Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub sold to owner of Cooper Mountain Ale Works
In the old days, what attracted Chris Sjolin and many of his friends to Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub in Tigard was its $1.50 Wednesday basic burgers and its waffle-style keg fries.
"I was commuting to Northern California like once every four weeks for my job but then working from home the rest of the time, so my grand sum of hanging out with people was Wednesday burgers," said Sjolin, a former Tigard resident who now lives in the Cooper Mountain area.
Last week, Sjolin and his partners purchased Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub, the iconic 5,600-square-foot restaurant and pub located on Tigard's Main Street near Highway 99W. Plans are to open Max's sometime this week for the first time since March, once the pub receives its OLCC license.
Sjolin purchased Max's from Marvin and Connie Bowen, who ran the pub since 2007 before retiring this spring.
"It really wasn't about like one thing," Sjolin said, explaining his decision to buy the brewpub. "It was more of a feeling."
No stranger to nanobreweries, Sjolin owns Cooper Mountain Ale Works, a project that began in 2012 after he purchased a home-brewing kit for his wife Christine. Soon, he and friend Aaron Fastenow, who lives in Tigard, experimented with brewing beer between their two homes.
"He ramped up quickly," Sjolin remarked. "He learned the most, the quickest. You know, he got really, really excited about it."
In 2014, Sjolin visited Rodenbach Brewery in Roeselare, Belgium, while overseas for a friend's wedding. That only piqued his curiosity about brewing. So did a visit to the Bruges Beer Festival in Bruges, Belgium, where more than 80 breweries show off more than 400 beers. Sjolin recalls returning home with bottles upon bottles of Belgian beer.
Before long, he and Fastenow purchased a 55-gallon mash tun and a brew kettle from Stout Tanks and Kettles on Southwest 72nd Avenue in Tigard. In 2017, they received a license to start a commercial brewery in Sjolin's three-car garage.
Today, Cooper Mountain Ale Works produces up to 25 different beers, none of which you will find at your local grocery store.
"I don't enter competitions," said Sjolin. "I don't ask for anything but a smile on somebody's face when they drink it. That's the only thing I care about."
While the majority of brewing duties will fall upon Sjolin, Fastenow, a partner in the business, will help as well.
The remaining partners include Sjolin's wife, Christie; Dan Antal and his wife, Miriam Pike; and Eli Smith.
Smith attended culinary school and worked in the restaurant in Portland's renowned Heathman Hotel where he knew Dale Holmes, who will be the pub's new chef. Sjolin said plans are to keep and use some of the Max's kitchen recipes.
"But the truth is, I think the quality level that we can achieve with just Dale is going to be far and beyond what was here before," he noted.
What they are likely to keep for sure are the fish and chips, a huge seller. Keeping the popular keg fries was a no-brainer as well.
Antal said he's especially looking forward to finally being able to pair Cooper Mountain Ale Works products with food.
"Beer and food can radically change how they taste (with) each other," Antal said, adding that he's particularly excited about the restaurant creating a beer cheese soup, something that will serve as a stellar dipping sauce as well.
"Again, we can make it with our beer, a beer that will actually make a good beer cheese because we can choose how to make it," Antal said.
The restaurant and pub will create custom burgers and sausages as well.
Pike said she's looking forward to the new venture.
"I'm excited," said Pike. "I get to be the cider buyer."
Plans are to eventually carry three types of cider.
Sjolin said his ultimate goal is simple: "Turn up the food. Turn up the beer. Turn up the hospitality. Turn up the experience."
For the time being, plans are to keep the Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub name, and Sjolin will produce some of the pub's favorite brews. However, eventually, the pub's name will change.
"It might be as long as six months," said Sjolin. "I think we'd like to recapture all the people who were coming before, before we make any changes like that — make sure people know it's still the same place."
Those customers will see many familiar faces in the brewpub, too. Eight to 10 of the bartenders and wait staff from before the closure are expected to be hired back.
For the reopening, Max's will adhere to social distancing, with at least six feet between tables, and Sjolin said he plans on installing a foot-activated hand-washing facility outside the pub made out of a whiskey barrel.
"This is probably be one of the most comfortable places to eat when we get opened up, because we have so much space," he said.
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