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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 & 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.