After my two visits to this small brewery in Tualatin, which opened in March 2016, I was prepared to describe it as just another of the many similar suds-related start-ups in Portland. In fact, the Portland metro area currently has 105 breweries. http://oregoncraftbeer.org/facts/
The brewery and taproom are located in a non-descript commercial complex on the Tualitan-Sherwood Highway in what Willamette Week described in 2016 as “the virtual beer desert of Tualatin.” It fits the description of one Trip Advisor reviewer who visited Ancestry within the last several weeks who stated:
“Weird location, meaning that if you didn’t know it was here, you wouldn’t know it was here, but you should stop by.”
My trip to what Ancestry labels its “Neighborhood Spot” in Sellwood – opened shortly after the brewery – presented a similar picture, at least externally. It’s housed on the first floor of a brick commercial building shared with a brokerage firm and space used for a yoga studio with condos in the several story structure above.
As an aside, the challenge for both new and existing breweries in Oregon is mounting according to an excellent February 15th Willamette Week article entitled, “Over a Barrel.”
“…..the number of Portland area breweries has nearly doubled during the past four years……’In the past, there was enough growth to go around,’ says Brewers’ Association economist Bart Watson. ‘Now we’re seeing competition for tap handles. Growth of your own sales comes at the expense of other brewers.'”
Ancestry Brewing is both an interesting and heartening story and one which affirms the vitality and positive impact of micro-brewing on the Oregon economy and spirit. I was personally interested based on its ties to both the US Navy and Oregon State University through the owner, family members (they describe their beer as “family-crafted”) and a number of the brewery personnel.
In fact, the Ancestry logo – an anchor and sextant on a signature blue color, are meant to pay tribute to Jerry, the brewery co-founder (father of Jeremy Turner, the General Manager’s and partner) in addition to Cellar Manager and brother-in-law, Mel Long, for their military time on the guided missile cruiser, Canberra and aircraft carrier, Coral Sea, respectively, during Viet Nam tours.
You can also commemorate this service by ordering the USS Canberra Burger (“1/3 lb. burger……with house sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomato and thin-sliced red onions with Tillamook cheddar cheese.”) or the USS Coral Sea Burger (“1/3 lb. burger topped with melted Brie and our house-made tomato-artichoke relish.”) Both are $11 and are two of the seven burgers/sandwiches on the menu.
Although the burgers looked delicious and tempting, my friend, Walt Duddington (he also joined me on a previous Beerchaser trip to the Lutz Tavern – click on the name to see the review of this historic bar), opted for the Vegan Burger (“house-made vegan patty, grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and house-made pesto served on local chibbata”).
Walt’s expression, shown in the picture when his food was delivered was just as happy after he finished this healthy option – okay, I guess he did have French fries….! I had the same reaction to my Beer-battered Fish and Chips (the cod for $12 versus the $14 salmon option).
Another reason for the smile on his face is that he is recently retired from telecommunications firm Level 3 Communications, after nearly forty years in similar sales and management positions at US West, Electric Lightwave and Integra.
I first met Walt in the late ’80’s when he was the US West project manager for the installation of a new telephone system at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm. Neither Walt nor I had smiles on our faces at that time and we had a lot of sleepless nights when the hardware vendor under-configured the system which resulted in system crashes and disconnected calls.
Fortunately, lawyers (about 150 of them) are very patient and empathetic with management on technology issues………He and his team also provided excellent support ten years later when Walt coached the Integra team which installed a multi-office network connecting the firm’s offices.
We also enjoyed the beer with lunch – an interesting and broad selection is available from what Ancestry describes as its “3 Pillars of beer – American, English, and Belgian.”
After sampling a few options – something which is appreciated at the brewpubs who provide this complimentary option – Walt chose the Seasonal IPA (“A light bodied ale with orange peel and pine like qualities” – 35 IBUs-5.3% ABV) and this guy who is not often a fan of IPAs described it as having a “robust, fresh aroma and chilled to the appropriate temperature – a nice complement to the meal.”
I had the Piney IPA (“Caramel and nutty undertones offset by solid hop finish, red berry and pomegranate flavors with a strong piney aroma and undertones of tropical fruit” – 61 IBUs-7.1% ABV) – a good brew.
Given the robust list of beers, if you or your group can’t decide, they have flights:
Single 4 oz. taster: $2.00 Flight of four: $8.00 Flight of six: $10.00
The space at the Tualatin taproom is like a lot of small breweries – somewhat sparse or meager on ambiance, although it is easy to envision people enjoying their brews on a nice deck which overlooks a wetland behind the structure.
The Sellwood Taphouse, while very small, is a nice space that started filling up on the Friday afternoon that I visited and had a great conversation with AJ Cabrera – the genial Restaurant Operations Manager who has been with Ancestry since its inception.
He responded to my question about its heritage by affirming that it was the very space in which the legendary dive bar, Black Cat Tavern, served Sellwood regulars for decades before its demise for the current building as reported by an article in the Portland Tribune on 8/2/2013:
“After over 68 years, the Black Cat Tavern – a landmark in Sellwood, on S.E. 13th at Umatilla Street – will make its last call for beverages and spirits later this month, to the loyal customers who have patronized the establishment over the years.”
While the Sellwood spot doesn’t have the character of an historic dive bar, it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood. Although it is not as big as nearby Sellwood Public House, the space is a lot brighter and more inviting. Ancestry has discussed future plans to open two similar operations – one in St. John’s and one on SE Division.
Choosing from their twenty-five beers was a challenge, but I sampled both their flagship beer – the Best Coast IPA (77 IBUs – 7.0% ABV) and a Irish Red (21 IBUs – 5.4% ABV), I had a pint of the latter although either would have been a good choice.
The commitment of the family, a good business plan and fortuitous timing have all contributed to Ancestry’s success to this point: “But while the midsized craft breweries are squeezed by both the new brewers and large distributors, there remains a bright spot. Portland brewpubs are still doing very well….” (Willamette Week 2/15)
One of Thebeerchaser’s resources is Dr. Sam Holloway, University of Portland Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and consultant to the brewery industry (also one of three principals in the brewery consulting and educational firm Crafting a Strategy)
He was also Thebeerchaser-of-the-Quarter in August, 2015 https://thebeerchaser.com/2015/08/25/sam-holloway-educator-craftsman-and-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/
When asked about Ancestry, Sam’s comments were as follows (he disclaimed that Ancestry is a member-client-of Crafting a Strategy):
“I really like Ancestry brewing…….their beer and business model is rock solid. They’ve even done a few innovations in growlers, filling them in advance of the beer being ordered and utilizing a better seal/cap system……..Their business model is actually as creative and well executed as their beers. Both very good.”
I would suggest that one of the reasons that there are many positive comments on the beer is Head Brewer, Trevor Laumann, who took his passion for home-brewing to the next step and graduated in 2015 from the Oregon State University Fermentation Science program.
Pints are a reasonable $5. The brewery and taprooms are open every day but Monday and minors are permitted from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Tualatin – 20585 SW 115th Ave. Sellwood – 8268 SE 13th Ave