By Rick Roach

Thunder Island Brewing Co. owners Dave and Caroline Lipps celebrated at a ground-breaking ceremony on August 20, 2019 at 601 Wa Na Pa street, Cascade Locks, Oregon. Thunder Island Brewing Co. has been successfully brewing and serving craft beer at their current location at 515 Portage Road in the Port of Cascade Locks, Oregon since October 2013. Dave said, “It’s been a long, long road to get to this point and this is going to be great, not only for our business and our staff, but also for the community of Cascade Locks”. The 10,000 sq ft purpose-built 15-barrel brewing facility and restaurant will be completed in 2020.

Contributing to the success of the business, the Port provided incubator space in a building near the river across from Thunder Island since the business opened in 2013. The Port structured a gradually increasing monthly lease rate so that the brewery could invest capital into equipment while building the business. Since the brewery began serving customers it has grown from a small two-barrel brewing system to a seven-barrel system. The business was so successful that it needed a bigger facility, so to continue supporting the brewery and provide an even greater economic stimulus to the area, the Port sold the property in Cascade Locks to Thunder Island.

Regarding the successful collaboration, Olga Kaganova, Director of the Port of Cascade Locks, said “We are excited about this home-grown addition to our downtown area. The Port is thrilled to have been a part of the exponential growth and success of this small business. We look forward to utilizing the incubator space to bring in more business activity to Cascade Locks and are discussing this with other potential businesses.”

According to Brittany Sheets, Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Thunder Island, the new building and location will offer the following improvements; a new advanced brewing system which will allow the brewers to increase output and make better beer, a full-size state of the art kitchen to offer an expanded menu and improve efficiency, a better view of the river including a view of the Bridge of the Gods, space for a future rooftop bar and more seating space to accommodate guests and groups for events.

Brewer Kyle Larson explained that the new brewing equipment will enable brewers to measure components and chemicals during production more quickly and accurately, which will result in improved quality control and better beer. For instance, diacetyls, which are a normal byproduct of the fermentation process, can cause an off flavor if the beer is packaged too soon. The manual process for detecting diacetyls is done by heating a sample of beer, then cooling it, then tasting it to see if it has a buttery flavor. The new brewing system will contain instrumentation that can accurately detect diacetyl without having to go through this manual, time-consuming, process. Also, increasing the brewing system to 15 barrels will increase production capacity and allow for more experimentation and a greater variety of beers.

When asked about possible differences in a brewer’s own personal preference and the current market for certain types of beer, Larsen said “we like to make beer that we like to drink”. It seems like a good philosophy to live by considering Thunder Island’s success in an ever-growing and highly competitive craft beer market.