Industry News

A Visit to Defeat River Brewery in Reedsport, Oregon

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Reedsport’s Old Town drag, just off Highway 101 on OR-38, appears to be mostly shuttered. But since June, travelers have been stopping off at one of Oregon’s newest watering holes: Defeat River Brewery. It’s been a long time coming, since I originally reported on the brewery back in 2013. Founders Levi Allen and Trevor Frazier named the brewery after the original name given to the Smith River by frontiersman Jedediah Smith (in 1828, Smith and his party were ambushed and mostly killed by natives after a dispute).

There is a lot of outdoors and wilderness to explore around Reedsport, so having a brewery in town as a refuge from the coast’s consistent wind is most welcome. Both times I’ve visited—first when it was just an empty, waiting concrete hole; the second just after its grand opening on November 19—have included outdoor excursions. 

 

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The John Dellenback Trail, just 15 minutes from Defeat River’s bar, features a 2.7-mile time warp of a hike across the dunes and through swampy dense forest to a wide open beach; it is easily one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done, especially on a chilly February afternoon where the wind sandblasted any exposed skin. I made a short, silly video of the hike here: 

 

 

This past weekend we arrived before the brewery opened, so we hopped five minutes down the coast to Winchester Bay and walked along the beach and saw rainbows and driftwood lean-tos at Ziolkouski State Park. Future trips to Defeat River will include explorations of the Umpqua River estuary and other paths through the woods to the ocean. Those who enjoy internal combustion engines will be pleased at the numerous opportunities to shred the sand on ATVs. 

Once in need of beer, head to the brewery! There is indoor and outdoor seating. You can sidle up to the bar and sit in its stools made of repurposed tractor saddles, or stand at the poured-concrete bar outside and enjoy the fleeting moments of warmth and sun.

 

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Defeat River’s wares focus primarily on hop-forward American styles; one customer asked for a dark beer and received (and promptly drained) the Thor CDA. Many of the brews use malt from Mecca Grade Estate in Madras, where Seth Klann and his family grow and malt high-quality barley. The base malts have a distinct flavor and texture. I would describe it as deeply grainy with a husky edge; not tannic or over-extracted. The Pelton, pilsner-type malt, has a very low tartness in the finish, whereas the Vanora, a Vienna-style, is amber, rich, and malty sweet. The unique malts have challenged Frazier and Allen to adjust some of their homebrew recipes to work with the added character. 

 

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This trip, I favored the Beachhead ISA for its balance of bright hops and round malt flavor. The Early October drank like an ale version of a Vienna lager; had I the time, it would have been my last pint. 

The brewery officially opened in June, and had a good run over the summer. Colder weather has declined traffic to the taproom, but a pending deal with Three Rivers Casino will help provide a customer base through the winter. 

Several other businesses, including and arcade and art gallery, have opened up on the same street, indicating a slight upturn in the local economy. Once again, a brewery is at the core of a small town revival.

The taproom does not serve food, but has a pile of menus from local places, some of which deliver. Whispers of a food truck may yet become a reality. 

 

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473 Fir Ave.
Reedsport, OR
541-808-8862
defeatriverbrewery.com
facebook.com/defeatriverbrewery

Aaron Brussat is a beer steward at The Bier Stein and writes for Northwest Brewing News and plays music and homebrews and tends a garden and used up all his commas in this post.

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