By Gail Oberst
In the early 1850s, Gottlieb Mehl began selling beer, cider and other drinks from his brewery in Roseburg. In 1866, he was joined by John Nast and the brewery was located on land containing a handy spring, where the Douglas County Courthouse now stands. Kegs from the brewery were delivered as far away as Glendale, nearly 30 miles south, according to the Oregon Encyclopedia and the Douglas County Historical Society records.
Although the fate of Roseburg’s first brewery is unclear, Roseburg’s love for local craft beer is definitely experiencing a revival. Five breweries have opened in recent years, and a sixth is under construction. “Not bad for a town of 20,000,” said Steve Bahr, a writer and member of the Umpqua Brewers Guild. McMenamin’s Brewery in the former train station and Draper’s Brewing have been operating for several years, but four new breweries have opened recently or will open soon: Two Shy and Old 99 opened in 2013. Backside has opened on a limited basis while it is under construction, and Dogbarrel, a homebrew shop, is building a brewery next to their business on Stephens Street.
In addition to a homebrew shop, local pubs have embraced local beers. Logger’s Gourmet Pizza, on N.E. Stephens, has 30 taps and a growler fill station. Loggers Taphouse, a 200-seat restaurant which Sam Gross opened last summer, has 37 taps and a growing list of bottled beers – many of them local and regional beers – and hosts the occasional tap takeovers and “meet the brewer” events. O’Tooles Pub, downtown in the former Umpqua Brewery building, operates at 328 S.E. Jackson with a healthy assortment of local craft beers on tap. Two beer-based events – the Umpqua Brew Fest in October, and St Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl, while not new -- have certainly been energized by Roseburg’s new-found love of craft beer. Draper Brewing’s Sam Eslinger, whose brewery is in Tenmile, operates a taphouse featuring his and other brews on tap at 640 S.E. Jackson St. Across the street, the new Blackbird Bar & Grill is expanding its taps to feature local beers. Splitz Bar & Grill adds craft beers to its bowling alley, Ten Down, on Diamond Lake Boulevard.
“We’re beer fans and we want to get our beer to the locals. We’re trying to invigorate this area’s beer culture,” said Arter “AJ” Tuter of Old 99 Brewery. Tuter and his partners – Matt Hill and Bryan Ireland along with their wives Ashley Tuter, Amanda Hill and Rachel Ireland – met as home brewers who were neighbors in Roseburg’s Sunnydale neighborhood. After several years, the friends decided to develop a plan, formed an LLC and began practice batches on their 3-barrel system. They began selling beer late last summer, and on Oct. 31, they invited the community for a grand opening, complete with dignitaries and giant scissors slicing ceremonial ribbons. All three families work outside of the brewery: Tuter is a firefighter, Hill is an IT expert and Ireland is a buyer for Fred Meyer. They open their doors every Friday and Saturday and brew double batches every Sunday. The intent, Tuter said, is to add dock sales of kegs in the future and to expand sales to the Roseburg area. But for now, the brewery has a solid supply of core beers including “Something Red,” “Fogline Stout,” Billy Badass, a double IPA, Yard Sale Pale Ale, and seasonal beers.
Another new brewery, Backside, at 1640 Odell Ave., is under re-construction in a former warehouse owned by Gerretsen Building Supply. Owner K.C. McKillip is working on installing a 15-barrel brewery with about 18,000 square feet to kick around in. A bicycle shop has already taken up a small portion of the south side of the brewery. The west side will feature an outdoor patio with a pizza oven. Inside, the long bar and tables are just a few feet from the brewery. McKillip is still working out the design details with the City of Roseburg, but he expects to be finished with modifications by April. McKillip is from Tenmile – just west of Winston – who learned to brew from Paul Singleton of Two Shy Brewing. McKillip and friends converted old diary tanks into a mash tun and other brewing tanks, taking the Brewers DIY Code to serious limits. McKillip’s DIY creds are street legal. He also owns an asphalt business, Black Pearl, and Prestige Pest Control.
Two Shy Brewing is another three-owner brewery located in an industrial building at 1308 N.E. Park St. Its ambers, stouts, reds, uberdunkelweisen and various IPAs are already filling Roseburg mugs, with occasional appearances at festivals and pubs in other Oregon towns. Erik Nielsen, Lyle Hruda, and Paul Singleton, in a story repeated ad infinitum in Oregon, had been homebrewing friends who decided to open their own brewery.
Dogbarrel Brewery is owned by two brothers, Thomas and Russ Anderson, who are adding a 1.5-barrel brewery to their homebrew shop at 1092 N.E. Stephens. Once they establish delicious recipes for their beers, Thomas said he and his brother will increase production with a 7-barrel brew house. Look for all of this excitement to go down this summer.
According to Bahr’s on-line timeline of Roseburg brewing history, Umpqua Brewery was still in place when McMenamins Brewery opened in 1999. I would note that the McMenamin’s brewery is still there, and in some ways, has carried the Roseburg brewing paddle forward to the next millennium. McMenamins revamped Roseburg’s old railroad station and hired Umpqua Brewery’s apprentice brewer, Cody Bottorff -- McMenamin’s youngest brewmaster at 22. A few years later, Tom Johnson took over as Roseburg’s McMenamins head brewer, and in 2001, McMenamins became Roseburg’s only brewery.
Was the formation of the Umpqua Valley Homebrewers Club in 2008 somehow related to Roseburg’s current brewing revival? You decide.
For a great round-up of Roseburg brewing history, visit Bahr’s www.brewburg.com/timeline. His website www.brewburg.com is also a great resource for finding craft beers in Oregon south of Eugene.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.