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Henry’s in Hood River

Full Sail brings a native beer back to Oregon

Henry Weinhard’s will come home to Oregon.

His new address: Full Sail Brewery, Hood River.

Full Sail, the employee-owned brewery on Columbia Avenue, recently signed an agreement with Miller Brewing Co. to brew and bottle Henry Weinhard’s brands at Full Sail starting July 1.

Henry Weinhard’s, created in 1856 by the Blitz Weinhard Company, has been brewed in Tumwater, Wash., since September 1999 but remains a product identified with its Oregon roots.

“We are thrilled to be a part of bringing Henry’s back home to Oregon,” said Irene Firmat, CEO and founder of Full Sail. “Henry Weinhard’s is a great beer and this is a fantastic opportunity for our company,” which was founded in 1987 and became employee-owned in 1999.

Full Sail has turned down many such brewing contract offers but this will be the first time in its history that Full Sail has made anyone’s beer but its own, Firmat said.

“We’re proud to be part of this,” she said. “They’ve been a terrific partner. We are investing in the plant to get some quality and efficiency improvements.

“And it’s Henry’s, and that’s cool,” Firmat said.

Oregon is “the birthplace of Henry Weinhard’s products,” said Chris Lierman, brand manager for Henry Weinhard’s.

“We’re excited to bring production back home to the area where the brand has its roots, building on its great Northwest heritage dating back to 1856,” Lierman said.

The new Oregon location “allows increased brand awareness to Oregon consumers and retailers, while providing the freshest delivery of keg beers to the Northwest,” Lierman said.

Lierman said a celebration is planned for October, but the first bottles are scheduled to come off the line in mid-July. Henry Weinhard’s brands will be produced in both keg and packaged beer at Full Sail under a long-term agreement. Initially, three Henry Weinhard beers will be brewed at Full Sail — Hefeweizen, Northwest Trail Blonde Lager and the new Amber Light which made its debut this month.

The company will hire seasonal workers right away, then assess its needs over the summer, according to Firmat.

“We’ll see what kind of full time positions are needed,” she said. “We’re always careful about sustainability of people we hire.”

What set the Miller deal apart was that “the quantity makes sense, it’s enough that it gives us efficiency in our overall production, and it’s doing it with a very established company that will still be around to pay the bills.”

Henry’s and Full Sail will be produced separately, for quality as well as legal and bookkeeping reasons, according to Firmat.

“We have to be very strict about it,” in light of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulations, she said. “Under the BATF process of approval to do this, we have to keep separate records of Full Sail and Henry’s productions.

“We have to keep pretty tight records anyway,” she said. “We can track the date and time a bottle is made and what malts went into it, so it’s really not going to be any different.”

Henry’s will get brewed in a batch and Full Sail in a separate batch, all under the watch of brewmaster Jamie Emmerson.

The added product line will not cut back on Full Sail, according to Firmat.

“It’s a way of using idle capacity and now we can use that idle capacity,” she said.

Miller will install upgraded equipment which Firmat declined to elaborate upon.

In addition to Full Sail Brewery, production of the family of Henry Weinhard brands, including the gourmet soda line, will also remain at Miller’s breweries in Irwindale, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas.

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