A new 30-barrel brewing system will expand capacity at Fort George Brewery. // PHOTO COURTESY OF FORT GEORGE BREWERY
Fort George Brewery is set to fire up its recently installed 30-barrel brewing system by the end of September, an expansion in the blighted area of downtown that is paving the way for new jobs.
The brewery purchased the Fort George and Lovell buildings and other nearby neglected property in October 2009 for $1.65 million, aided in part by Small Business Administration loans. In July, it received a forgivable loan of $150,000 from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund to set up facilities to can beer, expected to be operational by the end of the year. The loan comes with the requirement to create at least 12 full-time positions by 2014. “They’ll be across the board: working in the pub, on the canning line. We plan to have a marketing person in Portland promoting our products,” says Fort George co-owner Chris Nemlowill.
City and local business advisory groups such as Clatsop Economic Development Resources are enthusiastic about the broader implications of the brewery’s expansion to downtown Astoria. “It will bring people downtown. I look at it as people working and shopping downtown. It’s putting uses to formerly vacant buildings,” says Astoria community development director Brett Estes. The 1921 Lovell building, which houses the expanded brewing operation, had been empty since 2002.
In addition to a $120,000 Urban Renewal Development (URD) loan from the city for electrical and structural upgrades, Fort George also received a $30,000 grant from the agency for aesthetic improvements. “Grant money goes to projects with definite effects. It helps remove the blight,” Estes says. With the brewery expansion, Fort George will increase its production capacity from about 1,000 barrels a year to 6,000.
Fort George leases space in its buildings to Fernhill Glass and the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe. “We try to surround ourselves with synergistic business. It draws people to the block and helps all of us,” Nemlowill says. “We’re creating a truly public house for locals.”