The Wet Dog Cafe & Brewery on 11th Street will be renamed as Astoria Brewing Co. consolidates its brand and owners Stephen and Karen Allen transition toward the next generation.
That transition includes their children, Kera Huber, Andy Huber and Mike Allen, who have worked at the cafe since they were teenagers, along with Matthew McClure, a manager who joined the company in 2014.
“We’ve become partners,” Karen Allen said. “They’re supporting, managing. They have been doing that all along anyway.”
The transition is part of a succession plan Karen Allen, 60, and Stephen Allen, 65, hope to execute over the next several years.
“We’re trying to retire one piece at a time,” Stephen Allen said.
In 1995, Seaside residents Joe Gwerder and Harry Henke started Wet Dog Cafe at the Astoria Riverwalk and 11th Street.
Stephen Allen, a local accountant, joined as a silent partner and bought Gwerder and Henke out in 1997, soon after adding a separate operation, Pacific Rim Brewery, in the same location. In 2005, the brewery portion of the business was renamed Astoria Brewing Co., in commemoration of Astoria Brewery, the city’s first, started in 1872. Astoria Brewing Co., including Pacific Rim, is the city’s oldest active brewery. The Wet Dog Cafe & Brewery name remained for the main pub.
The Allens have continually expanded their local restaurant and real estate holdings over the years, beginning with the Desdemona Club in Uppertown in 2005.
In 2012, Astoria Brewing Co. expanded on the same city block as Wet Dog with the purchase of the former Andrew & Steve’s Restaurant and The Chart Room Bar on the corner of Marine Drive and 12th Street. The family reopened Chart Room and punched a hole in the floor of Andrew & Steve’s, installing a new commercial brewery in the basement, surrounded by the mezzanine of their new taproom.
The family briefly owned the former Hazel’s Tavern on Marine Drive and in 2014 acquired and renovated the Pier 11 Mall and Josephson Fish Station next to Astoria Brewing Co.
The Wet Dog was the first location to host poetry readings with the FisherPoets Gathering 21 years ago. The last event under the Wet Dog Cafe name will be FisherPoets readings Friday and Saturday night. The pub will then close for renovations before a “brand” opening in early March.
The reopening will include the release of three new beers. One event will introduce the public to Shaun Barrick, head brewer for the past year.
Part of a Coast Guard family, Barrick spent four years in Astoria before his father was stationed in Alaska, where he attended college and eventually started working at Alaska Brewing Co. He has been brewing for five years, including with Alaskan and Ninkasi Brewing Co. in Eugene. After learning of an opening through a friend, he joined Astoria Brewing Co., where he and two assistant brewers have been turning out the regulars and expanding the brewery’s palate with nearly 30 new beers in the last year.
“We’re on track to do 36 new beers this year,” Barrick said, adding he focuses on easier-drinking varieties.
Despite some changes, Kera Huber said, Astoria Brewing Co. is holding on to the same identity of a family and pet-friendly brewpub held by Wet Dog, while focusing on growing the brewery side of the business.
The family’s sprawling businesses require a collection of talent to run, Karen Allen said. She has handled operations, while Stephen Allen has done the accounting. All seven of the couple’s children have worked at the business at some point. Kera and Mike are experienced at operations, while Andy built the brewery and handles much of the company’s maintenance and build-outs, she said.
“The tables will turn, where we will then be supporting them,” she said. “That’s over the next five years.”