Base Camp Brewing

Southeast Portland is quite possibly the heart of our city’s brewery and brewpub culture, and you can add one more to the ever growing scene with Base Camp Brewing. Unlike other recent startup breweries, it is neither a nano, nor does it have a well-known brewer or owner behind it, yet it enters the scene coming in big with a 20 bbl brewhouse with all the trimmings. To put that in perspectiv,e that is just about 3 times the size of Lucky Lab’s NW Quimby brewhouse and twice the size of Upright Brewing’s.

930 SE Oak

Brewer and Owner Justin Fay traveled to Florence, Wisconsin, to purchase the entire brewhouse of Nicolet Brewing Company. He disassembled the entire system piece by piece with his friends and new employees Ross, Krister, and Joseph and trucked it back across the country to be housed in an old factory-like building that he purchased on lower SE Oak. From the outside the large, multi-floored white warehouse space looks like a packaging or trucking company that has been abandoned. From the inside it resembles a small aircraft hangar.
The brewery is still in pieces, with work being done to repair old tanks and city permits not approved yet, but Justin has big plans for the space, including opening a Tasting Room as well as bottling and kegging. The whole place needs some cleaning and a new coat of paint, and that’s all in the works. They even plan to tear out one of the large roll-up garage doors to add windows and make it a warmer and more inviting space.
Along with the brewhouse came a couple of 60bbl horizontal lagering tanks, a few 60bbl and 30bbl fermenters, and a 3bbl tank for yeast, as well as some very old school but valuable bottling equipment that will allow them to package both 22 and 12oz bottles. Which size they will use is still up for debate, but the business is centered around bottle production, and so far they only have a handful of kegs.
You might be wondering as I was how they are affording all of this. Big investors? Sizable family fortune? Nope. Justin Fay must be a convincing person, because he simply went from bank to bank asking for loans until one finally granted it. Pretty unbelievable with an untried crew and in this economical climate.
Raised platform for loading grain and a mill
So who is Justin Fay and what is his experience? A lifelong Oregonian, born and raised, he first took up homebrewing while working at King Estate Winery as a summer job. He fell in love with brewing and changed his major at Oregon State University where he was studying from Pre-Med to Fermentation Science. He started brewing professionally at Klamath Basin Brewing in Klamath Falls, OR, in 2006, where he eventually operated everything from brewmaster to keg washer to doing the taxes. In 2009 he moved to Portland with his wife and had a brief stint at Pyramid Brewing.

moving in the tanks

The other big question on everyone’s minds: what kind of beer will Base Camp’s Justin Fay be brewing? Justin could not or would not give me an answer on that, but my guess is to a good amount of lagers:

“Nothing too niche-y, and not stuff that is interesting to try once. I’ll be using a traditional lager yeast, and an ale yeast with character (not 1056). I can tell you I love me some Octoberfestbier. So one of them is likely to be somewhat similar in style. But, I don’t really like how style guidelines create narrow minded beers, so I won’t really be following any to the t. Also, there are some cool new hop varieties that I want to play around with if I can get ahold of em. Traditional – Unique”

It took a while to get that much information about the beer. It’s a curious strategy to keep the beer itself under wraps.

“I’ve gone back and forth about what I should say about the beer. I guess I feel it is a little too early to let the cat out of the bag. We’ll just have to keep you in suspense.”

Base Camp Brewing hopes to be up and running by the Fall.
Base Camp Brewing’s Owner and Brewer Justin Fay
Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

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: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

Discussion

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Tue May 10, 2011 3:30 PM

    wow. best of luck.

    • Jeff Alworth
      Jeff Alworth
      Tue May 10, 2011 4:45 PM

      This is fascinating–nice work, E. I’ve wondered why we haven’t seen more production breweries opening in Portland. I guess the capitalization is bigger and the risk, too, but after Ninkasi’s example, I expected someone to make a run at the Portland market.

      I love this new lager trend. If you’re reading, Justin, here’s one request for a pilsner. But I can manage with an Oktoberfest.

      • Lynn
        Lynn
        Tue May 10, 2011 4:57 PM

        Can’t wait. Glad I have family in the Portland area to have reason to travel there. The kid makes good beer…

        • Anonymous
          Anonymous
          Tue May 10, 2011 5:56 PM

          Looking forward to the opening Justin. Good work. – Seth

          • Brewmance
            Brewmance
            Tue May 10, 2011 6:17 PM

            Very cool article. I also love Klamath Basin brews.. are any of those his recipes I wonder? Very solid beers.

            I look forward to the tasting room.

            • Anonymous
              Anonymous
              Tue May 10, 2011 7:22 PM

              I would have to say that in Klamath Falls at least, the brewmaster is quite well known and respected (The Klamath Golden Ale was not the same after he left the Creamery!). An aircraft like hanger is the best place this Aerospace engineer can think of to brew, outstanding! Can’t wait to have a keg shipped down to CA or at least drink straight from the tap! ~Chris

              • Anonymous
                Anonymous
                Wed May 11, 2011 5:33 AM

                Do any time on wildland fires? Looking forward to trying your brews.

                BW

                • Eric Steen
                  Eric Steen
                  Tue May 17, 2011 5:48 PM

                  I wonder if the Deschutes Base Camp thing will find that a Base Camp Brewery might confuse customers?

                  • Tigg
                    Tigg
                    Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:44 AM

                    Excited to hear about this. That’s a big system, but Justin seems know what he’s doing. Cheers!

                    • TheZedge
                      TheZedge
                      Mon Aug 29, 2011 3:40 PM

                      Interested to see their product and admire their audacity in terms of sheer scope. ….. But I don’t believe for a second that a bank just gave them a loan. I own an extremely successful business that was a literal startup 6 years ago and I can tell your for a FACT that without a cosigner or collateral or both, there is no bank in America that just hands out a $1.5 million loan (which is what I heard he obtained) to a kid with no history of business success. Banks do not do that right now, at all. Period. End of story. But, good luck, Justin! Can’t wait to try your brews, kid!

                      • Anonymous
                        Anonymous
                        Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:34 AM

                        Will be interesting to see how things turn out. I agree with TheZedge though, this was not financed by loans procured by Justin alone. Ironic that you say “Sizeable family fortune? Nope.” Because the correct answer is yes, combined with loans secured by the assets of said family fortune.

                        • Justin
                          Justin
                          Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:52 PM

                          Zedge – Congratulations on your extremely successful business. I hope that I can make it there some day. I’m sure I could learn a lot from you if you would be willing to be a mentor. And you are absolutely right. Getting a loan in any economic times is a lot of work, let alone now. I’m sorry if anyone took Ezra’s little sentence literally (?!), I’ll try to shed some light.
                          I’ve wanted to start this business, in one form or another, for 9 or so years now. So, you could say I started working for a loan then. That’s when I went to school for this. Then, I got a job in the industry and worked hard and quickly to gain as much knowledge as I could. Once I felt I was close to ready I started in on my business plan. It’s the plan that contains the meat. I spent over two years doing research, learning about business, and carefully crafting my plan. I’m really a brewer, not a businessman so this took quite a bit of effort and I’m still learning by the school of hard knocks (a lifetime thing I know) about the politics and intricacies of doing business. I’d rather be brewing, and can’t wait until that day happens. Unfortunately that day keeps getting pushed back due to the pain-in-the-butt process of getting construction permits, but that’s another story… or book.
                          Once I had compiled all of my research and thoughts into what I felt was a decent plan, I started contacting banks. I was turned away by some before I even had a chance to describe my business. Some listened for a while, then shut me down. At least, I got some practice presenting my business. A couple took me seriously and talks went further.
                          As to the amount you blurted out… Well, as rumors usually are, it’s wrong. I grew up with the understanding that someone’s personal financial business was just that…their personal financial business, not yours. What is the point in spreading rumors like this? Leave no doubt, my family and I are taking huge risks in this endeavor, with a lot on the line. Heck, a lot of people’s livelihoods are the line. I’m hoping to employ up to 10 people from the start. One of the main missions behind this business is to create jobs that will support us, and to develop a comfortable and nourishing work environment for those who join our family.
                          I just can’t wait to start brewing rather than dealing with only administrative and construction stuff. I think a lot of people will be excited about what we are going to offer. Rather than speculating and guessing on what may become, I hope that the focus will be on the beer when I can start making it, because that is what I’m focused on.

                          • Anonymous
                            Anonymous
                            Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:07 PM

                            Just biked by your building on my way back to work from Steinbarts and saw the logo…welcome to the neighborhood! Crossing my fingers you’re brewing a range of (real) lagers. -T

                            • Anonymous
                              Anonymous
                              Thu Oct 6, 2011 2:22 AM

                              I think people are interested in the finances because the article mentions the finances and gives what apparently isn’t a truthful account of how the financing came about. The article says:
                              “You might be wondering as I was how they are affording all of this. Big investors? Sizable family fortune? Nope. Justin Fay must be a convincing person, because he simply went from bank to bank asking for loans until one finally granted it. Pretty unbelievable with an untried crew and in this economical climate”

                              Now you seem to indicate that this was not how it came about but haven’t really said how it did come about. I think anyone reading all this would be interested to know the truth.

                              • Samurai Artist
                                Samurai Artist
                                Thu Oct 6, 2011 3:45 AM

                                Oook Anonymous commenters,

                                I asked the question about where the finances came from because I was curious. Is it hard to believe banks are loaning money? yes. But that does not mean it did not happen and I dont think he has changed his statement on that nor is it any of our business if he doesnt want to share. I think its a reasonable question but its also totally reasonable to not want to say. Really who the fuck cares, its about the beer right?!

                                • Anonymous
                                  Anonymous
                                  Thu Oct 6, 2011 7:59 AM

                                  I agree he is under no obligation to give specifics. However, the author brought up the subject and made a very definitive statement. Presumably Justin gave him the information used in the article, which implies that family money was not used for his venture. This is not true. Yes, I suppose the greater story should be about the beer but when it seems like someone is lying about things or at least misrepresenting the truth then that becomes the more interesting story.

                                  • Justin
                                    Justin
                                    Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:47 PM

                                    T – Thanks, we’ll do our best to make the best darned lagers you’ve ever had. If you are ever biking by again and see our gate open give a shout and if we can hear you, we’ll show you around.

                                    Anonymous – Well now…this has been fun so far. The retirements of my wife and I (what little there was), and my parents, helped secure the loans. The key words in the article were “sizable family fortune.” I guess we could debate forever what that means. It’s true that we aren’t homeless or abused (physically). My wife, me and our dog (who can’t seem to get a job though I keep telling her to) rent a place in SE Portland. My wife has a job with a meager salary as an X-ray tech at the VA Hospital. She got Columbus day off. It was great. We are pretty regular people I think (if there is such a thing in Portland). My shit even smells about as bad as yours. Like I said, we are taking a lot of risk with this venture and it would be extremely painful for my family if it doesn’t succeed. Since you are so worried about it, how about you stop by to meet me at I’ll show you. Hope this helps to relieve your stress over the issue. If you can’t stop by, you can learn a bit more about us at our website: http://www.basecampbrewingco.com or facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BaseCampBrewingCompany Check out the videos we are posting to document the startup: http://www.basecampbrewingco.com/category/videos.

                                    Peace and good beer be with you!

                                    • Anonymous
                                      Anonymous
                                      Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:02 PM

                                      Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think anyone thought that you personally had a “sizable family fortune,” mostly just suspected it was mom and dad putting it on the line. And yes we could debate about what “sizable” means but they clearly fit in the now infamous “1%.” To most people that’s sizable.

                                      Anyhow, I’m glad you’ve been a little more straightforward and given them some credit for helping. Normally, as you’ve mentioned, this would just be your private matters and no one else’s business–just remember you opened the door for this whole conversation by commenting on it in the first place. Welcome to the world of PR. If you are going to make a public statement it had better be honest.

                                      And don’t fret too much about my stress over this. There is none. I just appreciate honesty.

                                      • robert
                                        robert
                                        Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:52 PM

                                        so excited for a new brewery to come to my neighborhood! can’t wait!

                                        also, @anonymous, the “more interesting story” might now be why you seem so set on somehow besmirching a fellow brewing community member. “infamous 1%” etc. etc. etc??? absurd.

                                        ALSO also, you tell ’em, anon. samurai artist clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. it’s like he didn’t even read the article.

                                        • Anonymous
                                          Anonymous
                                          Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:48 PM

                                          My intent is not to besmirch anyone, and I apologize if it came off that way. Personally I think its pretty stupid to demonize the “1%” just because they are in the 1%. My point in bringing up the Fays being in the 1% was to emphasize that they do indeed have a “sizable family fortune,” not to say that they are bad people for having such. My apologies that I wasn’t more clear on that.