Less than a year ago, Charlie Van Meter was in his mid-20s, standing on beer’s most auspicious podium. He was at the Great American Beer Festival, collecting the silver medal in one of the most coveted categories: American-style Brett beer, for Logsdon Farmhouse Ale’s Peche ’n Brett that he helped brew. Van Meter calls the fist-bump he received from Charlie Papazian—the president of the Brewers Association and the beer world’s Hemingway—“stoking,” and declares, “That moment further fueled me to keep learning and making better beer.” He’s about to take his talents to the beach town of Yachats, Oregon.
Call it fate, providence, kismet, or—if you’re the type who’s looking for "The One" on JDate—beshert, but precisely two years ago, as I was driving from Rogue Ales in Newport toward a construction site in Coos Bay that was to become 7 Devils Brewing, I happened to spy a vinyl banner proclaiming a small building in the town of 700 people to be the home of "Yachats Brewing - Market - Farmstore." I was on a coastal road trip hitting all the oceanside breweries in the state, and this one wasn’t on my radar.
I popped in without an appointment—not that folks in Yachats need one to pick up their organic produce and gardening supplies—and met Nathan and Cicely Bernard, the young couple who’d begun planning to build a 10-barrel brewery on premise. I was told at the time that Chuck Porter from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in Hood River would occasionally moonlight to produce house beers, such as Perpetua Belgian Pale and a CDA (Coastal Dark Ale). If it seemed odd to me that an estimable brewer like Porter would leave a highly regarded brewery like Logsdon, the story of Yachats Brewing's new hire is even less expected.
Van Meter landed his first professional brewing gig at Sasquatch Brewery in Hillsdale in 2012. “My fiancée, Jenna (Steward), and I got our first homebrew system shortly after turning 21,” he says. He still must get ID’ed frequently. It was his homebrewing, and working at two other homebrew shops turned brewpubs—Portland U-Brew and Uptown Market—that led to his hire at Sasquatch. There, he says, he “learned how to improvise, balance priorities, and build beers that the system could make.” A couple of his favorite beers he designed were Szechuan Peppercorn Saison and Vanilla Bourbon Cream Ale.
After a few years, during which he and Steward make frequent visits to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, “helping out where we were needed, from pitting peaches, to picking hops, to helping bottle,” Van Meter got the call. David Logsdon needed another full time brewer.
“Jenna and I decided to pack up and move to Hood River. I spent the first July at Logsdon living off my motorcycle on the lakes and rivers surrounding the Mount Hood area... Logsdon is in one of the most beautiful settings a brewery could have and that's, among many things, perhaps one thing I will miss the most,” Van Meter says, adding, “The whole team at Logsdon is wonderful, each bringing their own knowledge, personality, and spunk.” Yeah, he used the word spunk.
Meanwhile, the Bernards began planning Yachats Brewery over a decade ago. When I met Nathan, he described it as a way “to build Charles a playhouse.” Logsdon brewer Chuck Porter and Nathan are fishing buddies, and the Bernards don’t just fish in Yachats, but live on five acres up the Yachats River, where they brought to life their “permaculture designs.” Initially described by Nathan as a “perennial polyculture,” at my request he further explains that by selecting diverse species of plants and insects, their backyard forest produces amazing asparagus, artichokes, and more. With every aspect working together, “It’s our philosophy of how we farm.” And who doesn’t work better when there’s fresh beer involved?
“Some might find it a coincidence that I am leaving Logsdon for a brewery that Chuck is consulting for,” says Van Meter. “The truth is, Chuck wasn't the one who encouraged it. The position was brought to my attention a couple years ago while I was at Sasquatch and really didn't seem to be the right timing or fit.” Van Meter says that his fiancée, Steward (who he met at OSU), will handle brewery operations and marketing, along with some brewing from time to time. The couple is looking forward to making “some kick ass beer” in a part of the state that, despite the waves, people think of as pretty dry when it comes to fresh beer.
“What we are imagining is a solid Northwest core lineup with plenty of fun barrel projects, saisons, and inevitably we will dabble in some sour projects,” says Van Meter. When asked if beers like Yachats CDA (Coastal Dark Ale) will readily be found in Portland, he jokes, “We’ll see how thirsty Yachats is!”
Portlanders' first chance to sample Yachats beer will be Sunday, June 14, 2-7 pm, at the Rural Brewer at Hawthorne Hophouse, 4111 SE Hawthorne, $13-15 (proceeds benefit the Oregon Environmental Council), TICKETS HERE