closures

RIP SIX Oregon/Washington Breweries that Closed in 2016 and 6 More For Sale

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abandoned brewery, photo by ani-falcon

abandoned brewery, photo by ani-falcon

The explosion of craft breweries opening since 2010 has made it seem like you could do no wrong, more opening every year and very few closing. 2016 marked the first soft year in Oregon with some breweries struggling to make it. (For more on the industry slowdown check out our recent Oregon Craft Beer Market Report.) In 2016 atleast six breweries closed in Oregon and the southeastern Washington region and we know of another six that are for sale.

 

 

In Memoriam

Southern Oregon Brewing
Southern Oregon Brewing
This brewpub and production brewery in Medford, Oregon was once a major player in the Oregon beer scene. I rememember when they launched as I was working at Belmont Station’s bier cafe for their release party. SOB’s first beer was released in November 2007, so they made it almost a decade. In an article for the Mail Tribune, owner Tom Hammond blames the closure on increasing pressure from big money and a reliance on distribution, not local taproom sales. That definitely flies against the local beer movement that I believe is the most important aspect of the beer business today. Without big local support for their taproom, it’s harder and harder to move a lot of beer outside your market without cutting edge beer and marketing. Hammond is still trying to sell SOB as a turnkey operation, it might make for a great setup for an established brewer to open a new outpost or for a new player to get into the biz.

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Humble Brewing
I was especially sad to see Humble Brewing go away earlier this year, they were my favorite nano brewery and once a year made a really nice saison and brett beer. Atleast they called it quits of their own accord. Co-owner/brewer Chad Freitag said, “While we were happy at our scale, it was never going to be more than a “hobby” without a significant cash infusion. I guess that arguably we could have continued indefinitely, reinvesting all our gains in slightly bigger equipment until we reached some efficiencies of scale, but we were nearly maxed out in the garage and would have had to move regardless. And if we moved, we’d want to have a taproom, and if we had a taproom, we’d want to have bigger equipment, and so on… In the end, it became a decision of rebalancing our time and priorities.” Sadly no plans for a re-investment of time and money are coming together at this time.
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Fire Mountain Brewhouse
As far as Fire Mountain, I typically liked Henry’s beers–especially the stout–but they wound up getting lost on the shelf over the years as new flavors crept in and Fire Mountain stayed the same. I am of two minds on the phenomenon of beer consumers not drinking the same thing twice (I’ve literally had people say that to me). On one hand, there is so much beer coming out all the time that I can’t blame them, and on the other, I find that it removes the potential for deeper enjoyment of a beer. Ultimately that was Fire Mountain’s downfall. I know Henry busted his ass making beer that he enjoyed. As a former aircraft engineer and a generally smart dude, I’m sure he’ll find his way in “greener” pastures. AARON BRUSSAT
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Buckman Botanical Brewery
This is one of those breweries that I think most of us forgot existed even though it was right under our noses. The Green Dragon brewery made pretty much all hopless, botanical beers with ingredients like chamomile and ginger. They were not bad, I even had a few really good seasonals but for the most part, I think the regulars passed them over for the Green Dragon’s huge guest tap selection. That may have contributed to the fact that the Rogue Brewing owned Green Dragon has now gone full Rogue to become their Eastside Brewery and the botanical ales are no more. Brewer Danny Connors will still be there but now they will be making all Rogue beers.
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Hard Knocks Brewing

It’s hard not to sound hyperbolic about Hard Knocks Brewing. There was so much potential greatness. The location was cool, right next to a park on the edge of downtown Cottage Grove. It had a pizza oven. It had an experienced brewer. It was the only brewery in town, which really should have brought in business. 

“Cottage Grove is simply not a viable place for a brewery. A good month in Cottage Grove is a bad week at a mediocre restaurant in Eugene,” said founder Ben Price in a text-based interview. Further, “AB-Inbev is pretty obviously out to harm Ninkasi right now. Between that sign [a billboard] on 7th and Blair to being able to pickup kegs of Apocalypse for less than Total Domination, Hop Valley’s acquisition and subsequent price decrease have also put pressure on the market. Now specifically how doesn’t that affect me? Well if my local market is insufficient then export is the only way I can make anything grow. And that’s a tall order for a 7 BBL brewpub in a market where the prices are being driven down by a large beer manufacturer.” For the record, Hop Valley’s pricing has not gone down since they were bought.
Price admitted he made a few mistakes: “I picked [Cottage] Grove chief among them.” He said that “the municipal government of Cottage Grove is the most incompetent municipal government along the I-5 corridor.” He cited the abundance of available commercial space and lack of residential construction as evidence of the city’s shortcomings. Price, a military veteran, found the city hard to work with, to say the least. And he says not only was the brewery blamed for several Cottage Grove businesses going under (including a bakery, which is one of the oddest things I’ve heard), but he was personally attacked by certain locals. “I didn’t respond well when someone wanted terrorists to attack my brewery, and a guy said Veterans day is for the ones who were drafted and not the ones that killed people.”
But then there was the Throat Punch, the White Knuckle, the Round Down; beers with violent names in bottles with labels depicting, for example, the UC Davis pepper spray incident, or an illustration of an angry Rosie the Riveter at a desk with a shooting range target with two holes in its head on the wall behind her. Price said that his branding “is simply not gonna work in Oregon. Oregon doesn’t seem to really do aggression. . . I think it would be a better fit in Seattle [when I suggested Texas]. But yeah, Oregon definitely isn’t there yet. It’s coming, though. I think I’m just early.”
Honestly, it was sad to see. If the city officials were as unwilling and nitpicky as the price claimed, shame on them for their blindness to the economic power of craft beer. Hopefully, all parties involved recover and, importantly, learn from the experience. Cottage Grove needs a brewery; it just wasn’t Hard Knocks.

 

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Twisted Snout Brewing

Opened by the owners of Pig Feathers BBQ, the neighboring Twisted Snout Brewing attracted a solid following with locals and was a nice stop for out of towners. I never made it in but supposedly the BBQ was good and the spot had it’s charm. Though Toledo is not known for modernization or booming growth, the building owner has decided to renovate and update the building and thus kicked all the tenants out for a major upgrade. They closed only one day after suddenly making the announcement on Facebook on December 17th, 2016. “We’ve enjoyed our ten years in Toledo getting to know all of you” they posted to their fans on facebook. According to the Pig Feathers BBQ page, they will be relocating but the brewery will be no more.

On the Block and For Sale:

btu brasserie

BTU Brasserie & Brewery

BTU came out of the gates pretty hot and not just for their spicy Chinese food. Opened by Burnside Brewing chef alum’s from Vermont with a family bred Szechuan restaurant heritage they quickly won fans of vegetarians and vegans while capturing some press for the refreshing combination of craft brewery and Chinese food. They earned some good reviews and even earned a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival this year. However, most people were not impressed by their beer and the small space didn’t lend to a busy bar that turned over drafts quickly while other bars weren’t leaping to carry BTU’s beers either. Now more than two years in business, the buzz has died down and apparently the owners are entertaining offers to purchase the brewery.

 

 

Amnesia Brewing photo from camaspostrecord.com

Amnesia Brewing photo from camaspostrecord.com

Amnesia Brewing

I am sad to report that Amnesia Brewing in Washougal, WA is up for sale. The have been struggling since pulling up roots on N. Mississippi in Portland at their original location that became Stormbreaker Brewing. The ill fated move has seen declining sales and a rumored loss of distribution though according to their for sale listing they still have three distributors bottles and cans. Cant recall the last time I saw this product available anywhere outside of the brewery, though. Not sure what happened but while the taproom is still open and they have beer as well as brewing contractually for Everybody’s Brewing (according to a source) on their 15bbl brewhouse. This is another turn-key operation for sale including the pub and five 30bbl fermenters and two 30bbl brite tanks. Not sure what the asking price is but I hear it’s high.

UPDATE: A commenter on this post as well as Brewpublic from their twitter feed has accused us of spreading false info about Amnesia. They must not have done their research as we have done ours, Amnesia owner Kevin King has twice listed Amnesia for sale on probrewer.com right here. We also emailed him about it and he first denied it but then admitted it was for sale after we highlighted the probrewer post and even asked if I was interested in purchasing.

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In fact, here is a screenshot of a recent email to me by owner Kevin King.

 

Columbia River Brewing

I’ll be clear, ou can put this one into the rumor category but I wouldnt mention it if I hadn’t heard from numerous industry sources that Columbia River Brewing was for sale or atleast exploring sale options. UPDATE: Columbia River Brewing has denied they are for sale via a facebook post so perhaps the rumors are not true.

 

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Deception Brewing

They opened June 14th, 2014 in Dundee, Oregon, an area without much competition except for the winemakers. They are now looking for potential suitors, not sure if the wino competition was too high or another business or personal reason because our email to them was not returned.

Deception’s listing says it’s a turn-key operation that includes a busy taproom, direct fire 4 bbl brew house, two 7 bbl fermenters, two 7 bbl brite tanks, and one 3.5 bbl fermenter. Basicall everthing is included from the grain mill to taproom tv’s, glassware and growlers. They want 150k for the whole Deception Brewing operation, sounds like a decent deal.

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Bunsenbrewer – Sandy, OR

This is sad but also a good opportunity, I believe Bunsenbrewer is the only brewery in Sandy, Oregon and it’s centrally located too. Owner/brewer Aaron Hanson said “We had a baby this year. My wife is a doctor, so that makes me the primary caregiver during the week. Newton is 10 months old now, and its pretty much impossible to get any work done with him around. I’m pushing through, but it’s just not working.” He is selling the whole operation turn-key if anyone is interested.

 

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Oregon Trail Brewing – Corvallis, OR

Dave Wills has been trying to sell his Oregon Trail Brewing in Corvallis, Oregon since atleast May of 2014. These guys have been around quite awhile, predating all the other Corvallis breweries, and their Bourbon Barrel Porter used to be a bottle release people lined up for.

From Dave Wills listing on probrewer.com:

Oregon Trail Brewery is seeking a brewer/owner that want to invest in their own future. We are a 7 bbl. copper gravity feed brewhouse open since in 1987. We hold the federal trademark for the name Oregon Trail under fermented malt beverages. It is only 28 years until the 200th anniversary of the actual Oregon Trail. Get on the ox and roll into the future with plenty of room for growth in craft beer capital Oregon. $10,000 minimum investment.

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]

21 Comments

  1. Guy N

    January 5, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Not sure where you received your information but Amnesia Brewing in Washougal is NOT FOR SALE!!
    Would appreciate if you did your homework and spoke to somebody at the brewery before you actually came out with a story that is not factually correct.
    We still distribute our beer throughout Washington and Oregon, and our love continues to grow with faithful customers.
    Hope you print a correction asap!
    Thanks,
    Guy N.
    General Mgr
    Amnesia Brewing

  2. Guy N

    January 5, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Sorry, “our PUB continues to grow…”

  3. Samurai Artist

    January 5, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    I’m not sure if your just out of the loop Guy N but we have done our homework. Owner Kevin King has been shopping it around for quite some time, he has listed it for sale on probrewer.com TWICE http://discussions.probrewer.com/showthread.php?55651-Longstanding-Northwest-Brewery-in-Southwest-Washington-FOR-SALE&highlight=oregon+brewery+sale also I have a personal email from him confirming it and offering to sell it to me. So please check your facts before accusing me of not checking mine.

    • Guy N

      January 6, 2017 at 1:56 am

      I assure you as GM I am not out of the loop. I would bet my knowledge of our short and long term plans is way above yours and I’m sure your readers would agree. The facts are that we did post an ad on Probrewer last year when we sought equity investors. You sent one email asking for confirmation of the ad which Kevin admitted we posted. Many things can transpire in a year. If you want a story, have the fortitude to call us, come out and do an interview, and then tell the full story. I’m guessing your followers might even appreciate that. Let me know if you are interested and we’d be happy to accommodate you. Cheers!

      • Samurai Artist

        January 6, 2017 at 2:30 am

        I would expect you to be in the know, thats why its strange to deny when I have an email direct from Kevin King saying he could sell at any time to the right person and asking me if I was interested. So what are you saying, that what he said was a lie?

      • Samurai Artist

        January 6, 2017 at 2:33 am

        and I just added a screenshot of my email from Kevin into the article providing very clear proof in two instances.

        • Guy N

          January 6, 2017 at 4:26 am

          Again, we are NOT FOR SALE. Like any business, if somebody walked in with an offer worth listening to we would be foolish not to hear it. But we are not soliciting offers.Again, if you want to come out and do an interview with us and depend on journalistic integrity over email we’d be happy to talk. Now if you spent as much time interviewing parties as you responding to comments I’m sure your followers would learn more about what’s happening in the local brewing community.

          • Samurai Artist

            January 6, 2017 at 4:42 am

            Kevin King to me “Are you interested? Please call me ” uh if thats not a solicitation to purchase I dont know what is. This is a Trump like denial of the facts I presented.

          • Samurai Artist

            January 6, 2017 at 5:58 am

            lets sum this up.

            Guy: not sure where you received this information from but its innacurate!

            Me: I received it from the owner.

            Guy:”Kevin admitted we posted. Many things can transpire in a year.”

            Me: I talked to him last week about discussing it further this week…here is the screenshot of the email.

            Guy: “Like any business, if somebody walked in with an offer worth listening to we would be foolish not to hear it. But we are not soliciting offers.”

            Me: No one made any offers and Kevin emailed me three times asking if I was interested in buying it…

            Guy: “Now if you spent as much time interviewing parties as you responding to comments I’m sure your followers would learn more about what’s happening”

            Me now: Uhm I am commenting back to you, the one who says he knows everything but your saying thats a waste of time now?

            I am so confused.

  4. cwl

    January 5, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Ben Price may be a good brewer, but he comes across as a bitter guy and lousy businessman.

    • Bill Night

      January 7, 2017 at 5:14 am

      Never had any Hard Knocks beer, but when I saw “Dead Hipster Ale” with a squashed cyclist on the label, I just thought “fuck you, maybe someone you love will get hit by a car some day”. Good riddance.

  5. Tim

    January 5, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Is Columbia River actually listed for sale or just included in this list because their closure seems eminent? I’ve never understood how that place possibly stays open with the service they give. The beer is pretty solid, but the staffing needs improving to compete in a market like Portland.

    • Samurai Artist

      January 6, 2017 at 12:02 am

      I havent seen it listed anywhere but have heard word going in industry circles that they are either for sale or considering sale. Its definitely on the DL and I suppose it is a rumor but from well placed industry sources.

  6. Russell

    January 6, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Hmm also Spinnaker Bay Brewing of South Seattle was bought by NW Peaks of Ballard. Official grand reopening is in early 2017.

    And Wobbly Hopps of Bremerton was bought and will become Dog Days once the paperwork goes through.

    And Hilliards was bought by Odin, who took the canning line and some of the equipment, then sold that space to Lagunitas.

  7. PhilB

    January 6, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Sure hope the rumor about Columbia River Brewing is wrong. Really good beer, solid food, family owned and operated by nice folks. We are lucky to have so many great places like this in PDX!

  8. CarnacTheMagnificent

    January 6, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    It was really disappointing to see Amnesia abandon Portland & their incredibly cool space on N Mississippi Ave. Visiting their new brewpub in Washougal was a letdown—very generic, nondescript space & the beer was not as interesting as b4. For whatever reason Kevin stopped making Copacetic IPA, which was a pub favorite & always a reason to go back to the original brewery. Did Amnesia leave for tax reasons? …though that would be hard to believe, as Kevin told me he had gotten a startup grant of several $K from the city of Portland for sewer improvements. Anyway, hoping they can turn things around & also hoping to see more of their adventurous beers that we all originally loved…

    • Guy N

      January 7, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Copacetic is on tap and will be forever at our pub. Stop in and have a pint. We get many faithful followers that cross the river for the same outstanding beer and the great BBQ we serve. Cheers!

  9. Robert Mohrman

    January 6, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    I’m sorry to see that BTU Brasserie is up for sale. This is a brew pub my wife (a vegetarian) and I really liked, as well as my heavily tattooed nephew who is a devoted fan of craft beers — great Chinese food and good beer.

  10. T.J. Nieman

    January 23, 2017 at 11:46 am

    If it is indeed true that Amnesia Brewing is for sale (which, I have to say, it does look like it is) I would be seriously bummed out. I live in Washougal and on top of that, Kevin King is my older brother’s next door neighbor (in Stevenson). I remember my brother and sister-in-law giving me my first Damnesia IPA up there in Stevenson and telling me about Kevin King and Amnesia Brewing. I remember taking a sip of it and thinking: “Wow, this is really good. It’s different. 6.7% and not that bitter at all.” Damnesia has a truly unique flavor which I explain to my friends as “malty”.

    I was stoked a couple summers ago when the 6-packs that would frequent my brother’s fridge started appearing for sale in Fred Meyer. I don’t drink much beer anymore (or should I say buy) so I couldn’t tell you if they were still in stores. What I do know is that not even a mile from where I live is a competitor in Doomsday Brewing. And would you believe it? There’s apparently a third brewery somewhere in Washougal. I remember when I first visited Amnesia a couple years ago, I was very sad to see the location (in hustlin’ bustlin’ downtown Washougal) and how empty it was. It doesn’t surprise me they are closing (especially with the competition), but it still deeply saddens me.

    Oh and “Guy N”, you should know that the Yelp page for Amnesia Brewing says “closed”. When I saw that (after I read this article), I did some frantic searching for news related, couldn’t find any. Checked your Facebook site and everything looks normal. I don’t know how Yelp determines when to call a business “closed”. All it says is “Yelpers report this location is closed.”

  11. T.J. Nieman

    January 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Follow up: My bad on the Yelp closure, that is for your old location. Why Yelp would keep a page for the old location running this long and how I could manage to mistake it for the current location are both mysteries to me.

    But “Guy N”, you never explained why Mr. King would e-mail the moderator regarding the potential sale of Amnesia to him if Amnesia wasn’t up for sale.

    Yelp might not give us any clues as I had reported, but the owner’s e-mail along with my points about competition and location sure do.

  12. Sam

    January 23, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Ben is an aggressive arrogant asshole bully that is full of shit, and that’s the main reason hard knocks failed, and I experienced this personally. You can’t attack your customers, city managers, and whoever says the slightest negative thing about your establishment over and over again without repercussions. And when you name your beers “Throat Punch” with a picture of a guy suffocating a guy with one hand and punching him in the throat with the other, and “Dead Hipster Ale”, and last but not least, “Water Your Hippy”, with a picture of militarized police spraying chemical weapons on non-violent sit in protestors, you got aggression problems. Oh, and the shitty food and service didn’t help. And to keep reminding everyone of his military service over and over again to manipulate people into going to his brewery is despicable. He even quoted, or should I say misquoted me in the article. He said that I wrote “Veterans day is for the ones who were drafted and not the ones that killed people.” When I actually wrote “Veterans day is for the ones who were drafted and not the ones that VOLUNTEERED to kill people.” He conveniently left that word out. I respect drafted soldiers, NOT people who volunteer to join ANY branch of ANY military. I am one of the few that are not brainwashed to believe that war is good, and should be used to promote a restaurant. That is simply reprehensible. So on behalf of most of Cottage Grove good riddance Ben.

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