There’s a great secret hiding next to the road along Highway 34. It’s about seven miles past the tiny community of Alsea, along the banks of the beautiful Alsea River. The land is lush with wild grasses, barley, and hops, and an eclectic selection of beer is being brewed behind the doors of a large, lodge-like building. Siuslaw Brewing, a relatively new and small one-barrel brewing operation, is quietly gaining a name for itself throughout the area. And at Siuslaw Brewing, it truly is a family affair.
The business was started just over a year ago by Duane Miller, his wife Tammy, their son Jesse, and their German-born son-in-laws Dominik and Daniel Heidemeyer.
Duane, who formerly owned and operated an excavation business for 35 years, quit his job and sold off his heavy machinery to dedicate his time to operating Siuslaw Brewing.
“We’re just trying to have a peaceful, fun life more than we have in the past. This has been a great thing for our family,” Tammy said.
The brewery’s namesake comes from nearby Siuslaw National Forest.
“I worked in the Siuslaw National Forest and live surrounded by national forest property,” Duane said.
With many years of homebrewing experience behind him, Duane decided to open and operate a commercial facility in January 2015. Siuslaw Brewing obtained a brewing license last June and has been busily brewing new beers ever since. Duane’s German son-in-laws help him with the German styles of beer they brew, and Jesse has also contributed a good number of recipes to the mix. Duane says his favorite beer to drink from their ever-growing collection is the vanilla bean oatmeal stout.
Customers can currently get growlers filled on-site and the brewery distributes kegs in nearby coastal towns like Yachats and Waldport, as well as in Dallas. The beer is also on tap locally at Deb’s Café in downtown Alsea.
“We haven’t had any trouble selling our beer,” Tammy said.
Siuslaw Brewing recently brewed up a new favorite among drinkers—the Grass Clippings Cream Ale—a recipe that Jesse developed. The cream ale is about 6% alcohol by volume and uses malted barley that was grown nearby by the family and malted on-site at the brewing facility.
Duane said he has plans to sell the locally grown and harvested barley in the future. He’s learned all about the malting process, mostly through reading an informational book and his own ingenuity. Siuslaw Brewing prefers to use the Full Pint barley seed from Oregon State University for their barley crops.
The malting process includes harvesting the barley, steeping it in water, letting it absorb the right amount of moisture, and growing, germinating, and sprouting it, all before the seed turns into sugar, Duane explained.
“You stop it from growing at that point by heating it up and drying it out at different temperatures and moisture levels,” he said.
With the help of his family, the head brewer also designed and built a small malting system.
“We need to scale up. I’d want to do 3,000- to 4,000-pound batches [of malted barley] at a time,” Duane said.
Siuslaw Brewing would like to expand the brewing facility in order to brew more beer in the future, too. The one-barrel brewery is about as “small as you can get,” according to Duane.
“This is our pilot system. We intend to expand and test more recipes in the future,” he said. The family is currently playing the expansion by ear and enjoying their current flow of customers and production levels.
Duane would like to eventually hire employees, too, and Dominik wants to open a tasting room on the property and make use of the gorgeous outdoor space. Tammy helps with the business side of things.
Siuslaw Brewing is located at 16558 Alsea Highway. Prices for beer fill-ups are currently $7 for 32 oz. growlettes and $12 for growler fills. Growler and growlette jugs are a separate fee. It’s recommended that visitors call ahead of time to make sure someone is at the facility. The number is 541-740-1606.
By Abbie Tumbleson