Gather Around Beer
It was this notion of gathering with friends, family, and neighbors to enjoy a beverage, a meal and conversation that The Commons is rooted in. The Commons Brewery started in Mike Wright’s garage in Southeast Portland. A true nano brewery to be sure – you can read more about that below in the back story.
The Commons strives to make well executed, approachable beers with a refreshing and lively character. You can call us yeast forward, we’re comfortable with that. The beers are geared to be session-able and therefore enable or enhance social interaction. For consumers, the focus should be on friends and family they are sharing time with.
After a short stint in the garage brewery, Mike decided to expand the operation to a 7bbl brewhouse and a new space. The work began in the summer of 2011 and wrapped up that winter. Brewing on the new system commenced on September 15, 2011 and the tasting room opened December 3rd, 2011.
Today we are three people strong. Sean Burke joined The Commons in July of 2011 right after completing the Master Brewers program at Siebel Institute and Doemens Academy. Sean helped assemble the brewery and get the new operation off the ground. Not long after Sean’s arrival, Josh Grgas joined the team to handle sales and distribution. Josh had spent the previous two years working at the Beermongers as a beer-tender and beer buyer. The ‘Mongers happened to be one of Mike’s neighborhood haunts.
Here’s a short video documenting the early days.
Backstory – Nano Roots
In Summer 2011, Mike decided to ignore logic and common sense and expand the brewery to a commercial space and a 7BBL system. Those months were full of activity: building out the space, corralling licenses and learning the new system.
The expansion allowed us to expand our customer base, serve existing customers more consistently and begin to produce bottle conditioned beer. Bottling is something Mike wanted to do from the beginning, but wasn’t able to make happen in the garage. The move also included the construction of a tasting room, finally allowing the brewery to have direct interaction with customers; something the garage couldn’t allow.
Beetje started in the summer of 2010 in Mike Wright’s garage. What follows is the story of Beetje written at that time.
Beetje (\’bee-cha’\) is a Flemish word that roughly translates to “little”, or “little bit”. This brewery will live up to that notion for the foreseeable future.
Beetje will produce small batch beers using high quality ingredients. I intend to use organic 2-row and organic pilsner as my base malts. As much as possible I will use organic specialty malts, and hops. Sound familiar? Yeah, a lot of breweries do this, particularly in the Northwest. I like the approach, and intend to employ it. Quality ingredients tend to have a positive impact on the beer.
At the risk of being too romantic, imagine a small, rustic farmhouse brewery (in the inner city). The beers are generally going to be every day drinking beers, not super-complex-monster-bombs. There are plenty of breweries covering that arena.
In June of 2009 I decided to go on walk about through the bureaucratic wild. I assumed my application for a brewery in the garage would be thrown in the laughable. To my surprise my application gained some traction. It was about this time that I devised the first draft of the plan. When it started to look like I might be approved by the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission), I decided it was time to move on to phase two of the challenge-the TTB. To be sure, the TTB review is the real challenge. Fast forward to June of 2010, I received TTB approval. Let the real story begin…
The system that started it all, produced just shy of 1.5BBL’s. Beetje! It’s a mish-mash of pieces, some new, some old. There is no automation built into the process and my back always seemed to ache a bit after a brew session. This system is still in use at the new brewery as a pilot system and for small one-off batches.
I can promise some level of variability. This is going to be a small, relatively low-tech operation which lays a solid foundation for variability-I intend to embrace the variability. I realize on the surface this sounds like a negative quality, but I’ll liken it to the variability you might see from one vintage to another in wine. Modern breweries have an incredible amount of control over every step of the process, which results in a beer that is nearly identical each and every time. While I can appreciate that, I simply do not have the financial means to set up a brewery with that level of sophistication.