Industry News

Short Snout Brewery: Back in Action

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Kickstarter and breweries. There are definitely two camps when it comes to funding new (or even expanding) breweries. Camp 1: Throw a few bucks down to help a brewer launch their dream. Camp 2: Let them develop a business plan and get a loan from the bank to purchase equipment like everyone else.

Back in late 2011, Short Snout Brewing hopped onto Kickstarter to raise $15,000 to purchase equipment to help launch a 1.5 barrel “nanobrewery” in Milwaukie and was awarded the money. (Full disclosure: I contributed.)

For a while it seemed like owner, Brian VanOrnum, was chugging along. Beer was being brewed and flowing out the doors. Updates on social media announced new beers being brewed, while bars around the east side couldn’t keep Short Snout on tap.

And then in late October 2013, silence. Nada. Zip. The nanobrewy disappeared. People started wondering: did Short Snout go under? Were they D.O.A.?

Flash forward to last month. On Facebook, a message appeared on Short Snout’s feed that said: “Regardless of what you may have heard or read we’re still here!”

Since then, pics have been posted showing beers being brewed with the promise of new batches on the way. Curiosity piqued, I contacted VanOrnum to ask a few questions on what happened after the Kickstarter project and what’s next. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

So, what happened?

At the time there were so many Kickstarter things happening – everywhere – even Portlandia was making fun of it. I didn’t want to be one of those ones that had a big push then all of a sudden die out.

I really rushed to get everything done, get all my equipment, get those first couple of beers to market, but I didn’t give myself a chance to learn my new equipment. It was a big jump going from 10 gallon batches to going up to a barrel and a half. My first two batches I had to completely dump because my cold room wasn’t working properly.

I took a year off, refocused, reenergized, did some more tweaks and testing – and feel like now is a good time to make a comeback.

VanOrnum's set-up (from Short Snout's Facebook page).

VanOrnum’s set-up (from Short Snout’s Facebook page).

What’s different now?

I’m going about this a little bit differently than I did the first time. I’m taking my time and planning for the next couple of months of what I want to get done.

I want to get back to some of the things I was doing brew-wise before Kickstarter took off, like different flavor profiles and styles I was playing with back then that I didn’t get a chance to do when I first kicked off into the market.

What styles will you be brewing?

Before Kickstarter really took off I was taking some inspiration from different key flavors and combinations. I was making a blackberry sage porter that I never really got the chance to do on a larger scale. I’ve also done a ginger hibiscus wheat beer–combining different herbs and spices.

I’ve got plans to go back to more interesting flavors–get into the something different beyond hops and grains, though my two batches from last month are basic styles: Northwest Red and an American Stout. That was more to get the cobwebs off and to get back into the groove.

How and where will you distribute?

I have a sales force now to help me get the beers out to places I haven’t been before and hit the streets for me.

For now, I’ll stick to the eastside–it’s where I live, where I work, where I spend a lot of my time. I’d love to expand outside of eastside proper–like Milwaukie and Oak Grove.

Any advice for burgeoning brewers?

Take a step back and really think about it. It was helpful for me to talk to other brewers, like The Commons Brewery. They started in their garage and were a huge inspiration.

Test out your market. Prior to Kickstarter I brewed up a half-dozen beers and opened up my house and backyard to 30-some odd people-half who I knew and half I didn’t and had then try my beers and then let me know what they thought.

Talk to people who have already done it and have gone through the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

To keep up with Short Snout, like them on Facebook.

John Chilson writes about Portland history and architecture at Lost Oregon. He's also written for Neighborhood Notes, Travel Oregon, Portland Architecture, Askmen.org, San Diego Reader, and Portland Food and Drink. Follow him on twitter at @LostOregon for local history nerdism; for beer tweets he's at @Hopfrenzy. Shoot him an email at hopfrenzy@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

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