Willamette River Brewmasters


Until Portland, 25 different brewhouses compete along the course of the Willamette River. At the river's end, 82 brewpubs make Portland the city with the most breweries per capita in the United States. Despite the size of this community of brewers, competition remains friendly. They sample and critique each others' work, pushing the quality to some of the best in the country.

Locally grown hops and barley keep production costs low for brewmasters and homebrewers alike. Homebrewing is common. Many homebrewers look to take the next step of distribution and sales by opening a nanobrewery or a full brewhouse. This video is a tour into the brewhouses of three brewmasters along the Willamette River, all of whom built their own breweries. The written profiles go in depth into the logistics, the trials and struggles of becoming a Willamette River Brewmaster.

Ted Sobel: Brewers Union Local 180

At Brewers Union in Oakridge, Oregon at 9 in the morning, Danielle and Steve Anderson scoop malt from a bucket and drop it into a grinder. The grinded malt shoots out from the bottom of the machine into another bucket. The milling process releases the starch inside the grain. They fill five drums full. Steam rises out of a barrel of water. Brewmaster Ted Sobel checks the water's temperature. On the counter, a bucket of yeast continues to rise. Ted opens the bucket and takes a sniff. It tingles the nose, gripping the sense of smell, a reminder of beer as art, a history, and a culture. A light dust of barley particles permeates the brewery. The taste of beer is in the air. In two weeks, a traditional English glass called a nonic will be filled with Ted's most popular brew, the Union Ale.

Just as the North fork of the Willamette River meets the Middle fork, at the edge of the Cascades, Brewers Union Local 180 sits as Oakridge's family Pub. A group of locals sit with their dogs on the front patio making friendly conversation. Inside, behind the counter, brewmaster and pub owner Ted pours his beers. He says, "I always try to have something dark and something hoppy, the rest float around." His Union Dew is close to running out. A fresh batch is on the way.

Oakridge was a community built because of the logging industry. Today, preserved national forests surround the community. The town relies on the mountain biking tourism. The city claims to be the mountain biking capital of the Northwest. Without the mountain bikers, Ted wouldn't have opened the doors to Brewers Union. Down the street from the pub is the Oakridge Hostel, an ideal spot for a hiker, angler, or mountain biker to post up for the weekend to explore the forests by day, sip a beer on the Brewers Union's patio in the evening, and listen to a local band before stumbling back to the hostel.

Out on the patio, Benjamin Bailey, the president of the Greater Oakridge Area Trial Stewards, drinks a beer before heading to a Yonder Mountain String Band concert in Eugene. During the Oakridge summers, there are two mountain bike festivals. Benjamin helps to manage both these festivals. Ted says that during each festival night, the pub makes more money than it usually makes in a week. The regulars are friendly, and joke around with Ted. Visitors stopping by get excited to taste the variety of ales brewed just 40 feet away from their order. Behind the bar, in a glass cabinet, the secondary fermenters maintain a temperature between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. As the beer sits in the secondary fermenters, it continues to mature just before hitting the glass.

Ted employs one full time chef. The rest of the staff includes two hourly bartenders, his wife, and a cleaning person. He created five jobs during a time of economic turmoil.

Danielle and Steve are in the pub to learn how Ted makes his Union Dew, Brewers Union's most popular beer. They wish the pub was in Eugene, but they realize the drive to Oakridge isn't that far. Ted, Danielle, and Steve are members of the Cascade Brewers Society. This club is over 25 years old. These members gather to appreciate the art of brewing, to trade advice, and to sample each others' work.

Ted turns a few knobs and a stainless-steel barrel fills with steaming hot water. Ted drops a few scoops of malt onto the water, beginning the mashing process. Dust from the mixture kicks up out of the barrel. The air thickens. He grabs a 5-foot long paddle and begins to stir the mixture. Steam heats the room. After a few minutes and a few more scoops of malt, he hands the paddle over to Steve. Steve continues the mashing process. It's tiring on the arms. Danielle takes over. The process takes about an hour and a half.

Ted explains the next process after mashing: "This spinning arm distributes boiling water over the mash while its pumped to the kettle. It can take a while; I do it rather slow, so that I can get as much of the goodness out of there as I can. I fill this an inch from the top, let it boil, and add hops to the boil for about an hour. Then let it sit for twenty minutes. This is called rest, which helps things settle to the bottom. Then we will start the heat transfer to the fermenter. We are taking it from 100 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius, so I have to think about the heat exchanger with hot water going one way and cold water going the other. Then we pitch the yeast, and drink beer." This is easier said than done. The amount of detail from types of malt, yeast, water temperature, and boiling and fermenting time makes brewing an art form.

After the Union Dew ferments for a week, Ted moves the brew to the casks to ferment for another week. These are smaller barrels, about the size of a keg, but brown. They sit in the glass case behind the bar, still fermenting until poured into a glass. This is called cask conditioning.

Ted worries not about competition between other breweries. He says, "Britain can have 50,000 pubs in an area smaller than Oregon." He doesn't plan to expand or distribute his beer outside his pub. He's happy where it is. He pours his beers at a couple festivals each year. With English style ales, he needs to show up to the festivals a day ahead of time to set up his station. Since the beer is served out of the secondary fermenters, he deals with more preparation than most the other brewers. "Real ales are a whole different animal," says Ted. "There are so many factors. A brewery like this, we don't have a lot of controls. It's all by hand. We get variations. You never know about your yeast too. I'll be watching that yeast all day to see when it takes off."

Before opening the pub in Oakridge, Ted worked as a software engineer in Eugene for 11 years. Two and a half years ago, Ted moved to Oakridge and opened Brewers Union. "The building had always been a drinking establishment," he says. "We're not located off the highway, this isn't a McDonald's." Brewers Union is off the main road, off the main road. Most people see Oregon via I-5. Oakridge is 40 miles East on Highway 58, the main road through Oakridge. The brewery is a few blocks north. The city hall, police station, and post office sit across the street. The pub is in the heart of Oakridge, a small section of town that most people traveling through will drive right past.

Ted opened the doors to Brewers Union in the height of the recession without government assistance. The recession took a financial toll. Ted works each day to financially sustain the bar making ales. He does it for the community. He says, "it's not about me; it's about the people who come in. It's about the beers." A healthy smile stretches Teds face as a customer asks to sample a beer. He can explain the beer, the history of the style, his touch on the flavor, the temperature, the type of glass he pours it into, the secondary fermenters, and England, the country that influenced him. Like any form of art, a good product takes time, research, learning, practice, and trail and error. Since February, Ted has been away from the brewery for no longer than 24 hours except one time for a brewing festival.

He spent two months in England hiking, touring, and learning the craft of brewing real ales working at a pub in Murphy, Southern England. This pub takes pride in its pure water with just the right mineral content flowing just out its doors. He stayed in a room above the pub. At closing they would lock the door and close the blinds, but the socializing didn't stop, a classic lock-in. This is where Ted found his most memorable times in a pub, his inspiration to own and operate his very own.

English pubs are important to the history of microbreweries in the United States. Ted takes his microbrewery back to these very roots. After spending months traveling England and working in a pub, he's developed an English line of ales. It doesn't take a beer snob to recognize the differences between his English brews and the Pacific Northwest style. English style ales are served at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than usual, and taste flatter because they are not carbonated. Ted prefers to not be called a brewmaster, but after home brewing for more than 20 years, and opening Brewers Union, he is a brewmaster.

Brewmasters on the Willamette River share a tight community. The brewmasters know each other and their beers. The local community has become picky about what kind of beer they drink. This raises the expectations for brewmasters. Each brewer has their own style; however, Ted's English style ales stand farther away from the crowd. They are a change of taste from the more common variations of IPAs, stouts, pales, and ambers. At a warmer temperature and less carbonation, they slide down smooth and sit in the stomach easier. This brewery is worth the trip off of I-5, up the Willamette River. A five-minute conversation with Ted is guaranteed to teach you something about English beers, community, and Oregon microbreweries.

Ted says, "I don't like nickel and dimming." Brewers Union has a free pool table and the menu is all rounded to the nearest dollar with the average meal costing about six dollars. When bands play, there's no cover. Ted welcomes bands to the establishment. "If someone wants to play, they can shoot me an email," he says. "I tell them, 'there could be a crowd or it might just be me out there taping my foot.'" Brewers Union used to have a happy hour, but Ted wanted to keep the pub a family place. Legally, with a happy hour, minors are restricted to parts of the pub. He welcomes people to come in to spend time. "This is what separates us from a restaurant," he says. "We don't mind if people come in to hang out for the day." He has no hurry to get people out.

Friday night, after a long day, Ted walks up to his bar and orders himself a pint. He smiles. "You need to greet the first pint with enthusiasm." He takes a sip and walks to a table of friends to watch Peter Wilde & Band play a show. The band came to Oakridge to play at Brewers Union. Their van broke down out front.

"What better place for a van to break down than in front of a pub with good beer, good food, and good people," Peter Wilde says. He grabs the microphone and dedicates a song to Ted. "I know you will like this one Ted." The band begins to play.

Dave Marliave: Flat Tail Brewery

Snowmelt and natural spring water flow out of the Cascades into the Willamette River. The thirteenth largest river in the country by volume runs from the Cascades, past Oakridge, through the valley, and into the Columbia River in Portland. About midway down the riverbank, sun hammers on a brewhouse under construction. Inside the brick walls, temperatures raise to over 100. Dave lifts a piece of insulation and sets it into place. Maybe construction work wasn't what he had in mind when he took his college roommate's suggestion to become a brewer; however, rock and roll fills the room as Dave builds his brewhouse, and he takes another a sip of beer. This was just over a year ago, and not even on the worst day would Dave think about doing something else.

Brewmasters could be placed in the same mythical category as wizards and alchemists. They create amazing things that most people know little about. At 23 years old, Dave Marliave knows what he wants to do, make beer. Disputably the youngest brewmaster in the United States, he makes and distributes the beer at Flat Tail Brewery in Corvallis, Oregon.

San Francisco 1988, 49ers win the Super Bowl, and Dave is born. Age two, his family moved to Medford, Oregon. In this city, 27 miles north of the California border, an area of the Rogue River, Siskiyou Mountains, Dave grew up playing four years of rugby and began trail running.

He studied psychology and political science at Southern Oregon University until his roommate noticed Dave's passion for beer. He asked Dave why he wasn't brewing for a living. Two weeks later, Dave moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State University for fermentation science. "I didn't even realize there was such a program," he says. While a student, he begged Oregon Trail Brewery for a job doing any work he could. Brewmaster Dave Wills took him on. A master and an apprentice, Dave started at the lowest level sweeping floors and cleaning kegs. Unbeknownst to Dave, this position wouldn't last long. A brewer left, and he moved up. Still not old enough to legally drink, four years ago Dave was brewing beer professionally. He says, "Dave Wills, who I worked for at Oregon Trail, is just about the most crouchy old bastard you'll ever meet. I certainly wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the inspiration and keg washing that he provided me."

Down the road a new brewery called Fire Mountain was being built. Dave left Oregon Trail to help start Fire Mountain. Fire Mountain didn't end up working out because the founder and Dave had different views. He says, "When I left Fire Mountain, I was having a beer with Mark Martin, who's one of the Flat Tail's owners. I asked him if he needed a bartender while I looked for a new brewing gig. He said no, but that he needed a brewmaster." Dave took the job as the sole brewmaster of Flat Tail. The only catch, the brewery had not yet been built. So Dave went to work on the construction. Starting from scratch, he turned Flat Tail from a sports bar into an award winning microbrewery.

Opening breweries wasn't always easy for Dave. He says, "Any startup brewery is going to have a lot of worst days. I had to dump $1,000 worth of beer that had been a month in the making. I had to install insulation during the summer, but it's a lot of fun because you get to listen to rock and roll and drink beer while doing it. There's an upside to everything." Along with patience and attention to detail, his positive outlook is a recipe for success in his business.

This past February at the KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene, Oregon, Dave left the competition winning the peoples choice award. Not only is he the youngest brewmaster, but at the festival he proved his ability to brew at the top level. He says, "When we went to KLCC, sharing stories and beer with all the other great brewers, then taking home that first place prize is the best night I've had so far at Flat Tail." The Licentious IPA won KLCC's competition. It's made with grapefruit, tangerine, Simcoe, Chinook, Amarillo, Sterling and Zeus hops. The variety of hops and ingredients he used in the Licentious IPA distinguished him from the crowd.

Sipping a beer while waiting for his carry out, Flat Tail customer Mitch Smith says, "Dave is the best underpaid person in showbiz." Dave spends a lot of time in the pub socializing with customers and sharing his insight about the beers. "Dave is off the charts, liberated, and makes the best brew," says Mitch. Making good beers is only a part of Dave's work. For him, socialization is as much a part of brewing as the hops and barley. Dave's cure for a hangover: Sleep, Aspirin and Aspirin.

He wants to bring back beer culture in the United States by making education a bigger part of the brewing and brewing a bigger part of education. He says, "It's my eventual goal to incorporate a lot of educational activities and brewing events to eventually get some scholarships and grant work going for brewers." His perspective of brewing is of scientific and creative. He says, "It's not meant to be just something people drink."

Dave's interest in beer started at a young age. He grew up in a household where his parents felt fine about letting Dave and his older brother have a glass with dinner. His parents' small choice would shape his career. "I can't see doing anything else. I'm not even 30 yet, and people scoff at the idea of the whole life decision thing. Since I picked up my first brewing book, did my first homebrew batch, my first professional batch, I've never had a moment, even on the worst days, where I thought I would want to do something else. This is what I was meant to do."

A 60-hour workweek of heavy lifting, sterilization, and close attention to detail is Dave's norm. His advice to someone wanting to break into the brewing business: "Make sure you want to brew. We get people in here everyday saying they want to be a brewer. People think it's a dream job where you sit around all day drinking beer. And for most Oregon brewers it absolutely is our dream job, but 99% of the job is being a janitor. It's not a lot of magic mixing grains and throwing in hops that people think it is. Out of a 60-hour workweek, which is pretty standard, I am probably brewing for about 24 of those hours. Make sure you want to do it. The best way is to go into a brewery and bug them non-stop until they let you wash kegs and clean floors. If you can't have fun doing that then you're not going to have fun being a brewmaster."

Dave has big plans for the future at Flat Tail. He has a new 15-barrel tank and two more coming this summer. These tanks will double Flat Tail's capabilities. He is going to start selling kegs in the next week or two, and he hopes to be bottling by August. "My goal with Flat Tail is rapid growth without sacrificing quality," says Dave.

Dave has a number of people that he looks to for inspiration and advice. He talked with Peter Bakart, the brewmaster of New Belgium, and described the experience as an incredible fortune. Dave says, "Peter Backart is an amazing man and someone I definitely look up to as a brewer." Dave looks forward to competing on an international scale the same way as New Belgium, not to mention the amount of time he still has to expand at his age.

He also looks to Ron Gansberg at Cascade Brewing in Beaverton, Oregon. Dave says, "Ron Gansberg is a fucking hoot. He's always a great guy to talk to, and what he's done for American wild ale has been phenomenal." Additionally, he thinks highly of Nick Arzner at Block 15, a competing microbrew also in Corvallis. Dave says, "Their brewery is only 3 years old and they've brewed some of the best beers I've ever had the good fortune of tasting." He welcomes, enjoys, and thrives off the competition.

Nick Arzner says, "It is great to have another young and ambitious brewer in town. Dave thinks outside the box, which helps promote the education of craft beer and diversify our art."

Dave mahses the grain with water to get different textures. This typically takes one to four hours, but can even take over night. In the next step, the mash transfers to the boiler. This takes up to seven hours. He uses many different types of boils varying in temperature and time. Next he adds hops to the boil. He likes to change the time and PH of boils to make a brew unique. He says this gives the beer a real complex feel. The beer then goes in to one of three closed fermenters.

He named his fermenters Ava, Zoe, Lorie, and Judy after his nieces and mom. Right now Lori has a spontaneously fermented beer. He says, "You can see all the super nice looking snooty veins that's called pellicle. Basically, wild yeast and bacteria form a skin over the beer it helps keep unwanted bacteria out." This beer will take over a year to get to drinkability. Judy has a porter, Ava has an IPA, and Zoe has a Hellis Bock.

In the next room, the greenroom, wooden barrels ferment and age. Next to the barrels are piles of 55-pound bags of malt imported from Germany, some of the most expensive malt in the world. "We don't have any American malt sadly. Not that I don't want to buy locally, but American barley is bred to be higher extract with less flavor because we have too many decades of macrobrew lager controlling the kind of barley that's gown here. You can't get the same type of quality that you can get overseas." A tour through Dave's brewing process and it's easy to tell that this is a man who does not cut corners.

Amy Edwards, a bartender at Flat Tail, said that she sees Dave come in nearly everyday. She's been at the brewery since it opened just over a year ago. Once Dave began brewing, she noticed an increase in the number of customers and a change in the types of customers. She said that before the brewhouse, the customers primarily came to watch a game. Now customers come in to drink the beer.

Dave's recent success in the brew festival and his plans for expanding show that he's on the right track to becoming one of the most influential brewmasters in the country. If he keeps up with his ambitions, the possibilities for changing the industry are endless. As young as he is now, he has the gift of time to make beer an art form once again.

Mike Radtke: Gilgamesh Brewing

On a hillside, tucked away in a patch of woods, a 12 by 18 inch sign zip-tied to a sheep fence reads, "Gilgamesh Brewery." A small shed, roof covered with moss and ferns, pumps fresh ground water to a heating kettle. Sun shines on the Radtke family's property. The oldest son and brewmaster Mike, and Justin, the cellar man, work on a batch of experimental hefeweizen. The aroma of jasmine tea fills the room, an unusual ingredient for beer. After fermenting for about a week, this beer will be ready to drink.

The name of this family owned brewery dates back to ancient Mesopotamia with a king named Gilgamesh. The Sumerian society has some of the first records of making beer in The Epic of Gilgamesh, a story written on clay tablets, most were broken when the Persians invaded. A passage from Gilgamesh reads:

"Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.

Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land."

Enkidu ate the food until he was sated,

he drank the beer, seven jugs! And became expansive and sang with joy!

Mike says, "The Sumerians didn't have a traditional style, so we thought it matched what we are trying to do." The brewery's logo is the Sumarian symbol for beer. It looks like a fermenter showing all the different layers of ingredients.

Gilgamesh Brewery is located about 24 miles down the Willamette River from Flat Tail. The brewery sits about 10 miles southeast of Salem by a small town called Turner. Primarily surrounded by farmland, Gilgamesh brewery is a seven-barrel brewhouse without a pub. The family has been distributing Gilgamesh beer for the past two years.

When Mike was 18, he started home brewing. Shortly after, his younger brother Nick joined him in this new adventure. Nick moved to Australia for a few years where he continued brewing, while Mike stayed in Oregon going to school at Lane Community College, then to the University of Idaho, and then to Portland State to studying advertising. His knowledge about brewing grew over the years.

Mike's neighbor, whose family is also in the brewing industry, decided to host a get-together. They all shared their beers. Mike says, "The neighbors noticed that we had something going. Having a family owned operation with local ingredients is huge and we had something unique that no else is doing." The beer of topic was the Mamba, a beer currently known as Gilgamesh's staple beer. Thus, a new nanobrewery formed selling bottles to friends of the family. It didn't take long before there was a demand for more Mamba.

In August 2010, the Radtkes took their beer to their first festival, the Best of Oregon Food & Wine Festival. Mike says, "We realized we needed to put some capital into it, so we reached deep into our pockets and made it work." After about $80,000 invested in equipment, the Radtke's made a brewery. The family has looked at a few different locations around Salem to build a pub within the next few years. Right now the brewhouse is located on the same property that Mike and his brothers grew up on. It sits next to their dad's woodshop where he builds furniture. This location saves them a couple thousand dollars a month by not having to rent a commercial space. The eventual increase in size means they will have to move away from this location.

Even with the brewery open, Mike keeps his job at the as a polysomnographic technologist, someone who studies sleep habits. A physician recommends a patient to do a sleep study. Mike measures when they are sleeping, the quality of sleep, what stage they are in, and if they are breathing well, basically the behaviors they have at night. He says that about 95% of the time the patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea and primarily treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). He worked at the hospital at night and at the brewery during the day. He joined a physician to start a separate sleep lab called Salem Sleep Medicine. Now Mike works Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday at the lab, "depending on the schedule of the brewery," Mike says.

On a rainy day, Mike brews his Cranberry Saison. Meanwhile, another beer transfers. "We had a mess going on," Mike says. The dog is being unruly. A group shows up to tour the brewery. He tells them it is not a good time. They traveled up from San Diego. He directs them towards some festivals that weekend and other pubs. He goes back into the brewhouse where some mash has clogged the transfer's flow. He undoes a valve to peek inside to see what is stuck. Grain gushes out the tube covering the floor of the brewhouse. He yells and swears. The batch is ruined.

He steps outside, surprised to see the group from San Diego still playing with the dog in the driveway. They've overheard the commotion. Embarrassed, Mike goes back to work until 12 at night cleaning the spilt grain and finishing another batch.

A few days later the group from San Diego returns to the brewery. They met Mike's brother who was pouring beer at the Oregon Brewfest. They tell Mike that Gilgamesh's beer made the trip worth it. "It was a good ending to a crazy day of brewing," Mike says.

Gilgamesh beer is sold at about 100 locations between Eugene and Portland. The youngest brother Matt handles the sales, and the middle brother Nick handles marketing and events. Justin is Gilgamesh's only employee who is not a family member. He works fulltime at the brewhouse assisting Mike in brewing and sanitation. The brewery currently operates on a seven-barrel system. In the next few months, the Radtkes plan to triple their floor space, making the brewery a 20-barrel system and to start bottling. Mike says, "Everyone who buys beer at a bar buys beer at a store, but not everyone who buys beer at the store buys beer at the bar. We are missing out on that whole market right now." By bottling beer, the family will extend their brand to a whole new market.

Trying to expand the Gilgamesh brand, they spent about $6,000 on merchandise, mostly on t-shirts. Mike laughs when he says they only made about $400 of that back. Merchandising is an important part of the microbrew industry. Ninkasi Brewery in Eugene is an example of this. Their brand and merchandise swept through Oregon this spring with a noticeable influx once they started bottling. Mike even noticed a parent wearing a Ninkasi shirt at his son's school. Mike says, "In the Northwest it's tough to break out and be competitive having your brand recognized. I've talked to probably six people who plan on opening a brewery in the next few years. You have to have a vision of where it's going to get and then push towards that." He says that opening a brewery is just the beginning part. Once it is open, you need to decide what you are going to do with it.

In the next three years, Mike wants to push Gilgamesh Brewing to a whole new level. He estimates spending $500,000 on equipment to get to his desired level of production. He plans on reinvesting the profits from hard work at the smaller level to get there. He wants to get to this size and maintain, while keeping the same quality and continuing his creativity. He wants Gilgamesh to always be a microbrewery because he doesn't see large corporations as being healthy. "Macrobreweries are all just chemistry to see how much product can be produced at the smallest price," he says. "That is not beer."

As we sample the Cranberry, the Hef, the Mamba, the Mega Monster, and the Pilsner Mike explains the difference between ale and lager style beers. He says, "The difference between a lager and ale is the style of yeast. Typically the ale yeast is fermented at 68-72 degrees. Lagers are fermented around 54 to 65 degrees. Lagers can be fermented even lower than that. Those strains of yeast give different taste. Lagers are a little lighter, cleaner, and have a nuttier flavor, more traditional. Typically lagers are known for being bright and clear looking. The process takes longer which is why you don't see a whole lot of breweries doing lagers. People have a bad taste in their mouth thinking about lagers because Budweiser and all the other macrobreweries have made people think of the lager as a tasteless, yellow, pissy beer." Lager simply means that it fermented at a lower temperature, but can be any color.

Mike brews with a unique style using fewer hops. He says, "There's a ton of IPAs out there and breweries that stick with traditional brews, and they are doing a great job with them. That's why we went for our niche." Despite the competition, Mike likes brewing in the Northwest. "We can literally get in our car, drive to the hop field and hack out vines and put it in our beer if we want to. Not many other places in the country have the opportunities that Oregon does for making beer." He tries to buy all the ingredients locally, and if there is something not grown here, he buys it from a local retailer. "We don't order anything online," he says.

Mike respects the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware because of their success of distribution without sacrificing quality. They brew a variety of experimental beers in similar fashion to Gilgamesh. Locally, Mike has a deep respect for Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland. "Alan Sprints puts out such a quality product and really doesn't care to try to get bigger. He is just happy with what he does," says Mike.

Mike likes all types of beers, but he doesn't always just brew what he wants. Sometimes he makes a batch to keep up with demand. He says that he doesn't regularly drink many of Gilgamesh's more common beers because he prefers to try something new. "Every brewery has good beer," he says. He prefers to try new beer over a good beer that he's had before. This gives Mike an edge in creativity. His goal is not to become a macrobrewery, but a solid craft-brewery specializing in off the wall styles while keeping a solid foundation.


Willamette River Brewmasters share the common goal of not sacrificing quality for financial gain. These are people who love their beers and the community that drinks them. They treat brewing as an art form. This is essential for surviving the competitive varieties of Pacific Northwestern beers. They have pride in their distinct styles. Multiple brewing festivals throughout the year make the community tight. A brewery in Oregon can't survive on mediocrity, even with low prices. All these brewmasters made huge commitments, not only financially, but also with time committed to construction and practice.

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