By Corey Paul
Beer enthusiasts, construction workers and a few North Williams Avenue residents stood in the cold this morning to watch an enormous crane hoist a 30-foot-tall grain silo atop Lompoc's Fifth Quarter brewery in North Portland. Among them was giddy Lompoc owner Jerry Fechter, who said the $65,000 silo will reduce his brewing costs by 25%.
Once a week, a truck carrying up to 45,000 pounds of grain will park in an alley behind the pub and use an air pump to shoot malted barley up the silo, automating the grain work. That won't translate into fewer workers, just fewer back pains caused by lifting more than 30 bags of that base grain a day. Each bag weighs 50 pounds.
"This should allow us to brew a lot more at lower cost, which should help everybody," Fechter said.
Yes, he meant cheaper beer. But the silo is significant for reasons apart from the expansion of Lompoc and reduced overhead.
Think of the silo (pictured to the left) as an advertisement not just for Lompoc — which it certainly is, you can see it for blocks — but for continued development in the Boise neighborhood. Like the adjacent King neighborhood, Boise's minority population has diminished in the past decades from gentrification, but nobody protested at the silo-raising, and a neighborhood association said it had no issue with the new structure.
Fechter said Lompoc was one of the first businesses to begin the redevelopment of the N Williams neighborhood when the Fifth Quadrant opened in 2005, leading the way for artisans, restaurants and bicycle shops. The brewery has expanded to five locations in Portland, growing in step with Oregon's thriving craft beer industry.
Thad Fisco, who co-owns the Lompoc building and runs the Adaptive Construction company that installed a frame inside to support the silo, used the phrase "beacon of light" to describe Lompoc's impact on the neighborhood. When Fisco and a partner began developing in the neighborhood, a wall covered in graffiti stretched hundreds of feet, and crime was higher.
"This was a rough area," Fisco said.
Now Fisco and his business partner, Jon Kellogg of Adaptive Development, own about 55 thousand square feet of property in the area. A newer, still vacant addition is remarkable as it used to be the sales office for a downtown condominium project until Fisco and Kellogg bought it for a dollar and moved it a few blocks from the brewery.
Flecher said he's eyeing a location for another pub in Portland, but he declined to say where, just that he hopes to open two new Lompoc breweries in the next three years.
"We want to keep it local, and to me local means kind of small neighborhood-y. We don't want too get to big or ship all over the country (Doesn't mean we won't though at some point)," Fechter said, adding that Lompoc ships some beer to Massachusetts. "But our hops, our grain, they are all grown in the Northwest and there's great brewing water here. We are happy to stay in Oregon and Washington."
Corey Paul is an associate writer with Oregon Business.