Industry News

Beer Animals: Drinking Horse and the Magic Owl

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magic-owl-brewing

I last wrote about Drinking Horse Brewing Company back in February when the brewery launched on Highway 212. Tucked behind the Wichita Pub in an industrial park, the brewery has continued to grow, add beers, and expand distribution. Needless to say, they crew has been busy.

Checking in recently, I discovered, first off, Drinking Horse is doing a collaboration brew with ABV Public House in Hillsboro as a follow up to ABV’s last collaboration Baerlic Brewing Co. in SE Portland.

“We’ll probably be brewing it in early January with a release party at ABV sometime in February,” said Drinking Horse’s Emerson Lenon. “The recipe comes from one of the employees at Mainbrew, ABV’s adjoining home brew shop.” It’s a porter that’s conditioned with Central American wood called Palo Santo. “It’s an aromatic wood. It’s absolutely fantastic. That’s going to only be available at ABV and at our taproom sometime in February.”

As far as distribution, things have kicked into high gear with the bottling of a barrel-aged Belgian blonde aged with apricots. Drinking Horse is hoping to be ready to bottle around Christmas. The brewery is also continuing to conduct direct sales and focus on developing more local accounts.

Lenon continued, “I feel like we did a really good job getting into the market and making a name for ourselves. One of the things that sort of flipped a little bit is we went after some of these bigger fish accounts like Bailey’s Taproom and Beermongers, places that people go to discover new beers, and we’ve had a lot of success with places like that.”

Brewery…within a brewery
Besides the steady growth, the brewery is also doing something cool: it’s opening the doors to a newer, smaller brewery called Magic Owl, that will have run of most of Drinking Horses facilities to brew its own beer.

Magic Owl’s is a familiar story.

Friends make beer at home, then decide to give it a go and start a brewery. Then the numbers are crunched, property is looked at, and reality sets in. One of the principals behind Magic Owl, Casey Flesch, who lives in Oregon City near Drinking Horse, says he and his partners, started brewing at home on 10-gallon, then 14-gallon equipment, making beer that was better than some of the product being sold. “I turned 40 and was at the point in my life (he’s an accountant by trade), and talked to my partners to kick the idea around to opening a brewery,” said Flesch.

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Magic Owl’s Casey Flesch (left) and Curtis Lilly.

First up: finding a location. That was a problem, as always in a highly competitive commercial property market. And then Flesch stepped into Drinking Horse one day for a beer, mentioned his new brewery, and lack of location, and Emerson offered a place to brew. “I visited a few more times, then finally asked if he was serious and he said yes. Then we started talking details,” said Flesch.

Magic Owl made an arrangement to sublease Drinking Horse systems but bring in its own fermenters. Now the partners are awaiting the paperwork.

“I think it’s a good opportunity,” said Lenon. “It will give us access to some of their beer as they get off the ground to showcase in our taproom. Obviously, there’s a big advantage to them to have this sort of opportunity rather than trying to create their own space.”

Magic Owl also has an arrangement with a new brewpub on SE McLoughlin Blvd. between Gladstone and Oregon City called Coasters. (If you don’t know the area, the previous bar was a dive. Coasters came in, cleaned it up, added 16 taps, and now serves food.) Magic Owl will brew beer for Coasters under its own label but co-branded with Coasters. The plan is to start with a stout and hefeweizen and go from there.

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Magic Owls meet the Drinking Horse at the Drinking Horse’s brew room. (Photo: Magic Owl’s Facebook page)

“I think it’s fair to say that the state of beer is strong and getting stronger. It’s a good time to be a beer drinker in Oregon,” said Lenon.

And, chalk up another win for the Clackamas County beer scene.

Get in touch with Magic Owl here and Drinking Horse here.

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 [email protected] if you want to get in touch.

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