By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s hard to believe, but true. There are still a few places in Oregon where craft beer is NOT king. Albany, sandwiched between Corvallis and Salem, is one of those places. Not exactly a craft beer desert (Calapooia Brewing and Deluxe Brewing Company are both located in Albany) — but close when compared to other cities that boast at least half-a-dozen breweries.
Enter Vagabond Brewing from Salem. When the opportunity arose to take over a former growler fill station next to Albany’s Heritage Mall, Vagabond jumped on it. Vagabond Brewing Outpost, a cozy sports pub, held its grand opening March 31. Located at 14th Avenue SE in Albany, it’s in a prime spot right off the city’s busiest street. “We have all the business on this end of town,” said Vagabond co-founder Dean Howes.
Vagabond Brewery, on Salem’s north side, celebrated its three year anniversary in February. The founders are James Cardwell, Alvin Klausen and Howes — three Marines who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and traveled all over the globe once they completed their service. “We developed a passion for beer and wanted to figure out something to do together,” said Howes.
They decided to capitalize on that passion and start a brewery named Vagabond. “We zeroed in on Salem. There wasn’t much happening here for beer,” said Howes. They wrote a business plan and scraped together enough capital to qualify for and secure a Small Business Administration loan. “We brewed with anyone who would give us the time of day — Gigantic, Breakside, McMenamins in Salem and several others. This industry is incredibly accommodating, “he said.
Their beers will be featured front and center at the Vagabond Brewing Outpost. Ten of the taps will be Vagabond’s and the other 20 pour guest beer and cider, with an emphasis on local products. Vagabond’s lineup is American, mostly Northwest styles. Their best-selling beer is a hop-heavy IPA called Attack Owl. It’s named for some local birds that began attacking people in a Salem park. The owl attacks made the national news and so did the beer. Howes said, “At one point, people were buying it as fast as we could make it.” Naturally, when Rachel Maddow mentioned it on her show, they sent her some samples.
Vagabond, which made 50 different beers last year, also plans on adding a 20-barrel lagering tank in order to make larger batches. Some of that increased capacity will surely be due to the traffic in Albany. The Outpost, which seats 60 inside and offers outdoor accommodations, features a new bar that was built by the three partners. In fact, the three did much of the construction work on the new location. Although the pub has a kitchen, the focus for the immediate future will be on beer.
Klausen and Howes plan to manage the Outpost and work the bar so they can get a handle on it and work out any kinks as they come up. During that time, they’ll launch the search for a manager.
Growth has been steady for this trio of Marines turned brewery owners. Last year, Vagabond opened the Victory Club in downtown Salem. Located between Commercial and Liberty Streets NE, it has a retro, speakeasy feel. The brewery itself is undergoing a 2,000-square-foot expansion. In the fall, a new 10-barrel brewhouse from JV Northwest will replace the current 3.5-barrel system. Vagabond produced 700 barrels last year, and with the new system capacity will increase to 2,500.
2195 14th Ave. SE #103, Albany
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.