An Interview with Josh Pfriem of the upcoming Pfriem Brewery

The Hood River News recently reported a new brewery coming to downtown Hood River called Pfriem Brewery. Founded by experienced brewer and Full Sail alum Josh Pfriem and his partners, Pfriem Brewery plans to specialize in both Belgian-styles that will be sold in caged and corked bottles and Northwest-style hoppy beers. The brewery will occupy a nice large warehouse space and plans to have a tasting room. This will be another addition to the quickly multiplying brewery scene in the Gorge, along with the upcoming Solera Brewery and not quite year old Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.

I got ahold of owner/brewer Josh Pfriem to interview him and gain a little more insight into his plans, how he plans to stand out, what kind of beers he likes, and how his experience in craft beer has shaped what he plans to brew.

Q: Who are all the partners and what are your backgrounds?

JP: Josh Pfriem- Brewed for Full Sail Brewing Company, Chuckanut Brewery, and Utah Brewers Cooperative, brewers of Squatters and Wasatch beers. Brewing and testing beer at home for over a decade. Education in Business/Communication. Josh is Brewmaster of the brewery.
Ken Whiteman- Worked in the Semiconductor industry for over a decade, left to follow hisentrepreneurialheart. Ken currently owns and operatesGreen Education in Engineering. Ken is General Manager of the brewery.

Rudy Kellner- Works in the High Tech industry. Education in Computer Science with a MBA. Rudy is a investor.

Q: I read that the brewery was originally going to be called ‘Cascadia’. Why did you change it? Too close to the Cascadian Dark Ale controversy, or was the name perhaps already taken or easily confused?
Q: The name Pfriem seems like an odd choice. It makes sense in that it is your last name, but people don’t know how to say it, spell it, or know if it means anything. It reminds me of the nano brewery Beetje in Portland that recently changed its name to ‘The Commons’ when it decided to expand and grow the market for its beers. Why or why don’t you think this could be a problem in marketing and branding yourself down the road?

JP: Both questions answered here:

This brewery has been in the works for over a decade, so coming up with a name/brand was not an easy task. There are a lot of new breweries right now, and plenty more in the works. My business partners and I really want our brand/image to reflect who we are and what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to do something with our beer that is different than what most people know in the Northwest. We want our brand to represent high quality, and have great flavor that is well balanced. We are influenced from Belgium, with a Northwest soul, and want to make beer that people love. We are also a group of guys who cherish the Cascade mountain range with the lifestyle that it brings forth. We will be using sustainable practices to protect this great region and hope to inspire others to do so as well. Myself, Ken, and Rudy are all family guys who strive to balance work, lifestyle, and quality family time. We also hold a social heart that wants to give back and help our surrounding community. Furthermore, we are trying to make a brewery that will stand the test of time. My hope is that one day my children will have the opportunity to take over and run this brewery, keeping the Pfriem Brewing tradition alive.

So yes, ‘Cascadia’ is more familiar than ‘Pfriem’, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything right now…except my personal stamp of approval that I will do everything possible to make beer that people will love. We hope as we build our brand/image that it will reflect everything I said above, and that it will stand strong, and soon be familiar to our craft beer audience. The fun thing about ‘Pfriem’ is once you figure out how to pronounce ‘Pfriem’ (freem), it’s a pretty fun word to say. There was a point in time when no one knew what a “Verizon” was, so our hope is that Pfriem Brewing Company means beer worthy of your time and expectations.

Q: You are going to be the 4th brewery in Hood River, and close-in in the Gorge there are another 3 (soon to be 4) other breweries, with 2 of them also specializing in Belgian-styles. Is it getting overloaded?

JP: Yes, this is true, and it is part of the reason we think Hood River is the perfect place for our brewery! If you look at where some of the greatest breweries in the world are located they fall in cities saturated with breweries. In Germany you have Munich, Dusseldorf, Koln, Bamberg, to name a couple. In Belgium there is Watou (which my son is named after), Brussels, Beersel, the list keeps going. Places such as Burton on Trent in England, Portland, Oregon, San Diego, and Fort Collins also come to mind. The beauty of these places is that they are all known for beer. They have become “beer destinations” on the map, with communities of brewers inspiring each other to keep making better and more interesting beer. Located in Hood River, Oregon, we are nestled into one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a plethora of hops and grain being grown all around us. The water is from the aquifers of Mt. Hood, and most folks live a lifestyle based around drinking beer. Thus far we have seen great support from the other local breweries. Hood River is a brewery town built by industry veterans, and only one out of all the breweries here is not owned by a brewer. We can’t imagine a better place to open our brewery!

Q: I was reading up about your impressive brewing background. I was especially excited about your experience at Chuckanut, which is one of my favorites. Will you make any similar light, sessionable and German-stye of beers at Pfriem Brewing?

JP: I love and miss the session-able beers at Chuckanut, especially Chuckanut Pilsner. A well-made German Pilsner is one of my favorite styles of beer. We have a realm of beers that we will be brewing out of the gate, but we really are not limited to anything. In the future I hope that we will be kicking out some flavorful session-able beers; a crisp German Pilsner after a hard day of brewing is a beautiful thing.

Q: What are the beers and breweries that currently inspire you?

JP: American Breweries: Firestone Walker, Russian River, Hopworks, Allagash, and Sierra Nevada. Belgian Breweries: Duvel Moortgat (Including the Maredsous beers), St. Bernardus, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Dupont, Orval, Drie Fonteinen, Boon, Rodenbach, and De Dolle.

Q: You’re said to be focusing on Belgian-style of beers, which are becoming more and more popular. Just recently I wrote about the upcoming Solera Brewery, which will also focus on Belgian-style beers with NW style hoppy beers and is also in the Gorge area. What kind of Belgian brews do you plan to make and how do you plan to differentiate yourself?

JP: Right now is a wonderful time in Craft Beer. Craft beer is becoming mainstream, with lots of amazing breweries, which in turn is opening up other doors for creativity and diversity. In Belgium, there is a whole world of different beer styles with very little boundaries. Our core Belgian beers will be inspired by the Abbey beers, including a full-flavored Wit. We also love a well-made Saison, so you can expect us to make a wide range of farmhouse style beers in the future. In addition to these farmhouse styles, we are building a barrel room to house wild fermented beers. All of our Belgian-inspired beers will be rooted in deep tradition, but will also be influenced by the flavors of the Northwest. Belgian beers get us really excited, but we still crave well-balanced Northwest hop forward beers…so naturally we will be making a couple of IPA styles out of the gate as well. Pfriem Brewing Co. is going to try and maintain 5 or 6 core beers, with plenty of interesting seasonal releases.

Q: Itook a look at some of the photos of your space on your Facebook page, and it looked like a very expansive and nice new building. Will you be using all of that space? What size is your brewhouse, how many and what size tanks will you be installing, and, finally, will you have a bottling line or be doing it by hand?

JP: We are very excited about our space! It is LEED-certified, built of reclaimed materials, utilizes solar panels, a rain water collection system, etc. The building is also across the street from The Hood River Waterfront park. The building is 20,000 square feet and we will be using a little less than 6,000 square feet of it. The building will be great for housing a small production facility, our 15-barrel brew house that is currently being fabricated in Portland by Steve Hambly atGlobal Stainless Systems. Steve and I worked together to customize the design to fit our brewing needs. We will start with 3-30 barrel fermenters and 1-30 barrel bright tank. When the time comes to add in more fermenters, we will be able to brew about 5,000-6,000 barrels per year. Pfriem Beer will be packaged in kegs and traditional Belgian 750ml bottles with corks in hoods. Bottling will take place on a fairly manual system, it will be semi-automatic to get us started and then we’ll see where it goes from there.

Q: Will the brewery be just a tasting room or are you also planning a bar or restaurant?

JP: We have a great area for a tasting room in the front of the building, which has great views of the Columbia River & Gorge. We have about 40 seats and plan on being kid friendly with a small play area. We are still trying to dial in the details of what food will look like, but our main focus is on making high quality beers and creating a great comfortable atmosphere for folks to enjoy a Pfriem beer.

Q: When do you expect to be releasing your first batches of beer?

JP: If all goes well without to many delays…hopefully you will be drinking Pfriem beer by Memorial Day weekend!

If you want to follow our progress we have a link to our blog and Facebook page

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:


  • Jennifer Ketler
    Jennifer Ketler
    Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:44 PM

    Thanks for this great interview. I’ve heard great things about how talented this Josh Pfriem is and I’m super excited to try out his beers.