For decades, it seems as if Portland has held the title of being the “beer mecca” of the PNW. This is great for Portlanders because we love to shop local while enjoying a pint (or two) of beer crafted by notable Portland brewery owners. Since March, safety measures and shutdowns have caused breweries to close their doors on a moment’s notice several times, causing significant disruption in the livelihood of staff and suppliers. We reached out to a few breweries around town to find out how this year has impacted them and the little silver linings they’ve seen along the way. We thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts.Ecliptic Brewing Owner and Brewmaster, John Harris. Image: Ecliptic Brewing
Ecliptic Brewing (North Portland): Combining his love of beer and astronomy, owner and Brewmaster, John Harris is a beer legend not only in Oregon but around the world. Since 2013, John and his staff have been cheffing up rotating menus from scratch and brewing amazing beer concoctions. He took some time out of his busy day to tell us what he’s most thankful for, what 2020 has been like, and everything in between:
“2020 was an interesting year. Our entire restaurant structure changed, as we had to quickly pivot to a takeout model and lay off much of our restaurant staff. Then we re-opened to a counter service model, and eventually, back to full table service. But of course, we’re back to takeout and counter service again. There’s been a lot of adapting and shifting. On the brewery side, we started canning lots more beer — draft has really declined! We immediately increased our shifts on the canning line to get out as much beer as possible. I’m thankful for being able to keep most of our staff working. I am also so thankful we are still here and keeping Ecliptic going- bringing joy to the universe.”
As of now, you can get your hands on their amazing dishes and beer via pickup or next-day delivery, as well as stores and retail shops in Oregon, Washington, Northern Idaho, Colorado, North Carolina, Canada, and even Japan!
Baerlic Brewing (SE & NE Locations): Owned by Ben Parsons and Richard Hall, Baerlic Brewing is a brewing to watch out for. They do all of their own distributing throughout the Portland metro area, which is a tell-tale sign of how hard they work, on and off the clock we’re sure. They have two unique locations with food and drink available at the Beergarden and Food Pod, and incredible beers at the taproom and brewery. Ben Parsons was able to get us some feedback on life in the brewery world since March:
Phew, that’s a big question. Nothing about our business seems close to where it was prior to March 16th when we were shutdown…the first time. I have written at great length about what we have done to pivot, rearrange, reimagine and evolve in the face of everything that’s gone on this year and it is below. As for what I am thankful for, I am most thankful of my two boys and my wife Tracy. Without them, I just don’t think I would have had it in me to navigate everything that has been thrown at the world and the business. And to the entire team at Baerlic, who have seen their entire world, livelihoods, skill sets and sanity bounce around like a bunch of drunken adults in a bouncy house, I cannot thank them enough. Their optimism, rock-solid work ethics, and resilience are inspirational, to say the least. Without them, there is no Baerlic.
All in all, this has been the hardest year on record for the business. On the other hand, it has sharpened our focus and resilience exponentially. We have pivoted from about 450 cases of 16oz cans/month to that of about 1500-1700 cases across wholesale, Prepay’N’Pickup, and Home delivery; leaned into a pretty lucrative home delivery program that should continue into perpetuity; started a recurring beta IPA delivery program we call the Super Secret Beer Club; turned an outdoor beer garden and food cart pod into a local specialty market; turned a rather plain parking lot into a 6,000 sq ft outdoor beer garden; expanded next door into a 6,000 sq ft indoor beer garden and now we’ll lean back heavily into home delivery. Whatever they throw at us we will ride this thing until the wheels fall off.
Wayfinder Beer (SE Portland): located in a beautiful rustic building in SE Portland, Wayfinder Beer has definitely earned its keep. Since 2016, Wayfinder has won a ton of awards in the brewery world and continues to grind during the pandemic. Sales Manager Lindsay Allen was kind enough to offer us these words:
Our structure has changed a lot! We opened our patio this summer with distanced seating which worked great. With winter upon us, between battling weather and the spiking COVID caseloads, we have decided to close the restaurant for the season to keep everyone as safe as possible. We’re doing beer pickups every Saturday from 1-5 pm during the holiday season and continue to send our beer to quality retailers throughout the Portland metro area. We’re so thankful to our very loyal customers who continue to support us week in and week out!
Cascade Brewing (SE Portland): Cascade Brewing is a lovely brewery in southeast Portland that has paved the way for sour beers alike. They are the proud innovator of the Northwest Sour Ale, and from there, they’ve tweaked their brews to include unique and complex flavors. We spoke with Ramie Mount, co-owner of Cascade, to tell us a little bit about how Cascade has been doing since the pandemic and how they are coming together as a team:
Every member of the team at Cascade Brewing has had to weather countless hurdles, ups, and downs, start and stops throughout the year. It forced us to go back to the drawing board multiple times, which can be immensely frustrating and have a negative impact on morale. Despite all that, the team has demonstrated outstanding creativity, a willingness to pivot quickly, and a generally positive attitude. I am constantly humbled by their dedication. We are thankful to have a solid environment where everyone is ready to dive in and help out wherever or however is needed.
The holidays are all about giving back and supporting your local businesses, so if you’re inspired by these Portland brewery owners, check out their establishments!
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