February 28, 2011

From Airplanes to Ale: the story behind Fire Mountain Brew House

by Nick Pfaff

I recently discovered Fire Mountain Brew House on an early afternoon when my manager sent me home early (on payday nonetheless). I hurried to the bank to cash my check so that I could begin appreciating this work-free day.

What better way to start it than with a tasty beer? So I made my way over to Capital Market to browse their vast beer selection. I wanted to part from my traditional purchases and try something new, and there were a few local beers I had been eye-balling, including the Steam Fired Stout from Fire Mountain Brew house (FMBH). It may not seem like a big deal to try a new beer, but it can be a little disappointing if a beer doesn’t meet your expectations. Along with a Steam Fired Stout I grabbed an old favorite just in case.

Upon arriving home I eagerly cracked open the 22-ounce bottle and began pouring into my pounder glass. Initially I noticed what appeared to be a lack of carbonation, which quickly changed when it produced a wonderfully thick, brown head.   Although not incredibly aromatic, natural chocolate and coffee flavors give this beer rich, complex flavors.

I hadn't finished half the beer before I was searching online for the number to FMBH to compliment the genius behind this magnificent stout. That genius would be Henry Gorgas.

A few weeks and a couple phone conversations later I finally made the beautiful drive to the brewery, nestled in the forest, 7 miles west of Carlton. The brewery is open to the pubic for tastings on Sundays from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

What used to be a shop where Henry built airplanes is now the brewery where Henry produces three year-round beers, including the Steam Fired Stout, Oregon Pale Ale, and Bad Henry IPA, along with one winter seasonal- the Hangman Strong Ale. 

I spent all day at the brewery with Henry, and while we covered many important topics it was no surprise that beer dominated of discussion. We talked about his brewing process, his feelings towards expansion, fruity beers, Budweiser, and beer competitions. At the end of the day, what I took from my experience with Henry, among other things, is that he’s a smart and sometimes stubborn man with a great passion for beer. Luckily for everyone who enjoys his beer, he refuses to allow anyone to tell him how he should brew beer. From the second he begins brewing till the beer hits the store shelf he insists on having his hand in the operation. If a batch of beer is not up to his standard, it's dumped (the WHOLE batch). 

He doesn’t need a ribbon to tell him he brews great beer, so he refuses to enter his beer in competitions. If you want a fruity beer you will most likely never get it from FMBH. If you ever see Henry at a brew fest or one of the many tastings he does around Oregon or Washington, never ask him for a light beer. 

"No matter what you do, whether it be building airplanes or fixing toilets, do the best you can," says Gorgas.

This concept shows up in his beers, and while the Steam Fired Stout is my favorite of Henry’s beers (with the Hangman a close second), all of his beers are amazing and unique. I’m a seasonal beer drinker, so I’m more inclined to drink a dark, heavy beer in the fall and winter, and lighter beers in the warmer months. I’m excited and downright anxious for summer to arrive, so I can light up the barbecue and crack open a 22-ounce of OPA and/or Bad Henry.

There is no doubt in my mind that Henry built amazing airplanes, but as a beer enthusiast, I’m glad he made the career change.

Fire Mountain Brew House will introduce a new ale this spring- the Bogart Northwest IPA.

Nick Pfaff is a proud native of  Oregon. He enjoys cooking, eating, and drinking all the wonderful things the Northwest has to offer. 

Related Links

Fine Beer in Salem, Oregon

Oregon Brewers Guild


  1. nick, youre rad.

  2. Very well put! It made me want to drink.


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