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Archive for the ‘beermakers’ Category

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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Mike DeKalb
Mike DeKalb, in his new brewery in Hollywood, Portland Oregon 2007

My introduction:

I am not much of a beer drinker, more of a wine and vodka person.  But through getting to know the founders and brewmasters behind these Portland breweries I began a love affair with the whole process as well as the product they created.

I wanted to understand the type of person behind a brewery and I wanted to know what it takes to stay on top, or at least, in the running.  I interviewed a dozen founders/ceo’s/brewmasters.  I sat down with each of them, face to face for about an hour and asked a series of questions I felt were pertinent to their industry and to their involvement in it. I interviewed Kurt Widmer, one of the founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brian McMenamin of the Mcmenamins  chain, the founder of hair of the Dog, Alan Sprints, also John Balfe and Scott Barnum, the CEO of Pyramid Breweries and Mactarnahan, Karl Ockert, the Brewmaster and founder of Bridgeport Brewing, Ron Gansberg the founder of the Racoon Lodge and Mike De Kalb the founder and owner of the Laurelwood Brewing Co.  and a few others.  I have found them to be incredibly intelligent, kind, humble and witty.  It is exhilarating talking to people who truly love what they do.

Mike Dekalb, Laurelwood Public House and Brewery

Owner of 5 pubs in Portland

4/11/07 in Hollywood

Paint chips on his eyeglasses, working on the new pub on Sandy.  “Garden bug sprayer and ivory dish soap do wonders on taking off a popcorn ceiling.  One third soap to water took off the 80’s popcorn.  You might have to put that on your blog”, laughs, yea how to take popcorn off your ceiling.

History on the background of the brewery’s inception?

My wife Kathy and I were looking to buy a restaurant, we both have restaurant backgrounds and we live 8 blocks from here, and this restaurant became available and it just so happened it had a brewery in it.  I worked in the beer industry previously, we were going to treat the brewery as a novelty, something to supplement the restaurant so we hired a good brewer and the brewery took off and it became an integral part of what we do.  We opened in 2001.  We opened the Northwest in 2004.  We also have 2 more at the airport opening this year (2007) and the one on Sandy I just came from.  65-70% of our sales are still in food, people come for the beer.  We also distribute to 60 other places around town.  With our new brewery we’ll be able to at least double that.  

We found our first brewer through the person that started this place initially, he had a great concept and a great idea but no experience.  It took him a year and a half to get it opened, they had no real kitchen.  Credit cards and a home equity loan helped us acquire it from him.  It took about 3 months and we painted ourselves.  We added more brewing capacity in 2003 to keep up with demand.  We picked up the brewing equipment for next to nothing.  We bought the booth but lease all the other furniture from the landlord.  The family friendly part of our business has been huge.  Between 5:30 and 8PM 70% of our business is families with kids.

How did you know the brewer and the beer would be good?

I ran 65% of the food and beverage at the airport before I started this business.  One of those was the Widmer Pub.  They recommended him to me.  I called the Oregon Brewers Guild and they said he was a good guy so I hired him.  He had originally designed the brewery,  and I did not know if the beer was going to be good but there was still some beer in the tanks, for over 8 months and we got some good reviews for that beer, a lager style beer. So before we even opened we were getting some good press on this beer.   lagers improve with age.  He left here about a year ago and is starting his own place on 29th and Powell.  His protégé has taken over, and he’s doing a great job.  We won the best beer award in 2004 at the World beer cup awards.  50 countries, 500 breweries, 1600 different beers entered.  Space Stout and Free Range Red were the gold winners.

In what direction do you think the craft beer industry is going?

The Northwest as a whole is more organic, independent, original beers, and does not reflect what the country is doing in terms of sales.  We are definitely leading the pack and the rest of the country is slowly catching up.  There are 5000 breweries in the United States and Portland has the highest brewery per capita than any city in the world.

Would you say there is any competition in the market for you and why?

Most of us belong to the Oregon Brewers Guild and we meet regularly, there is friendly competition.  

Do you care about the differences in your current pubs?

The menus are about 90% the same and each one has its own personality.  We wanted the NW location to be Laurelwood but also NW 23rd.  The colors are different, brighter, not as muted as here on 40th.  We marketed to a younger crowd, the team that developed our initial logos, five years ago, came up with some edgier stuff for 23rd.   They begged us for work and developed all our logos and everything.  The place you take the kids was one of their logos.  We have a graphic artist now that works for beer.  The kid-friendly thing was totally my wife Kathy’s idea.  Before we opened the kids play area here we had a huge fight with our brewer.  There was no place for our friends and us to go with our kids if you wanted to go and have a beer.  McMenamins gives you crayons if you go with the kids.   

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 Introduction: I am not much of a beer drinker, more of a wine and vodka person.  But through getting to know the founders and brewmasters behind these Portland breweries I began a love affair with the whole process as well as the product they created. I wanted to understand the type of person behind a brewery and I wanted to know what it takes to stay on top, or at least, in the running.  I interviewed a dozen founders/ceo’s/brewmasters.  I sat down with each of them, face to face for about an hour and asked a series of questions I felt were pertinent to their industry and to their involvement in it. I interviewed Kurt Widmer, one of the founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brian McMenamin of the Mcmenamins  chain, the founder of hair of the Dog, Alan Sprints, also John Balfe and Scott Barnum, the CEO of Pyramid Breweries and Mactarnahan, Karl Ockert, the Brewmaster and founder of Bridgeport Brewing, Ron Gansberg the founder of the Racoon Lodge and Mike De Kalb the founder and owner of the Laurelwood Brewing Co.  and a few others.  I have found them to be incredibly intelligent, kind, humble and witty.  It is exhilarating talking to people who truly love what they do.

Scott Barnum, CEO Pyramid Brewing; Portland, Oregon, 2006

1.Clarification of the mergers, in short.
Hart Brewing was acquired by a group of investors in the late 1980’s who renamed the company Pyramid Breweries after one of its brands after Hart Brewing was acquired.

2. In what direction do you think the microbrew industry is going. 

We call it the craft beer category. We project that the category should continue to grow at high single digits for the next several years.  Consumers are trading up to better more fuller flavored food and drink and the craft beer category is a beneficiary of this.  Importantly, today’s 21-29 year old beer drinker, the mainstay demographic of the beer market, is much more educated today than ever before.  They are more educated about beer and beer styles and have a more educated palette – having been exposed to lots of fuller flavored consumables by their Baby Boomer parents who have been seeking more premium and interesting tasting products.  There will be 4+ million 21 year-olds coming of legal drinking age each year for the next several.  This should help the craft category by having more craft-beer-ready drinkers in the drinkers pool than ever before.

3. Would you say there is any competition for you in the market and why. 

Of course there is competition… the beer market is one of the most competitive consumer products categories there is.  But, competition is good.  Whether it is from someone local down the street or one of the “Big Three” commercial brewers or a larger brewer from outside of the USA, the more the diversity of high quality fuller flavored beers offered the more beer drinkers the more exposure they will have.  Ultimately, they will at least try many new products and many will evolve their palettes and their preferences.  This is what has been going on for the last few years and the craft beer category has been a beneficiary of this.

4. What would you reveal as the secret to your success. 

That secret is locked away deep in the caverns of one of our breweries!  But what I will say is that the consistently high quality of our beers has a big role to play, our alehouses provide us with a great opportunity for branding/brand awareness and trial exposure for our products and we have a top-tier sales organization that is second to none for a company of our size.

5. How do American Microbreweries or Craft breweries compare to traditional breweries in Europe.

There are a lot of similarities and yet there are many differences too.  Many of the craft brewers in the United States have taken inspiration and indeed beer making training from the Europeans. English Ales from the Brits, Stouts from the Irish, Fruit Beers from the Belgians, Pilsners from the Czechs and Hefeweizen from the Germans are but a few style examples that American craft brewers have emulated.  Still, Americans by their very nature and culture are creative and like to do things their own ways.  There are many examples of hybrid styles or American versions of traditional European styles (e.g., Pyramid’s Hefe Weizen)have been developed and have been very successful.

6. What does it take to stay on top.

Make sure there are plenty of folks on the bottom!  ☺ 

No great secrets here… Great beer made consistently each and every day.  A smart, passionate and diverse organization.  A very solid wholesaler network with whom you have a strong partnership and relationships.  A good operations and financial infrastructure.  And finally, great sales and marketing capabilities coupled with a strong dose of entrepreneurialism.  

7. What is your personal favorite type of beer.

Should a father have a favorite child amongst his children?  Truth be told, I highly admire Belgian beers, particularly Belgian Wits… which is probably why I like Pyramid’s Weizen beers so much. 

8. What is your opinion on going green and are you involving your company in it.

Pyramid is positively involved in the communities where we do business and we are part of these communities: Portland, Seattle, Northern California and to some extent all of the places where we distribute. On the environmental side, we try to do what we can locally and are more sensitive than ever before about what we should be doing as an organization.  As a small local example – last December we gave part of the money raised at our annual Snowcap Ale party at the Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle to the Surfrider Foundation’s Snowrider Project, aimed at protecting local mountain-based watersheds, which affect everything from clean drinking water to the health of ocean fish.  We obviously have responsibilities to our shareholders, but to the extent possible, we try to help out locally with worthwhile causes like this one and we fully realize the importance of taking care of our natural resources. 

9. Oregons beer production grew at a rate of 16.5 percent in 2006, how did that reflect within your own company in terms of growth. 

Our Pyramid brand business, led by our Hefe Weizen, was up more than 27% in 2006.  In Oregon our packaged Hefe Weizen (majority of Pyramid’s Hefe sales in Oregon) was up more than 100% and draft Hefe Weizen was up 14% for 2006. 

10.  What in your opinion is the trend for beers in general in the next decade or so in terms of style. 

Certainly over the intermediate term, I think we’ll see more and more consumers embrace unfiltered beers like our Weizens and we’ll see more trade up to “bigger beers”, i.e., higher hopped and spiced beers as consumers palettes become more beer savvy and sophisticated. 

11. Do you see any of your beers changing drastically in the future and in what direction.

 Not in the near term, but we read consumer behavior and usage patterns.  If necessary, we’ll take our cue from what the market is telling us.  For right now, the market thinks were in a pretty good place!

12. Is there something that you are hoping, wishing for, dreaming about for this company in the future.  A vision that may seem unreachable now.

Well, how about the dream that every Portland Monthly reader will buy a Pyramid HefeWeizen each and every day for the rest of their lives!  If that, somehow, doesn’t come to fruition, we do expect to be one of the more vibrant and exciting craft brewers for some time to come… You can be sure that we will be taking advantage of the window of opportunity that is now in front of us… We’d love to see HefeWeizen become a mainstream beer style in the US as it is in Germany.  Hopefully, history will be so written…
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Interview with: John Balfe, Pyramid Breweries, Assistant Marketing Manager, Pyramidbrew.com

MacTarnahan’s Taproom

John: 

The brewery in Seattle is a pirate brewery, for Pyramid for all our test batches and brew for our various pubs and restaurants.  We have 5 pubs, in Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Sacramento.

What is the future of the craft beer industry?”

As people step up, for example in the coffee industry, people are willing to spend more money on a quality product.  You’ve seen it in cheeses, in wines…

Do you consider yourself still a Microbrewery?

We are still a craft brewer.  We do over 200,000 barrels a year. Back in 1997/8 a lot of craft brewers washed out because of inconsistency of quality.

Do you think Oregon has some of the best craft beer in the country?

I would definitely say that.  We have access to clean water, most of the ingredients are here from the Northwest.  90% of all hops grown in America are grown in Oregon and Washington.  The people here are willing to try new things. Searching out new and better products.

Is there a lot of competition in you market and your niche?

Everybody in the beer category is competition.  Even the small brewpub guy, but it’s still a fairly friendly competition.  

What kind of a beer do you think a New York City person would be impressed with locally?  It’s the variety, everything from barley wines to stouts…

Who do you think nationally, is the biggest competitor to the craft breweries?

Coors produces Blue Moon, it’s a hefeweizen type beer that’s going after our market, Widmers as well.  I think it’s doing fairly well.

What is the key to their marketing strategy?

In each wholesaler, they are number one or two beer brand, so they have a lot of money behind them.  We have to sell it to a wholesaler, who sells it to a retailer, who sells it to the public.  So our number one customer is our wholesaler but if there are 10 beers that they make money off of their preference is for those guys.  

What is the best way to introduce a brand?

The classic way is word of mouth.  We do a lot of sampling at the grocery store chain level.  We try to use our restaurant, to get people to try our beers.  Today’s generation is overloaded and doesn’t want to see ads…

How would you convince someone on the other side of the country to drink your beer?

It’s tough because we are on the I-5 corridor, but the farther you get away from your home town, your resources are smaller.  No sixpacks on the shelf, only one.  We do on premise promotions, in bars and restaurants, festivals, etc…

Is your Mac Ale your strongest performer?

Pyramid Hefeweizen is our strongest performer. We also do Pyramid Apricot, which is the nation’s leading fruit beer. We also do well with our seasonals, Curveball and Snowcap are the current ones.

Sockeye Creative redesigned the look of the Mac beer. Why did you choose them?

I interviewed several different agencies but none wanted to do the packaging except Sockeye Creative.  They love the brand so much they decided they would do the packaging.  They did whatever it took.  They were college friends of mine anyway.  I had known those guys for years.  The whole process took about a year.  They continue to be our agency of record.

We use caramel malts in the Mactarnahan beers. 

What is Cascade dryhopping?

We take the hops and once the beer is made and it’s in the fermentation tanks for a specific time, they put some hops in a net and let it sit in the mixture and so that adds a lot more hop flavor and aroma.

It is really hard to get shelf space on the grocery store shelves, it’s illegal to pay for shelf space for alcohol.   How do you get those guys to carry your product?  It’s really tough.  The smaller guys that are making 30,000 barrels should merge with someone who is making more and then you can solidify your shelf space.

How do American microbrews compare with traditional brewing techniques in Europe?

They’re really similar.  The big guys could produce what we produce if they wanted to, some of them are using whole hops and its really a hands on thing.

What does it take to stay on top?

Consistent product is huge.  You’ve gotta be fast and nimble in terms of your marketing, wholesalers need some “customer service”, you have to provide a good product on time.


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Vice President of the McMenamins chain in Portland, Oregon

Beermeister and Preservationist

we were sitting down outside the mcmenamins market pub at 10th and market in portland

Brian McMenamin, Vice-President

Visnja Clayton’s photo of Brian taken by permission at the time of the interview

About Visnja:  I am not much of a beer drinker, more of a wine and vodka person.  But through getting to know the founders and brewmasters behind these Portland breweries I began a love affair with the whole process as well as the product they created.

I wanted to understand the type of person behind a brewery and I wanted to know what it takes to stay on top, or at least, in the running.  I interviewed a dozen founders/ceo’s/brewmasters.  I sat down with each of them, face to face for about an hour and asked a series of questions I felt were pertinent to their industry and to their involvement in it. I interviewed Kurt Widmer, one of the founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brian McMenamin of the Mcmenamins  chain, the founder of hair of the Dog, Alan Sprints, also John Balfe and Scott Barnum, the CEO of Pyramid Breweries and Mactarnahan, Karl Ockert, the Brewmaster and founder of Bridgeport Brewing, Ron Gansberg the founder of the Racoon Lodge and Mike De Kalb the founder and owner of the Laurelwood Brewing Co.  and a few others.  I have found them to be incredibly intelligent, kind, humble and witty.  It is exhilarating talking to people who truly love what they do.

4/4/07

Interview with Brian at the Market St. Pub downtown Portland.

What direction do you think the Beer Craft industry is going?

“Lately it seems like it’s growing again at a pretty good rate.  It was flat for a while there and it had been growing in double digits for a long time.  In the beginning days, in 1985, the city had 3 or 4 breweries now I don’t even know how many there are.  I think every pub should have a brewery if they could.  We are seeing the industry mature a lot.  The bigger guys are getting bought out and merging but I think there is still plenty of opportunity for the little guy to make this niche.   

Do people approach you asking advice on how to do it?

We get tons of phone calls, which is great but there is not enough time to sit down with every one of them, although you want to, you can’t do that.  You don’t have a chance to retrospect very often because you’re doing stuff all the time. This gives you a chance to think about what and why you’re doing something.

I think it’s healthy to combine brewing and the pub atmosphere, you create your own atmosphere.  We make our own wine too, we grow a lot of our own herbs for the kitchens.  We also grow hops just for fun not for real usage.  

What do you think is the style trend for American micro breweries?

Northwest they like hoppy beer but then in general the mass produced beer has appeal to a lot of people.  As a small guy we have the opportunity to do all kinds of beers. 

We have 23 breweries, one for each two pubs, more or less, different water sources, different age of hops, each brewer tinkers a little bit with the grain, they each like their own signatures on it.  So the beers are all a little bit different in each one of the breweries.

Budweiser would shriek at that because they want their beers to taste the same the world over.  If people don’t like a beer we’ll brew another one.  We are also marketing to a general public but more in our own town, and they can drink any beer they like there, not just ours. Our beer is always associated with food. We are more restaurants than pubs now.  Our food sales used to be 25% or 30% and now they are 65%.  

How do the American craft brewers techniques compare to those of Europe?

I think the basics are there.  People thought we were nutty to have a fruit beer, our Ruby was the first one in Oregon but they’ve been doing it in Europe for a long time. 

Do you see a big difference in beer styles in Europe as opposed to the United States?

“25 years ago Budweiser was not available in Europe, now it is everywhere”

Would you open a pub in Europe?

We’re kind of homebodies.  We do everything ourselves.  We don’t have a team that goes out and opens new places.  Our furtherest outpost I probably 3 hours from ground zero.  It is hard to manage place the farther out it is.  

Have you thought about opening more restaurants in the Portland area?

Yes, we’re always looking.  We just opened one on Killingsworth, the Chapel.

On the website:CHAPEL PUB
We bet you’ll make a vow to return again and again.

We’ve renovated the beautiful and historic Little Chapel of the Chimes (ca. 1932) to become a new community gathering spot for everyone, young and old alike! The main floor houses a family-friendly neighborhood pub with seating for 100 people, along with a picturesque outdoor patio, while the second floor serves as McMenamins company headquarters. While you’re here, check out the beautiful ironwork throughout the property, fashioned by talented craftsman O.B. Dawson in the early 1930s. Look familiar? Perhaps because Dawson’s work is also showcased at Timberline Lodge, the University of Oregon and Oregon State. Read all about Dawson in the Fall 2006 newsletter. You’re also welcome to enjoy our company artists’ quirky murals and portraits throughout, painted in homage to the building’s history and former life.

Local: (503) 286-0372 430 N. Killingsworth St. Portland, OR 97217

What do you think it takes to stay successful?

We have at times barely survived, and even now we have places that don’t make money, places that have never made money.  But we have enough places that make money so it balances out.  We make enough to keep going which is good.  If someone starts this business the first two questions are ‘how much money do you have and then, have you ever worked in the industry’?  We get a lot of calls from people that have no experience with either brewing or kitchens who want to do what we do and we say, quit your job and go work in a brewpub for a year.  They have to have enough money to open it and to float it.  

What was your beginning like?

We had a rough start, our dad helped us out.  My brother owned a restaurant and I managed it when I was 21.  Then we got into business together and opened a place.  We got out of school, we were seven years apart, we were dumb, neither of us had any business experience.  We bounced around a lot. We tried to figure out things for ourselves, the school of hard rocks.  We survived that time, we are still learning every day.  We were political science majors.  I was thinking about going into law school.  I never really knew him when we were little kids, we were far apart in age.  We became best friend when we got older and we would want to go to that pub together, just because it sounded cool.  We loved beer and we would drive all over the planet to try different beers.  In 1978 or 79 there were only 15 beers available on tap in Oregon, total.  We’d go to Washington state and sample different beers, it was fun.  Mike opened a wholesaler caus he was really interested in importing beers and making that work.  It was not successful, he was ahead of his time.  He then got back in the pub business, where we are now.  We were buying old dairy tanks and doing whatever we could just to make beer.  Our first brewery was put together for just a few thousand bucks.  It was a bunch of old stuff, whatever we could find.  Our brewery was one step above making soup on the stove.  It was just a bigger kettle.  It was ‘that tastes good, or that tastes bad, we have to throw that away’.  We had successful pubs before we started brewing.  The brewing was just a side note in 1985, when we started it.  

What is your favorite beer to drink?

IPA, I like hops.  Europe is very malt oriented, lesser hops.  This is the beer I grew up on.  The first Pyramid ale was great, filled with hops.  

What is your opinion on going green?

We’ve been doing it forever, like using windpower for example.  We also use recycled wood in all of our places.  You could find where the wood comes from in all of our places.  Some of our wood comes from a Seagram’s distillery in Kentucky.  Some comes from a tobacco plant.  We just do it, always have.

Why do you think that there are so many breweries here in Portland?

We have good hops close by, good grain, great water.  The weather, brings more people in to drink beer.  So there is the demand.   The spirit up here is a bit more experimental, big companies do test marketing here.  

Do you have a worthy competitor in the Oregon region?

We don’t even think that way.  One would rather be on a street with 30 pubs than one pub.  There is going to be that much more traffic.

Do you spend a lot of money on marketing your products?

We didn’t know marketing from a hole in the ground.  For the pubs that was great.  Then we started getting bigger properties, hotels, now we have a marketing department, although I am still afraid of it (laughs).  Word of mouth has always been our kind of deal.  We do a lot of marketing now, mostly for the big properties.

You have so many properties to manage, what is a typical day like for you?

It’s gotten a little crazier in the last couple of years.  I don’t know why.  We are pretty hands on and we just opened 3 pubs in like 6 months, which is crazy.  Now we just have a bunch of remodel projects.  We do them ourselves.  There are so many projects, just internally.  A typical day is a lot of driving.  Today I was in Eugene, then I stopped in Salem and then Portland.  Tomorrow I have to go to the office, in Portland.  Friday I am up in Seattle and Olympia.

I read that you have a $70 million empire.  Is this close?

That’s an old number. I don’t talk about numbers.  We’re doing better than that.  Numbers are not that important.  We’re getting close to $100.

Why do you think there is the grass-roots spirit here? You grew up here and why do you think it’s here?

Our parents said whatever you do, do it well.  We were not perfect children.  My mother was upset when I told her I was following my brother into the beer business.  So we said we’d name our first beer after her.  She said, ‘I’m changing my name’.  Then she became our biggest fan.  She still goes to pubs, to this day.

What qualities do the CcMenamin brothers possess that make you unique in this environment?

We survived!  I grew up a pretty introverted kid and had trouble in speech classes.  I did learn, eventually how to  communicate.

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Portland’s Brewmeisters!

My husband and I moved from NYC to Portland, Oregon Nov. 11, 2005.  John used to brew beer in our kitchen back east and living here in Portland reminded me of those days.  According to The Brewers Association of America, craft beer had a 17.8% increase in supermarket sales for 2006–more growth than any other alcohol beverage category in the supermarket sales channel. Portland has 28 microbreweries within its city limits which is more than any other city in the world. There seems to be a brewery or a pub on every corner.  Beer is worshipped here, and in fact, it seems to create a subculture of “hopheads” in the know.  It has a magical power over this town and it captured me in its web as well.  I am not much of a beer drinker, more of a wine and vodka person.  But through getting to know the founders and brewmasters behind these Portland breweries I began a love affair with the whole process as well as the product they created.

I wanted to understand the type of person behind a brewery and I wanted to know what it takes to stay on top, or at least, in the running.  I interviewed a dozen founders/ceo’s/brewmasters.  I sat down with each of them, face to face for about an hour and asked a series of questions I felt were pertinent to their industry and to their involvement in it. I interviewed Kurt Widmer, one of the founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brian McMenamin of the Mcmenamins  chain, the founder of hair of the Dog, Alan Sprints, also John Balfe and Scott Barnum, the CEO of Pyramid Breweries and Mactarnahan, Karl Ockert, the Brewmaster and founder of Bridgeport Brewing, Ron Gansberg the founder of the Racoon Lodge and Mike De Kalb the founder and owner of the Laurelwood Brewing Co.  and a few others.  I have found them to be incredibly intelligent, kind, humble and witty.  It is exhilarating talking to people who truly love what they do.

Variety, innovation, leadership,  persistence, creativity and entrepreneurship,  all rolled up into one in a town  of immense possibility and expanding infrastructure. The Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the United States (U.S.).  It is the only area to sell more than 1,000,000 cases of micro brewed beer according to Information Resources Inc.  Seattle and San Francisco are the second and third largest markets respectively.

The largest craft beer producer in Oregon is Widmer Brothers Brewing Company of Portland, which produced 269,000 barrels in 2006 making it the third largest craft brewery in the nation.  The Portland area beer industry is keeping right along with the tremendous growth of this underdog city, one whom many are flocking to from all over the world.  Many a Portlander would recommend their town’s beer as some of the best they’ve ever had.

In the last 20 years, a group of 20-somethings all fell in love with beer and invested every last penny to pursue beermaking.  Their predecessors did the same, although often with much less success and in smaller batches.

Kurt Widmer, one of the two brothers that owns Widmer Brothers Brewing,  always loved beer, since the day his brother and him visited the breweries of Germany, brought back recipes, tasted them out in their tiny Portland kitchens.  The 48 year old co-founder is part of the “elite” beer brewing group making history and leading the pack with innovative  recipes and fresh ideas.  “Brewing is still growing up, the variety will keep changing as tastebuds mature.”  Kurt exemplifies the energy and the creativity of this group of beermakers.  A group that includes Karl Ockert, Art Larrance,  Mike Dekalb, the McMenamins brothers, etc…Many of these men have degrees in beermaking and many simply learned by trial and error, like the McMenamins Brothers. Follow me on a journey in beer making with these amazing beer meisters!

Kurt Widmer in Portland, Oregon March 2007

Kurt Widmer

Widmer Brothers Brewing

3/23/07

Walking into the offices at 929 North Russell Street.

Finding a quiet space was difficult since there was major construction going on across the street, an extension of the brewery itself was in the process of being erected.

We did find a recently drywalled conference room to use and sat down at a large empty table.

Kurt, on the background of the brewery’s inception (in interview)

“My inspiration was, in the mid 1970’s I lived and worked in Germany for a couple of years and I had been a beer drinker before that but I developed a greater appreciation for it and then I came back and when I returned to Portland found that the beers were not at their best so I begin home brewing, feeling a little bit travel weary….just to see if I could brew the beer that I had been enjoying in Germany.  My brother also started home brewing with a different inspiration.  His inspiration was our uncle who made his own beer and cheese and we thought it was neat and when we were like ten, we would go to his house and he would offer us a beer.  So we were home brewers for abut five years and towards the end of that time,  we got better.  We stuck to very traditional styles, I did try to get lagers but they were kind of disappointing, very time consuming.  I learned to identify when a European port was fresh on the shelf and what I found was that the ones I tried to brew myself were not as good as the ones that arrived fresh.  There is no reason to do something if it’s not better.  So I went back to doing ales. Stouts and porters and all kinds of variations on that.

My brother was the Food and Beverage manager at Big Sky Montana,  a very popular ski resort in Montana near Bozeman, Montana and he used the kitchen there, after hours for his production area and he had everything shipped in Mail order and it arrived in a very fresh state.  What’s available to home brewers now is much superior what we had back then.  We enjoyed the process a lot, it was fun and our friends enjoyed drinking it with us. After doing that for five years we kind of felt that doing it on a commercial scale was the logical next step.”

Were the banks open to your ideas at the time?

“They all thought it was a very fascinating idea but there weren’t any models around so, you can only imagine, it’s like walking in and saying I want to buy a piece of property on Mars…so therefore they weren’t willing to loan any money to us.”

So what we did to raise money is called “private placement”.  We sold stock on a private basis to family and friends.  I believe there were sixteen investors then.  Aunt and uncles, great aunts and uncles, sisters and parents and a few close friends.  I don’t think any of them envisioned that it would be anything more than a fun idea and nobody put in very much money, like a thousand dollars here and there, five hundred…We raised somewhere around sixty thousand dollars and that allowed us to buy and assemble all of our equipment when we first began.  We were renting our building, in the Northwest part of Portland at 14th and Lovejoy.  We were over there for five years, opened a second brewery downtown, still renting it, it used to be called the Heathman Bakery and Pub.  It was more of a brew pub, that space.  Then we sold both breweries and bought this building in 1989 and started fixing it up.  It was pretty bombed out.  Then we moved in here in 1990.”

In what direction do you think the microbrew industry is going:

According to CNNMoney.com, Internet-style rise and fall in the late 1990s, craft beers are on the climb again, with $4.3 billion in U.S. sales in 2005, a 13 percent lift from a year earlier. (By comparison, mass-market beer sales slipped 1.5 percent over the same period.)

“In the 80’s the whole Craft brewing industry grew in double digits.  The typical annual growth was around 50%.  Then in the 90’s the whole segment, nationwide went pretty flat, it never went backwards and it picked up in the late 90’s and it’s been growing ever since in the double digits for the last six years.   Once you have craft beer, it’s hard to go back to something else…(like a Budweiser?) 85% of the population drinks lighter domestic lagers and who can say that 85 % are wrong.  What we find is that each wave of growth finds more people liking craft beer and each time it goes up a little bit higher.

We have panels sit in every day and do comparison taste studies. The taste panel has been together for quite a while, Rob is on that, and there are people from all over the company that are on the panel. Finance, front office, engineering, brewing, they have been together long and they trained together, which is very important because they all have to speak a very common language.  Everyone understands each specific word being used.  For the Hefeweizen, (German for “yeast wheat” is a variety in which the yeast is not filtered out), they meet every day and taste every batch of beer before it goes out.  The criteria is how close to the target is it that that specific sample is.  Our quality insurance guys analyze that on a regular basis, whether consistently above or below target, and if it’s not on target, why.  That’s what they do after the tasting.  We are constantly adjusting for trends…raw materials change, water changes, ambient temperature changes, the sun, the moon and the stars change…brewing is an art, as much as anything else…

Would you say there is any competition for you in the market, in the Hefeweizen market?

“Yes, there is a cheap knockoff, but nobody has been able to exactly craft what we do.  Some get fairly close but most don’t get very close at all.  Once thing that’s kind of nice is that we’ve forced some of these knockoffs, since they can’t compete on flavor or quality they have to compete on price.  They’re generally discounted.

What would you reveal as the secret to your Hefeweizen?

“There are several things going for it.  One is that it’s the most flavorful and the freshest in any given market.  We send it out as soon as it passes our quality assurance and we go to great lengths to assure that more distant markets get the freshest, if it’s a week old in Portland, it’s a week old in Austin, Texas. We also have a relationship with Anheuser-Busch that allows us to use their distribution system which is the best in the known universe.  All of their trucks and warehouses are refrigerated, they take shelf life very very seriously.  There are about 1000 bars and restaurants in the Portland area that carry Widmer and according to the VP of Marketing 20,000 on the West Coast in total.  We do most of our business West of the Rocky Mountains.  

How do American Microbrews or Craft breweries compare to traditional techniques of brewing?

“I use both terms, craft and microbrew.  Most of the craft beers in the U.S. are ales.  Almost no one would use adjuncts, like corn or rice…

(The Reinheitsgebot, dating back to 1487, meaning literally “purity requirement”, sometimes called the “German purity law” in beer making, in the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops.)

Most craft beer in the U.S. adheres pretty close to that although some use fruit in their beers and do not comply to the Reinheitsgebot rule.  

What does it take to stay on top?

“I don’t think that we would even say that we were on top.  But there has to be a constant perpetual commitment to quality.  Our beer gets better every day.   If it’s not perfect we dump it.  We have five people here that are just dedicated to that. We send our people to schools for education and we have very educated brewers and our QA people come with great backgrounds in quality assurance.  My brother and I try to participate in every interview, every hire and we look for people that are smart and hardworking and modest.  And then we figure we can train them to do what we want them to do.  We would rather do that than have them bring bad habits from their past jobs.  If they have a work history that shows they are honest and smart hardworking people we can work with them.  And then our equipment gets better every year and we just get better at what we’re doing every year.  The freshest beer is always in the marketplace, that’s simple but it’s actually kind of complicated.  We have about 300 wholesalers that we are shipping to individually and we have to coordinate that their inventories always have the right amount. Never want them to run out or have too much, then the beer gets stale.  They do a great job.  Having a passion for great beer, and Rob and I love beer. That’s our life.  But even if we were not in the business we would be enthusiastic beer drinkers.

What is your favorite type of beer?  

“I very much enjoy our hefeweizen, it’s flavorful enough that it’s a nice compliment to just about any food and does not overpower it, it’s also good by itself.  When I’m in the Gasthaus for example, I’ll try one of our experimental beers first and the alt beer that we have is one of my old standbys (an Altbier is a German style brown ale, the “alt” literally translates to “old” in German, and traditionally Altbiers are conditioned for a longer than normal periods of time and are fermented at colder temperatures.)

What is your opinion on going “green”?

“We recycle about 95% of our solid waste.  We take it very seriously, our kegs get reused, our glass gets recycled, the malt and the yeast, after we use it is excellent cattlefeed.  The leftover beer from returned kegs and bottoms of tanks, we send out to our cattle farmer.  It’s very nutritious, very low in alcohol.  He is down in the Willamette Valley.  We have a bunch of farmers that pick up our waste.

The Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the United States (U.S.).  It is the only area to sell more than 1,000,000 cases of micro brewed beer according to Information Resources Inc.  Seattle and San Francisco are the second and third largest markets respectively.

The largest craft beer producer in Oregon is Widmer Brothers Brewing Company of Portland, which produced 269,000 barrels in 2006 making it the third largest craft brewery in the nation. 

Why did the term microbrew shift to the more common term “craft” beer?  

“It was always a reference to size.  When we started micro was 5,000 barrels annually, then it kept going up and then it stopped at 25,000 and when it crossed that it became a craft beer.  I am not offended when someone refers to us as a microbrew because compared to big domestic brewers we are very tiny.  We did 269,000 barrels last year.  With any luck we will do over 300,000 this year.”  

Micro beer is amost all malt or all malt, correct?

“Yes, except those that specialize in Belgian style fruit beers.  Generally craft beers are more flavorful, not necessarily more alcohol and not necessarily higher quality.”

Do you consider Heineken a competitor?

“We think that people that buy Mexican imports or European imports should be our customers.  We compete against all the imports basically.  It’s never made sense to us why someone would not buy craft beer, anywhere in the U.S. if its better and fresher than one that’s tired and stale and oxidized, light struck and everything else, not even close to one that’s of better quality.  I know the answer but it’s one of those things that always mystify me.  People are looking for the prestige that’s associated with European imports.  But I think that’s changing and people are looking for more flavorful beers, which is where we are.

Do you see any of your beers changing drastically in the future?

“We almost never change once we’re out in the marketplace.  That’s one of the things that beer drinkers should expect, consistency.  We’re very careful to make sure that that’s what happens.

Is there something that you are hoping, wishing for, dreaming about for this company in the future? A vision that may seem unreachable now.

“I guess that our hefeweizen would be universally recognized as the world class beer that I think that it is.  More and more people discover it every day but since we don’t have a gigantic advertising budget it’s pretty hard to make the world aware of it but it’s getting out there.  It would be really nice if all the beer drinkers of the world went “wow, this is the best beer I’ve ever had in my entire life”.  American hefeweizen is what we call it.  It didn’t exist before we brewed ours.  It’s not a Belgian style, it’s not a German style.  This is American style.

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My husband and I moved from NYC to Portland, Oregon Nov. 11, 2005. John used to brew beer in our kitchen back east and living here in Portland reminded me of those days. According to the The Brewers Association of America, craft beer had a 17.8% increase in supermarket sales for 2006–more growth than any other alcohol beverage category in the supermarket sales channel. Portland has more than 28 microbreweries within its city limits which is more than any other city in the world. There seems to be a brewery or a pub on every corner. Beer is worshipped here, and in fact, it seems to create a subculture of “hopheads” in the know. It has a magical power over this town and it captured me in its web as well. I am not much of a beer drinker, more of a wine and vodka person. But through getting to know the founders and brewmasters behind these Portland breweries I began a love affair with the whole process as well as the product they created.

I wanted to understand the type of person behind a brewery and I wanted to know what it takes to stay on top, or at least, in the running. I interviewed a dozen founders/ceo’s/brewmasters. I sat down with each of them, face to face for about an hour and asked a series of questions I felt were pertinent to their industry and to their involvement in it. I interviewed Kurt Widmer, one of the founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brian McMenamin of the Mcmenamins chain, the founder of hair of the Dog, Alan Sprints, also John Balfe and Scott Barnum, the CEO of Pyramid Breweries and Mactarnahan, Karl Ockert, the Brewmaster and founder of Bridgeport Brewing, Ron Gansberg the founder of the Racoon Lodge and Mike De Kalb the founder and owner of the Laurelwood Brewing Co. and a few others. I have found them to be incredibly intelligent, kind, humble and witty. It is exhilarating talking to people who truly love what they do. Here are some of the photos I took and a few of the interviews.

kurt_widmer

mactarnahan controls

mactarnahan grain and hops

karl_ockert

bridgeport kegs

brian_mcmenamin
we were sitting down outside the mcmenamins market pub at 10th and market in portland

hillsdale menu

brewmaster_racoon lodge

fresh ale at racoon lodge

mikedekalb-laurelwood

jerry_richter-lompoc

INTERVIEW WITH : Brian McMenamin, Vice-President McMenamin’s Chain
4/4/07
at the Market St. Pub downtown Portland.

What direction do you think the Beer Craft industry is going?
“Lately it seems like it’s growing again at a pretty good rate. It was flat for a while there and it had been growing in double digits for a long time. In the beginning days, in 1985, the city had 3 or 4 breweries now I don’t even know how many there are. I think every pub should have a brewery if they could. We are seeing the industry mature a lot. The bigger guys are getting bought out and merging but I think there is still plenty of opportunity for the little guy to make this niche.

Do people approach you asking advice on how to do it?
“We get tons of phone calls, which is great but there is not enough time to sit down with every one of them, although you want to, you can’t do that. You don’t have a chance to retrospect very often because you’re doing stuff all the time. This gives you a chance to think about what and why you’re doing something.
I think it’s healthy to combine brewing and the pub atmosphere, you create your own atmosphere. We make our own wine too, we grow a lot of our own herbs for the kitchens. We also grow hops just for fun not for real usage.

What do you think is the style trend for American micro breweries?
“Northwest that like hoppy beer but then in general the mass produced beer has appeal to a lot of people. As a small guy we have the opportunity to do all kinds of beers.

We have 23 breweries, one for each two pubs, more or less, different water sources, different age of hops, each brewer tinkers a little bit with the grain, they each like their own signatures on it. So the beers are all a little bit different in each one of the breweries.
Budweiser would shriek at that because they want their beers to taste the same the world over. If people don’t like a beer we’ll brew another one. We are also marketing to a general public but more in our own town, and they can drink any beer they like there, not just ours. Our beer is always associated with food. We are more restaurants than pubs now. Our food sales used to be 25% or 30% and now they are 65%.

How do the American craft brewers techniques compare to those of Europe?
“I think the basics are there. People thought we were nutty to have a fruit beer, our Ruby was the first one in Oregon but they’ve been doing it in Europe for a long time.

Do you see a big difference in beer styles in Europe as opposed to the United States?
“25 years ago Budweiser was not available in Europe, now it is everywhere. “

Would you open a pub in Europe?
“We’re kind of homebodies. We do everything ourselves. We don’t have a team that goes out and opens new places. Our furtherest outpost I probably 3 hours from ground zero. It is hard to manage place the farther out it is.

“Have you thought about opening more restaurants in the Portland area?
“Yes, we’re always looking. We just opened one on Killingsworth, the Chapel.

What do you think it takes to stay successful?
“We have at times barely survived, and even now we have places that don’t make money, places that have never made money. But we have enough places that make money so it balances out. We make enough to keep going which is good. If someone starts this business the first two questions are ‘how much money do you have and then, have you ever worked in the industry’? We get a lot of calls from people that have no experience with either brewing or kitchens who want to do what we do and we say, quit your job and go work in a brewpub for a year. They have to have enough money to open it and to float it.

What was your beginning like?
“We had a rough start, our dad helped us out. My brother owned a restaurant and I managed it when I was 21. Then we got into business together and opened a place. We got out of school, we were seven years apart, we were dumb, neither of us had any business experience. We bounced around a lot. We tried to figure out things for ourselves, the school of hard rocks. We survived that time, we are still learning every day. We were political science majors. I was thinking about going into law school. I never really knew him when we were little kids, we were far apart in age. We became best friend when we got older and we would want to go to that pub together, just because it sounded cool. We loved beer and we would drive all over the planet to try different beers. In 1978 or 79 there were only 15 beers available on tap in Oregon, total. We’d go to Washington state and sample different beers, it was fun. Mike opened a wholesaler caus he was really interested in importing beers and making that work. It was not successful, he was ahead of his time. He then got back in the pub business, where we are now. We were buying old dairy tanks and doing whatever we could just to make beer. Our first brewery was put together for just a few thousand bucks. It was a bunch of old stuff, whatever we could find. Our brewery was one step above making soup on the stove. It was just a bigger kettle. It was ‘that tastes good, or that tastes bad, we have to throw that away’. We had successful pubs before we started brewing. The brewing was just a side note in 1985, when we started it.

What is your favorite beer to drink?
“IPA, I like hops. Europe is very malt oriented, lesser hops. This is the beer I grew up on. The first Pyramid ale was great, filled with hops.

What is your opinion on going green?
“We’ve been doing it forever, like using windpower for example. We also use recycled wood in all of our places. You could find where the wood comes from in all of our places. Some of our wood comes from a Seagram’s distillery in Kentucky. Some comes from a tobacco plant. We just do it, always have.”

Why do you think that there are so many breweries here in Portland?
“We have good hops close by, good grain, great water. The weather, brings more people in to drink beer. So there is the demand. The spirit up here is a bit more experimental, big companies do test marketing here.

Do you have a worthy competitor in the Oregon region?
“We don’t even think that way. One would rather be on a street with 30 pubs than one pub. There is going to be that much more traffic. “

Do you spend a lot of money on marketing your products?
“We didn’t know marketing from a hole in the ground. For the pubs that was great. Then we started getting bigger properties, hotels, now we have a marketing department, although I am still afraid of it (laughs). Word of mouth has always been our kind of deal. We do a lot of marketing now, mostly for the big properties.

You have so many properties to manage, what is a typical day like for you?
“It’s gotten a little crazier in the last couple of years. I don’t know why. We are pretty hands on and we just opened 3 pubs in like 6 months, which is crazy. Now we just have a bunch of remodel projects. We do them ourselves. There are so many projects, just internally. A typical day is a lot of driving. Today I was in Eugene, then I stopped in Salem and then Portland. Tomorrow I have to go to the office, in Portland. Friday I am up in Seattle and Olympia.

I read that you have a $70 million empire. Is this close?
“That’s an old number. I don’t talk about numbers. We’re doing better than that. Numbers are not that important. We’re getting close to $100.”

Why do you think there is the grass-roots spirit here? You grew up here and why do you think it’s here?
“Our parents said whatever you do, do it well. We were not perfect children. My mother was upset when I told her I was following my brother into the beer business. So we said we’d name our first beer after her. She said, ‘I’m changing my name’. Then she became our biggest fan. She still goes to pubs, to this day. “

What qualities do the McMenamin brothers possess that make you unique in this environment?
“We survived! I grew up a pretty introverted kid and had trouble in speech classes. I did learn, eventually how to communicate.

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