SANDY STOREY - The FOP Taproom celebrated its grand opening Saturday. Chuck Fretwell, owner of FOB Taproom, which held its grand opening July 11 at its storefront on South Berg Parkway behind A&W and next door to Thai Corner Cuisine, is putting a unique spin on the old idea of a beer lover’s nirvana.

Yes, FOB, which stands for “Friends of Beer,” is capable of having as many as 40 beers on tap at once. Yes, it specializes in beers you won’t find in the grocery store, and some that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere regionally. And yes, it does offer cider, wine, pilsners and other “lighter beers” for those customers who just aren’t into the sudsy goodness of a hoppy IPA or a thick, creamy chocolate stout.

FOB, however, isn’t an ordinary taproom like those found doting the map all over Portland’s southeastern neighborhoods. It has long, hand-carved wood community tables where many people arrive as strangers, sitting elbow to elbow, but leave as friends. This is, after all, a true community gathering house.

“There are a lot of people in Canby who really know their beer, a lot of home brewers,” Fretwell said. “My goal is to start a home brewers club. Once per month we’ll meet here at the large community tables, and the meeting will be headed up by one of our local master brewers, of which there are two who live in Canby. We’re going to work it out so brewers can bring their beer in and let people taste them and share notes. Down the road I’d like to have a home brewers competition and we will give the winner a handle here (a tap for the beer) and put their name up on the board.”

“The board” Fretwell refers to is a conglomeration of four TV screens hanging on the left wall when you walk in. On it, customers can see each beer on tap, how much liquid is left in the keg, the price (everything comes in around $5 per pint), the alcohol volume and tweets and other social media messages left by FOB online friends.

Fretwell’s five employees all are well-versed in microbrew knowledge. They each hold previous experience in the industry and toured other breweries and taprooms as a group before the Canby location opened.

“It was a great education for them to get their beer on,” Fretwell said.

Another offering unique in Canby to FOB Taproom is that customers can bring in their own food from anywhere – yes, even from home – especially from Thai Corner located next door. How is this possible, you ask? Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulation state that an establishment is not required to serve food unless they are selling hard liquor, Fretwell said.

The taproom has no kitchen, and has no plans to install one, but that could change in the future if Fretwell’s long-term dream to open a brewery in downtown Canby comes to fruition, but for the moment opening a downtown brewery is quite a ways off, he said.

“I’m trying to find the right location and then the right architect for planning,” Fretwell said. “Working with City of Canby has been fantastic; there have been zero issues. Everyone from city planning to the chamber of commerce have gone out of their way to help me.”

Fretwell, who grew up in Salem but spent his childhood summers in Canby at his grandfather’s farm where his grandfather grew ingredients used in Smucker’s brand jellies on land that is now housing across the street from Canby High School, formerly had a career in international marketing and business development, primarily in Washington D.C. and Boston, before returning home to Oregon 10 years ago, he said.

Prior to that he served in the Army, where he initially came up with the idea for the name FOB Taproom.

“We would enter these small villages in these third-world countries, like Mozambique, and they were always making liquor out of some kind of local fruit,” Fretwell said. “If we ended up setting up a forward operating base (FOB) there, we always joked that we now had a forward operating brewery as well.”

FOB Taproom held its grand opening Saturday, July 11, but it is open every day by Sunday. Hours are Monday through Thursday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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