Working For the Weekend: During quarantine, Weekend Beer Company Has Grown!
Less than two years ago, two married couples in Grants Pass teamed up to start Weekend Beer Company. It was a modest proposition, but grew quickly—and after only four months of operation and pouring beers, Weekend Beer Co. already had picked up enough fans and community support to grab several “Besties” in the Messenger’s annual survey of readers’ favorites (To vote in this year’s Besties, visit our website at RogueValleyMessenger.com).
After 16 months of operation—and in the 2020 Besties—Weekend Beer Co. had grown in popularity, so much so that they rivaled Medford’s long-established Walkabout Brewery as the region’s favorite brewery (according to our annual Besties survey).
Then, the pandemic hit. And the fires.
But, during the challenging past year, Weekend Beer Co., powered by its owners and their friendship, did far more than simply maintain; they grew. And they grew big. Huge! Early this spring, the brewery opened a new space in Grants Pass.
Ashley Crews, one of the co-owners, half of one of the couples that owns and manages the popular brewery, answered questions for the Messenger.
Rogue Valley Messenger: It seems like Weekend Beer Company has been extremely busy during the past year. Was there already a plan to build a new brewery before COVID shutdowns? Can you share how that decision to build a new, big (!) space came about?
Ashley Crews: Yes, we started planning this in late 2019. We were already outgrowing our space even after we upgraded our system with three 10bbl fermenters for Brandon to brew triple batches in. A bigger space was just the next step to keep up with our projected growth. The plans we had to expand in the property we were leasing at the time were no longer an option for us. With the difficulties COVID brought to small businesses, we had to adapt quickly and not let it derail our progression! Our new space is 4800 sq ft with 8000 sq ft of landscaped outdoor space.
RVM: And, let’s talk more specifically about your beer. You have five core beers. Is IPA still reigning in popularity? Or, have you noticed that tastes and preferences have been changing over the past year?
AC: The Weekend IPA is by far our most popular brew. The other core beers that follow in popularity are Slow Your Row Kolsch, American Wheat, Wochenende Alt (a German amber ale that means “Weekend” in German) and the Wheeler Porter. We have been really surprised at the momentum our sour beers have gained in popularity! One of the most common comments we get in reviews and in person, is the variety of brews we create. We love that! It’s not uncommon for a one-off or seasonal beer to outsell everything once in a while.
RVM: And, excuse me if I’m late to notice, but Weekend Beer Company is selling in cans now? Is that right? Are they available beyond the brewery? Where?
AC: We have a can seamer on the bar and are able to can any beer or cider we have on tap! We pour it right into the can and seal it up right there in front of you in a Weekend labeled 19.2 oz can. We are not set up for distributing cans at this time, but we have plans to make it happen!
RVM: The new space is wonderful. It is big and open, and seems almost custom-built for managing social distancing. Did COVID inform design decisions at all?
AC: For the most part, a lot of the ideas we already had fit into the needs COVID demands. The 10 and 12 foot garage doors blur the lines between outdoor and indoor seating, giving open air dining a new look in the face of a pandemic. Outside those doors, the 8,000 square foot fenced outdoor area gives flexibility for social distancing. The one area that COVID became a factor in our final plans were the bathrooms. We paid close attention to details such as automatic and touchless surfaces and removing entry doors.
RVM: I love the idea of the Paddle Pub. Is that still happening? How did that partnership come about? This partnership seems like it was years in the making.
AC: The Paddled Pub is owned by Orange Torpedo Trips in Merlin. It was something Brandon and I were involved with it at its inception when the guys at OTT brought their awesome vision to a brewery we were a part of at the time. We were excited for its development, but we left that brewery before everything was finalized. Years later, Kelsey worked at their Torpedo Bar the summer before we opened the brewery. That pushed the relationship to grow and the conversation was started on how we can make it work together. We can’t wait to get back into it this summer!