March 5, 2013

Neglected Portland-area Breweries: Off the Rail (R.I.P.)

Portland has some 50 breweries and counting, 70 if you count all of Portland Metro. Many are world-class, even out-of-this-world, but not all. If we're being honest, a handful generally have no Beer Geek Brownie Points, deservedly so or not. Here's Pt. VIII in an ongoing series that included Tugboat, Philadelphia's Steaks & Hoagies, Max's Fanno Creek, Broadway Grill & Brewery (Old Market Pub), Widmer Bros (note the post date), Columbia River Brewing Co., and The Mash Tun: Neglected Portland Breweries.

Forest Grove’s Off the Rail Brewing Co. has powered down after a dozen years of brewing up Black Sabbath inspired beers. None of their beers contained copious illicit drugs or bats, but beers like War Pigs Wheat and Over the Mountain Stout at least indicate what was blaring in the 12-barrel brewhouse run by brewer Dan Bragdon and his wife Antoinette.

“We kept to ourselves,” said Antoinette, which explains why the Bragdon family—their kids have all done time at the brewery—were phantoms of the local beer scene despite self-distributing to many neighborhood watering holes. For my local, that meant Nick’s Famous Coney’s in the Hawthorne District, which always had Over the Mountain Chocolate Stout on tap. Silver Dollar Pizza downtown was a reliable source for Sweet Leaf Amber, while two of The Waypost’s five taps in the Eliot neighborhood recently proffered Coal Porter and Paranoid IPA.

In the end, the Bragdons didn’t point to lagging sales but said it was a “personal decision. It wasn’t business.” In an era with increasing competition from ever-opening breweries (around 175 in Oregon) and ever-expanding ones at that, OTR Brewing self-distributed to accounts from Portland to Corvalis. “(The brewery was) more of a passion and a hobby. Dan and I are happy and positive with our decision.”

I’d learned about the closure at the beginning of this year, but per Antoinette’s request, kept mum. When the story involves medical issues warranting emergency responders as well as a son returning home after being stationed in Afghanistan, getting the scoop on a rare Oregon brewery closure matters very little. Perhaps what’s most telling is that in the two months since, absolutely nobody seems to have noticed.

March 3, 2013

Beer Birthday: Jay Brooks

Today is the birthday of beer writer Jay Brooks. Jay is a veteran beer writer (Celebrator Beer News, All About Beer, BeerAdvocate, etcetera etcetera) whose column Brooks on Beer appears in the San Jose Mercury News. He has contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer as well as Playboy Magazine. His guidebook, California Breweries - North (Stackpole Books), comes out later this summer. He is the co-founder of SF Beer Week (and it broke my heart to miss it for this first time in its fourth iteration last month). To anyone who follows the brewing industry, none of this is news. But for years, a convivial component of his Brookston Beer Blog has been celebrating brewers and those in the beer community on their birthdays. So please...join me in wishing Jay a very happy birthday.
Brewmaster Craig Cauwels, yours truly, the Beer Chef Bruce Patton, the birthday boy

Beer bloggers Jay Hinman, Chris Cohen, Steve Shapiro, Jay Brooks, moi, Bryan Kolesar
Outdoor Speakeasy: Me, Brian Lenzo, Jay Brooks (whose blog I copied this from), and Meg Gill