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Food & Drink » Beer & Drink

Need an IPA? Ask Melvin

Why Wyoming beer will soon loom large in Oregon

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The annual India pale ale collaboration between Astoria's Fort George Brewery and two other craft outfits, 3-Way IPA, brings an annual introduction to other regional beer talents. This has included Seattle's Georgetown, pFriem from Hood River and Block 15 Brewing based in Corvallis. The 2016 version, due out this summer, is the work of Fort George, Barley Brown's Beer in Baker City and Melvin Brewing, based in the western Wyoming town of Alpine (population: 828).

Who are those guys? IPA giants, that's who—and soon Melvin is going to be the name on the lips of beer fans across the Pacific Northwest.

The brewery was launched by Jeremy Tofte, a native of Montana who grew up in Bend and went to Central Oregon Community College in the 1980s. Tofte later moved to the Wyoming resort town of Jackson Hole, where he ran a failing Asian restaurant called Thai Me Up (no, really, that's the name) and bought a 20-gallon brew system in 2009 in order to drum up some customers. He was joined by Kirk McHale, who built brewing experience at several locations in San Diego's Pizza Port chain of brewpubs, and provided all the medals on its wall (including Small Brew Pub of the Year at the 2015 Great American Beer Fest), which tells the rest of the story.

Thai Me Up remains open in Jackson, but Melvin recently upgraded from a three-barrel brew system to a 30-barrel one in nearby Alpine, allowing it to expand distribution to Colorado, Washington, Idaho, and now Oregon. Official distribution here will begin this summer, but a few barrels have already passed into the state, including Asterisk, a malty IPA that showed up unannounced at Brother Jon's Alehouse last week. Melvin's bread and butter is all about being bitter, and once distribution begins in earnest, Oregon will see cans of both its regular IPA and its 2x4 Double IPA, which won gold at GABF, and has since appeared at Portland bars such as NWIPA, Apex, and The Beermongers. In other words, 3-Way is only the beginning for hop heads.

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