Worth the Trip: Columbia County Brewing – Tucked away and hidden in the heart of St. Helens is a new brew pub which is turning out to be a real hit–and not just for their beer.
Located at 164 South 15th Street (at the corner of Columbia Blvd.), Trent Dolyniuk and son-in-law Ed Rosenlund opened Columbia County Brewing (CCB) in May of this year and have been almost overwhelmed by the popularity of their brews and the food they are serving.
“We’ve been very busy,” said Dolyniuk during a recent visit to the pub and brewery.
Dolyniuk, who also owns Blackbird Catering, is in charge of the food and the pub. Rosenlund, who manages the beer side of things, had been home brewing for about ten years before the family (wives Kelly and Sam are equal partners in the endeavor) starting mapping out plans to start a brewery last Thanksgiving.
Today CCB can barely keep up with the demand. What was originally the catering kitchen for Blackbird has been converted into a small, (some might even call it tiny), tasting room and pub, with three taps. Dolyniuk has ingeniously expanded the seating area with an enclosed and heated tent space. “We initially planned to be mainly a tasting room and have a couple people coming by occasionally for a few meals – it has become much more than that,” says Dolyniuk. “People come to drink AND eat!”
The limited but extremely popular menu had just five main items, the most popular being, according to Dolyniuk, the BBQ Brisket Mac Daddy, a beef brisket resting between two griddle seared slabs of mac’ n’ cheese. Other items: a long hot dog, pulled pork sandwich, curry vegetable risotto and black bean brisket chili. The large servings are not inexpensive ($10-$16) but have been surprisingly popular.
“The beer gets them here and is the driver of the whole operation,” explains Dolyniuk. “Then they try the food and think, ‘…this is pretty good food for a brew pub,’ and then we get them back.”
Dolyniuk is also especially proud of the extensive whiskey selection they serve in the pub; he described it as “…maybe the most extensive in all of Columbia County,” with over thirty bottles on the shelf.
So, about that beer. Rosenlund, is making very clean, well thought out, and well-crafted beers. He currently has a two barrel system with a sixty gallon brew kettle which he double batches to make 120 gallons at a time. He’s in the process of upgrading to a seven barrel system to keep up with demand.
We tasted the two beers that were on tap. The Westy Wheat was refreshing and flavorful.
The Double Hard Hat IPA is dry hopped and was especially clean with a smooth finish which wasn’t intensely hoppy.
“From the beginning we’ve tried to make food and beer for the people here in Columbia County,” says Dolyniuk. “They have a different palette than the people in Portland or Eugene or some other market. We have people that want an IPA but not one that’s overpowering, but one that’s nice and drinkable.”
CCB also serves Redwood, a red described as “malty and not too hoppy.” Roselund also had a Hell-for-Stout in the works and says he’s hoping to try a Saison in the spring. He also brews another popular beer, called Alder, which uses grains smoked on the BBQ. He says he tries to brew styles according to the seasons. Look for a batch of hard cider, expected to be ready for Christmas.
Although Rosenlund is struggling to keep his own taps flowing, Columbia County Brewing is also on tap at The Dockside in Old Town St. Helens and available for growler fills at Skinny’s on Highway 30.
The brewery is set up in what used to be Al’s Automatic Transmission Shop, and has lots of room to grow. Rosenlund who grew up in the Yankton/Goble area and graduated from Rainier High School, used to work as a pipe fitter, so he is right at home scavenging metal and building and retrofitting his own brewing equipment. Pacific Stainless, a local St. Helens company, is helping with some fabrication. Slowly and steadily production capabilities are being improved, upgraded and expanded to meet demand.
If you’re ever in the St. Helens area, or looking for a nice short road trip, make sure to stop in and try the food and beer at Columbia County Brewing.
Columbia County Brewing is open Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 10 PM. You can check them out on Facebook.
Here come the Holidays - With the holidays just around the corner, McMenamins’ brewers have been busy-as-elves brewing up a special gift for your taste buds: Kris Kringle Holiday Ale. So special that they’re calling this year’s version of Kris Kringle a “winter warmer” for its rich, toasty and chocolaty malt flavors.
This traditional yuletide ale with bold malt complexity is the perfect brew to enjoy at McMenamins pubs during the holiday months. Kris Kringle will be available at all McMenamins locations from November 14 through December 24.