For the first time in the Eugene/Springfield area, a new brewery occupies a house.
“Portland, Bend and Eugene all have allowances for home-based operations,” explains Tyrone Reitman, a Silverton native who’s lived in Eugene since 1996. “We’re not serving the public and don’t do food. We’re just a production brewery.”
More specifically, Reitman’s Freehand Brewing sits in a detached former pottery studio next to his south Eugene home. The four-barrel production brewery began releasing beers during fall 2018, and Reitman is increasing production to 10 barrels per month of his Belgian-inspired, Northwest-sourced, bottle- and barrel-conditioned blended beers. Freehand beers are currently available in Eugene, Springfield, Portland, Bend and Corvallis, with distribution planned for Southern Oregon.
“The goal isn’t to be a big brewery. The goal is to make the highest quality we can, as locally as we can, and appreciate the process,” Reitman explains. “We add a bit of joy.”
Reitman’s homebrewing journey began in 2007 after friends gave him a copy of Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing. Then, in a wood shed in their now-former house, Reitman’s wife, Natalie, found an old Mr. Beer kit.
“It had a rusty malt can, which I threw away,” says Reitman, “and a copy of Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing. I had no excuse not to do it.” After trying his hand at brewing roggenbier, hefeweizen and pale ale, “I was hooked,” he says.
When Portland’s Upright Brewing started up with their open-fermented and farmhouse-style beers in 2008, Reitman began thinking about turning pro. “I was so excited for what they were doing,” he says. “I was working in political activism, but I was brewing up to forty batches a year. I’d work, brew, read brew books, geek out on brewing.”
Over the next few years, Reitman visited breweries and kept brewing while he began experimenting and evaluating more extensively. In 2017, he and Natalie found their current house. The detached 1,000-square-foot pottery studio had been wired with 125-amp power and had room for barrels and a brewhouse.
Now, bearing distinct labels from Eugene artist Thomas Seybold, Freehand is releasing its unique beers in 750 ml and 500 ml bottles, along with limited releases of keg-conditioned beers.
“I like to reinterpret Belgian, French and Northwest beers,” explains Reitman. “I want malt backbone, sweetness, tart and multiple dimensions.”
Freehand nods to style without conforming, creating beers that vary batch-to-batch but always aim for high quality. In addition to summer and fall saisons, current releases include Verse Robust Farmhouse Ale (7.2 percent ABV, with nods to saison, amber and even dubbel), Prims Barrel-Aged Flemish-Inspired Sour Red Ale (7.6 percent ABV, a “Northwest re-interpretation of the classic Flemish red ale”), Mods Barrel-Aged Golden Sour Ale (8.1 percent ABV), Peche Barrel-Aged Sour Ale With Peaches (6.5 percent ABV) and Melee Saison (7.1 percent ABV, “a spirited marriage between Saison and IPA”).
“I want these beers immersed in the local food scene and movement,” says Reitman. “I’d like beer to be looked at through the same lens.”
Reitman is steadily growing from 15 barrels to having around 40 total. He’s also planning to add a designated Brett fermenter and a beer club, styled after Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs.
“People are looking for new beer experiences,” says Reitman. “Saisons have so much expression and so much to offer.” •