Block 15 Brewing is having a busy Coronavirus shutdown, not only did they announce the launch of Block 15 Distribution but a brand new year-round IPA as well. Founder Nick Arzner has built the small company up from a 7bbl college town brewpub to a pacific northwest institution with it’s own distribution network and one of the most popular beers around in Sticky Hands IPA.
This week, Block 15 Brewing Company is releasing just their third year-round beer in cans with the simple name of Block 15 IPA. Regulars at the Corvallis pubs will know the beer called Alpha IPA, a longtime mainstay that has evolved into this latest iteration over more than a decade. Block 15 IPA will be distributed to bottle shops and markets throughout the Pacific Northwest through their newly formed craft distribution company, Block 15 Distribution.
Nick Arzner and his wife Kristen opened Block 15 in 2008 when he was just 29 and she was 26. This was before the modern day craft brewery boom, when small breweries were called microbrew and were regarded more like novel curiosities.
Block 15 was built to be a centerpiece of the quiet college town of Corvallis, a meeting place for the locals to enjoy a pint and some grub. Before opening a brewery, Arzner was more of an expert on restaurant and pub operations than a brewer. He worked his way through being a busboy and dishwasher into line cook, bartender and eventually manager. The Arzner’s were brewpub regulars, often traveling and visiting local establishments before they had their a-ha moment.
The light bulb went off in Nick’s head when they visited a fairly obscure but long running brewpub called Dragonsmead Brewery in Warren, Michigan. This was a time when breweries only had a handful of standard offerings, but Dragonsmead had something like 50 of their own beers on tap.
“You knew what a brewery was going to have on tap, it was going to be a light beer, a lager if you are lucky, generally a blonde, a pale ale, an ipa (significantly different than the IPA’s of today), a dark beer like a stout or a porter, a red or an amber, and then maybe one or two seasonals, generally made with the same yeast strains as everything else,” says Arzner.
When Block 15 opened, they decided they would have their classics, pale ales, standards, but they quickly added 2 more and then another 2 more with different yeast strains until they had 20 of their own on tap. Each had it’s own identity but branched out from pub styles to Bavarian and Belgian ales. It wasn’t long until Arzner’s interest shifted into barrel-aging, mixed culture ales and even spontaneous fermentation.
“We were always trying to organically grow. Do something new, kind of fresh,” says Arzner.
In 2015 Block 15 Brewing opened a production facility which allowed them to brew more beer, and put it into cans. That fall they would release Sticky Hands IPA in 16oz cans and begin self-distributing around the valley and Portland. The dank and continually evolving Sticky Hands became a sought after beer and inspired a massive cult following for Block 15 Brewing’s beers. That organic growth may have lead some brewing companies to sign distribution agreements but Block 15 stayed independent and grew their own.
Five years after launching Sticky Hands, Block 15 Distribution is starting up with a plan to distribute not only their own beers but De Garde Brewing as well as coffee from Bespoken Roasters. It’s an ambitious endeavor and the latest step into an organic and independent growth model they have fostered since the start.
Learn more about the vision behind Block 15’s new year-round IPA, and its decade-long evolution from Alpha IPA to Block 15 IPA, at: block15.com/ipa
ABOUT BLOCK 15 IPA Tasting Notes: Pine, Citrus, Dank Herbs, Fruit Grains: Best Ale Malt, 2-Row, Caramalt, Carafoam, Crystal Light Hops: Columbus, Apollo, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Simcoe Yeast: American Ale ABV: 6.5% FG: 1.010 Can Volume: 1 Pint / 16 FL OZ
ABOUT BLOCK 15 BREWING Offering unique hop forward ales, crisp lagers, traditionally brewed abbey beers, barrel-aged rarities, and one of the Northwest’s most extensive wild and sour programs, Block 15 produces a range of artfully crafted beers, brewed with a nod toward fresh ingredients and fresh thinking. Established in 2008, and brewer-owned from day one.
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.