Full Sail Brewing Company

By Irene M. Firmat, Founder and CEO

I walked into the dingy, dark room. The power had been out for years and it was damp, moldy and laden with cobwebs. The old fruit packaging plant had been abandoned for 15 years and it resonated with ghosts of a broken past. This is what I would be hoping to exorcise and replace with a much more hopeful dream.

I had just traded my job as a fashion buyer for the adventure of starting a brewery. Starting a craft brewery in 1987 was a challenge, and being a woman just made it more interesting. People could not seem to understand a woman liking beer, let alone owning a brewery. Then there was simply the question of why. Why would someone want to start a business that was so dominated by big, successful companies? For me, the answer was clear. I really loved beer. I loved the complexity, the culture, the camaraderie and the flavors of beer. It was also an opportunity to start a business that would value human resources as not just a name on a door, but as a deeply held core belief that people are the most important resource in any business. With Full Sail, I have been fortunate to do both.

I wanted to make beers that were elegant, sophisticated, filled with flavor and superbly balanced. But, first of all,  I needed to find a brewmaster that could share and execute that vision. I found him when I hired Jamie Emmerson. As we worked day and night to turn our romantic notion into a bona fide brewery, we discovered firsthand the romance of brewing. When Full Sail celebrated its 22nd anniversary this year, we celebrated our 20th.

From our Session to our bourbon barrel-aged beers, this balance is our defining brewery characteristic. Because our lives are so intermingled with the brewery, we strive to create a balance that celebrates work as well as family and friends. Fortunate to have found such a beautiful location nestled between the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood, our environmental commitment comes naturally. It is impossible to be in Hood River and not be passionate about our small, vibrant community.

Our most significant community commitment came in 1999 when Jamie and I succeeded in making Full Sail an employee-owned company. This was in recognition of all the people who had joined into our dream and helped to make it real. Breweries have been an integral part of community for centuries and it is a gift to be involved in the renaissance that is bringing the creativity and passion of brewing back into the fabric of people’s lives.

Visit Full Sail Brewing Company to learn more.

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