When I first reported on the new Base Camp Brewing in the works in May of 2011, no one could have guessed it would be more than a year later and it still would not be open. Perhaps fortuitously, though, the holdup with permits and installation has given owner Justin Fay and his team time to gain a distributor, build a pretty nice tasting room, and hire another experienced brewer. Now the brewery is just days away from firing up the kettle and a month or so out from opening the tasting room.
Base Camp Brewing had managed to fly largely under the radar, which is surprising for a brewery with such a large footprint. Base Camp has purchased the entire building at 930 SE Oak, a location in the odd rundown neighborhood just south of F.H. Steinbart and only a block up from the famed Beaker & Flask. The neighborhood, though, is riddled with rundown buildings and a large camping homeless population.
Base Camp has made the most of it by installing a brewhouse large enough to accommodate a 25 barrel batch with plenty of fermenters to fill (a frequent issue with startup brewers), including 5 brightly colored primary vessels ranging from 25-60bbls and 3 60 barrel lagering tanks.
When I visited the brewery last week they were bringing the glycol system online to fill their yeast propagation tanks for the first brew and the building was busy with workers and pallets of malt bags stacked high.
The team at Base Camp is skilled enough to be able to work and build much of the brewery and equipment themselves. So far the crew has done everything from welding a damaged and rusty lager tank to building its own oak chipper. After finding a source for bulk red and white oak, the team will chip their own and toast it out back for aging in a number of their beers, including what will be the flagship and first beer, the IPL.
As the tanks get full and the beer is cranking, Base Camp will be able to fill enough taps to open its "tasting room". I say tasting room in quotes because it is one of the largest and nicest tasting rooms I have ever seen, and bridges the gap between a simple taproom and a brewpub. The only difference is that tiny on-site kitchen will instead be inactive and the menu will instead concentrate on regular food carts parked outside the rollup doors. The tasting room is filled with a huge bar and salvaged wood tabletops that will sit upon large stones with a canoe hanging above the bar. Above in the rafters in a dimmed room you will be able to see the constellations shining through holes punched that are to be filled with little LED lights.
Out a back door and down some steps is a decent sized outdoor patio. Though the neighborhood is not much to look at, they have put in edible plants around the space that will have little placards telling you about them. They also have several long stone tables holed out in the middle and propane piped in to produce their own tableside flames. They are toying with the idea of providing smores for your roasting pleasure. You may notice that all this decor goes with the brewery's common theme of outdoor activity, climbing, camping, bouldering, rafting, and all things outdoors. It's taken some time, but Base Camp is ready to setup shop to provide another gathering place around craft beer for the thirsty beer and outdoor enthusiast.