In a continuing effort to get to know brewers (or winemakers, distillers, bakers, chefs or anyone who makes our lives tastier) more holistically, I sit down with them and get to know them better. Over a pint. To do this, I invite someone out for beers—just not the ones he or she makes, because this isn't about plugs. This time let's meet Bridge 99 Brewery's owner/brewer, Trever Hawman.
- Brian Yaeger
- Hanging out at another brewery in the "buds and suds" district, Craft Kitchen and Brewery.
I first met Hawman in the fall of 2013, fresh off the launch of Bridge 99—named for the angler's paradise on the Metolius River (and not, at least overtly, for the number of bottles on the wall). Although he had no prior professional brewing experience, he and his wife of nearly 26 years, Angel, emulated the business model of a brewery that had opened two years earlier, Below Grade, referencing their nano brewing system literally tucked away in their basement. But unlike that brewing company (which closed two years later), Bridge 99 has emerged from Hawman's basement and expanded from a two-barrel system to 15 barrels and is set to turn 10 next year. Bridge 99's taproom is frequently crowded with fans drawn by an extensive tap list, popular food trucks and, occasionally, adorable puppies available to rescue at Paws and Pints. Another business Bridge 99 outlived is Wubba's BBQ, which was the first spot to give the brewery tap handles, making it the de facto brewpub.
I connected with Hawman down the road at Craft Kitchen and Brewery. Within minutes, Craft's co-owner Courtney Stevens' eyes well up talking about how Hawman is the most considerate, kind person she knows. There are certainly some brewers who don't make it to other breweries very often (for one, hopefully they love the beer they brew and also, they can put everything on their own tab). But Hawman likes visiting other spots to see what they're doing. He says that's how he explored hazy IPAs as they were emerging as the dominant style. Craft's The Juice is Loose is a great example of the style and I'm not even a "Haze Bro." For his part, Hawman ordered the pale ale, then ordered it again—a sign of a great beer.
Making great beer was something Hawman did as a hobby when not working construction. That's what brought Angel and him out from their hometown of Walla Walla, Washington.
Like Craft's Mosaic Pale Ale, Mosaic happens to be a primary aroma hop in Bridge 99's own Intolerant IPA. The beer is a departure from Hawman's early naming convention where his beers honored beloved landmarks around the Willamette National Forest. Wizard Falls IPA is one of the few OG beers that still graces his taps, and another, Rock Crawler Red Ale, remains a fan favorite. I didn't ask Hawman why he named his IPA Intolerant. But, given how inescapable political events are, what I heard was someone who wholeheartedly espouses tolerance and pluralism. He understands everyone's different. It's something we, collectively, seem to have forgotten.
It applies to all things. It's not about politics, although that's part of it. There's no one way to do something just as there's no one beer we all need to enjoy. If there were, we'd all be happy drinking Coors. And as Hawman pointed out, that beer is great and satisfies millions. But some of us need a little Intolerance. Ultimately, for a guy who started off expecting to sell a few kegs here and there, maybe fill some growlers for neighbors and such, Hawman is pleased with the path he's chosen. There are challenges and hurdles galore along it, but he gets to help build community. And sling beer.
"Some days I wake up and can't believe what I do. Some days I wonder why I got myself into this mess. But there are more good days than bad days."