Sixpoint Brewery Arrives in Portland: An Interview with founder Shane Welch

Sixpoint Beers Art Pic

On occasion, select fans of Oregon craft beer become oblivious to other craft brewers that originate east of  the Pacific Northwest. All too many times we thumb our noses at breweries that attempt to enter our often times somewhat secluded craft beer market.

Recently Portland has seen an Eastern U.S. based brewery, Fat Heads Brewery, open a brewpub here in the Pearl District. There were many naysayers from the local craft beer scene prior to their opening last month. But once Fat Heads opened its doors, many were very impressed with their output. Impressed enough to return and now one can find their beer being served alongside other PNW brewed beers at our local tap houses.

This week, another Eastern U.S. based brewery will enter the highly competitive craft beer market of Portland. Via Running Man Distributing, beginning on Tuesday, Portland will now be treated to the highly coveted craft beers of Sixpoint Brewery from Brooklyn, New York. This is a huge grab by the young startup distributor, as any of Portland’s top selling distributors would have jumped at the chance to sign Sixpoint. Initially most of the Sixpoint beer that will enter the Portland market will be predominately draft along with a limited amount of their canned beer.
(There will be release parties this week at Horse Brass Pub, Belmont Station, APEX Bar, and Saraveza with more detailed information at the end of this post.)

Sixpoint Brewery Logo

Stepping back a bit, Sixpoint Brewery began operations in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2004. This was when co-founder Shane Welch decided it was time for him to open up his own brewery after relocating from his home state of Wisconsin where he began home brewing while at the University of Wisconsin.

Since their inception, Sixpoint has garnered some major street cred in the craft beer industry. BeerAdvocate has given Sixpoint a 95 rating that translates to “World Class” on their scale of up to 100 points.

Late last week we were fortunate that Sixpoint’s Shane Welch took the time to answer some questions that we presented to him.  After traveling to Portland over the years, now Welch is a part time resident of our great city. Here’s what he had to say.

Shane Welch of Sixpoint Brewery
Shane Welch of Sixpoint Brewery

When was it that you decided to establish and open Sixpoint Brewery?

SW: The idea goes all the way back to 1999, when I first started brewing beer. I could never have imagined it would turn out this way though.

How did you get into craft brewing?

SW: A love of making things by hand, chemistry, and creative processes.

If I’m not mistaken one of Portland’s well-known beer and cider slingers, Jim Bonomo (now at Rev Nat’s Cider), once worked for you. How did this relationship come about?

SW: Like any true beer nerd, I met him online. 🙂 We chatted on BeerAdvocate when he posted some commentary that he didn’t understand our beers.  He took the train from CT to Grand Central, walked to the Ginger Man, and met me there. We had a great time, I shared some of our latest beers with him, and he ended up doing some website work for us in the early years, and I have stayed in touch with him ever since!

Aaron Stumpf (formerly of Sixpoint), Portlander, Jim Bonomo (now at Rev Nat's Cider), Jim Koch (Boston Beer), and Jeff Gorlechen (Sixpoint Co-Founder)
Aaron Stumpf (formerly of Sixpoint), Jim Bonomo (now at Rev Nat’s Cider), Jim Koch (Boston Beer), and Jeff Gorlechen (Sixpoint Co-Founder) photo submitted by Jim Bonomo

Sixpoint was founded in 2004. Since this time what kind of growth has the brewery seen?

SW: Pretty steady, consistent growth, but that is not what is really important. What our customers think of us, and how are staff, community, and partners are doing is more important.

Do you have long-term plans to move more production back to Brooklyn?

SW: We’ve added incremental capacity there over the years and we are not opposed to doing more in the future.

What is the current distribution footprint for Sixpoint?

SW: New England, some of the Great Lakes states, plus Florida and limited parts of Texas. Some Mid-Atlantic but nothing in Appalachia or the Carolinas yet.

One of your semiretired beers, 3BEANS, uses Stumptown Coffee Beans as one of the contributing beans to this beer. Was this your brewery’s first connection to Portland?

SW: Not really. Our first connection to Portland was when I had beers with Don Younger and he told me to start my own brewery – this was while I was on a cross-country motorcycle trip and stopped in at the Horse Brass. I actually hung out with him for several hours and had a great time. You could say he was the person to encourage me to start it all – and in a strange twist of events, a beer that actually predates the 3Beans called the BERSERKER BOCK (video is below) was actually served at Don Younger’s Wake. It is really amazing how much of a gravitational field Portland has been to Sixpoint going back over 15 years.

What made you decide to enter the highly competitive Oregon market?

SW: The people out here love good beer, and it’s in their DNA. These are the types of customers we like to interact with. Its more a fulfillment decision than a business one.

You have chosen a fairly new distributor here in Portland, Running Man Distributing. How did you go about deciding to sign with them instead of the more well know larger distributors?

SW: Rob (Merollis) and Phil (Birnbaum) gave me a really good vibe. They “get it” and that’s all that really matters. I predict Running Man will be a force in PDX for years to come.

Will you be distributing both draft and cans here in Oregon? Will it be your entire portfolio of beers?

SW: Mostly draft to start, with limited amounts of cans trickling in. Core beers in the beginning, with limited amounts of specialties down the road.

Will Sixpoint be distributing to Washington State?

SW: No plans for that at this time – but it is one of my favorite states in the country to visit. Absolutely beautiful up there!

Sixpoint Brewery The Crisp

This week in Portland has been deemed Sixpoint Brewery Week with 4 great events to get your taste buds going on the beers that were developed from Brooklyn, New York. The events will take place at Horse Brass Pub, Belmont Station, APEX, and Saraveza.

Below is the list of the Sixpoint events for the week.

Horse Brass & Belmont Station
Tuesday, December 16th
5:00 – 8:00pm

Sixpoint Brewery Release at Horse Brass Pub and Belmont Station
Sixpoint will have crewmembers on site at both locations to make sure they can talk their talk as they walk their walk up and down 45th Street to hit both places. Impromptu pub crawls between both stops are highly encouraged.

The Horse Brass Draft List:

  • Sweet Action Cream Ale
  • The Crisp Pilz
  • Bengali IPA
  • Global Warmer Imperial Red

Belmont Station Draft List:

  • Resin DIPA
  • Lump of Coal Porter (a collaboration with Belmont Station’s Lisa Morrison)
  • Barrel Aged Otis Oatmeal Stout

Wednesday, December 17th
4:00 – 8:00pm

Sixpoint Brewery Launch at APEX
Draft list to be determined.

Friday, December 19th
6:00 – 9:00pm
Draft List:

  • Sweet Action Cream Ale
  • The Crisp Pilz
  • Resin DIPA
  • Lump of Coal Porter (a collaboration with Belmont Station’s Lisa Morrison)
  • Global Warmer Imperial Red