Henry Weinhard’s No Longer To Be Brewed In Oregon

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Henry Weinhard’s Brewing has a long history in Oregon that is coming to an end with the news that the brand’s owner SAB Miller, will not renew its brewing contract with Hood River’s Full Sail Brewing.

As a child, the downtown Portland Weinhard brewery was my first experience with the fermentation process. I remember spending weekends downtown and smelling the sour, pungent aroma of fermentation blowing out the roof of the historic brewing plant. I hated that smell at the time, but it was so unique that the aromas have been engrained into my memory. The Blitz-Weinhard brewery existed from 1856 until 1999, when Stroh Brewery, which owned it at the time, sold the brand to SAB Miller, which immediately closed the brewery and moved production to Olympia Brewery. Olympia shut down several years later and the contract moved to  Full Sail. When the original brewery was closed, a huge urban renewal project for the then mostly abandoned warehouse neighborhood turned the building into the Brewery Blocks, where Henry’s 12th Street Tavern was built in a project that ushered in the creation of the Pearl District.

Henry Weinhard’s produces popular bottled sodas as well, and sells enough beer in the state to be ranked 4th among the top 10 Oregon brewers by taxable barrels, Full Sail comes in behind them at 7th, based on the most recent OLCC report in June 2012. As important as Henry Weinhard’s has been to Portland, the brand has been just as critical for Full Sail.

Since 2003, Henry’s beers have been brewed in downtown Hood River at Full Sail and have provided a significant boost and cash flow for its makers. It was a lifeline that has helped Full Sail continue to grow. Now that line will be cut after March of 2013, when SAB Miller will end its contract with Full Sail. This is big news for Oregon craft beer and another end to Henry’s, as SAB Miller attempts to franchise the brand by opening more Henry’s Taverns across the country and brewing and distributing the beers regionally. I spoke to Full Sail Brewing’s co-Founder and CEO on Friday to confirm the news and find out how this would affect her brewery:

“Miller has decided to move the production to one of their breweries. they want to go national with the brand and they thought that made more sense. The contract was up for renewal and so it was just the natural process of it.”

“We have been very happy with that relationship, it’s going to have been 10 years now. It’s really enabled us to get in a whole lot stronger financial position and for an independent brewery it’s not a bad place to be in. It’s enabled us to invest in the brewery and be good for the brewers and not get into a whole lot of debt which is a really good place. We are grateful for having had it, we wont be doing it after 2013. ”




I am sad to see Henry’s leaving the state, though I have not drank their beer for years, nor am I a big fan of the 12th Street Tavern. It is still a part of Portland brewing lore, and Henry Weinhard himself was such a legend and pioneer. Stories about about the late Mr. Weinhard including the most famous when he offered to pipe in his beer to all the water fountains in downtown Portland abound. Now the Henry’s brand is being co-opted and marketed as a Portland institution on the taproom’s website, with plans to open a new Henry’s Tavern soon in Seattle and another coming to Plano, TX. Its legacy will always be with Portland, but we can no longer call it our own.

More with Full Sail Brewing’s Irene Firmat on the craft beer business and the future of Full Sail tomorrow on The New School.

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

13 Comments

  1. Balls

    September 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Why don’t you like Henry’s 12th Street Tavern? They have some of the freshest taps in Portland, outside of a brewery.

    • me

      September 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      You’re right they do. The atmosphere behind the bar is decidedly Portland; Sadly the vibe on the other side isn’t.

    • Champs

      September 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      They also have the worst service, highest prices, and weakest selection of any craft beer “destination” in Portland.

      During a quiet afternoon visit, one beer was sandwiched by a total of 30 minutes waiting for drinks before I gave up.

      My bill for this happy hour Hop Lava: SIX DOLLARS.

      Of course, I wasn’t missing much by leaving: the other 99 beers weren’t so remarkable.

  2. Bill Night

    September 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    @Ezra: Nice write-up of a somewhat sad situation.

    @Balls: The problem at Henry’s is that there is no education of the servers or even bartenders about the beer they’re serving. It’s been my experience that the servers usually have no idea of what rotating beers just went on (maybe not on the menu), how much any particular beer costs, or what serving size you’ll end up with once you order it. And it goes without saying that they won’t know much about the beer except possibly what color it is.

    A good comparison is the Flying Saucer chain of pubs. It’s a lot like Henry’s in trying to dominate you with a hundred taps, and it has a similar bland corporate look and feel. But they do one thing right: they educate the servers and they can talk to you about the beer being served. And they won’t serve you in a chilled glass.

    • Jim F.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      “And they won’t serve you in a chilled glass”

      Agreed. Reminds me of a place the wife and I stumbled into in Washington this summer. I think it was called “Hopjacks” or something. It had “hop” in the name so we felt good. As soon as we sat down at the bar, the bartender very proudly welcomed us and declared that Hopjacks competitive advantage was that they served “the coldest beer in town” and that all of their taps were iced. She then served me a nice pale ale in an icy glass served from a frozen tap. We were horrified. She could not understand why we didn’t think cold=great.

  3. Scott Gerlach

    September 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Once again relevant will be what I heard said between 1999 and 2003:

    “If it is the beer here, why do they brew it there?”

  4. Anonymous

    September 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    This isn’t the first time Weinhard’s has left Oregon…

    From the Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weinhard_Brewery_Complex

    “Mergers with and sales to other breweries occurred over the years. A merger with competitor Portland Brewing brought the Blitz name into the formal name of the brewery. Arnold Blitz, who had owned Portland Brewing, became Chairman of the new Blitz-Weinhard company. The new company took 20 years to modernize the brewery and recover from Prohibition, which ended in 1933. In 1979, Blitz-Weinhard was sold to the Pabst Brewing Company. Pabst then sold the brewery to Stroh Brewing Company in 1996. The last and final sale of the company in 1999 had major effects on the brewery building. Stroh’s sold the Henry Weinhard’s brand to Miller Brewing Company, and moved all Henry’s brewing operations to the Olympia Brewery in Tumwater, Washington.”

    It was in 2003 that Full Sail brought the product back to Oregon.

    From the Full Sail Wiki page…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Sail_Brewing_Company

    “In July 2003, Full Sail began contract brewing three beers for SABMiller under the almost 150 year-old Henry Weinhard’s brand: Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Northwest Trail Blonde Lager, and Amber Light. SABMiller had purchased the brands from Stroh’s in 1999, and for a few years had moved their production to its Tumwater, Washington brewery until it closed in 2003.”

    • Anonymous

      September 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm

      So essentially Weinhard’s was produced out of state for 10 years. Directly from the Full Sail CEO quote above “We have been very happy with that relationship, it’s going to have been 10 years now.” This would leave a 10 year gap according to this blog post.

  5. ElGordo

    September 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    You’re right, anon, Full Sail picked up the contract in 2003, not 1993. It has been fixed.

  6. JessKidden

    September 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    quoted from Wikipedia above: “Pabst then sold the brewery to Stroh Brewing Company in 1996.”

    Not true.

    In 1983, in a confusing 3-way deal that saw Pabst buy Olympia and Heileman buy Pabst and then spin-off a “new” Pabst (to keep ahead of the Federal DoJ anti-trust regulators), Heileman wound up with the Blitz-Weinhard brewery and brands when the dust cleared.

    Stroh only acquired the company/brand when they bought Heileman in 1996.

    In 1999, when Stroh collapsed and was divided up by Pabst and Miller, Miller took over Pabst’s Olympia Brewery (and soon closed it a few years later), so when they moved the Weinhard brand to Tumwater, WA it was to their own brewery there.

  7. Anonymous

    January 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

    tell me, if they had repromoted the original Blitz, would it not have kicked pabst to the curb?

  8. Ken Holloway

    May 19, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Aw man…It was the water; that pure, clean, fresh water that made that beer. The fond memories of the free beers after work will always be with me. Sorry to see them go.

    • Hannah McFallo

      July 25, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Ken, I have heard my dad talk about the free beers before and after work. Did you work there too? What years? I am trying to get in contact with a bunch of people that my dad Nick worked with for a surprise 60th bday party for him! Please contact me, hmcfallo@hotmail.com

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