Looking Back at a Quarter Century of Business, Beer and People
By the numbers: Deschutes Brewery produced 95,000 barrels, Gordon Biersch 60,237, Goose Island 41,270, Rogue 25,000, Great Lakes 17,878, and North Coast had not quite grown out of the “micro” category, which tops out at 15,000 barrels, by producing 14,825. Brooklyn Brewery, which began with an entirely different business model (more on that later), sold 29,100 barrels.
Pardon Pat Conway when he comes to the defense of his hometown Cleveland. He’ll point out the Cuyahoga River wasn’t the only large river in the world to catch fire, although that blaze on June 22, 1969, projected an entirely different image of the industrial city than its leaders wanted. The fire focused attention on a pollution problem far worse than previously acknowledged, and the publicity is credited with passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and even the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Great Lakes Brewing started its Burning River Fest—which features music and educational presentations as well as beer—to raise money for the Burning River Foundation, which has donated more than $300,000 to cleaning up waterways.
Great Lakes, as well as Brooklyn Brewery, was at the center of a nationally syndicated article in July that brought attention to the role breweries have played in urban renewal. The story is not exactly new. Wynkoop received the 1997 National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust not only for the role it played in reviving Denver’s LoDo neighborhood, but for turning historic building in five other cities into brewery restaurants as well. When brothers Dan and Pat and Conway opened their Great Lakes brewpub in the Ohio City Market District, the area was blighted and usually described as dangerous. Now it is the hottest neighborhood in Cleveland. “That didn’t happen in two years,” Pat Conway said. The revitalized West Side Market is right around the corner from the brewery, and in 2010 Great Lakes was among the partners that established the six-acre Ohio City Farm, one of the nation’s largest contiguous urban farms.
Planning began to renovate Colorado’s Durango Powerhouse into a children’s museum and Durango Discovery Museum, which eventually opened in 2011. Carver Brewing Co. raised donations of more than a half-million dollars for the project. Bill and Jim Carver were already running a bakery and café when they bought a defunct brewhouse out of Wisconsin in 1987, but they didn’t rush to get it up and running. Instead Wynkoop Brewing began serving beer two months before Carver and forever lays claim to being “Colorado’s first brewpub.”
Newspapers across the country ran the story when the Olympia brewery in Tumwater, WA, closed. The brewery was started in 1896 and still employed about 400 workers, with an annual payroll of $26 million. In contrast, it was strictly a local story when Bandersnatch Brewpub, home of the “Beer in Your Face” club, removed its brewing equipment after 15 years in operation.
Best estimate is that various members of the Santa Fe Brewing staff sealed almost 2 million bottles with a hand-operated one-at-a-time “Super Colonna” tabletop capper during 16 years before it was finally retired. The record was 47 cases in one hour. Capping was easier than labeling, which was also done by hand. “I don’t miss those days at all,” said owner Brian Lock. Santa Fe still brewed barely 1,000 barrels a year in 2003, but he estimates production would top 20,000 in 2013.
Santa Fe began operations on a Galisteo, NM, horse ranch using the original brewhouse from Boulder Brewing in Colorado. Boulder Brewing, of course, was initially located in a goat shed near Longmont. “For Mike [Santa Fe founder Mike Levis] it was more of a hobby, about having fun,” Lock said. He and three partners moved the brewery into Santa Fe in 1996, and after he bought them out, he built a new facility in 2004. That may be too small by 2015, but he’s learned one thing from the company’s history: “25 years out is kind of hard to project.”
Brooklyn Brewery co-founders Steve Hindy and Tom Potter held nothing back in writing Beer School: Bottling Success at The Brooklyn Brewery. They laid out their very different business plan: selling beer made under contract and distributing beer from other breweries as well as their own. Theirs wasn’t the only brewery to do either, but few were as successful at both. Brooklyn built its own brewery in 1996, two years after hiring Garrett Oliver, allowing him to design it while overseeing growing contract production at F.X. Matt in upstate New York.
Brewer John Maier’s black lab, which grew up in Rogue Ales’ Newport, OR, brewery, died. Rogue began Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest the next year, the “Largest Dog Beer Festival in the World.”
Stan Hieronymus, a contributor to All About Beer Magazine for 20 years, is the author of several books on beer and brewing. The most recent, For the Love of Hops (Brewers Publications), deals with all aspects of one of beer’s essential ingredients.