Jeff Althouse took a tour of the Olympia Brewing factory in Washington and loved it.Later at age 17 he had his first beer, a can of Hamm’s. The Eugene born Althouse has come a long way from that can of Hamm’s; He is now the co-founder, general manager, and managing member of the 12th largest brewery in Oregon.
Contrary to what people may think, Jeff doesn’t spend his days scouring the earth for the best hops in the world, sipping beer all day, or anything else you see the guy in those Samuel Adams commercials doing. While he does participate in quality control of his products and talks frequently with brewmaster Matt Van Wyk he hasn’t made beer in three years he said.
Althouse’s days are spent with his phone and computer within quick reach checking emails, taking phone calls, and managing his employees. The casually mannered and dressed Althouse has adapted well to his change in role from beer maker to small business owner.
Althouse founded Oakshire in 2006 with his brother Chris. Jeff, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1999 with a degree in mathematics, had brewed beer in his home for eight years before deciding to turn his home brewing hobby into a business.
Chris had always nagged Jeff about starting a brewery; Jeff finally agreed in 2004 while teaching middle school in Corvallis.
The brothers set up their LLC, put together a private offering, and filed all the necessary paperwork to make Oakshire Brewing official, all while Jeff worked as an educational assistant in Springfield. “That was quite a process,” he said. “That took a long time.”
Jeff and Chris stumbled across a vacant warehouse behind the building occupied by Chris’s mobile DJ business in Feb. 2006 and brewed their first batch of beer in October.
Since then Jeff has seen his role change over the years. “I have a number of titles,” he said. “It depends on what document I’m signing.” When the company formed Jeff made and sold all the beer. Now he handles strategy and business development.
As he sits at his desk, tucked away in an unassuming white warehouse off of Bethel Dr., he eyes the mostly empty parking lot from behind his glasses and shares what he likes best about running his own business.
“I have the opportunity to take my personal values and affect a lot more people with them,” he said. “We treat this community well and produce a quality product and I think that’s pretty neat.”
For those expecting the founder of a brewery to talk about the joys of free beer and being a local celebrity you won’t find them from Althouse. The best part of his job is creating them he says.
This response came quickly from Althouse, which differed from others delivered slowly as he chose his words precisely. This calculated thinking is what has allowed Oakshire to grow so rapidly. “Oakshire is now available in all Safeway stores in Oregon,” Althouse said.
His focus as of late had been on Oakshire’s expansion later this year. The company plans to open a new facility that will house space for barrel aging and keg washing, a tasting room, warehouses, and offices.
Althouse enjoys the quiet anonymity of the Trainsong location but the site lacks infrastructure. “When you operate a brewery people want to come see you,” he said. “There is not enough parking and that’s problematic.”
Eugene is no stranger to craft breweries, the city has become a hot bed for them. Althouse loves the explosion of craft breweries in the Northwest but has one caution.
“I have some concerns over product quality,” he said. “I think that in some areas customers will accept a subpar product because they are excited about having a local brewery. The craft industry needs to be producing high-quality products all the time, no compromises.”