Astoria’s fourth brewery will start brewing this fall and open by 2014.

And the local partnership forming Buoy Beer Company on the Astoria waterfront hopes it will add to Astoria’s brand recognition.

“Is four too many?” asked Luke Colvin, founder and CEO of the brewery, which will feature a full bar, restaurant and taproom. “I don’t think so. We can be seen as new competition, but that’s not the way we view ourselves.

Already in the game are Fort George, Astoria Brewing Company and Hondo’s.

“Astoria’s really becoming a destination in general, but it’s becoming ... a craft beverage destination. Our predecessors at Fort George and Astoria Brewing Company, and a number of other players in this area, have done an amazing job, and we just think we’re going to add to that.”

Colvin said Buoy Beer is being started by locals and will depend on locals for its success. But the operation has larger dreams.

“We want to import people to come and see Astoria and drink our beer,” said Andrew Bornstein, co-owner of Bornstein Seafoods and a founding team member for Buoy Beer. “But even more so, we want them to go home and pull our beer out of this community and demand it in Portland. We want to send lots of beer to Portland and Seattle.”

To the founders, Buoy Beer represents the working nature of Astoria, most directly epitomized by the Columbia River Pilots transferring onto and off ingoing and outgoing ships right in front of its location at 42 Seventh St.

“There’s a very tight connection there to everything Astoria stands for, in terms of industry, hard work – the grit part of it is really there,” said Tiffany Estes of Whole Brain Creative, who consults for the brewery.

Buoy Beer is targeting a January grand opening, with possible tastings and other events before then.

Let the consumer decide

“We’ll focus on developing some really good craft lagers, along with flavorful and well-balanced ales,” said President and General Manager Dave Kroening. Buoy Beer leans on the expertise of local 30-plus-year home brewer Dan Hamilton and former Portlander Kevin Shaw, who left as head brewer at Bridgeport Brewing Co. to join the start-up in Astoria.

“It’s a commitment in time and tankage and really corporate philosophy,” said Hamilton of lagers, a specialty of his that will help form a foundation of Buoy Beer’s offerings, which could reach 10 to 12 to begin.

But the brewer’s aren’t picking favorites.

“The consumers are going to make that decision for us,” said Shaw, a former third-grade teacher who switched careers and now has 20 years experience brewing, 14 of them at Bridgeport. “We’re going to hopefully put out a quality product … but it’s very inorganic for us to say ‘This is going to be our beer; everybody’s going to love it.’”

Buoy Beer will install and start brewing on its three-barrel pilot system this month and adds a 20-barrel system in December, including 10 20- and 40-barrel bright and fermentation tanks.

Kroening said the company will focus on growing locally for the first half of 2014, possibly starting its exports and canning next summer based on how the market responds to the product.

On the restaurant side, Colvin said Eric Jenkins, the former executive chef at Oregon State University’s Seafood Cooking School, and his sous check Jennifer Chapman, will run the kitchen. “Between the fusion of Bornstein Seafoods and Eric’s genius, as far as preparing seafood, there is a lot of horsepower behind the restaurant.”

Building the team

Colvin said he first envisioned starting a brewery while visiting Pelican Brewery in Pacific City during a trip down the Oregon Coast with his wife. Starting a brewery had been a joke between him and his brother-in-law Kroening, who had worked for Rohrbach Brewing Company in Rochester, N.Y., sales and marketing for Molson Coors and other start-ups.

“I ended up meeting Dan as a client, he was a client of my company Arbor Care Tree Specialists, and he had a pretty elaborate brewery in his garage,” said Colvin. “We sampled some of his recipes and (I) immediately thought it was the most delicious beer I’d ever tasted.

“My head started spinning, as far as Dan and Dave. I thought if I could get those two guys on board, we could potentially start our own brewery.”

Third came Jerry Kasinger, the finance director and business adviser who Colvin said spent hundreds of hours helping craft Buoy Beer’s business plan and funding agreements.

In searching for a location, Colvin came across Bornstein. He helped secure his company’s former cannery from its status as collateral by the Port of Astoria on a loan it took out to build Bornstein’s new fish plant between piers 1 and 2 in the mid-2000s.

“Luke does seem to ... know everyone in this community,” said Bornstein about Colvin’s ability to connect, noting that many of the partners in the brewery are tree-care clients of his.

The brewery has fewer than 20 investors, mostly local. It will incorporate a seven-member board of directors composed of founders and investors, and employees in the company will get equity options. Colvin and Bornstein serve more as advisers and board members, while Kroening, Shaw, Kasinger and Hamilton help run the day-to-day operations.

Bringing back the cannery

Along the Astoria Riverwalk stands the New England Fish Company building, a former feed and grain warehouse and cannery owned by Bornstein Seafoods and being ripped apart and put back together again by local contractors to accommodate Buoy Beer Company by January. Colvin said Buoy Beer will eventually buy it.

The entrance starts right off the Astoria Riverwalk and trolley tracks. Buoy Beer, entirely over pilings, will occupy 10,000 square feet of the 44,000-square foot building, including the brewery, taproom and a restaurant and bar.

Memories abound when it comes to friends and families who have worked at the building, and Buoy Beer hopes to incorporate that history into its operation.

“My father used to deliver fish to this cannery, and he’s our project manager, so we absolutely want to be a locals destination and an outsider tourist destination,” said Colvin.

Kroening said the emphasis in decor is the building itself as a historic seafood cannery rather than added elements.

The bar in the restaurant will bend around an existing fish ladder rising from the pilings to the second floor, the windows behind it looking out to Columbia River Pilot transfers right in front of the building. The Bornstein Seafoods and other historical signage and artifacts will pop up in prominent display, and there will be a viewing window to the pilings and occasional sea lion below.

Built in 1924 as a feed and grain warehouse for the Owen-Peeke Feed and Grain Co., the building was bought by New England Fish Company in 1939 as a receiving station for ground fish. Northwest Fur Breeders purchased the building in the late 1950s to produce mink feed until it closed in 1982.

“It’s not Joe’s Crab Shack,” said Bornstein, whose family company bought the building in 1982 and used it until its new fish plant was available. “But everybody wanted to make it a synergy between past and present.”

      

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