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Art Larrance, founder and owner of Cascade Brewing

Art Larrance, founder and owner of Cascade Brewing

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and your current job?

Art Larrance, founder, and owner of Cascade Brewing. Larrance has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception and is considered one of the seven founding fathers of the Oregon craft brewing industry. He co-founded one of the state’s first microbreweries, Portland Brewing, as well as the Oregon Brewers Festival, which today is one of the world’s preeminent craft beer festivals. He helped pass Oregon’s Brewpub law, paving the way for scores of pubs since. And he developed Cascade Brewing, a pioneer of the Northwest sour beer movement.

Art got involved in the craft beer industry from its earliest onset in Oregon, homebrewing in a friend’s basement in the late 1970s. He went on to brew Grant’s Scottish Ales for the Oregon draft market with high school buddy Fred Bowman in the early 1980s.Portland’s reputation as Brewvana wouldn’t exist without brewpubs, and we have a handful of people to thank for that, including Art. He, along with Fred Bowman, Brian and Mike McMenamin, Fred Eckhardt, Dick Ponzi, and Kurt and Rob Widmer initiated brewpub legislation in Oregon in 1985, making it legal for a brewery to sell its beer on premise, an act that had been banned in Oregon since Prohibition.

In 1986, Art and Fred opened Portland Brewing Co., which quickly evolved and grew. They sold stock to shareholders, who claimed stools at the bar.

In 1988, Art was an active partner in organizing the Oregon Brewers Festival and is now the sole owner of the long-running and beloved event. The festival has grown from 22 breweries to 90+, and from 15,000 attendees to more than 80,000 from all over the world. An economic survey estimates the Oregon Brewers Festival’s effect on the local economy at more than $30 million annually.

In 1994, Art left Portland Brewing to pursue another craft beer adventure. Four years later he opened the Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub and Cascade Brewing in Southwest Portland. His goal was to provide a warm and friendly atmosphere for families to enjoy quality food and craft beer brewed on-site.

In 2006, Art and brewmaster Ron Gansberg began an aging and blending program that would lead to countless awards and an entirely new style of beer: the Northwest Sour Ale. The rest is history!

What was the inspiration behind your brewery? 

Cascade Brewing was founded in 1998 by owner Art Larrance and brewmaster Ron Gansberg. Together, Art and Ron put their 40 years combined beer experience to work, designing and installing Cascade’s 10-barrel brewing system in Southwest Portland, then creating and distributing well-balanced traditional ales.

Sour beers really came about by default. The pair had followed the trends of traditional ales and were growing tired of what they referred to as the “hops arms race” of ever-hoppier beers, especially in the Northwest. Both wanted to focus instead on beers that offered an intense sensory experience other than hops. They considered what they could draw upon from the region: an abundant supply of wine barrels from the nearby wine country, and access to delicious and plentiful local fruit.

They chose to create sour ales (though they purposefully stayed away from trying to recreate Belgian style sour ales). Employing lactobacillus, an acid bacteria that produces moderate levels of acidity and sour flavors, they began their sour journey in 2005. By 2006, they were producing the base beer that would then be aged for up to a year in wine, port and whiskey oak barrels.Today the Cascade Brewing has more than 1,500 barrels filled with its sour beer, plus an additional nine founders (giant wooden barrels that typically hold around 1,800 gallons of beer). It has won numerous awards and is distributed in nearly 40 states and five countries. All of its beers continue to be brewed at the original brewery at 7424 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy in Portland.

Can you give us a tour of your beer scene? 

Oregon is a consistent leader in the U.S. for craft beer whether it’s the number of breweries, the percentage of dollars spent on craft beer or the economic impact per capita by Oregon’s breweries. At the end of 2016, Oregon had 230 brewing companies operating 261 brewing facilities in 73 cities across the state. Portland – aka Beervana – has 70 in the city proper, and 105 in the greater Portland Metropolitan Area – more than any other city on earth.In 2015, approximately 230,000 people visited an Oregon brewery, their pub or tasting room on a weekly basis, or approximately 12,000,000 per year. Twenty-two percent of the 2.95 million barrels of all beer — both bottled and draft — consumed in the state were made in Oregon. For draft beer, Oregon breweries produced an estimated 63.0 percent of all draft beer consumed in the state.

Craft beer is found everywhere: pubs & breweries, sure, but also growler-fill stations in major grocery stores or in mini-marts that anywhere else would sell fried chicken and Miller/Bud/Coors. We’ve got brew ‘n’ view movie theaters and beer pairings at fine restaurants.There are beer-tour companies like Brewvana brewery tours and BrewCycle Portland, a 12-person pedal-powered bar with stools and an awning that puts a whole new meaning to the pub crawl.The entire month of July is devoted to celebrating Oregon Craft Beer; 31 days of special events, new releases, tastings, pairings and tappings — more than 450 events in total. The month is celebrated at craft breweries, pubs, brewpubs, restaurants and more. And it all culminates with the granddaddy of them all, the Oregon Brewers Festival (also founded by Art Larrance). 

More than 80,000 attendees will celebrate this year’s 30th annual festival, just voted 4th in the nation by USA Today 10Best, July 26-30.Beer events happen every day in Portland, thanks to bottle shops that are always hosting beer releases, meet-the-brewer events, tap takeovers and more. And there are a huge number of larger festivals with many different themes: celebrating coffee beer, Irish beer, Portland-only beer, spring beer, winter beer, fresh hop beer, Belgian beer, fruit beer, bike & beer fest, organic beer, international beer; the list goes on and on.We also have one of the oldest homebrew clubs in the country, the Oregon Brew Crew, as well as America’s oldest homebrew shop, F.H. Steinbart, founded in 1918.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?

Don’t take on partners unless each has duties spelled out and you know they can perform. Then have a buyout for each partner just in case. Then do a great job on your budget and then multiple it by two and double the time it will take you to receive your first income.Know your market. 

Can it absorb your proposed production level? Who is going to sell your product and distribute? Who is taking the risk with their owns funds? Try to stay away from investment partners as they know less than you and this maybe your first time in such a venture. Bad combination!