracks by a gigantic map of the bay area, spread across the front of a building that once housed an appliance and electrical repair shop. Warming themselves by the fire in front of 7 Devils Brewery are owners Carmen Matthews and Annie Pollard, who tell me the map shows the circa 1928 Coos Bay. Annie, a marine biologist, points to the places that have been filled or changed. It is a fitting introduction to the 30-something couple who met over a potter’s wheel, fell in love over a home-brewing kettle, and today own a popular brewery and taproom – Coos County’s only commercial brewery.
Like 7 Devils, clad in local décor I’m dubbing “eclectic coastal craftsman,” the couple represents a segment of Coos County society that defies the south coast stereotypes: They are energetic, well-heeled and cultured. The couple has invested their savings, family money and a substantial loan into re-outfitting the long-vacant shop into a working 7-barrel (soon to be 15) brewery with a taproom and restaurant that features local art and artists. Oriental rugs warm the floors. Original glass art drips from the ceilings, local paintings hang on the walls, ceramics decorate the tables, which are also handmade from local materials. If you order chowder, it will most likely be served in a bowl turned by Annie.
Almost all of the funds raised from the sale of 300 special pint glasses went to purchasing and creating local artwork hanging from the walls and ceilings at 7 Devils. The couple has apparently hit on something appealing to Coos Bay glitterati (Fishermen, professionals, newcomers and old-timers). The Wednesday night I visited, the tables were filled and a short line was waiting to be seated.
And the beer? Great, in my humble opinion. And, judging by the number of beers being slurped by patrons, I wasn’t the only fan. Musicians have showed up almost every night in February to entertain guests, Carmen said. “It’s made from coastal waters by coastal folks,” he said. Half of the brewery’s production is sold in house, the rest to Coos Bay/North Bend-area accounts. By press time, the company will be bottling (with a manual 4-head line) in 22s. Three of the 7 Devils labels -- a session, a pale ale and an IPA – will begin appearing in local stores and bottle shops.
The 7 Devils Brewery opened Oct. 30, 2013, and already the couple has made plans to expand the dining area. The pub food is an assortment of seasonal favorites and local fare. Clams from Coos Bay and locally-baked focaccia and pretzels are menu staples. A variety of seasonal greens and vegetables are supplied by local grower Valley Flora and its affiliates. Their poutine (an upscale version of cheese fries) features Face Rock cheese curds, from the Bandon creamery 20 miles south.
But their dedication to craft beer, local arts and seasonal food products is just the beginning: outside, under the giant 1920’s map, electric car charging stations sit next to the first “ocean-friendly beer garden,” according to Carmen. The City of Coos Bay assisted the company with a storm-water retention system that holds roof-water run-off from the brewery building, slowing its release into rain-swollen Coos River and decreasing flood pressure. Heavily insulated walls and windows, energy efficient fixtures and other energy-conserving methods are in place now. Solar panels are in the offing. In the summer, the outside gardens may house a local food cart and pizza oven.
The brewery’s success has created a whirlwind of responsibilities for the man who – just three years ago – was working for Dutch Bros—and the woman whose science work took her to Antarctica to study penguins three months of the year. Now, the company has 15 employees and a fan club of locals who depend on them to grow the business.
“Our customers are people who are interested in this community. We take that seriously,” said Carmen.
7 Devils Brewery
( a ) 247 S; Second St., Coos Bay
( p ) 541-808-3738
Owner/Brewers: Carmen Matthews, Annie Pollard
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.