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Archive for July 31st, 2019

4/19/07

Jerry Fechter, (Old Lompoc) at the 5th Quadrant Pub on North Williams, 18 months old.

How is the 5thQ doing?

“We opened the pub about 6 months before we started brewing and I was really happy with last summer.  We did no advertising but paid all our bills. Our percentages are close to 50/50 on food versus alcohol sales.  The outdoor seating is a big draw I think.  It took us about 6 months to get the brewery figured out, all new, and now, a year later, on the brew side we’re kind of getting the beer where I would like it. “

What made you decide on this location?

“We wanted to go to Mississippi before it got big and we missed out on that, we wanted the space that Amnesia Brewing is in.  I wanted to be in the North/NE section, I would have bought the Chapel building if I had known it was for sale, but the McMenamins got it instead.  This neighborhood is close to my house and Pix Patisserie moved into the corner space first, and the price was right. The next thing is to own a brewery outright, not lease.  It’s kinda difficult now, the prices have just skyrocketed.  I am still a bit scared, being in this neighborhood, but it is becoming gentrified.”

I am from Pittsburgh, since 1989.

Don Younger is my partner. 

Can you give me some history on your brewing career?

The Old Lompoc in Northwest Portland was the first place I started brewing at.  I built a brewery for the bar.  In 1994 I went to beer school and in 1995 we built the brewery.  They had 7 other bars, we brewed about 350 barrels a year and I asked them one day if they would sell The Old Lompoc to me, over a game of golf. They said yes, on the spot.   I decided to do it with Don Younger, the first year was a struggle.  The patio was a great addition.  The year after that we opened the Hedge House (on Division) and then we came here. 

What were your initial influences?

McMenamins pioneered the whole idea of the pub/brewery combination here. Now everybody has one.  I learned from Bob and Pete at first and I knew a lot of the McMenamins brewers and it was an easy brotherhood of brewers. I wanted to do better food and outdoor seating.  I think it’s fun, under a cover if its raining.  We did that at all our pubs.  The Mcmenamins’ Pub and the warm atmosphere I saw was a great influence on me.  The “third” place is what I was after, not your home, not the workplace but a place where you go just for you!  Beer gets people together, it’s a good socializer.  We could have done this, built this, spent all this money and no one might be here.  This place, almost every night, has a waiting list.  There is a great variety of people that come here. 

In what direction do you think the microbrew industry is going?
“as the customers get more educated, and we get more of them every year, there will probably be plenty of growth for years to come.  There is the next level of breweries.  Now we brew about 1500 barrels a year, who is going to fit in the 5-10,000 barrels niche? We are all kind of striving to get there.  The 5 or 6 local big guys really were breweries first and then added pubs, and a lot of tap handles.  Jim Parker, my partner at Oaks Bottom whom I am buying out, is starting his own brewery.  There will I think just be more and more small pubs, brewing onsite.”

What would you say to someone who says I want to do what you do?

“Everyone wants to own their own pub, but when they see how hard it is to get taphandles, there is a lot of money behind the big distributors, so for a small guy it is very difficult to have a presence. Running a pub is expensive if you have no experience, and if you do have experience it is a long day anyway.  It is not that easy to do.”

So is there a lot of competition for you guys?

“I go on vacation with the guys from Lucky Lab but we are still competitors.  We are all trying to get distribution.  I like the idea of many breweries on each block, more people walking by.  Everyone has their own niche here.  Organic, hoppy, easy drinking, pub atmosphere, it’s all here.  I think you can grow quickly but sometimes you might shoot yourself in the foot, Deschutes (located in Bend, Oregon) is the model as far as growth.  They are working their way across the country and not going too fast.  The secret is to pay attention to your home market.  They kept everybody happy.  The success of Fat Tire, from Colorado, is another interesting success story.  They rode their little bike in and took over a lot of handles in Oregon and Washington in just months.  They had a beer that suited that easy-drinking style.”

What is the key to your success so far?

We’re always trying to get better.  Better food, better beer, our three brewers are never satisfied.  Good locations and neighborhood traffic.  Having fun and enjoying yourself, that’s what people want and need.  That’s what I’d like to think we’re doing.

Aside: Jerry does not like email, has not used it for five years, he would prefer to fax things from a Minuteman shop.  Jerry does not brew beer anymore. Not since July 2006. He is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He is able to spend more time with his kids lately, even though he is as busy as he is.  He just does it and does not let the business run his life.

We tripled the size of the Old Lompoc, patio and green outside, something different.  

What do you think it takes to stay on top?

I feel like we’ve been close to the top and I feel like we’ve been at the very bottom, looking up at everybody.  Move your product and your service in the direction you want to go in.  Sometimes it stalls, sometimes you go backwards.   Someone who has time to brew, impresses me, also work the bar a little bit and do everything else.  Being hands on in your own business.  My wife is great too, she lets me work a lot, that also helps, to have that support.   

What is your favorite style of beer?

I like over the top bitterness.  Any beer in my hand is a good beer.  I like almost anything.  I prefer a little bit of malt and a huge hop finish or a huge hop nose.  

Are you involved in going green?

It’s very easy to become certified organic in the brewing world.  Use organic grains but organic hops are hard to get and are very expensive and inconsistent.  Cascade hops from the Yakima Valley in Washington state are one kind but there are other varieties as well (cascade hops price today is $9.05 for 1lb pellet online).  Most hops brewers get are from New Zealand.  It’s pretty difficult to grow them here, although they are trying.  Also in the Willamette Valley there are many hops being grown.  Budweiser gets theirs from there.  The grain is either from Canada or Western Oregon or Washington state.  One big yeast supplier is in Hood river and the other is in California.  Brewers almost want to be organic or “green”, you can save a lot of money that way in the end.  Recycle water, power, materials.  We use the same water here to cool down the beer every single time we brew.  It saves us a lot of money.  1500 gallons of water a week is our normal usage and it would stink to send it down the drain.  Maybe our next brewery will be “greener”, we are trying.

Our increase in sales in beer production was 32% in 2006.  We brewed about 1600 barrels.

From http://www.hopsteiner.com/history1.htm

hops

Undoubtedly they were used first for medicinal purposes. Earliest written evidence of hop cultivation appears to be that concerning a hop garden near Geisenfeld in the Hallertau region of Germany in 736 AD. Additional documentary evidence from the 9th – 12th centuries shows that hop cultivation centered around Bohemia, Slovenia and Bavaria, and the use of hops in beer in the Netherlands by the 11th century has been recorded. Hop growing in North America goes back to Dutch Colonial times, when Adrian Block and Hans Christians built a commercial log house brewery in the trading fort on Manhattan Island about 1612. today, in the US. there are three primary commercial growing areas: The Yakima Valley in Washington, the Treasure Valley in Idaho near Boise, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. About 70% of the crop is grown in the Yakima Valley. In addition there are farms in northern Idaho whose production is dedicated to their owner, a major brewing firm.

One interesting note, in Germany the average hop farm is only 16.5 acres, For the entire European Union the average farm size is only 12.9 acres. In the U. S. we average over 400 acres per grower!

What do you see is the future for beer style? 

“Bitter in the Northwest will always be king but I think a lot more people will move into the Belgian genre and its variety.  The dark Belgian style beer we brew we fly through.  It’s limitless what you can do with that style of beer. 14% or 3% alcohol for example.    Kurt and Rob got people to try he Hefe and then moved on to the ambers, then the IPA’s, the pale Ales, stepping stone beer being the Hefe.  

Do you see your beer changing in the future?

The Belgians yes.  Adding those.  I would not be surprised if we had a certified organic beer by this Fall.  

Is there you are dreaming about for your business in the future?

A permanent golf vacation! (laughs)…it’s really what I’m working for.  We are hoping for bigger distribution, so more production, a huge test for us, and bottling by the Fall.  We now have four pubs, maybe a few more in the future.  I’d love to go to New Seasons and see a picture of me in the aisleway…that’s a little bit of the ego trip…it would also help with the marketing of our products.  Distributors get about 25% of the beer sales.  There is a lot of money to be made there.  I need to see how far we can go while I still have some youth and energy.

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