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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Brewing Up Business in Southern Oregon

Brewing Up Business in Southern Oregon

Faces, places and flavors of the region

Story by Valerie Coulman

One of the most notable markets to see an increase in Southern Oregon over the past few years is that of microbreweries. From craft beers, stouts, braggots and ales, Southern Oregon is serving up a rich sampling of new potables.

Old 99 Brewing Company, Roseburg

When three friends—Matt Hill, A.J. Tuter, and Bryan Ireland—started brewing together in 2009, they based their operations in Tuter’s garage, then on Main Street, or Highway 99. “I lived just a few houses up the street,” recalls Hill, “and would walk down carrying ingredients, empty bottles and new beers to sample to expand our knowledge. As we researched and brewed more and more, honing our craft, the fruits of our labor progressed from pretty good, to really good, to quite excellent.”

Ready to move from hobby to business, Old 99 Brewing Company opened in August 2013. “We specialize in hoppy, full-flavor Northwest beers with carefully honed balance,” says Hill, though they continue to innovate. “Craft brewing is in itself an opportunity to explore, discover and create.” Their beers are brewed with careful attention to quality and craft. “If it’s not exceptional,” says Hill, “it does not make it into the hands of our customers.”

“We had overwhelming support from the community, barely able to keep beer ahead of demand,” adds Hill. And they continue to grow, adding a seven-barrel brewhouse and two 15-barrel tanks from Portland Kettle Works in late 2014, and with their tasting room stocked with a variety of brews. “We do not have the most ideal location, or the flashiest building,” says Hill, “but people come week after week and love the environment we've created…which is incredibly rewarding to all of us.”

Old 99 Brewing Company

3750 Hooker Road, Roseburg



Fire Cirkl, White City

After a career both with the U.S. Navy and as a commercial pilot, James Romano came to the Rogue Valley to found Fire Cirkl, a brewing company based in Sam’s Valley. “My intention was to make all styles of mead under one roof,” says Romano, but the realities of the necessary licensing eventually led him to focus on braggots, a style of mead that combines malted grains and honey, most often made with herbs other than hops. “It’s refreshingly different,” says Romano. “Of all the recipes I had, people liked the braggots the best.”  

The style has a rich history that Romano enthusiastically embraces, with Native American to Scottish and Roman influences in the flavors. He’s combined that history with a commitment to organic ingredients—Fire Cirkl has both Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) and USDA Organic certification—and sustainable production practices that honor the past and the present of brewing.

“Every one of my brews has a story,” says Romano. “There’s just a rich, romantic history behind brewing.” With names like Dragon’s Blood and Naughty Heather, Romano looks to produce more blends soon, having now added his winery license and with plans to expand into all meads in 2015 

Fire Cirkl

White City



Arch Rock Brewery, Gold Beach

Marjie and Larry Brennan retired to Gold Beach in 2001, but in 2010 found themselves looking around for something new. They eventually realized that a small brewery might be just the thing for Larry’s now-quiet woodworking shop, but they also realized something else.

“We knew we didn’t know enough about brewing beer to be professional about it,” recalls Larry. The Brennans eventually hired James and Kristen Smith, both with experience in brewing. “It was a perfect fit,” says Larry. “And it’s just taken off.”

Arch Rock Brewing Company opened in January, 2013, with Smith designing the brewery and the three beers they currently offer. Already they have received three awards, expended from the coast into central and northern Oregon, and have had a stream of visitors visit their tasting room. “We’ve had people from all over the world, literally,” says Larry, who has enjoyed the opportunity to share the brewery and the process behind it. 

They also credit their local community for the welcome reception they have received. As Marjie explains, “The local people don’t seem to lose their enthusiasm for the brewery, for our beer.”

“We look to add two new tanks this winter to add more specialty beers,” says Larry, who is looking forward to the possibilities of continued growth. “It’s a great industry to be in.”

Arch Rock Brewing Company

28779 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach




Backside Brewing Co., Roseburg

When KC Mckillip started Backside Brewing in 2012, the site he had picked out, he says, “was the backside of the mountain.”

But as plans moved forward, a perfect location opened up in Roseburg. “It was just too cool of a building to not use for a brewery,” says Mckillip. So the plan changed, although the name stuck. Renovations began in late 2012, the first batch of beer was brewed in January of 2014, and even though the tasting room remained outside for the summer, finally last fall, everything came under one roof.

“We currently offer six different beers,” says Mckillip, with plans to add both a blonde and possibly a cider to their line up as well.

One thing Mckillip knows they have going for them is room to expand. “Unlike most other breweries, we actually have a lot of room [10,000 square feet] to move into,” he says. Possibilities include expanding the brewing operation to different brew styles, and even adding event and party spaces as well.

“The number one thing I enjoy most about owning the brewery is being able to create an environment where people come to have a great time and hang out with friends and family,” says Mckillip. With construction completed, the focus is now on crafting exceptional beers.


Backside Brewing Co.

1640 NE Odell Ave, Roseburg





A Few Other Newbies


Dogbarrel Brewery

1092 NE Stephens, Roseburg



The Haul Gastropub

121 SW H St., Grants Pass




Two Shy Brewing

1308 NW Park St., Roseburg



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