Short Snout Brewing: The Journey Begins...

At some point, I expect most homebrewers entertain the notion of opening a brewery. The idea of making beer for a living sounds like an absolute dream. While it will remain a dream for me, Brian VanOrnum is making his beer dream a reality. You may have heard about Brian’s successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Short Snout Brewing.

I recently met up with Brian and shared a few beers. He gave me some fascinating insights into his transition from amateur to professional brewer. Since Brian is just getting started with his venture, we agreed to do an ongoing blog series over the course of the year to document his journey as it unfolds. So today, I’d like to start by introducing you to Brian…

How long have you been homebrewing?

Brian VanOrnum: I started homebrewing in January of 1999. My wife had bought me a “Mr. Beer” kit for Christmas. That lasted all of one batch when she signed me up for a how-to-brew class put on by the Oregon Brew Crew. There was probably a period of about 4 years where brewing took a back seat, but it’s been very steady during the last 5 years.

Brian brewing...
How did you decide to take the leap and brew professionally?

BV:  The simple answer is the love of brewing and sharing my creations with others. It’s been a thought tucked away in my mind for many years, but I became more serious about it in 2008 when I heard about a homebrewer in Northern California who started an operation out of his garageHealdsburg Brewing Company out of Healdsburg, CA. Shortly after that, Mike Wright and Beetje Brewing came along. After speaking with Mike several times, and with the encouragement of friends and family, I started working towards the goal of opening Short Snout Brewing.

Portland has a lot of breweries, to say the least.  How will Short Snout stand out? 

BV:  I think it’s important to note that Short Snout Brewing is not actually in Portland. We proudly hail from Milwaukie. And Milwaukie is going to be a big focus for us. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be looking for tap space in Portland though! We’re going to have some fun with our beers. Using some familiar and maybe not so familiar botanicals, session style beers, and blending of the beer and wine worlds!

Do you still have a day job? 

BV:  Oh yes. The day job isn’t going anywhere. I believe my day job has actually helped in many ways. I work for a small winery and handle many aspects of the licensing, etc. This made it so the initial paperwork wasn’t quite as scary and foreign. But they also offer a lot of flexibility in my schedule. So far, I haven’t had to take any time away from the day job and still handle the brewery operations at night. I typically brew on the weekends and don’t see that changing too much.  I’m off work early enough in the afternoon to allow for visits to prospective accounts.

Bella (left) and Buster guard the gear...

Your Kickstarter campaign got great coverage in the craft beer community. How many people contributed?

There were a total of 182 people contributing $16,366. The breakdown is about 60% local, 40% non-local. I have contributors from all over the country. Even one from Scotland (ok, she’s an old high school classmate, but still!).

How have the Kickstarter funds helped your brewery?

BV:  The two biggest expenses were equipment and licensing. If you want to toss a third in there, it would be the rewards. We’ve already started receiving kegs, the kettles are in hand, and we also have two fermentation tanks ready to go. State and local licensing is complete, and we’re waiting on the TTB.

Brian and his wife, Hillary
What would you like to accomplish with Short Snout in the next year?

BV:  The biggest thing is to get up and running and get several accounts set up. Based off what I’ve heard from others, it’s going to be April/May until I see my federal licensing. As of February 3, the license is up for final review. Not totally sure what that means, but there is movement!

What has been the most challenging part of getting your brewery up and running?

BV:  The wait! Beyond that, the licensing process. That’s not to say that it really was difficult. I don’t think it was. Both the OLCC and the TTB were very helpful if I had questions as well as other brewers in town that have gone through the process already.

Can you tell me about your planned beer lineup?

BV:  I’m still working on the initial lineup and first release. But the leading contenders are Rugged Pug CDA, Bobble-Head Red (NW style red), Wiggle Butt Wit, Short Snout Stout, and Bella’s Bitter (session). I have some specialty beers using botanicals, fruits, teas, even a brew that uses wine grapes that I’ll start offering seasonally. I’m excited for these!

When and where will we be able to get our first taste of Short Snout beer?
BV:  Nothing written in stone just yetespecially in relation to WHEN. It’s in the hands of the TTB.  Where…good chance The Guild Pub will be one of the first, as well as Milwaukie Kitchen & Wine. Stay tuned!

A huge thanks to Brian for taking the time to chat and do this interview!  I’m excited to learn more about his ongoing journey and look forward to bringing his story to you as it progresses thoughout the year.  More importantly, I can’t wait to try some of his brews…

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