If there’s one thing the 2014 World Beer Cup taught us, it’s that you never know where the next great beer is going to come from, and that in this era where some folks like to misuse the word “saturation,” the new kids are all right. I can’t use the Chetco Brewery as a focus for The Rural Brewer because even though Brookings is the farthest town with a brewery from Portland, it’s still well-traveled and home to even a second brewery, Tight Lines. This column heads way out to John Day, on the drive between already distant Baker City and equally remote Prineville.
Grant County–or all of Eastern Oregon for that matter–doesn’t see many new breweries open. So next time you head out hunting and make your last stop in civilization, a visit to 1188 Brewing is time well spent. They tell you so themselves, since that motto is painted inside above the door, making you reflect on it after you’ve expended an hour (or ideally a few) inside. This idea is the living vision of how the four owners–two sets of husbands and wives, Ken and Jen Brown plus Jeremy and Shannon Adair–want to spend their eventual retirement.
As it’s been said, Portland is where young people go to retire, which only makes sense, as you can hardly walk 80 paces without finding another brewpub. But here the next closest brewery, as mentioned above, is 80 miles away. They’ve cornered the John Day market, which 1,700 people call home.
Not incidentally, Jen and Shannon are sisters. And the Adair family and Brown family go way back–before the four of them ever decided to open a brewery, and before Ken and Jen got married. Part of the reason Ken said their mission was to create something “small, with excellent beer, great food and a fun atmosphere. Somewhere that you can bring the whole family and have a great time and really enjoy your meal,” has to do with the headscratcher of a company name. It’s an homage to Ken’s and Jen’s dads, who were best friends (yes, Ken and Jen were childhood friends) who raced snowmobiles together, and whose bib numbers were 11 and 88. There’s a large picture of them up on the wall, as if they’re the guys are suggesting that you spend your time well.
That’s why nothing feels rushed here. In the kitchen, there’s no fryer, only healthy sandwiches and soups made from scratch. Okay, the mac’n’cheese may not be healthy, but Ken describes it as “epic.” Craft beer, as we all know, takes several hours to brew and weeks to ferment and condition, so they sell slow beer. The goal for the two-barrel nano system that Jeremy helms, after getting a few years of homebrewing on a Saabco BrewMagic under his belt, is to always have five to eight house beers pouring at a time. Some batches result in multiple beers, such as the Hefeweizen and the Blackberry Hefe, the red ale, and the smoked habanero red.
They’re aware that most people head to or through John Day for the hunting, and some for hiking the John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Hills, but Ken reports that already some folks are taking a detour so as to visit 1188. “The hunting seasons were good to us this year. Word of mouth about a microbrewery and pub in downtown John Day spread fast,” he said. “We had many, many visitors dressed in full camo…including a group of elk hunters (who came) in before their season opened and purchased six growlers full of the Leaf Dropper IPA to take with them to hunting camp so they could each have half a pint per night after hunting all day. Love it when those type of things happen.”
141 E. Main St., John Day, OR
Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey. He contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer and writes for All About Beer, Draft Magazine, CraftBeer.com, Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, and more. He earned a Master in Professional Writing (with a thesis on beer). Other than GABF, his favorite, can’t-miss event is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest where he’s drawn to any band with a tuba. Along with his wife, Half Pint, he runs Inn Beervana Bed & Beer in Portland where he also lives with his baby boy I.P.Yae, and German Shorthair Pointer, Dunkel.