Photo by Mark Gibson
Angela Carter, right, chats with Sarah Isaacson on the production floor of Freebridge Brewery during a well-attended grand opening Saturday. Carter, manager of Rivertap Pub, located across Second Street from the brewery, said she was “really excited to start pouring their beers.”
As of Wednesday, January 13, 2016
This is big and let me repeat that, this is big!” said The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence at Saturday’s grand opening of Freebridge Brewing in downtown The Dalles.
He said Freebridge was the first of several businesses that would open in 2016 and spur other economic development.
“It will change the face of The Dalles but it won’t change its character,” he said.
Also speaking prior to the Jan. 9 ribbon cutting ceremony organized by The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce was U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.
The federal official spent part of his childhood on a cherry farm in The Dalles and now resides in Hood River.
Walden helped owners Steve and Laurie Light cut through federal red tape so they had all the necessary permits to begin the brewing process. Their state permit had arrived only three days earlier.
“The jobs that are created from turning the grain into this product are very important,” said Walden.
He added that it was his “official duty” that evening to taste test a value-added agricultural product.
“How about a toast to Freebridge,” he said, raising his glass and getting a rousing “Cheers” from the crowd.
More than 100 people crowded onto the production floor at Freebridge, located in the Mint building, 710 E. Second Street, and there was a waiting line to get into the tasting room.
“We served over 400 beers that night,” said Laurie in a follow-up interview. “We really had no idea what to expect, but we are thrilled with the response and community support.”
Freebridge was named for the first bridge over the Deschutes River, which was crossed by pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
The business features its own brews — they will be adding two or more per month into the summer — as well as locally-produced guest taps, wine and hard cider. “We’re going to use local products — wheat to cherries — as much as we can,” said Master Brewer Mike Boler, who is excited about the “vision” for the business.
Next on the Lights’ to-do list is growing and evolving the pub’s menu. Patrons can already order sandwiches and soups, as well as charcuterie and cheeses from Olympia Provisions and Ancient Heritage Dairy.
“Pizza is next — we are acquiring an oven this week,” said Laurie, who was born and raised in The Dalles, the daughter of a multi-generation wheat farm near the Deschutes.
Steve turned five years of intensive home brewing experience into a second career; his first involved 20 years as a fly fishing guide on the Deschutes.
At the grand opening, the Lights thanked Gary Rains, city development director, other local officials and area service providers, such as Hire Electric, for helping them get everything in order.
“This was a real community effort,” said Steve.
He said the Mint has been waiting more than 100 years for a new brewery and area residents are invited to visit, enjoy a brew and check out what has been done with the historic building.
Entrance into Freebridge takes you into the chamber where Boler is likely to be focused on the brewing process. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
More information at Freebridge’s Facebook page, or call 541-769-1234.