Brewing beer is a lot like building a thriving business! Both of these endeavors are a bit of art and science, aren’t they? Everyone seems to have their own recipe for both beer and business; yet, there are many recipes or paths to successfully crafting either. Still, there are some exceptional beers and businesses that are worthy of others attention … Full Sail Brewing is one of those!
Their terrific team brews delicious beer and have crafted a lauded business. Both have been recognized and awarded. Full Sail Brewing creates award winning craft beer and has been very beneficial for their community.
Awesomely … Irene Firmat is Not Most People
When standing at the spot where Full Sail Brewery was begun, you may have noticed many things. This idyllic and picturesque Oregon location is still filled with the beautiful Hood River, trees, mountains and lots of folks enjoying time on the water with colorful boats. Most folks would have overlooked to derelict fruit cannery that had stood abandoned for 15 years.
Irene had a dream to convert this abandoned eyesore into a brewery. Initially she made a downpayment in cash to buy the place and followed this with lots of hard work. Night and day she worked with the help of Jamie Emmerson to turn the old apple juice press room into a brewhouse. In those early days, they called their endeavor Hood River Brewing Company.
Slowly with much effort their passion project began to take shape. That fall, they had assembled a crew and were ready to brew. It was exciting to be at the forefront of both the craft beer movement and the dawn of windsurfing. That year the team crafted 287 barrels of beer by year’s end.
Full Sail Has Caught the Wind Beautifully
Today Full Sail Brewing has grown far past their beer pub beginnings to be classified as a Regional Brewery. This means their annual beer production is in the range of 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels. All this growth has been possible because of the team that Irene Firmat built around her. The name of the brewery changed to become Full Sail Brewing to embrace the lovely surroundings and spirits of their area. Their team is what has truly been the wind in the sail of this deliciously successful business endeavor.
Riding the Wave of Craft Beer Innovation
In the late 1980’s, many at the time didn’t believe it was possible to successfully put a microbrew in a bottle. So with the help of an old Italian made bottling machine they called Mimi, the crew hand bottled their beer. It became available in local markets and was well received.
The mission statement they had in mind was something different than that of most businesses. Yes, they wanted to make a good product and grow profits; however, they wanted to do it in a special way. Irene, Jamie and their team were determined to grow a business with a culture that embraced their craft, team members, local community and their beautiful environment. This type of innovative approach requires that they carefully build it step by step.
1989’s Great American Beer Festival helped to raise attention to Full Sail Brewing’s prowess at brewing beer. The team’s Full Sail Amber Ale earned their very first gold medal. What a satisfying reward, right?
Many awards and challenges have come since these early beginnings. Innovation sometimes comes with challenges. The Full Sail Crew had begun brewing a beer for a larger brewery company as a part of their business model. Initially, this had been a boon but as time passed it became a challenge. They decided to become an employee owned business. While this ownership model worked in some ways, it limited them in others. In 2015, their workers voted to sell their company to a private equity firm. This enabled them to work ahead with buying equipment and staying competitive in the ever changing marketplace.
Team Spirit Propels Full Sail Brewing
A year ago, Jim Kelter retired after spending 27 years as a brewer and becoming Full Sail’s Brewmaster. Greg Doss, who had joined the team in 2015, has become their newest Brewmaster. He comments that working with Jim was a great experience because of his professionalism and respect for their team.
As Brewmaster, a devotion is required to know the equipment, process, team and to integrate them all to continually produce tasty ales and lagers. This is an ongoing challenge. Still being a legacy brewing team, they have the experience to produce their customers’ favorites and the ability to be a bit experimental. Reading Greg’s interview from BrewPublic’s website does allow his passion to shine through.
Brewing good beer is an art and a science. Their lab techs do over 60 quality tests throughout brewing process, every day and every brew, so that each and every beer crafted tastes exactly the way their original Brewmaster Jamie intended.
It is easy to see how the entire Full Sail Brewing team enjoys working together when you see their social media pictures, isn’t it? No surprise their company has won awards for being one of the best places to work! Their team spirit shows.
These photos were originally shared by their team on their Full Sail Brewing’s FaceBook page over several years. Doesn’t it look like a great place to work?
Quality of Brewing by Hand
Today, the Full Sail Brewing team still crafts their many varieties by hand. Being environmentally responsible and sustainable only makes sense to them and is ingrained into their business practices.
“The Session beer brand by Full Sail may have been the smartest and most successful product launch of any Oregon brewery since the start of the craft beer revolution. Short, stubby, highly recognizable bottles of cheap (but still craft) tasty light lager were a huge seller, and the brand has sustained with spin-offs Session Black, Session Fest, and recently Session IPA.” This is a quote from a March 9, 2015 Born at the Beach blog post. While it isn’t the normal adjective laden craft beer review, it is a strong strength of business kudos.
One of the qualities our CKJY Exports team appreciates most about what the Full Sail team does is their thorough thought and consideration into what they craft. For example, their “Stubby” bottles are a nod to beer history. Did you know these beer bottles resemble the ones that were sold prior to Prohibition here in America? Cool, right?
Good Beer Being Good …
Full Sail Brewing’s team loves their community. They source ingredients from long standing relationships with local farmers and mountain spring water from Mount Hood. From their sustainable water filtration system, their award winning water treatment plant and distributing spent grain to local farms to be utilized with livestock are all long practiced parts of Full Sail Brewing’s business model. In fact, this brewery team was one of the founding members of the Hood River Greensmart taskforce to encourage others to care for their beautiful community. Their team has won numerous awards for being sustainable over the years; however, they simply want to do the best they can for our environment and their community.
However, this team’s love of their community doesn’t stop there. Each year, Full Sail Brewing supports over 300 different local area events and charities. All of this has endeared their business to their community. They are good neighbors doing good things together.
Whistle While You Work & Snap a Few Pics for Social Media …
Whether giving away coolers online, participating in a fun run or just sharing what’s happening with their brewery, the spirit of this team shines through what they share! Here are a few glimpses from their social media shares.
Aren’t these terrific glimpses of working in a brewery? The Full Sail team shared these on their FaceBook page.
But wait … there’s more! This team truly loves what they craft and it shows. Here are few product shots they have shared over the years. Can you see their excitement? Makes you thirsty to try their beer, doesn’t it?
Beer Importer? Let’s Work Together.
As you can easily see, there are many reasons that our CKJY Exports team proudly represents the craft beer that our friends at Full Sail Brewing create.
If you are interested in importing delicious beer crafted by a passion project company that infuses their zeal for their beer and business into each bottle, we would like to talk with you!
Contact us –
Born a Southern girl, I was transplanted a few times as a Navy wife! Now, our “retired” USN family, calls CA home. As UNC business school grad, I gained lots of useful insights by finding different opportunities and challenges along our military life’s path. Love of traveling, making friends, experiencing other cultures and sharing the best of all that with everyone are now all part of me.