A Must Drink and Must Visit: Grain Station Brew Works

Author: Jason Harris
August 8, 2016

Deep in the heart of the Willamette Valley is an amazing brewery and restaurant that serves a huge lineup of outstanding ales and cuisine that would delight the most serious foodie – all in a family-friendly venue that it enjoyable, historic and pleasing to the eye.

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Grain Station Brew Works, in the historic Granary District in McMinnville, Oregon is located at 755 NE Alpine Ave, just north of historic downtown McMinnville.

Humble Roots

Grain Station was started in 2013 by Kelly McDonald and Mark Vickery as Oregon’s first Community Supported Brewery. The concept of a CSB is that the community buys into the brewery as supporters for a share of the brewery’s beer. Like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a group supports a local farm and receives weekly shipments of the vegetable harvest, CSB is the same concept, just in the form of a mug-club.

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Grain Station Brew Works is located in an old 1930’s era lumberyard building that has been beautifully restored into a modern-looking farmhouse building that houses the brewpub and a coffee shop. The brewpub is the centerpiece of the Granary District, a mixed-use development with 7 buildings on 4 and a half acres. On the site is also a coffee house, Salon and Day Spa, Karate Studio, four wineries and other retail businesses.

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The complex is quite the outdoor destination as there is regularly live music and with Granary District outdoor patio (mini-amphitheater, really), it’s the perfect place to grab a pint of beer/cider or a glass of wine and take in music with friends or your family.

Farm-to-glass brewing

I had the opportunity to get a tour with Kelly McDonald, co-owner of GSBW and hear about the day-to-day operating of McMinnville’s ultimate entertainment spot. Kelly is a direct descendent of early Oregon Pioneers from the mid-Willamette Valley and moved to McMinnville to attend nearby Linfield College. Since then, Kelly has been a businessman in McMinnville for decades and is devoted to bringing out McMinnville’s potential.

In the brewing process for Grain Station, the brew team has first-name relationships with growers in the Yamhill and Polk County region that bring about the finest ingredients for their brews.

GSBW Flight

Grain Station has six signature beers that join an ever-changing lineup of seasonal and limited-edition beers. I had a chance to sample a flight and was seriously impressed with all of them. Here’s a run-down:

HAYSTACK GOLD

Like the sun shining on a field of freshly baled hay on a clear summer morning, Haystack Gold is light, crisp and refreshing. Put your feet up and reward yourself with liquid sunshine. OG: 1.044 · ABV: 4.5 · IBU: 15

SPROUT HEFE

Our Bavarian-style weizen’s (wheat beer) unfiltered brew is swimming with clove and banana and stirs up a frothy head. Don’t let “sprout” fool you – this hefe is full of flavor. OG: 1.051 · ABV: 5.2 · IBU: 20

WALNUT CITY RED

Our red ale celebrates McMinnville’s roots as The Walnut City. Locally grown cascade hops throughout impart floral citrus notes and a crisp bitterness. OG: 1.055 · ABV: 5.4 · IBU: 45

BET THE FARM IPA

Our flagship IPA packs a whopping 85 IBU punch. It is boil and dry hopped with a balanced blend of bitter and aroma hops, In other words: flavorful and aromatic hoppy goodness. OG: 1.064 · ABV: 6.5 · IBU: 85

HANK’S DARK ALE

This is a laid-back, easy-starting dark ale with a smooth malt finish. De-husked carafa malt gives this beer its dark color without a heavy roasted malt character. OG: 1.058 · ABV: 5.8 · IBU: 60

GRAIN STATION STOUT

Served on nitro, this creamy, smooth-bodied stout is rich and malty with a sweetness that doesn’t fade away. OG: 1.060 · ABV: 6.2 · IBU: 30

For the full up-to-date list of GSBW beers, visit the Brews page.

A New Era Begins

2016 marks two new additions to Grain Station’s Brew Works’ staff that have made an immediate impact on the guest experience. Earlier this year, Grain Station Brew Works promoted Joseph D’Aboy as new head brewer and hired a new head chef, Matt McMahon.

Joe was the assistant brewer for the last few years and is taking the existing GSBW brew lineup to a whole new level  along with developing refreshing new brews as well.  The results are impressive as we’re seeing amazing new brews come on tap.

In my interview with Joe, I asked about his start in brewing. Like many in the industry, he said, he got his start homebrewing and his craft took off from there. Originally from Sandy, Oregon, Joe attended college at Linfield and fell in love with McMinnville. He’s proud of the solid lineup built at GSBW and is happy to be experimenting with new styles.

Head Brewer Joseph D'Aboy

Earlier this year, Joe and co-owner Kelly McDonald made changes in the brewhouse, including upgrading equipment. Part of this included installing automated cooling to existing 7-barrel fermenters, addition of a 15 barrel bright tank as well as other infrastructure changes. Joe says GSBW’s beer is unique because of his close attention to the yeast strains found in their beers.

He’s developed 3 core strains – hefe, saison and lager and will use these foundational strains and build upon them.

Recently, in Bend, Oregon, I had Farmhouse Saison, which was on tap at Brown Owl. It was a perfect blend of complex yeasts and malty backbone and was ideal on a warm summer night.

For the Saison, specifically, Joe will introduce fruit-infused versions of them including dark cherry and apricot. I got to tour the new barrel aging room – where GSBW has acquired wine, whiskey and gin barrels from local sources and has 10 set up as a lab of sorts. Joe’s admits: he’s lucky to have the space to experiment at GSBW as many brewers are confined by physical locations to store items such as barrels. “Kelly’s a commercial real estate guy, so space is something he’s thought about – and I was able to use this store room in a very tactful way”.

A New Focus On Cuisine

In addition to new beers coming out, Kelly McDonald focused on the kitchen as well. In hiring Matt McMahon and building out his kitchen staff, GSBW is now defying what ‘brewpub’ food typically means. Matt was raised mostly in Texas and learned barbecue at a very young age. After touring around the country as a military kid, Matt picked up culinary styles along the way. His influences come throughout the Southern US, Maine, Canada and more.

Matt gained his culinary training in Portland and was a chef at Portland City Grill when he learned of an opportunity at Grain Station Brew Works. He was attracted to McMinnville and GSBW specifically because of the unrealized potential of cuisine at the restaurant. Again, with Kelly’s connection to local growers and farmers, Matt can use these local flavors in his food each and every day.

Head Chef Matt McMahon

GSBW’s cuisine program, powered by Matt, has a theme of bringing fine dining to McMinnville at an affordable price. Farm to table is an over-used term these days, but the practice is at work at GSBW on the plates and in pint glasses.

Also, Matt is in constant contact with Joe and the two work together to bring out dishes that compliment the upcoming beer offerings. For example, soon Joe will start offering a gin aged ale and Matt is coming in to pair it with lamb seasoned with lavender and juniper that will be the perfect accompaniment.

Matt told me that he’s excited about winter because “that’s when people really want to eat” and he can respond with root-vegetable enable stews that are French and German inspired and go along with the darker ales really well.

Conclusion

The combination of family-friendly atmosphere, focus on live music and quality drink and food make Grain Station a unique place. McMinnville is lucky to have such a stellar brewpub in town and we’re lucky in the Willamette Valley to have access to their beers.

You’ll find Grain Station at a number of places both in bottles and on draft. Look for Grain Station 22 oz bottles at Roth’s Fresh Markets in the Salem area on draft at your preferred pub or growler fill station in the Willamette Valley. Also, in Bend at the Brown Owl.

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