Brian Koch is the owner of North Portland’s Lombard House pub, and like many others he is grappling with a pandemic, a pivot to delivery, and worldwide protests of an unjust system that have implications far more important than beer and bars.
The 9th annual St. John’s Winter Beer Fest is changing hands and entering a new age in it’s second decade. While many beer festivals have ended long and short runs over the last few years, the more things change for this N. Portland beer fest, the more they stay the same. Founded by beer industry veteran and St. John’s booster Trevor Thurston in 2011, this year the festival will be passed to new organizers and hosts Stormbreaker Brewing.
“I always wanted the fest to be something the neighborhood looked forward to and a fun weekend in the midst of what can be a hectic time of year,” says Thurston.
The Winter Beer Fest began at St. John’s local watering hole and craft beer oasis Plew’s Brews as a way to support the community and the business during the slow winter months. But, Plew’s Brews closed in 2017 not long after the festivals other benefactor Randy Plew sold his bar.
But Thurston did not give up on the festival, with a desire to buoy the local beer scene and the community in St. John’s, he continued soldiering on with proceeds benefiting the St. Johns Center for Opportunity.
In the last few tumultuous years the St. John’s Winter Ale Fest jumped around to multiple venues; one year at the Central Hotel, another at The Colony event space, and one year it didn’t happen at all after the venue host pulled out. This Saturday, January 18th from noon – 8pm marks a new chapter for the Winter Ale Fest as Stormbreaker Brewing takes the reins.
“We are looking at this as a changing of the guard for the fest. He [Trevor] has given this fest as a gift to St. Johns every year and we are just honored that he came to us to keep the tradition going,” says Stormbreaker co-owner Dan Malech.
Stormbreaker opened their St. John’s taproom less than two years ago in the same vacant space (and Dental office next door) where Plew’s Brews was. When the time came for Thurston to move on from the event, he wanted the festival to live on and the choice of who to take over became obvious.
“I chose Stormbreaker because they’ve been a great partner in the neighborhood and it is the original site of the fest, so I felt like I was bringing it back home,” he says.
The taproom will be utilizing the entire building to offer as much of their 7,200 square foot building as possible for fest goers. Beers will be pouring in both the covered and heated patio, the 2,400 sq. ft. pub space as well as the back of the building that will be the future home of a production brewery.
Though working on short notice, the Stormbreaker team has lined up 21 different beers from 19 breweries and will have one cider on tap. StormBreaker has made 2 of the 21 featured beers and one is a new collab with Old Town Brewing.
Additional festival activities include four axe throwing lanes manned by Portland Axe Throwing who is doing a special on 15 axe throws for $5. All proceeds from axe throwing, and a portion of festival proceeds are going to St. Johns Center for Opportunity; a neighborhood resource for economic empowerment, building community resilience, and neighborhood placemaking.
“We are really excited to usher in the next era of the St. Johns Winter Beer Fest,” said Stormbreaker’s Dan Malech. “Trevor did a great job for 9 years and we want to make him and the community proud!”
TAPLIST FOR THE 2020 ST. JOHN’S WINTER BEER FEST:
StormBreaker: Barrel Aged Winter Coat
StormBreaker: Pretty Fly for a Chai Guy
Old Town/StormBreaker: StormTown Chocolate IPA
Occidental: Cerveza Negra
Migration: Westward Barrel Aged Frankie
Fort George: Magnetic Fields Hazy IPA
Pfriem: Sabro Stout (Collab with YCH)
Trap Door: Lost in the Sauce Blood Orange Sour
Montavilla: Bipartisan Porter (Coffee Porter)
Upright: Seasonably Appropriate IPA
Ecliptic: Sedna Tiramisu Stout
Swift Cider: Marionberry
Breakside: Darkness Comes
Assembly: Clout Stout
Ex Novo: Liquid Sweater
Pono: Not My Gumdrop Buttons
Coin Toss: Heat Exchanger
KEX: Coffee & Cream on Nitro
Ross Island: Blue Bear Stout
Baerlic: Good Guys Wear Plaid
Von Ebert: Drink Me Potion
St. John’s Winter Beer Fest: Saturday, January 18th 12-8pm All-Ages
Tickets are $20 and get you a tasting glass and 10 tickets.
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.