I am late with my Session post this month, not for any lack of interest in the topic but because I’ve been entirely too busy with other things (all related to beer fortunately!). This month the Session is being hosted by Chuck of allbrews, and he’s come up with a topic that is interesting but might have been a bit difficult to write about for the average beer blogger: The Business of Brewing.
Like sandlot baseball players or schoolyard basketball junkies, many amateur brewers, including some beer-brewing bloggers, harbor a secret dream: They aspire to some day “go pro.” They compare their beer with commercial brews poured in their local pubs and convince themselves that they’ve got the brewing chops it takes to play in the Bigs. Some of them even make it, fueling the dream that flutters in the hearts of many other home brewers yearning to see their beer bottles on the shelves at City Beer or their kegs poured from the taps at Toronado.
Creating a commercial brewery consists of much more than making great beer, of course. It requires meticulous planning, careful study and a whole different set of skills from brewing beer. And even then, the best plan can still be torpedoed by unexpected obstacles. Making beer is the easy part, building a successful business is hard.
In this Session, I’d like to invite comments and observations from bloggers and others who have first-hand knowledge of the complexities and pitfalls of starting a commercial brewery. What were the prescient decisions that saved the day or the errors of omission or commission that caused an otherwise promising enterprise to careen tragically off the rails?
I’m sure we’ve all been there, those of us that homebrew—that “What if?” dream of brewing commercially, whether opening a brewpub or starting a small production brewery or even just getting a job with your local brewery to start somewhere. But for me it’s always been about the brewing aspect of such a venture—not the business end of things and I do think that if you’re ever contemplating trying to start a brewery, you should first work in a few to get a sense of that business side as well as the commercial brewing side.
I don’t have first-hand knowledge of starting a brewery, but I have watched a lot of new breweries get their start here in Central Oregon over the past few years and the one thing I do know is, it’s hard work and it will probably take longer than you anticipated. Maybe quite a bit longer.
The other piece of advice I could give in this area is, if you’re going to open a brewery you might as well do it in Central Oregon: beer is big business here and there are no signs of that slowing. We have 20 brewery operations, more on the way, and a very economically-friendly climate towards beer and brewing. If you can brew decent beer and have good business sense, you’d probably be successful here!
Last weekend’s trip to Silverton for the Oregon Garden Brewfest was fantastic: perfect weather, amazing location, bigger-than-ever festival, great Thursday night Brewer’s Dinner. This has become one of my must-attend events (something I’d already decided pretty much after last year’s Fest, but this trip cemented that for me) for all of those above reasons, plus it’s so low-key; as I wrote last year:
…people were having a good time, without the crazy loud crowd scene that was the Oregon Brewfest last year on a Friday afternoon—less people, sure, but definitely a mellower vibe which I prefer rather than the “college frat house” feel.
So, the full disclosure: I got the media pass which included a ticket to the Brewer’s Dinner, a free night at the Oregon Garden Resort (we paid for a second night), and two Friday Brewfest packages (two pint glasses plus five tickets each). So, my wife and I went up to Silverton on Thursday and came back Saturday.
Continue reading “Oregon Garden Brewfest weekend wrap up and review” »
This past Thursday night as a prelude to the Oregon Garden Brewfest, the Oregon Garden Resort hosted the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner featuring six courses paired with special beers (and one cider) all from brewers pouring at the Fest (thought the beers themselves weren’t necessarily pouring), and I have to say, it was even better than last year’s Dinner. Here’s my brief recap.
First course: cheese plate, Fontina, Boursin and a dill Havarti with dried fruit and crostini, and paired with a Flat Tail Brewing blend of their Pre-Prohibition Pilsner with a peach sour (not the Dry Hop Petit Saison that was on the menu). This was a great pairing, and the cheese plate by itself was generous; paired with the light and fruity beer, it worked really well together. The beer itself was really good—not sure I would have seen a Pre-Prohibition Pils and sour blending well together, but it really worked.
Second course: Blackened shrimp martini with fresh pico salsa and crab meat paired with Fort George Roses on Roses. I absolutely loved last year’s bourbon-barrel aged (and bottled) Roses on Roses, but this version (a newer batch, at 8.5% abv) wasn’t as memorable for me and I think was still a bit young for my tastes I think. (Important to note that others felt this version was better than the bottled one I liked.) The shrimp and crab cocktail was good but a bit awkward to eat.
Third course: Pork and baby apple bruschetta paired with 2 Towns Ciderhouse Traditions Ciderworks Vintage Amity Rose. This dry cider (named after the Willamette Valley orchard the fruit is sourced from) was aged in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels and had a lovely crisp fruity presence. It paired really, really well with the pork and apple; the only criticism I have of that dish is the “bruschetta” bread wasn’t toasted or crispy, but soft.
Fourth course: Spinach salad with smoked pears, walnuts and lemon vinaigrette paired with Alameda Brweing‘s White Peppercorn Saison. The key here is “smoked pears” which I really, really liked (this was the most memorable dish for me); they had a smoked meat kind of smell (really appetizing actually) and when combined with the other components of the salad were pretty amazing. The Saison was 4.5% abv, brewed with French Saison yeast, and in addition to adding peppercorns to the end of the boil, Alameda also “dry hopped” the beer with the peppercorns (dry corned?). It was a tasty, interesting beer and paired well with the salad.
Fifth course: Cornish game hen with grilled strawberries and root vegetables paired with Falling Sky Who Loves the Sun (a Winter Spice Ale). What the menu failed to menu was that the (half) game hen was wrapped in bacon(!). And, grilled strawberries are amazing. And even more so when wrapped in bacon. The beer was complex, brewed with “lots of herbs” and coconut sugar (never heard of this before) to 8% abv; additionally, elderberries and elderflowers, coriander, and chili peppers were added to this beer. Unfortunately there really wasn’t much of any heat I could get from the chilis (to my disappointment) but it was an interesting beer all the same.
Sixth course: Flourless chocolate cake with black cherry compote, paired with Santiam Brewing‘s Sangre De Cristo, an oak-aged Cabernet Stout. The dessert was amazing, but the beer was the most interesting piece: 13% abv (!) with 30% of the fermentable sugars coming from Cabernet wine grapes; I don’t remember if it was aged in wine barrels as well, but it would surprise me. The aroma of this beer was all Welches grape juice—not kidding—and it had a sweet, wine-infused property that actually hid the high strength of the beer well while still being a little “hot” and young. Likely the most interesting beer in a field of interesting ones, if not the best. I would definitely look for this again.
After dinner there was of course great company and more beer pouring; many of us retired to the Lounge after a bit to finish off the night, and I got to touch base with a number of other folks. All in all, it was a great evening and one of the most interesting beer dinners I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Definitely recommending this particular dinner to folks again for next year.
Disclosure: I got a free pass to the Dinner, as well as a night at the Resort and passes to the first day of the Oregon Garden Brewfest on Friday (detailed in the next post).
A quick post on this weekend’s Oregon Garden Brewfest (until I get a chance to write a more in-depth article). With two full days to go and beautiful weather (really you couldn’t ask for a better weekend!), this is definitely one of the weekend’s best bets if you’re looking for something to do.
Get down to Silverton and check it out!
A few quick teaser pics:
Excuse the personal plug (I swear it’s connected to beer!) but I happen to work for a terrific start-up called Madefire and we’re producing a cutting edge digital reading experience whose DNA firmly resides in comic books. The first Thursday of every month we host a “Story Night” where we open our studio doors, buy a lot of beer (much of which I hand-pick!) and order a bunch of pizzas and invite any and everyone to come pay us a visit, check out our wares, and have a great time. It’s a pretty exciting evening and makes for a rough Friday.
How does this connect to The Brew Site? Well, a month or so back, we hosted our very first off-site Story Night in the pleasant little suburb of Concord, California and before setting up for the event I paid an up-and-coming East Bay brewery a visit: Ale Industries.
Located in the back of a business park, off the beaten trail, it’s a fairly unassuming place. There’s a magnificent home brew store next door and as I entered their secluded sanctuary, I was pleasantly surprised at what a homey, comfortable atmosphere it was. With the tops of several barrels serving as tabletops, a dart board in back and an inviting small bar, I sauntered up for some samples of their house brews. I tried every single beer they had on tap (see below) and settled upon several half-pints (I was driving, mind you) while munching pretzels from the numerous available bowls. Ale Industries is also very supportive of the local art community, displaying numerous paintings from a local creator (which rotates every few weeks or month, I believe).
Previous to this visit I’d only tried their Uncle Jessie and was impressed enough by it to follow them on twitter and find their location—and, boy, was I not disappointed In fact, I was stunned at the variety of beers they produce and the fact I don’t see MORE of their brews around the area. They had several fruit beers on tap (and I ended up paying $22 for a bottle of one), a sour, and unique twists on several other standards that I found quite interesting. It was honestly very difficult to leave!
In chatting with their friendly and knowledgeable taproom manger, Maureen, I learned a number of interesting things about Ale Industries. First up, having a child who frequently tags along to my many brewery excursions, they allow children in the taproom (assuming they’re well behaved—they can’t have kids climbing on the brewing equipment or the aging barrels). Also, due to a recently relaxed California state law, they’re now allowed to fill foreign brewery growlers by obscuring the existing logo with a sticker and are generous with a fill 2 get a 3rd free policy. Remarkable!
It’s a bit of journey out to Concord but if you’re living or visiting the Bay Area and love great, diverse beer—Ale Industries is a highly recommended venture.
- Rye’d Piper
- Unity, as in Edward
- This is the shit that killed Elvis
- A.I. Evolution Generation 4
- Cherry Kush
- Electric Fantasy
- Golden State of Mind
- Uncle Jessie
Check out the rest of the gallery below!
975 Detroit Ave, Unit E
Concord, CA 94518