Ancestry Brewing – “Anchoring” the Tualatin Beer Desert….

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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/

complex-facebookThe 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.”

The Sellwood Tap Room

The Sellwood Tap Room

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.

Sellwood "Neighborhood Spot"

Sellwood “Neighborhood Spot”

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.

ancestry-logo-facebook

Ancestry Logo

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.   uss_canberra_cag-2_badg

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. 

The USS Coral Sea - big like the burger named after it at Ancestry

The USS Coral Sea – big like the burger named after it at Ancestry

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).  photo-feb-02-12-05-14-pm

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.

New technology can also have its challenges....

Better than a rotary-dial phone, but new technology can also have its challenges….

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.”

photo-feb-02-12-01-09-pmI 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.

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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.

Dean on the left) and Ops Manager, AJ at Sellwood

Dean on the left) and Ops Manager, AJ at Sellwood

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:

The historic Black Cat Tavern - gone but not forgotten. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Jean Beacuchamp

The historic Black Cat Tavern – gone but not forgotten. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Jean Beacuchamp

“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.  photo-feb-17-3-50-52-pm

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)

Sam Holloway - Professor and micro-brew industry expert

Sam Holloway – Professor and micro-brew industry expert

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/  logo_vertical

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.”

Nice view of the brewery in operation in Tualatin

Nice view of the brewery in operation in Tualatin

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.

Ancestry Brewing and Taprooms

                Tualatin – 20585 SW 115th Ave.                 Sellwood – 8268 SE 13th Ave

 

The Beerchaser Does Eastern Oregon – Part II and Johnny Brose, Beerchaser of the Month

Historic Chapel in John Day

Historic Church in John Day

The second leg of our four-day Eastern Oregon road trip started at Unity Lake State Recreation Site where we had spent the first night.  We headed north through Sumpter for breakfast and to photograph The Elkhorn Saloon. (next trip we will have a beer!)

An historic saloon in an historic Oregon city
An historic saloon in an historic Oregon city
Abandoned school house in Granite

Abandoned school-house in Granite

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We drove through Granite and Starkey – a town so small you can wake up next to yourself –  passed an immense camp for firefighters which had about 150 tents, and on to LaGrande – which requires a correction from Installment I of the Eastern Oregon tour on this blog.  We did not hit the two taverns in La Grande (Long Branch Saloon and The Hideout) until the second day and not on day one.

Catherine Creek -

Catherine Creek –

After visiting the aforementioned two saloons, we pitched our tent that night at Catherine Creek State Park, which is accurately described in the website as, “a cool, quiet and peaceful setting.” 

We then contemplated the benefits of escaping from the daily routine and just relaxed in God’s Country as you can see by the picture below………

Away from the daily grind - wait a minute - are those I-Phones??!

Away from the daily grind – wait a minute – are those I-Phones??!

We hit the road again in search of a dinner venue – like a good steak considering all the beef on-the-hoof we had observed.  We heard good reports on the Cove Tavern and Steak House, but it was closed on Mondays and we ventured into the City of Union.

Pick-up Truck at Cove Tavern and Steakhouse

Pick-up Truck at Cove Tavern and Steakhouse

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Steve, being an educator and astute observer, stated, “You know, both dogs and pick-up trucks seemed to be ubiquitous in these environs.”  (He then defined “ubiquitous” and “environs” for Dave and me….) As evidence, we saw the following two signs on taverns we visited:

P1010724

Keep  your dog in your pick-up and not the bar.

Keep your dog in your pick-up and not the bar.

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The historic Union Hotel was also rumored to have a great steak and was impressive, but it was closed as was another Union institution –  LG Brewskis, a very interesting looking pub which will have to await our next trip.

As we got back on the road, Dave wondered why there were a number of cities with nautical themes in their names, but without a trace of water around.  Examples included Cove, Island City and Hot Lake.  Our attention span was not sustained long enough to try for an answer.

Unfortunately we could not find out what the LG designated in the name of this pub

Unfortunately we could not find out what the LG designated in the name of this pub

Hungrier now, we ended back in LaGrande, which was fortunate because we had a fantastic dinner at 10 Depot Street, a restaurant which also had one of the most impressive bars we saw on the trip. 

An impressive bar complemented the great food

An impressive bar complemented the great food

Unfortunately, we were not going to be in town for the La Grande Pub Tour “….which kicked off its Celtic Festival,” and for which $10 would secure a ride on the trolley making the rounds.  (10 Depot was the first stop.)

A first-rate LaGrande bar and restuarant

A first-rate LaGrande bar and restaurant

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We had a nightcap at the Mt. Emily Ale House – the one disappointment on the trip.  Although it was a Monday night, there was a decent crowd, but the bartender was inattentive and did not have a clue about the products produced by his brewery.  The beer was also not very impressive, which is also the case with their website.

A disappointment for a number of reasons.

A disappointment for a number of reasons.

It was a full moon and we were awakened in the middle of the night by screeches and screams – many more decibels in intensity than the snoring which had started early that night.  It was coyotes.

Dave then awoke with a start and admired the view of the moon and stars before exclaiming, “Where in the hell is my roof?” before we assured him he was not at home and our tent had a vent-hole at its top.

The next  morning, Dave demonstrated his culinary skills with a great breakfast and we headed for Baker.  Upon reaching the city we took picture of two more bars before stopping at the Bull Ridge Brewery and Pub.  A conversation at 10:50 AM between Steve Larson and his wife gives some context:

Culinary skills helped start the day.
Culinary skills helped start the day.

Steve:  Hi Babs, we are in Baker waiting for the Bull Ridge Brewery to open.  We’ve already been to two bars earlier this morning.

Babs:  Isn’t that a little early to start drinking beer?

Steve:  No. No.  You don’t understand.  Don just took pictures of the first two.  All we’ve had this morning is coffee so far.

The Stockman Bar deserves an actual visit on the next trip.

The Stockman Bar deserves an actual visit on the next trip.

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To lend credence to Steve’s assertion, the following are two bars in Baker which we photographed but did not visit on this trip although like General McArthur – “We shall return.”

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The Idle Hour - interesting, but too early to partake

The Idle Hour – interesting, but too early to partake

Waiting until the Bull Ridge opened at 11:00, we drank what, for us, was an early beer.  Camas, the helpful waitress (named after the flower) told us a little about the establishment which is housed in an historic building – originally a mercantile warehouse and opened two years ago in September.

We had pints of Bull Ridge’s Tumbleweed and Flagstaff Pale Ale, which were excellent.  As a side note and rationale for AM drinking, beer was probably the safest liquid we could consume since Baker City was in the middle of a battle with cryptosporidium which had contaminated its water and sickened dozens of residents.

Dave and Steve in an inarticulate and awkward effort to demonstrate that it was 11:00 when we entered Bull Ridge

Dave and Steve in an inarticulate and awkward effort to demonstrate that it was 11:00 when we entered Bull Ridge

Camas then told us we should see the Brewer for a tour and we met Johnny Brose, who was a smart, articulate and friendly young guy who gave us a personal tour.

He demonstrated real pride and knowledge of his product and the brewing process. I was both surprised and pleased to learn that he is an Oregon State graduate who  earned his degree in Food Science and Technology with a focus on Fermentation Science.  OSU is one of only two  universities in the US to offer a fermentation degree and is home to an internationally recognized hops research initiative

Brewmaster, Jonny Brose and Camas with Thebeerchaser logo

Brewmaster, Jonny Brose and Camas with Thebeerchaser logo

He was a Baker City High graduate and before returning to his home town he interned at breweries and wineries for a year  in Germany learning his craft.

Jonny was extremely helpful and has lofty goals for the brewery.  He  receives Thebeeerchaser of the Month of November in recognition for his enthusiasm for his profession and his competence in his craft – also being a Beaver.

The pub has an excellent selection of beers on tap and wines and a nice menu. Since we visited, Johnny has rolled out several new beers and his creativity is evident in the names:  P1010739

Johnny extracting a sample for us to taste.

Johnny extracting a sample for us to taste.

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Haymaker Hefeweizen, Bear Claw Porter, Whitetail Pale Ale, Gun Sight IPA, Rut Dust Amber and Lone Pine Lager.

He plans to roll out a winter ale at the beginning of December, but has not named it yet.  How about Beaver Dam Winter Ale?

We recommend you visit the Bull Ridge Brewery and Pub when you are in Baker and say hello to Johnny Brose.

The Bull Ridge Brewery and Brew Pub      1934 Broadway Baker City

The Bull in Bull Ridge..!

The Bull in Bull Ridge..!