After a 20-year brewing career with Portland’s Craft Brew Alliance, Ben Dobler, who for the last nine years has managed the company’s brewing innovation division, will depart for the much smaller Mt. Tabor Brewing later this month.
In a conversation with Brewbound, Dobler said an opportunity to work with a smaller outfit, the ability to challenge his skills as a head brewer and the potential for obtaining an equity position in the Mt. Tabor business ultimately drove his decision to leave CBA.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, but I think it is time to get out of the nest and see if I can fly,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from Widmer and CBA, and I am humbled by how gracious the entire executive team has been.”
Dobler downsizes considerably with the move, leaving behind an 800,000 barrel organization for one that will just barely crest 800 barrels in 2016.
“I really just want to get back to basics,” he said. “They only brewed about 250 barrels last year and I’m going to be a bit of a one man show for a while.”
Dobler also rejoins his old high school friend Eric Surface, who co-founded the business in a small Portland warehouse in 2010. In 2011, Mt. Tabor moved across the Columbia River to Vancouver, Wash., and began producing beer on a small 7-barrel system.
“It is awesome that craft beer brought us to this moment after knowing each other for so many years,” Surface said via a press statement.
A recent capital injection from a group of outside investors enabled Surface to bring the Mt. Tabor business back to Portland, Dobler said, where the company will open its new brewery – complete with a 15-barrel brewhouse and four fermentation tanks – and taproom in Southeast portion of the city this quarter.
The company is also finalizing plans for a new Mt. Tabor Brewing & Pizza location in Vancouver, where its current 7-barrel brewing system will be used for smaller batch brews. That space is slated to open later this year and Dobler will oversee brewing operations at both locations.
Mt. Tabor currently produces an IPA, pale ale, porter and a variety of rotating seasonal products. Dobler said he hopes to begin producing an expanded lineup of lagers after he gets acquainted with a new brewing system.
“The opportunity to apply the process controls that I’ve learned and pull together from the experiences I’ve had is going to be incredibly valuable,” he said. “I’ve learned from every mistake that I’ve made, and thankfully I’ve made a lot of them.”
Dobler, who also served as a judge for Brewbound’s two previous Startup Brewery Challenge pitch competitions in San Diego and Chicago, will officially depart CBA on Feb. 12.