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With seven breweries in two years, craft beer hot spot is born in the city just south of Portland

COURTESY PHOTO - Bent Shovel Brewing was part of the early craft beer revolution in Oregon City. Now there are seven, each complementing one another with their own styles and vibe. Brandon Neldner has lived in Oregon City his entire life, working in heating and cooling for 13 years while home-brewing on the side.

Earlier this year, he was invited to share production space with two other brewers in town — Feckin Brewery, which focuses on traditional Irish beers with Northwest influences (and includes a full smokehouse menu), and Batch 1 Brewing, which makes meads and ciders.

The trio called themselves Oregon City United Brewers, the first co-op brewery in Oregon.

People loved his beer, Neldner says, and he constantly sold out.

So he sought even more production space — and this month will open Shattered Oak Brewing in a brand-new location a few miles away, on Beavercreek Road.

The new seven-barrel brewery happens to be right next to Batch 1 Brewing and around the corner from Coin Toss Brewing, giving people a convenient pub crawl.

Also in town: Oregon City Brewing, Arch Bridge Taphouse and Bent Shovel Brewing, bringing the number of taprooms in town to at least seven that have sprouted up in the past two years.

COURTESY PHOTO - Opening soon in its new location, Shattered Oak Brewing's crew features (from left) Ryan Jeske, Dustin Pugh and owner/brewmaster Brandon Neldner.The craft brewing revolution in Oregon City is something of a coincidence, Neldner says, effectively putting this mellow city on the map as a destination for craft beer lovers throughout the region.

"At the time we started this, there was nothing in Oregon City," he says. "We all kind of started at the same time, which is weird. We all saw the untapped potential."

With a seven-barrel brewhouse and taproom set to open in mid- to late August, Shattered Oak will roll out with a few of their own beers on tap, including their Kolsch and Rogan beer, as well as other local beers. A start-up food cart, Perky Pantry, will offer food, but they eventually hope to serve their own grub.

Neldner says in a few years he'd like to move into bottling and increase production, but most of all be a place for the community. "We like to give everybody an environment where they know they can come in and get honest answers," he says. The owners and brewers are on site themselves, "doing everything."

COURTESY PHOTO - Owner/brewmaster Rick Strauss looks over his ingredients at Bent Shovel Brewing. He says local residents are big on Oregon City breweries, as are outdoor adventurers who come to play on the Clackamas River.Rick Strauss, co-owner and brewer at Bent Shovel Brewing out in Oregon City's countryside, feels equally grateful for the success and hometown support.

He and his wife opened the brewery two years ago at their rural Oregon City home of 21 years, transforming their barn to house a five-barrel brewhouse with 30 barrels of beer in production at any given time. In the summer, guests come for the warm country patio vibe; in the winter they light a bonfire and take cover under an awning.

"The vibe has always been super neighborly," Strauss says. "Perfect strangers sharing a table."

They see a loyal following of locals as well as outdoor adventurers who come into the area for the upper Clackamas River, says Strauss, who'd been a homebrewer for 10 years, helping brew beer for Green Dragon Pub in Portland and Block 15 in Corvallis.

Since Bent Shovel is far off the beaten path — like a winery experience — "when we first opened, people were a little sheepish about coming down the long driveway," he says. "We'd see a slow roll," as they assessed the scene.

On July 22, several hundred craft beer lovers descended on Oregon City for the second annual Oregon Trail Brew Fest, showcasing about 25 beers from the region and beyond.

The crowd was about twice the size of last year's inaugural event, Strauss says, and for that reason many of the breweries ran out of beer early in the day.

Strauss says he and other Oregon City brewers made sure to take care of the crowd, and drove around all day to provide beer for all until 9 p.m.

With such a tightknit community, he says, he and his fellow brewers often collaborate, and they owe a lot to one another, as well as the restaurants, for cross-pollinating their beers and their brands, driving business to each.

He can think of only one reason for the massive size of the crowd at the festival, and the reason behind the growing movement here: "Oregon City folks are very hometown loyal," he says. "We love that this is ours."

If you go:

• Shattered Oak Brewing, 13851 Beavercreek Road, Suite C-104, www.shattered-oak.com

• Feckin Brewing, 415 S. McLoughlin Blvd., www.feckinbrew.com

• Batch 1 Brewing, 13851 Beavercreek Road, www.batch1brewing.com

• Bent Shovel Brewing, 21678 S. Latourette Road, www.bentshovelbrewing.com

• Coin Toss Brewing, 14214 Fir St. H, www.cointossbrewing.com

• Oregon City Brewing, 1401 Washington St., www.ocbeerco.com

• Arch Bridge Tap House, 205 7th St., www.archbridgetaphouse.com

@jenmomanderson

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