Q & A with Montavilla Brew Works Michael Kora on the Brewery’s 2-Year Anniversary

Michael Kora often mans the tasting room as well as the brew kettle at Montavilla Brew Works.

Michael Kora’s Montavilla Brew Works celebrates its 2-year anniversary this weekend starting Friday, July 14th, with special tappings intermittently through Saturday. The neighborhood brewery has built a solid reputation for fairly classic ales and lagers and a cozy taproom and great beer garden. Proving that a brewery can be successful without bottles, cans, a production facility, or even food, Montavilla has built off of its solidly friendly atmosphere and beers that continue to get better. I caught up with owner and head brewer Michael Kora for his thoughts on his first two years of business and how he is approaching the next few.

Q: How does it feel to now be two years into the business?

MK: I’ve always felt that as long as the beer is our number one priority, we will do well in this business. Having friendly staff, paying attention to our customers and producing world-class beer is what we strive for every day. I feel great about the steady growth we’ve experienced over the past couple years. I think it’s possible for some breweries to grow too fast and I don’t feel like we’re rushing anything at all. Coming from a musical background as a drummer, my motto is that ‘timing is everything’. Business is proceeding better than I expected and we feel great about what we’re doing!

Q: Any new beers you’re excited to be brewing in the future? What has been your favorite beer you have made in these first two years?

MK: We’ve been partnering up with Imperial Yeast quite a bit these days; trying out new yeast strains and experimenting. We’re currently fermenting a Nordic Farmhouse Ale and it’s going to be a fun summer beer. We’re always pushing the hop experiment envelope with our rotator IPA’s and we’ve got two Imperial IPA’s on the horizon (in collaboration with the Oregon Hop Commission and Indie Hops). We’re also exposing our customers to traditional Belgian Abbey Ales and British-inspired beers, so those are a lot of fun as well.

Favorite beer I’ve made in the first two years? Without a doubt, Korabräu Helles Lager. A light lager is the true test of a brewer’s meddle and I think we nail that beer every time. It is a joy to brew and to drink.

Q: Has your brewing style or approach to beer changed at all?

MK: We are always finding ways to be more efficient and innovative. We continue to produce our “Very Limited Series” which is a ‘litmus test’ of sorts when we’re experimenting with new yeast strains. Our “Montavilla Farmhouse” is one successful outcome from that series. People love that beer all year long.

As for our approach: Our QC program is pretty tight and we strive to be a very clean brewery. The best compliment I’ve ever received was from a patron who remarked, “You make all the beers over there? (pointing across the room) It looks like the equipment has never been used! It’s so clean over there!”. I’m pretty proud of how well maintained we keep the brewery, taproom and spacious patio.

Q: What has been the biggest hurdle of your first two years?

MK: Most of our hurdles deal with positive, upward growth and how to manage it. We’re still an operation of three people with a part-time bartender on weekends. We try not to be too reactionary toward the up’s and down’s that the beer industry is full of. Self-distribution has brought some strain to our personal vehicles and our sanity on the streets of a more congested Portland, but it’s working and we love the relationships we’ve built with our wholesale customers.

Q: What do you see on the horizon for Montavilla Brew Works?

MK: More innovative/experimental recipes, more events, continuing local fundraising partnerships, more collabs with rad brewers, packaged product by the end of the year, increased brewhouse output and subsequent distribution while growing in a sustainable and smart way that reflects our integrity and passion for great beer.

Montavilla Brew Works 2-Year Anniversary Party

July 14 – 16th

  • Releasing new beers on Friday and Saturday (intermittently during the late afternoon).
  • Mixteca will be serving tacos, tamales and more on Friday and Saturday night after 5pm.
  • Raffle tickets will be available on Friday and Saturday afternoon for prizes including custom MBW swag and local business gift certificates.
  • On Sunday, we’ll all be recovering and MBW will be serving the remaining special tappings

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