With the craft beer infrastructure of the Northwest – access to hops, malts, kegs, etc – it’s possible to start a brewery without following the traditional route. This was the basis of Rosenstadt, a sort of floating brewery that has been making waves in recent years with their mostly traditional German style beers. Founded in 2015 by Tobias Hahn and Nick Greiner, Rosenstadt has emerged as one of the more innovative brewery concepts in the Portland area while also keeping its beer firmly rooted in the reinheitsgebot purity laws. What makes it so unique in the landscape of Pacific Northwest craft beer is that Rosenstadt does not have a home base, instead brewing at a small handful of locations and getting their beer on tap throughout the Portland area. Their approach to this model is often focused on creating custom brews for restaurants, an idea that is not new but isn’t usually such a large focus for breweries.
Raised in Freiburg, Germany, Tobias Hahn didn’t get into brewing beer until he was in graduate school in Tucson, Arizona. When he couldn’t find any craft beers, he decided to brew his own and his major came in handy.
“If you’re trained in microbiology then brewing beer isn’t that far away,” says Hahn.
Ironically, it was only after living in the States for so many years that Hahn found himself more drawn to brewing the beers of his homeland. Microbiology degree in hand, Hahn took a job in Portland. After his position ran out of grant funding he spent time watching his kids and poring over the logistics of owning a brewery. He met Nick Greiner while both had their kids in a German American school and it wasn’t long before the two realized they shared as much of a passion for German beer as they did for the idea of owning a brewery. Greiner had grown tired of his job and felt confident about his brewing skills after winning a couple of homebrew competitions. During playdates with their kids the two found themselves “sitting over spreadsheets and figuring out how [they could] do this.”
Finally it all came together and Rosenstadt (German for “Rose City”) was born. From the start, they were set on taking a non-traditional business path. Instead of taking on the capital intensive process of building a brewery, Greiner and Hahn found space to brew.
“We were at [Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub] in Tigard. The guy brewed once every two weeks and we asked him if we could do a batch and he said ‘shoot, why not?’ Then we said that we wanted to make beer in the German way and we are willing to pay for a batch if it doesn’t work,” says Greiner.
Hahn is quick to point out one of the earliest challenges. “It was an older standard single infusion vessel we had to figure out how to make beers on that using proper German brewing techniques.”
With a Kolsch featuring German Perle and Hüll Melon hops and a crisp and crushable Helles lager as their flagship brews, Rosenstadt has managed to build a strong following amongst drinkers looking to take a break from the myriad of heady and hazy IPAs that dominate the scene. It helps that, as a whole, light yet flavorful lagers have been enjoying increasing popularity in the craft beer world.
“10 years ago nobody was making lagers. Maybe people didn’t know about them, or maybe they didn’t ask about them either, but now it’s a totally different story. In that sense I think the landscape has changed quite a bit,” says Hahn.
Sticking to German styles that also include an Altbier, Festbier and a Dunkel among others, Hahn and Greiner have developed an interesting relationship with restaurants with their culinary-minded collaborations. These have come to include a smoked beer for People’s Pig, a quaffable pilsner for Clyde Common, and a hoppy pilsner using French hops for St. Jack.
“We guide people through what can be done and what ingredients taste like, and they input what they want,” says Hahn, while Greiner points out Rosenstadt’s beers are well suited to be enjoyed with food. “It’s one of those things; the beer that we make is traditional, pairs well with food, it’s versatile – all those things. Restaurants really enjoy it.”
Recently the dream of opening a taproom and collaborating with restaurants have intersected with Rosenstadt taking over the taps at the former OP Wurst, which has been reinvented as Olympia Provisions Public House with a menu that skews German. This means it’s now possible to knock back a Weissbier while chomping on a tasty schnitzel. Though Greiner and Hahn still function on the “alternating proprietorship” model, which means they have their own malt, hop contracts, and cooperage, and basically just take over a brewery for a little while.
“Everything is here. The hop growers are down the road. All of our malt and hops are German, but all the distributors are here, so it’s all together. The keg guys are here, keg washers too,” says Hahn.
Having “maxed out” their original brewing spot in Tigard, the guys now do most of their brewing at Fearless Brewing Company in Estacada with their cold storage located in nearby Clackamas. As the thirst for flavorful, lower ABV and easy drinking lagers continue to grow, Rosenstadt does too. Hahn and Greiner plan to open a production facility and began packaging within the next couple of years.
In the meantime, it’s well worth stopping by their taproom at Olympia Provisions Public House on Division Street for a pint and a schnitzel. Or you can find them on tap at restaurants and beer bars throughout the Portland area. Their particular business model is also something that is increasingly appealing to brewers who may have the entrepreneurial spirit and drive to make good beer but lack the capital to build their own facility. Prost!
Rosenstadt Brewery owners Tobias Hahn and Nick Greiner