5 Questions for Lisa Allen of Heater Allen Brewing

“I can’t remember a time when beer hasn’t been in my life,” says Lisa Allen, reminiscing on how she first discovered beer and eventually became Head Brewer at McMinnville, Oregon’s Heater Allen Brewing. Lisa’s father was a homebrewer when she was a kid, between visits to McMenamins for dinner and growler fills at Deschutes Brewery on the way to her grandparents place in Sunriver, beer was always a part of her life.

This is chapter fifteen 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.

“The first beer I really loved was good old Mirror Pond,” says Allen. “I swear it doesn’t taste the same anymore, it changed in the early 2000’s, right around the time I turned 21. Before I could legally drink I remember asking my older friends to buy me six-packs of Mirror Pond rather than the Coors Light the rest of the group was asking for.”

Lisa Allen brewed up in Tualatin and moved to McMinnville in 2010. Her father, Rick Allen, went from winemaking and homebrewing to opening an all lager brewery called Heater Allen Brewing in 2007. Lisa Allen grew up around fermentation and the industry, she even had early stints in the service industry at the aforementioned McMenamins and Pelican Brewing’s Pub in Pacific City. Allen skipped over the whole homebrewing phase (outside of once assiting her father) before pursuing other fields of interest before coming back to beer.

Allen was studying for her Archaeology degree at Oregon State University when she first decided she may be more interested in making beer and wine. Alle  was four terms away from getting her degree and took a Beer, Wine and Spirits class just for fun, that made her rethink her chosen field.

“I remember after the first day of that class looking up the requirements for a fermentation science major. It’s A TON of chemistry and it would mean being in college for at least 2 more years–so I decided to finish the degree path I was on and figure out what I actually wanted to do with life before committing more time to school.”

But the class continued to inspire Allen to be more interested in both drinking beer and learning about the process of making it. However, after taking classes in winemaking and perhaps having a father who has by then started professionally brewing and drafted her into helping it was wine that first brought her into the fold.

“When I first became interested the production side of the alcohol business I was more interested in making wine,” says Allen. ” I worked harvest at several wineries in Oregon, New Zealand, and Napa.”

At some point Allen was called home to work at the family business. She was hired mainly to clean kegs but after 10 months she had a renewed interest in brewing. “I took a month break from the brewery to work harvest at a local McMinnville winery and at the end of it I was ready to go back and really concentrate on brewing,” says Allen.

Meghan Keeley (left) and Lisa Allen (right) at Snackdown!

Now, Allen is in love with brewing and couldn’t see doing anything else. She has also slowly been taking over the lead at Heater Allen Brewing as one of the only female head brewers in Oregon. Like her father, Allen is obsessed with lagers and still loves wine.

“While I still enjoy wine there is so much difference between the busy and slow times of the year at a winery, I like that brewing is more consistent. I also love the brewing community, most everyone is supportive and helpful; there’s a bit of a competitive vibe in the wine industry that is off-putting to me.”

Q: What are your your favorite places right now ie restaurant, shop, brewery etc.?

Lisa Allen: I’ve been really in to Vietnamese noodle soups lately. Teō is my favorite place for Pho in Portland and I love the variety of soups at Ha VL and Rose VL.

Q: What beers have you been enjoying lately? 

LA: I drink a lot of lagers, where ever I happen to be drinking, I’m usually drinking a lager. Our Vienna lager called Marzen was released a few weeks ago and it is delicious, we changed the recipe pretty significantly this year and I’m loving the way it turned out. Wayfinder re-brewed the three-way collab we did with Modern Times, Terrifico, and I can drink the shit out of that beer, it’s so tasty!

Q: What beers are you brewing or have in the works that you are excited about?

LA: We are releasing Dunkel in a couple of weeks and this is a really delicious batch. I’m brewing LenzBock, our Helles Bock, this week. It’s a great beer, it should be available at the end of April. And I’m working on doing a hoppy lager of some sort to release for our 12th anniversary on Memorial day, which should be a lot of fun and a bit of challenge to step out of my normal beer genre.

Q: Are you participating in the SheBrew Fest and if/so are you doing anything special for this 5th annual event?

LA: I am participating in SheBrew! I’ve been a part of the fest for all five years it’s been around. It’s been cool to see the event grow to the size it is today, the organizers do a great job of putting everything together. At SheBrew I’ll have Marzen pouring, I wanted to do a special beer, but just didn’t have time this year–I hope to for next year’s event.

Q: Is there anything you are excited or concerned about in the craft beer industry right now?

LA: I’m definitely excited about the increase in craft lagers being produced. 2019 the year of the lager.

As a woman in the industry I’m still concerned about the amount of sexism and sexual harassment that takes place. I think that is changing and a lot of people are becoming more aware of the issues that exist, but it’s still frustrating.

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