Portland’s Metalcraft Fabrication Closed: What Happened?

In what may possibly a sign of the slowing growth of the craft beer industry or increasing competition in the tank building industry, Portland’s Metalcraft Fabrication quietly ceased operations recently. Co-founder Charlie Frye was an industry fabrication veteran and Metalcraft one of the craft beer world’s most successful service and support companies, we profiled Metalcraft in 2014. Metalcraft became a pioneer in brewhouse and tank fabrication by attempting to innovate and improve on existing designs, like its recent  collaboration with Pelican Brewing on a new Dry-Hop Injection Vessel. We caught up with Charlie after he was able to sort out enough of the business and legal hurdles associated with a business closing to answer a few questions for us.

Metalcraft Fabrication’s Charlie Frye


The New School: Rumor has it Metalcraft Fabrication shut its doors recently. Is this true?

Charlie Frye: Yes.  After 10 years of operation, having built over 1000 tanks in 30 states and 3 continents, Metalcraft laid off 35 of the best team members in the industry.  

NS: It seemed like seven years ago Metalcraft Fabrication was one of the hottest new brewery fabrication companies in the country and it was a shocker to hear you are closing. Does a decrease in the number of breweries opening have anything to do with it?

CF: A number of factors contributed to Metalcraft’s demise. The greatest one being several unforeseen challenges associated with our expansion.  

NS: I understand you have a few brewhouse or tank projects that are still in the works. What will happen with those?

CF: I am working with another manufacturer to complete the unfinished projects. This is my number one priority at this time.

NS: How about brewers that have brewhouses built by Metalcraft, will they be able to get the service they need?

CF: A few of our key team members are working independently and may be available to offer support depending on the circumstance.  If one of our customers has an issue, they should call or email me and I will work with them on getting the help they need.

NS: Is there anything you would do differently, or advice you would give to other folks in the business?

CF: Metalcraft grew very quickly and we did our best to do so responsibly and took the advice of experienced individuals along the way. I’ve learned that despite any one person’s experience and/or success, unless they have something to lose, their advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally, a business owner should always be aware that their finances are in order and those trusted to manage them are qualified to do so.  

NS: What is the next thing for you and Metalcraft?

CF: First things first: work to find solutions to help the customers with jobs in limbo to get the equipment they’ve ordered.

I would like to express sincere gratitude to those who have supported Metalcraft and me personally over the past decade.  As this chapter in my life takes this turn, I’m proud of my team’s ability to produce some of the finest equipment for the best craft breweries in the world.

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


  • Russell
    Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:19 PM

    Charlie and Metalcraft were always great to work with. Let our brewhouse and seven tanks be a monument of steel!

    • Jennifer
      Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:15 PM

      What’s going to happen with the event space, their old production facility, off North Interstate?

      • Samurai Artist
        Samurai Artist
        Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:13 AM

        I believe Charlie’s ex-wife Jen took control of that as a separate ownership so it will be unaffected.

      • Darron Welch
        Darron Welch
        Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:31 PM

        This is a very unfortunate development. Metalcraft was a great partner for Pelican Brewing Company. I’m very sad to see them go.

        • Bill Baburek
          Bill Baburek
          Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:25 AM

          They took $45,000 dollars in deposit money from us in late December for a $60,000 tank order and now we get nothing for it! We bought two tanks for $60,000 but now Portland Kettle Works wants another $52,000 to finish tanks that were supposed to have been finished and shipped last week. We got screwed by Metalcraft.

          • Bill Baburek
            Bill Baburek
            Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:47 PM

            This guy belongs in Jail. He screwed a lot of breweries out of millions of dollars. This interview is just a bunch of BS.

            • charles frye
              charles frye
              Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:26 PM

              Bill is correct, he gave us a deposit and we had to shut down operations before we could complete his tanks along with other orders. He has every right to be upset. However, MCF had no reason to believe we would not be able to complete his order when we accepted his deposit. No criminal wrongdoing ever occurred at MCF. While many other breweries also lost their deposits, the total of these losses did not exceed one million dollars. Regardless, I am working on an effort to recover as much of the lost deposits as possible.

          • Michael Chaplin
            Michael Chaplin
            Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:10 AM

            If I can assist with some of the sales reps & replacing gear I will offer special incentive prices to assist the clients that are stuck.( I already have) I can probably help with employment, & be happy to send them Back to Charlie when he gets this sorted out. Charlie, you can reach me 7 days a week till midnight if I can assist let me know.

            • Chris Parks, AAA Metal Fabrication
              Chris Parks, AAA Metal Fabrication
              Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:02 PM

              Spring 2016 AAA Metal Fabrication purchased the assets of Global Stainless Systems Inc. Both companies have more than 15 years experience in the craft brewing industry. The purchase was structured in a way that all customers either received a complete deposit refund, or had there equipment built at no additional cost. All suppliers were paid in full. It is possible for a company to cease operations without customers and suppliers getting burned.

              • Thomas Noland
                Thomas Noland
                Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:48 AM

                Don’t let this guy fool you. He got plenty of warning that his expanding wasn’t feasible or necessary. I ran his forming department single handedly and had to work through numerous problems due to inept management. When we heard we were moving, I suggested a reorganization of the old space and redistribution of duties. My warnings to maintain the equipment we had were gaffed off and I was fired for being “negative”, without blemish on my record. Karma’s a bitch!

                • DH
                  Thu May 25, 2017 8:12 PM

                  Now this is an entertaining food fight. I feel bad for all.

                  • abw
                    Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:41 PM

                    From reading the story and the vague answers why the company shut down, it sounds to me like they had serious financial problems. He said make sure finances are in order and those who manage it are qualified. That means whoever was the accountant or did the budget didn’t know how to do it. This was an expensive lesson for them. I would never trust anybody with my finances unless they had a solid track record of PERSONAL money management. Why personal? Because if they can’t handle their own, they can’t handle mine.