The New School’s recent Best of the Year 2019 awards got us thinking about some of the great underrated breweries in Oregon who perhaps don’t get as much appreciation as they should. As we do with the best of the year awards, we decided to ask a few of our industry beer buyer friends for their picks of some of the breweries that deserve more love, and why.
Holly Emery-Walen Muckerman of Beergarden and PublicHouse picks:
Coldfire Brewing deserves your attention. Take note of the high quality, true-to-style, clean beers coming from this young, underrated brewery. The breadth of styles they produce is impressive. Whether it is a light lager, a fresh IPA, delicate Belgian ales, a wild sour or a barrel aged stout, you can trust Coldfire to make high quality beers. They have never brought a bad beer to market. While staying true to historic styles and open minded to the waves of trends (IE Hazys, 16oz cans, etc), the Hughes Brothers are focused on purveying the highest quality beers possible. They are the rare example of folks who entered the beer industry without any prior professional brewing experience and are nailing it. They do not rush racking. They do not throw obscure adjuncts into their beer to get your attention. They are not relying on packaging alone to sell their product. Coldfire beers are dependably delicious.
So many breweries are driven to win awards in order to gain popularity and recognition. Instead, Coldfire focuses on steady organic growth driven by the consumers in our region. They are not trying to be the biggest brewery in Oregon or the most decorated. They are determined to instead put their energy towards the science of fermentation and the creativity of recipe development. They have a barrel program that is quietly gaining notoriety. If you don’t know, now you know.
Holly Muckerman is the buyer for beergarden, The Tap & Growler, and PublicHouse- all under the ownership of locals Colby Phillips and Patric Campbell. She curates three beer lists with a combined total of over 80 taps and around 200 bottles. Each bar is unique with a common thread of excellence in atmosphere, diverse food options, and thoughtful beer lists. https://www.beergardenme.com/
My pick is Reach Break. They are a small operation in Astoria in the heart of the downtown beer scene. They always have a rotating selection of beers ranging from IPAs to barrel-aged and -fermented beers from wine, bourbon and other spirits. They put their heart and soul into every beer they release and it is a privilege to try them each time we visit.
I have been to Reach Break many times with my girlfriend, Gabrielle Evan’s. Astoria is one of our favorite vacation getaways and Reach Break is always our first and last stop.
They don’t distribute to many places outside of Astoria, which is another reason why they are so special. However, Belmont Station was one of the first and only places to stock their bottles and pour their beer on draft! We are continuously lucky as a tap room and bottle shop to be able to have access to gems like them.
The two brewers/owners and manager, Jarred, Josh, and Chris, are incredibly nice and always looking for ways they can help your experience as an Astoria visitor. They manage to set time aside to come out of the brewery and say hi and catch up.
As a side note, there is a great cidery attached to the taproom next to them called Reveille Ciderworks and a handful of delicious food carts in their outside seating area. I have eaten at a couple of them and they are great! The taproom can get pretty packed in the summertime, but sitting outside is so nice.
Reach Break is my favorite underrated brewery in Oregon because they are more concerned about their taste quality than their production numbers. Reach Break will always be our (my girlfriend and my) favorite place to visit in Astoria, apart of all the other amazing places we also frequent. They are family and treat every customer like they are, as well.
Ryan Fosbinder is the Purchasing Manager at Belmont Station in southeast Portland. Since opening in 1997, Belmont Station has become Portland’s premier beer destination. The Bottle Shop features 1,400+ that have been thoughtfully selected, meticulously rotated, and properly stored under UV-filtered light to maintain the freshest selection of beer in the region. The adjoining Biercafé features 34 rotating taps and a cask “beer engine.” https://www.belmont-station.com/
Alex Kurnellas of Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom picks:
Montavilla Brew Works’ founder Michael Kora has a background as a jazz drummer. To help him keep his bands on rhythm, he developed meticulous discipline. So what does this have to do with beer? Well, Michael carried this attention to detail into brewing, first as a home brewer, and now as a professional.
Through extensive record-keeping and organization, he and his team brew flawless beer. I’ve never had a beer from them that’s not perfectly balanced and drinkable, and exceptionally “clean” and free from even the slightest off-flavors. I can’t say that about many breweries, but the Montavilla crew consistently produces quality brews across a wide range of styles including crisp German-style lagers, hop-forward NW ales, strong ales, and more.
They’re probably “underrated” just because they don’t chase trends, try to win medals, or advertise a lot in this over-saturated market. Their slow-growth has allowed Michael to keep his hands in brewing instead of paperwork. They never try to be what they’re not just to sell beer, and always brew beers they’d drink and can be passionate about. They’ve never brewed a hazy IPA. You won’t find beers laden with lactose, fruit puree, or extracts, but rather just high-quality ingredients sourced from local vendors. That doesn’t mean the beer is boring. With a barrel-program, seasonally rotating lagers, and series like a pale ale dry-hopped with different single hop varietals, Montavilla always has something interesting, and delicious, on tap.
Alex Kurnellas is the owner of Imperial Bottle Shop & Taprom with locations on southeast Division and northeast Alberta in Portland. Drink at either of their beer-inspired bars, or take beer home to enjoy. Either way, you can choose from a top notch selection of local beers on tap and hundreds of the best bottled American craft beer available. Whether you’re a seasoned beer drinker or new to craft beer, Imperial provides an enjoyable beer experience through helpful, friendly service, comfortable ambiance, and the most sustainable beer-drinking practices available. http://imperialbottleshop.com/
When you’re located just a few blocks away from one of Oregon’s most well received breweries, it’s easy to be overlooked. Even easier when you’re excelling at under appreciated styles like Biere de Garde and English Pale. Over the past few years, Ferment has been quietly brewing some of the most technically well made beer in the state while simultaneously offering a thoughtful brewpub experience. Ferment may not be going completely unnoticed in the Oregon Beer scene, but they’re definitely not entering these conversations as much as they deserve to be.
Dan Peterson opened the doors to Ferment less than two years ago, and with a résumé that includes Brooklyn Brewery, pFriem, and Full Sail, it’s not surprising that he’s producing a wide variety of well-made, classic styles. This brewery seems to be focusing on the few aspects of the beer industry that still feel exciting, classic European styles and beer/food pairing. Don’t be fooled by the modern branding and restaurant design, Ferment is producing rustic styles at a very high level and with a barrel program that is just now coming into maturity, they’re definitely a brewery to keep an eye on.
Ryan Spencer is the manager of Bailey’s Taproom in downtown Portland. Bailey’s offers 26 constantly rotating taps encompassing the entire range of beer styles with an emphasis on Oregon breweries. Bailey’s does not offer food, but welcome you to bring in what Portland has to offer. 21+ Their goal is to constantly offer one of the most eclectic selections of beer around.https://www.baileystaproom.com/
Self-Distributed Allegory Brewing out of McMinnville is brewing up a wide array of styles in a way more than solid fashion. They opened their doors in the Summer of 2017 and headed by Brewmaster Charlie Van Meter (formerly of Yachats Brewing) Allegory has a little something for everyone’s palate. From the Wheelbarrow of Swords, a “New School” West Coast IPA utilizing Idaho 7 and El Dorado hops to the 2019 Best of Craft Winner flagship Dad Hat, a German-style Pils Allegory covers all of the bases. They have collaborated with a who’s who of Oregon breweries including Little Beast, Ruse, Fort George, The Commons, Logsdon, and ColdFire to name a few. One of my favorite recent collabs was with Portland Lager brewery Occidental. They brewed up an Oat Munich Dunkel Lager named ‘Traditionally Untraditional’ that not only featured the expected dark, freshly baked bread crust notes but delivered a full and creamy mouthfeel worthy of multiple pints. Also, there aren’t too many places I would rather be on a nice, sunny day than the Allegory patio. Well worth the trip.
Up until now you could only find Allegory pints on draft at the finest beer savvy establishments. That is all getting ready to change. The Bier Stein is pumped to be hosting Allegory on 2/12 from 5-8pm for the Willamette Valley debut of their 16oz. cans and 2 Mixed Fermentation 750ml bottles! They will be releasing Wheelbarrow of Swords, Dad Hat Pils, and Galactic Ghost Hazy IPA in cans, and Dayton Grand Cru Peche and Maybarrel Cherry in 750ml. bottles. I have a feeling Allegory won’t be underrated for long.
Dave Stockhausen is the beer buyer/manager of connoisseur beer shop and pub The Bier Stein located in Eugene, OR. What started as a craft focused, hole-in-the-wall bar in 2005, has grown to host over 30 evolving taps and 1,000 different bottles of beer from around the world – not to mention a menu full of excellent sandwiches, soups, and fresh salads. Bier Stein’s bartenders and our Beer Team all have Cicerone Server certifications and are happy to share their knowledge with interested customers. https://thebierstein.com/about-us/
Out at the Western most reached of Oregon sits the tiny town of Cannon Beach. Home of Public Coast Brewing, these guys have been around a few years now and are consistently putting out great beer. Will, the head brewer, has a great palette and is experiments with the unusual, Candy Cap Mushrooms in his Stout, that give a great Maple flavor. The Old Bog Cranberry Kettle Sour is another favorite, tart & refreshing. All of the core line 6-packs are top notch grabs. And the brought home a GABF Bronze medal for collab in 2019, Willie Big Dog, BA Robust Porter.
If you’re ever out at the coast, don’t pass them up. Or better yet, reach out to Will or Ben at the brewery for a delivery to your local shop. Ben comes into Portland every week to make drops at the finest beer bars around.
Dwayne Smallwood is the proprietor of Astoria’s bottleshop and taproom destination spot Bridge & Tunnel Bottle Shop & Taproom. A Craft Beer Bar with 22 rotating taps and a curated selection of beer, wine and cider available in house or to go. Always craft, Always rotating. https://www.facebook.com/beers4all/
It always surprises me when someone tells me they havent heard of Baerlic Brewing. Their taproom in SE is one of my favorite spots to have a beer. Whether it’s there or at The Barley Pod the staff has always been amazing and knowledgeable. Baerlic has consistently put out great beer that is true to style. Their Dark Thoughts CDA is one of my favorite beers all time. With working at ABV Public house I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Baerlic from another angle. The sales team is awesome and would do anything to help if someone was in a pinch. ABV has been lucky enough to work on a few collaborations with Baerlic. Every time we have been welcomed like family on to the brew deck. Truly a complete brewery from front to back.
Andrew Boden is the beer buyer and manger at Hillsboro, Oregon’s ABV Public House. ABV is an independently-owned tap house and beer-centric restaurant with 34 draft taps – and over 600 bottles – of hard-to-find beers, wines, ciders and mead that you can enjoy at one of their tables or purchase to go. ABV’s kitchen specializes in beer-inspired small plates: foods that are braised, marinated or created using selected bottles from the cooler and that will pair perfectly with what they are pouring each day. They celebrate the diversity of beer at ABV and love to share their enthusiasm. https://www.abvpub.com/
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.