The State of American Craft Beer – Oregon

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With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.

In case you missed the last 36 states, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. And we’re shocked to have made it all the way to the 37th state on our list, The Beaver State, Oregon. The state’s nickname is rooted in the extensive capture of beavers in the 19th century when their prized pelts were desirable for fashionable fur hats. It officially became the state animal in 1969, is also the mascot for Oregon State University and appears on one side of it’s two sided state flag.

Oregon ranks 27th in total population (roughly 4.1 million), is ranked 39th in population density and houses 228 craft breweries as of 2015 (an increase of 124 since 2011) who are represented by the Oregon Brewers Guild. The state ranks 4th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 2nd in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.

To be fair, we’ve broken Oregon up into two articles, just as was done with Colorado and California. For context, the City of Portland proper houses 70 breweries alone, leaving the remainder of the state with 160 breweries as of 12/31/2016. The following history breaks down the oldest brewer in each region, since the history of brewing in the state before the re-emergence of brewing in the 1980’s took place almost entirely in Portland.

Craft Beer Sales by State

History

The first craft brewer to begin production outside of Portland was Full Sail Brewing, in Hood River. Taking up residence in the old Diamond Fruit cannery in 1987, the brewery sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, which is regularly filled with wind and kite boarders, hence the name (originally Hood River Brewing).  Within two years, they became the first Oregon brewer to win a GABF medal (2 golds for their Amber and Brown ales) and have since won 10 more. They were the first commercially successful craft brewer in the Pacific Northwest to bottle and distribute their beers, and today are the 29th largest craft brewer in the United States

In June of 1988, Deschutes Brewery and Public House opened it’s doors in Deschutes-Brewery-logo-2downtown Bend. Named for the river that courses its way through town, it was founded by Gary Fish, who’s the majority owner and a former President of the Brewers Association Board of Directors. Within 5 years they upgraded from the pub’s 12 barrel system into what they now call their “JV” system, a 50 barrel set up. In 2004 they opened a state-of-the-art 150bbl brewhouse, allowing them capacity to brew in excess of 450,000 barrels annually, then in May of 2008, opened their Portland brewpub in the Pearl District. Deschutes has won more GABF medals than any other brewer in Oregon, with 43, 15 of which are gold. They are the 8th largest brewer in the United States and are distributed in 28 states, D.C. and 2 Canadian provinces.

Four months later, in 1988, Rogue Ales opened their first location, a 10bbl brewpub in the Southern Oregon town of Ashland.  Within a year Rogue opened their 2nd location, the 15bbl Bayfront Pub, in Newport. The current production facility called Brewers on the Bay, which opened in 1992, runs a 50bbl system and a distillery. While the original Ashland location shut down in 1997 due to record floods, they now have 10 locations in Oregon – four in Newport, four in Portland, one in Astoria and Rogue Farms in Independence, plus a pub in San Francisco and a 5bbl brewhouse in Issaquah, WA. Rogue’s brewing operations are helmed by John Maier, who’s known for crafting unique offerings – from a beer brewed with yeast culled from his own beard to barleywine/IPA blends, to all manner of fruit and field beers. They’ve garnered 31 medals at GABF (including 9 gold) and can be found in every state of the union, as well as internationally, and are currently the 30th largest in America.

12 Oregon Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out

alesongAlesong Brewing & Blending (Eugene)Founded in 2015 by 7 year brewmaster at Oakshire Brewing Matt Van Wyk, along with brothers Brian and Doug Combs, Alesong specializes in small-batch oak aged and Belgian-inspired beers. Right out of the gate they struck gold at GABF 2016 with their Touch of Brett, a dry-hopped farmhouse ale aged in Pinot barrels. While they’re just getting started, they’ve already become one of our new favorites and were recently awarded Best New Brewery at the Oregon Beer Awards.

Barley Brown’s Beer (Baker City) – Located in the eastern reaches of the state, Barley Brown’s (aka Baker City Brewing) which opened in 1998, was once the state’s best kept secret. They started as a 4bbl brewpub in a town with less than ten thousand residents, yet Tyler Brown began trucking his beer west to rave reviews. In 2013, the same year they moved into a 20 bbl brewhouse, they also won 5 GABF medals including Very Small Brewing Company of the Year and a coveted IPA gold. With 24 medals over 11 years, you should try all their styles, for they’re all very good.

Block 15 Brewing (Corvallis) – One of those rare animals that’s known as much for their barrel-aged beer programBlock+15+-+Color as their single and double IPAs, Block 15 has been setting the Willamette Valley on fire for nearly 10 years. They’re the only brewery we’ve seen that provides a calendar of when they distribute their beers and where, allowing the Pacific Northwest regular access to fresh batches of their coveted Sticky Hands DIPA. They feature three locations in Corvallis, have created over 180 styles since 2008 and in 2015 won GABF gold for their Turbulent Consequence Peche.

Boneyard Beer (Bend) – Best known for their savory family of IPA styles such as RPM, Hop Venom DIPA and Notorious TIPA, Boneyard’s been around since 2010. Opening up in an old auto shop, owner Tony Lawrence cobbled together a “boneyard” of equipment gathered from 13 different brewers around the country. They have since upgraded from their 20bbl system to a 40bbl system (also second-hand) with some additional fermenters allowing them to nearly triple their annual production at max capacity. If you’re in a PNW pub worth its salt and not having a Boneyard, you might be a bonehead…

crux_fermentation_project_smallCrux Fermentation Project (Bend) – Within a stone’s throw of Boneyard is another of Bend’s gems, Crux is the brainchild of former Deschutes brewmaster Larry Sidor. Opening in June 2012, Sidor, along with co-founders Dave Wilson and Paul Evers, also pieced together their equipment with most everything in their operation recycled or reclaimed, including a beautifully polished copper 8hl (around 6.8bbls) brewhouse from Japan. They’re known as much for their various IPAs and Pales, as their luscious barrel-aged BANISHED series and have created roughly 100 styles over the past 5 years. Crux takes pride in experimentation, not to mention locally sourced beer and food, with quality results.

Caldera Brewing (Ashland) – The most stalwart brewery in Southern Oregon, Caldera opened their doors to the public in 1997. One unique aspect of their history lies in the fact that not only were they a draught only brewery until 2005, they were also the first on the West Coast to brew and distribute their beer in cans. In contrast to some of the state’s other brewers who rely less on flagship brands, Caldera has grown a following with their award-winning Amber Ale, IPA, Pale Ale and excellent assortment of seasonals such as their barrel-aged Mogli Porter. Their 
taproom and brewery, just off I-5, is a must visit if travelling in beautiful Southern Oregon.de-garde

de Garde Brewing (Tillamook) – Over the past 4 years, de Garde has turned the notion of spontaneously fermented wild/sour ales on it’s head. Just as the lambic style can only truly be lambic due the microflora that exists in it’s unique environment, so too are Trevor Rogers’ brews unique as a product of Tillamook’s environment. In their first few years, bottles were only released onsite at some historically gonzo quarterly releases. Today, they release new batches 2 to 4 times per month and have limited distribution in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Since 2013 they’ve created over 220 varieties, resulting in some of the highest rated and in demand beers in the world.

Fort George Brewery (Astoria) – In business for a decade, Fort George is the most established brewery in the NW port town of Astoria. The brewery, named after King George III, which was Astoria’s temporary name during British occupation amid the War of 1812, the oldest settlement in America west of the Rockies. Known for their Sturdy NW style IPAs and rich stouts, they host the wildly successful Festival of Dark Arts every February (recently winning Best Festival at the Oregon Beer Awards), featuring a stout lover’s dream taplist and some crazy cool artisanship. Available most places throughout the PNW, they have something for every palette and they’re always delicious.

Logsdon-Farmhouse-Ales-logoLogsdon Farmhouse Ales (Hood River) – Founded in 2009 by head brewer David Logsdon, their brewhouse resides in a barn on a 10 acre plot in the more rural reaches of Hood River. Founder of Wyeast Laboratories and a former head brewer of Full Sail, David’s labor of love are the wild barrel-aged farmhouse ales that his operation excels at. Known specifically for their “seizoens” and “brettas,” their most famous and toughest to procure Peche n’ Brett is unlike any other peach beer, featuring a pound and a half of local organic peaches per gallon. While they’ve only produced around 25 varieties over the past 8 years, what they do is so dialed in, earning them 3 GABF medals over the past 5 years.

Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene) – Celebrating their 10 anniversary last fall, owners Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge have grown their passion into what’s now the nation’s 33rd largest brewer. To visit Ninkasi is to be immersed in a small city of polished chrome and teal, with local art on display unlike any other brewery you’ll visit. They’re known for their easy drinking IPA’s, savory stouts and experimental projects such as that time they successfully launched a rocket into space with their yeast, featured in their Ground Control Imperial Stout. Their most recent release, Pacific Rain, is an impressively balanced Pale you’ll definitely want to seek out as the days grow warmer.

Pelican Brewing (Pacific City, Cannon Beach, Tillamook) – PELICAN LOGO TEE SEPSSetting up shop in one of the most picturesque locations you’ll ever find a brewery to inhabit – literally on a beach, Pelican is also a Grade A producer of flavorful beers without the pretense. They generally specialize in British styles, though they’ve made such a wide-variety and have won, since their founding in 1996, 40 GABF medals. Their Kiwanda Cream Ale is one of the best  you’ll find of the style, as is their Tsunami Stout, English-style Silverspot IPA, not to mention the decadent Mother of all Storms Imperial Stout. They’ve become a necessary visit for those seeking great brews with excellent views.

pFriem Family Brewers (Hood River) – Located on the Columbia River waterfront in Hood River, pFriem has grown exponentially since it’s founding by head brewer/owner Josh Pfriem in 2012. Starting with tap only offerings of primarily Saisons and IPAs in the early days, they’ve since established a reputable barrel-aging program, releasing stellar kriek, framboise and various other Belgian styles. Recently recognized for being the Best Brewpub Experience by the Oregon Beer Awards, they have a beautiful operation that shares space with it’s rustic themed pub, serving their tasty beers and artisanal food offerings. Be sure to stop in for their GABF award-winning Pilsner and unwind by their patio firepit.

 
Additional Breweries of note: 10 Barrel Brewing, Agrarian Ales, Arch Rock Brewing, Bend Brewing, Buoy Beer, Claim 52 Brewing, Little Beast Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Reach Break Brewing, Silver Moon Brewing, Sun River Brewing, Thunder Island Brewing.

 

About Warren Wills

Warren is the former Assistant Editor & Portland Correspondent for American Craft Beer. Creator of "The State of American Craft Beer" series, he now maintains his own site at craftbeerscribe.com.
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