Over a Pint with Bolt Minister of 54-40 Brewing

As a beer writer who really writes about people, the idea for this Over a Pint series (for me and all beer bloggers who’d like to join in on last Mondays) is to go out for some beers with a brewer and have a conversation beyond the parameters of what’s going on in the world of beer. Sort of in the vein of The Session but with just two instructions.

  1. Head out with someone who brews for a living and talk to them over a pint (or more) without recording it or taking any notes. Just chat. About stuff.
  2. Don’t do it at the brewery’s pub or tasting room.

Let’s begin.

Name: Bolt Minister

Brewery: 54-40 Brewing coming soon to Washougal, WA

Professional brewing experience: Philadelphia’s, Pyramid, Astoria Brewing, Rock Bottom-Portland, Walking Man, Old Town.

Follow Bolt at @vivalagoldens. He just like Golden Retrievers.

Follow Bolt at @vivalagoldens. He just like Golden Retrievers.

In deciding where to go with Bolt, he expressed an interest in several new-ish places because he wanted to get a feel for how Portland-proper watering holes do what they do considering he needed pointers on how to design his own forthcoming tasting room. The Clark County, Washington native is finally going, or rather, staying home. The last nine years have taken Bolton on a brewer’s odyssey, beginning at Philadelphia’s. Not in Philly, but the neglected Philadelphia’s Cheesesteaks brewpub in Sellwood (that just expanded and rebranded as 13 Virtues). Oh wait, did I just sneak in Bolt’s full name? Yep, he’s descended from a line of Bolton Ministers.

Moving on, he later brewed at three other Portland breweries not to mention Astoria Brewing, a.k.a. the Wet Dog Saloon, which is naturally in Astoria. The dude commuted to that beautiful northwest corner of the state every day (sometimes only six days a week). Around two hours each way. He kindly invited me to do a pro-am beer with him for the WW Pro/Am Beer Fest called IPYae. (It was, naturally, an IPA, named for my son Izzy, and featured a double hop addition of Zeus in the middle and an OG of 1.0612 since his b-day is Jan. 6, 2012).

That was the day I first gleaned he was conspiring to bring it all home. It didn’t hurt that he’d first bring hom some serious hardware in the form of two GABF medals (fresh hop gold for his pale ale in ’13 and then silver for his Kolsch in ’14 plus a pair of World Beer Cup medals that year including the Kolsch again.) But now he is striking out on his own to open 54°40′ Brewing in Washougal, Wash. His wife Amy, and son Fletcher—quite the little pistol—will be happy to have Daddy the journeyman return home.

And I’m sorry to say, but the Vancouver area needs him. I haven’t had every beer from Washington’s slice of Portland Metro, but I’m confident his brewery will raise the bar. Which brings me to the bar we went out for beers at. We hit Oregon Public House to see how a serious public house can also be kid-friendly without feeling like a slice of Chuck E. Cheese.

In Bolt’s honor, I drank all Washington all night. I started with the Loowit Exbeerestrial ESB (a solid British bitter), then moved on to Everybody’s Sprinkle American Sour (a quite respectable, lactic, hibiscus-accented ale), and finished with a dry cider from Tieton Cider Works. Great, I’ve forgotten what Bolt had, but I know the ESB was in there. As evidenced by his dual wins for his Kolsch, he’s super into easy-drinking beers, adhering to the motto, “Brew what you like and like what you brew.”

His approach to brewing is both visceral and cerebral. He said once he fires up his brand new brew kettles, patrons generally won’t find beers over 5.5% ABV. And no, that’s not his ISA; that’s gonna be his IPA. He talked about stuff even the beer nerds will geek out over. Y’know, like a Dortmunder. I’m not entirely sure he and I know the same beer nerds.

Having said that, he has a wild hair to create some flashy stuff for festivals and the like. And this is where I’m sure he’ll consistently draw Portlanders to venture north of the river. But out of self-interest, I’m going to start with a story from the first time I met up with Bolt at Old Town Brewing. A host or someone mentioned to me that Bolt was organizing a tribute fest to Tom Jones since the legendary singer had just died. SAY WHAT!?! If Tom Jones had died, I’d have heard about it. But the guy was adamant: Tom Jones died and Old Town was putting on a beer fest as a sort of wake.

Old Town Brewing poster

Old Town Brewing poster

As country music fans and anyone who watches The Voice UK knows, it was the Possum, George Jones who passed on and the Voice himself, Sir Tom Jones, remains very much awesome and kicking. The George Jones Tribute Beer Fest itself was a kick, presented as sort of a wake to one of Bolt’s favorite musicians. Bolt loves country. Real country; not this pap they do in Nashville and Hollywood today. He also digs on the ToJo. We are going to organize a Tom Jones Living Tribute Beer Fest sooner than later. I’ve seen TJ roughly a dozen times in concert. Bolt has seen him once, but has an infinitely better story than any of mine.

Vegas. Circa turn of the 21st century. Bolt and his then-ladyfriend are in line to see him at the MGM Grand where he does these two-week-long runs. A frequent opener is the comedian Max Alexander, who Bolt recognizes on his way into the theater. Max is so pleased, he arranges front row seats. Next to Craig Ferguson. After the show, alongside Max, he and his gal got to meet Sir ToJo who went to shake Bolt’s hand (so I’ve now shaken the hand of the hand that shook Tom Jones’s hand), but TJ shook it off quickly to give Bolt’s more attractive companion a smooch. No. By my earlier transitive properties I saw no reason to try and give Bolt a peck. That evening, some 15 or so years ago, turned into a great night of hanging out with Tom, his band, and an unsated desire Tom expressed to hear some live jazz.

We have another fest idea we’ll pull together even sooner. Given our love of the Dukes of Hazzard (and Bolt is a fan of Waylon Jennings, the country singer who performs the theme song), 54°40′ will host the inaugural Duke the Halls, a holidays in Hazzard County themed beer fest! Although Roscoe’s would be a good venue for obvious reasons. Bolt has other ideas, I’ll just say this for now—Nick Cage themed beers—but we are family men and our night at the Oregon Public House had to come to a close so we could help get our sons ready early the next morning. When 54°40′ Brewing with his new partner, Charlie Hutchins, who was also his brewing partner back at Rock Bottom, opens, luckily he’ll still be able to spend more time with his family since he finally won’t have far to commute.