Prolific brewer Bolt Minister will open his 54°40’ Brewing Co. in Washougal, Washington, this fall in a warehouse space right off Highway 14 near the gorge. Bolt Minister has been brewing around Oregon and Washington for many years, from Pyramid Brewing to Walking Man, Rock Bottom, and most recently Old Town Brewing, where his beers won multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
More easily twittered and searched as “54-40 Brewing,” the name is in reference to the historic boundary dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom for the Oregon territory encompassing the greater Northwestern U.S. and British Columbia, or as we call it now, “Cascadia.” This area of land was marked at parallel 54°40′ north and became a democratic slogan for American annexation–”Fifty-four Forty or Fight!”–around 1845.
The brewery will be located at 3801 South Truman Road in Washougal, a city previously bereft of breweries until Amnesia Brewing recently moved up there and Doomsday Brewing opened in 2013. 54-40 Brewing wont be as centrally located in Washougal as Amnesia; rather, Bolt says it will definitely be a destination brewery, though one convenient for those commuting to or from Hood River.
The facility is in an almost unused 7,500 sq. ft. warehouse with 26 ft ceilings, so the 54°40’ brewery will have more than enough room to grow into its space. Opening with a 15bbl brewhouse with three 30bbl fermenters and two 30bbl brite tanks all from Practical Fusion. Bolt should be able to turn out a good amount of beer from day one, with 12oz cans and six-packs of year-round beer and seasonals in 22oz bottles. With 54°40’ Bolt hopes to become an ambassador for the burgeoning and under-recognized Southwest Washington beer scene, perhaps even forming a new brewers guild to represent them. Well-liked and known throughout the industry, Bolt Minister may be the perfect person to head up such a guild and to spread knowledge and wisdom to some of the less-experienced startups making a go of it across the border.
To become a destination, 54°40’ Brewing will need a public tasting room and one is on the way. It will be open Thursday through Sunday in the beginning, though Bolt hopes locals embrace the idea and he can expand the hours even further. He wants it to be a place where he can hang out after work and have a beer with the locals. One of sticking points on locations was that it must be within 15 minutes from home. Though he won’t serve food, Bolt wants the spot to be warm, comfy, and inviting, and it should be family-friendly to boot, with a full-sized floor shuffleboard and even plenty of room to host festivals. “There will be a shit ton of festivals,” says Bolt. It’s probably only a matter of time before Brian Yaeger and Bolt team-up for a Tom Jones Tribute Beer Fest; taking inspiration from his love of music, the tasting room will have a record player that welcomes guests to spin their own collection.
Having made a very successful career brewing for others, you might be wondering what Bolt Minister makes for himself, and that is exactly what he plans to brew. Above anything else, Bolt prizes drinkability, and some of his better, more sessionable creations for Old Town Brewing Co. are great examples of that. For example, Bolt’s favorite Oregon IPA isn’t Barley Brown’s or Boneyard but the classic Bridgeport IPA, and he says there might not be a better beer than a classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Bolt loves balanced beer that doesn’t strip your palate with hops. He likes hops–no, he loves hops–but he just would like to be able to enjoy beer two and three as much as #1. Another of his favorite styles is the Cascadian Dark Ale, a fitting style considering the brewery’s name. 54°40’ Brewing will have lagers, both light and dark. Bolt doesn’t feel like the Schwarz dark lager style gets its due, and he is really interested in brewing a wheat beer with unique spicing. The year-round beer lineup will probably consist of multiple lagers, a balanced IPA, maybe a cask beer, but nothing darker than a gold color on the spectrum. Bolt is excited to have a cask engine and to make traditional ales. With seasonals he can get funky, running the gamut of styles and getting creative with barrel-aging with bourbon, gin, and wine barrels and making some sour fruit beers.
Bolt isn’t chasing trends, but admits after having the opportunity to evaluate new experimental hop varieties with Indie Hops he fell in love with a few of them. He is excited about having a full-sized hop back to stuff with whole cones and spices. Perfect for Bolt to make what is one of his favorite beer styles —Fresh Hop Ale. At this point any fresh hop beers Bolt makes should be considered worthy of seeking out after he won a Gold Medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in the Fresh Hop category for his version at Old Town Brewing. When asked about his techniques and tips on brewing killer fresh hop beer, he believes in stuffing the beer with as many fresh hops as possible, but not going overly bitter. He makes a unique analogy: “A fresh hop beer should be like a good county fair, where you showcase what you’re growing, not a 500lb pig.” I’ll interpret that as meaning the focus should be focused on the quality of the hop, not on just making something as large as humanly possible. In other words, don’t look for a Double IPA from 54°40’ Brewing. Bolt believes the fresh hop style should only be practiced by brewers with hops growing nearby; overnighting those hops or holding them for more than a couple of hours won’t do it.
54°40’ Brewing gets started on the build-out soon and Bolt Minister hopes to be able to brew by October for the 2015 Hop Harvest season and Fresh Hop festivals. Let’s hope this brewery stays on schedule.
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