I’ve walked into a tavern not far from my house, and there on the board is a listing for pFriem Family Brewers. Having been to, loved and raved about this 15-barrel artisanal brewery in Hood River, there’s no question about which beer I’ll order. Sitting down to a beautifully rich ale, I bask in the unique flavors that this new Belgian inspired brewery is turning out. A hidden jewel along the Columbia River in the exquisite Columbia Gorge, and located in the same town as Double Mountain and craft cornerstone Full Sail Brewing, pFriem Family Brewers has only been open since July of 2012.
Head Brewer and Owner Josh Pfriem speaks to me about life at pFriem Family Brewers: “It’s really fun; we have best of both worlds combining big and small brewery ideas. We are very proud to be part of a movement of small production facilities focusing on high quality, unique, and diverse beers.”
Pfriem explains that this criteria underscores everything his burgeoning brewery is about, “This is how we look at all beers brewed at pFriem. If it is a new beer, we don’t just want it to be good for a first showing. We want it to be able to stand with the rest of our family of beers.”
Says Pfriem of this creative process, “When we create a new beer, my brewery desk is a mess! I try to bring everything I know to the table…beers that inspire me, brewers that are pushing the envelope, and most importantly, making sure that we create a beer people want to drink. We like to look at tradition, innovation, creativity, balance, quality and complexity. I see brewing as an incredible balance of science, engineering and art.”
Pfriem uses this ingenuity to expand the palates of visitors to his brewery, including the inveterate Pacific Northwest hops lover. “We encourage them to try the Belgian inspired beers. We get a lot of ‘Well, I really don’t care for Belgian beer’ comments…then they taste one and say ‘Wow, that was way different than I was expecting, I’ll have one of those!’”
There’s a palpable pride to the way Pfriem talks about his beer as he describes some of the offerings at the brewery, beginning with their flagship Blonde IPA. “At first glance it looks bright and clean like a industrial lager, but once you stick your nose in the glass, the citrus from the hops burst out and you know you’re in for something different. The beer that embodies the spirit of the brewery would be our Belgian Strong Blonde. It is complex but light, elegant and delicate with pear, clove and apricot flavors. It’s wonderful with food and really shows what we are trying to do in this brewery.”
Spring of 2013 should find pFriem Family Brewers’ beer offered in Washington, British Columbia and Canada. In an effort to keep up with draft demand, create a warming room for bottle conditioning, lend ample room for the barrel aging/wild fermentation program and offer a beer in a package by fall 2013, pFriem Family Brewers is currently pursuing 4,000 square feet of space adjacent to their existing building. Pfriem would like to focus on the expansion of their kitchen in an effort to continue creating exquisite food and beer pairings from scratch. Look to this upstart to begin their barrel aging program over the next couple of months. Continues Pfriem, “We have a lot of new varieties of hops that have just arrived at the brewery and plenty more on the way. pFriem is really excited to experiment with these new hop varietals and we have several new yeast strains to play around with as well.”
Successful in their aims to create a warm and friendly place that the community, families and employees feel proud to be part of, pFriem goes the extra mile; dedication to community is at the heart of the brewery, with events held to raise money for local nonprofits. Pfriem describes their motivation: “As we grow, we want to help out our community, protect our environment, build up our employees and take care of our families.” Showcased in a LEED certified building, the roof is covered in solar panels. The brewery boasts a rainwater collection system, and the building is built of 60 percent reclaimed materials. The tasting room, a lovely mix of warm barnwood and industrial metal, is nearly entirely repurposed and built by hand.
“We wanted to create a brewery with an artisanal heart that was bound by craftsmanship and quality. We want to push the limits of what you can do with beer, all while bringing folks together and having a lot of fun! We want to help show the world how wonderful food and beer can pair together.”
Cheers to that!
The next time you find yourself in Hood River, Ore., pull up a stool at the wood bar. After just one taste, you’ll want to be a part of pFriem Family Brewers, too.
Emily Engdahl is the founder of Oregon Beer Country, a travel and tourism site dedicated exclusively to the craft beer culture of Oregon. As a craft beer writer, community events coordinator, and homebrewer, Emily encourages consumer education, community craft beer connections, resource building, informed craft beer choices, and keeping craft beer fun and accessible. Emily is also a self-taught graphic designer and trained mediator. Find her on twitter at @emilyengdahl and @ORBeerCountry.