The latest addition to Hood River’s bustling waterfront is Ferment Brewing Company, which opened in early August and started producing beer several weeks later. Ferment is a short walk from pFriem Family Brewers, to which it has a connection (keep reading).
Ferment is the creation of Dan and Jennifer Peterson, who spent the last three years formulating plans for the brewery and restaurant. They originally planned to open a similar business in Portland’s Yard Building near the Burnside Bridge but that fell through two years ago.
Dan Peterson, a microbiologist by education, caught the homebrewing bug after getting his degree at the University of Vermont. He soon wound up at Brooklyn Brewery in New York. In 2010, he moved west to become the head brewer at Full Sail. Three years later, he joined upstart pFriem. He left pFriem to begin work on Ferment in 2015.
“The concept here is a little different than pFriem and I think we complement them nicely,” Dan Peterson said. “I like traditional beers brewed with ingredients from those places where they originated. Whether it’s English, German, Czech or whatever, we strive to use ingredients native to those areas.”
The 20-barrel brewhouse was fabricated by Specific Mechanical Systems of British Columbia. The brewery initially had two 20-barrel fermenters, and added two more in September. The brewery is simplistic, old school.
“There isn’t a lot of automation here,” Peterson said. “I like simple controls and a hands-on feel in the brewery. To me, a big part of craft brewing is someone mindfully taking part in the brewing process. That was the concept with this setup.”
Peterson also believes in lower-alcohol beers. All of Ferment’s Signature beers weigh in at 6 percent ABV or less. The Premium Series of bottle-conditioned and barrel-aged beers will include an expanding selection of higher-ABV product as the brewery gets up to production speed.
When they were hoping to open in Portland, Ferment started brewing at Zoiglhaus and PINTS. That arrangement continued as they located the space in Hood River and began the construction process. That allowed them to develop recipes and have a full set of beers available when they opened.
The building itself provides a unique presentation. The restaurant and taproom area are bathed in natural light and feature a community atmosphere. Patrons can look down on the brewery below while sipping on a beer or enjoying a meal. Views of the Columbia River and Waterfront Park stare through the windows.
“It was a fun challenge to make a brewery work in this space,” Jennifer Peterson said. “We have a lot of windows all around and garage doors on the main floor. We made it all work by situating the brewery in the middle. Views of the brewery and surroundings were a definite consideration.”
The Petersons have modest goals when it comes to growth and distribution of their product, believing they’re better off selling their beer to patrons in Hood River than exporting a lot of volume in packaged form to a hyper-competitive marketplace.
“Once we are fully up and running, we’ll push a limited supply of beer out into distribution,” Dan Peterson said. “We’ll use 500-milliliter bottles for our packaged product. I’m not interested in chasing trends. I like the feel of glass. No liner to worry about. Beer poured from bottle to glass is elegant.”
Ferment’s food menu, like the tap list, features eclectic options and isn’t limited to a particular style or ethnicity. Locally-sourced produce and meats are the backbone. Jennifer Peterson, former owner of now-closed Pine Street Kitchen in Hood River, was instrumental in developing the cuisine.
We wanted to create a menu that would pair with the wide variety of beers,” she said. “The approach to food needed to mirror the approach to beer and I think we’ve done that. It is, of course, a work in progress that will evolve and roll with the seasons moving forward.”
One of Ferment’s pet projects is kombucha. While they were refining beer recipes and waiting for a space to materialize, they played around with the fermented beverage. The result is several tea-based recipes that lean on simple, natural ingredients. Three brands are available on draft and in packaged form.
“We kind of fell in love with it,” Jennifer Peterson said. “We eventually decided to incorporate it since it falls into the ‘fermented’ category. It has great health benefits and tastes pretty good, too.” •