Interviews

Chetco Brewing’s Mike Frederick On 5 Years of Brewing on Oregon’s Southern Coast

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Chetco Brewing’s new taproom in Brookings, OR

Mike Frederick is the brewer and co-owner of Brookings, Oregon’s five year old Chetco Brewing. Chetco opened as a nano brewery with just an 8 gallon kettle in April 2013 and sold 29 barrels in that first year. You may have heard of Chetco first in 2014 when out of nowhere they won a Silver Medal in the Imperial Stout category at the prestigious World Beer Cup. Chetco is along the Oregon coast and not that far North of the California border, the brewery shares a name with the Chetco River and Chetco point park. With their early success and a warm embrace from the small local community, Chetco Brewing has just recently opened a new taproom outside the expanded and now 7bbl brewery that will produce more than 600 barrels this year.
Mike Frederick is the head brewer/co-owner and still works his day job part-time as a massage therapist mostly helping in injury rehabilitation work, a job that he says he loves almost as much as brewing.  Frederick was inspired to take up homebrewing in the 80’s by his borhter in law Mike Rowe, “It blew my mind.  To me it was like he built a Space Shuttle in his basement.” He came back upon homebrewing when his wife Alex (who now works Chetco Brewing’s front office) bought him a homebrew extract IPA kit in 2004. It took him months to use the kit but did inspire him to take the hobby seriously, “I was very apprehensive about it.  While I was brewing it, it just wasn’t right.  Not authentic enough.” By his second homebrewing batch he had already moved to an all-grain method and was ordering rhizomes to grow his own hops and by the 4th batch he had his own mill for grains. Nearly from the beginning Frederick fantasized about owning his own brewery, his wife had production management experience in Los Angeles that could be put to use and both of them were self-employed so they decided to take the leap.

Mikes last day in the old brewery

“We were ready to leave LA, but didn’t know where to go” says Frederick on how he ended up in Brookings with a startup brewery. ” We had been to Bend once a couple years prior (a hundred years ago in beer time), and thought maybe Oregon would be good.” They traveled to Bend to stay at a cabin on the Southern Oregon Coast for a long weekend and were sold, they moved to Brookings just six weeks later.
“we had absolutely no idea what we were getting into.  I never worked at a brewery, and didn’t know anyone in the biz.  We were completely ignorant financially, production wise, everything!” says Frederick. Atleast all was not lost though, a silver lining emerged “In retrospect, that was a very fortunate thing, because if we’d had any idea what we were in for, we would have been too scared to try.”

This is chapter twelve in a monthly-ish series in which we check in with brewers on what they are drinking, eating, enjoying and what’s currently bubbling away in their fermenters.

Jacob and Mike moving the brew kettle (Grace III) into her new home

Q: What kind of audience for craft beer is there in Brookings and do you sell most of the beer there or elsewhere?
​​Mike Frederick: We have a great local audience, and we sell most of our beer through the tap room, to local restaurants and bars, and at events that we manage .  We like to have direct contact with the folks consuming our beer as much as possible, so we’ve always done events and the local market, then added the taproom, and now put it all together in a space where we can hold events.  That direct contact creates the complete beer experience.  It’s not just drinking a tasty brew, but knowing everything about it.  Sometimes even participating with us in ways, like growing hops for us, helping name beers, helping us with our events. We do self distribute out through Ashland, up to Eugene, sometimes PDX, and starting to build a stronger clientele up the coast.

First Chetco beer across the bar at new location: Rt to lt, Scott Hahn, Tap Tender​ Mike Frederick shakes Nick Stevens hand after handing him the first beer across the bar in our new digs!

Q: Tell me about the new Chetco taproom, was this also a brewery expansion? What is new?
MF: We expanded everything.  We have greater and more diversified customer space
In the brewery we can finally use all the tanks that we’ve had in storage for the last 9 months.
We just got our first food truck open- and are looking forward to having two or three more on a regular basis- we’ve got 6 roll up doors- what better way to use them? It’s really game changing for the bartenders and customers that now when we pop a keg, they don’t have to wait for someone to drive four miles to pick up another.  It’s right there. On top of that, we can host great events.  Our Beat the Brewers Relay fit perfectly in there- we even had a bounce hose inside cuz it was raining.  Wedding receptions, meetings, holiday parties, banquets, our own special events…  It seems limitless.​
Q: What are some of your favorite places to eat, drink and do in the Brookings area?
MF: The Vista Pub is a staple.  Great rotating beer selection (the first place ON THE PLANET that sold our beer), great food, great people and a huge supporter of craft and Oregon craft beer in particular.​  Khun Thai, our old landlord and neighbor, has awesome Thai food.​
 

Mike Frederick, Owner and Brewer at Chetco Brewing Company mashes in at his new facility in Brookings, OR

Q: What beers are you brewing right now, what’s new or coming soon?
MF: We’re usually brewing 15-17 different beers for our 14 beer taps.  We just made our second IIPA.  It’s a tribute beer for our first employee that we just lost to cancer. We’ve also just released our new versions of our Wheat beer and Unite session series. What’s next?  Thinking maybe a lager/pilsner for summer.​
Q: What does the future look like for Chetco Brewing, what are you excited about?
MF:  Growth, more stability, more events, more construction to finish out the vision.  It looks great. I’m super excited about getting the outside deck started where we’ll have fire pits and an ocean view.  ​

staff and supporters of Chetco Brewing on the new taproom’s opening day

Chetco Brewing
830 Railroad St. Brookings, OR next to the VA Clinic
Open 12 noon – 9p seven days a week

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

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