WILLAMETTE, Ore. — Two longtime friends with a long history in the Oregon beer scene are joining forces to create a new brewing company.
Jim Parker and David Lederfine, who have a combined 55 years of experience in craft beer and 21 years of friendship, are launching Asher David Brewing & Cellarworks, a new company built, in part, on Lederfine’s previous endeavor, the tenant brewing company Awesome Ales.
“We initially thought we would just rebrand Awesome Ales, but as things began to develop, we realized that this is a completely new beast,” says Parker, who holds the title of Chief Juggling Officer.
“I had tried for five years to get Jim involved with Awesome. But he always had some new job or new project,” Lederfine says.
“The reality is I wasn’t that enamored with the whole Awesome Ales name or concept,” Parker says. “I believed in David and his beers, but thought he should be doing more of what he is passionate about, which is farmhouse and barrel-aged beers. And I knew there was no way to be profitable if you don’t control at least some of your production schedule and have a taproom to sell directly to your customers.”
Where Awesome Ales was a one-man show with Lederfine doing production, sales, delivery and administration, Parker and Lederfine are assembling a team to tackle sales, work in production and grow the new business. And, where Awesome Ales relied entirely on contracted tank time at other breweries, Parker and Lederfine are set to sign a lease next month on their own brewing space and site selection has begun on the brewery’s first taproom. The eventual goal is a farmhouse brewery and events center, but the duo are taking things one step at a time.
The name Asher David comes from the first and middle names of Lederfine’s son, who was part of his inspiration for launching his own brand. “If you’re always working for someone else, what do you have to pass down?” he says.
Asher David Brewing & Cellarworks will celebrate with a series of launch events during October. On Oct. 4, they will be at Portland’s Belmont Station. Oct. 10, they will hold a launch party at Eugene’s Bier Stein that will include live music. More events are in the works in Salem, West Portland and Astoria with dates to be announced soon.
And, while the company will continue to employ the tenant brewing model to produce beer on the unused capacity of other breweries, the two are on track to sign a lease on the four-barrel brewing space Lederfine ran in the early 2000s at what was then Astoria’s only brewery. Back then it was known as Pacific Rim Brewing. These days, the Astoria Brewing Company brews its beers on a new 15-barrel brewhouse and the old brewery sits unused most of the time.
Parker, who lives in Astoria, noticed the lack of activity on the old system and he and Lederfine contacted Astoria Brewing’s owners and a deal was struck. Asher David will begin brewing in Astoria in October. The new arrangement will allow the company to add a brewing license and open its own taproom. It also brings Lederfine back to Astoria – at least part-time – where he helped launch the city’s brewing scene, including helping start such events as the Pacific Northwest Beer Cup and Festival of Dark Arts.
In fact, it was through their mutual friend, Jack Harris of Fort George Brewery, that Parker and Lederfine met. Lederfine and Harris had brewed together at McMennamin’s before Harris moved to Colorado to brew at the Mountain Sun. It was there he met Parker, who at the time owned the Fort Collins beer bar Mountain Tap Tavern. A few years later, in 1997, he introduced Parker to Lederfine at a Craft Brewers Conference in Seattle.
Lederfine went on to open the iconic Portland beer and music pub Snake & Weasel in 1998. He later brewed at Pacific Rim, Oregon Trail Brewery in Corvallis and Three Creeks in Sisters, as well as working as a salesman for General Distributors.
Parker moved back to Portland in 1999 and spent six years as Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, before opening Oaks Bottom Public House with Jerry Fechter of Lompoc Brewing and the Green Dragon pub before moving to Bellingham, Washington for five years, where he worked at a variety of breweries and pubs, including a stint as Washington sales rep for Fort George, before returning to Portland in 2014. After four years in various beer positions, including managing sales and distribution for Baerlic Brewing, Parker moved to the coast, settling in Astoria, where the plan for the new brewery took shape.
“Aside from allowing me to brew again in a town I love, this fits my model of maximizing underused resources. It’s a really green model of brewing. Instead of adding more brewing capacity, let’s make use of the capacity that already exists. It’s a win-win,” Lederfine says.
Once the new space is up and running, Lederfine and Parker plan to showcase the emphasis on community building by doing a number of small collaboration brews with friends they have met during their many years in the industry. They have already discussed brews with Alex Ganum of Upright, Steve VanRossum of Planktown, and a special collaboration between Lederfine, Bolt Minister of 54-40 Brewing and Chris Nemlowill of Fort George, each of whom brewed on the 4-barrel Astoria system.
Aside from Parker, Asher David has added additional salespeople, including Billy Ashe in Eugene, Yvonne Rodrigue in Portland and Glen Wallace on Portland’s westside and suburbs. The company’s sales footprint runs from Astoria to The Dalles, along the Columbia River and from Portland to Eugene along I5.
Lederfine is getting help in the brewhouse from Keenan Schaan, an Oregon State Fermentation Sciences School student, who helped him launch his sales efforts in the Columbia Gorge.
They will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign through Wefunder, which Parker describes as a “more investor-friendly platform than Kickstarter or GoFundMe” and are seeking investors for the taphouse side of the business.
The brewery is also in the planning stages for their first packaged beer releases, including both cans and bottles.
The Awesome Ales name will continue, however, as the distribution arm of the business. The company will distribute its own beers and, possibly, help other small breweries get their beer into the markets Asher David is now serving.
All the change is a bit dizzying for Lederfine, who a year ago faced a crossroads with the business.
“I always evaluate where we are in November. And, last year, I realized I had hit a ceiling on what I could accomplish by myself. I also knew investors don’t invest in people, they invest in teams. So it was vital to put together a solid team. I feel like we have done that so far and there’s more yet to come,” he says. “When I tell people the story of where this project started and where we are now, they always say, ‘That’s awesome.’ I just smile and say, ‘It used to be… now we’re even better.’”
Asher David Brewing & Cellarworks online: The brewery website is http://asherdavidbrewing.com. You can follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AsherDavidBrewing, on Instagram and Twitter @AsherDavidBrew.