Brewers and beer enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest know them as the region’s lager-brewing power couple—Lisa Allen, head brewer at Heater Allen, and Kevin Davey, until recently the brewmaster at Wayfinder—and now the two of them are officially going into business together.
Davey and Allen tell Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® that they are taking over the Heater Allen brewery in McMinnville, Oregon, while also launching a new venture and line of beers there called Gold Dot.
The Heater Allen brands will continue, including the popular Pils, while Gold Dot’s core beers will include a Bavarian-style helles and, of course, a cold IPA. Davey and Allen say they want to position Gold Dot’s beers as high-quality products that fetch a slightly higher price. “We are launching Gold Dot as a joint vision between the two of us,” Davey says, “and it is going to be pretty much Heater Allen’s luxury brand. That’s how I’m selling them.”
“What we want to do is a beer-focused brewery,” Davey says. “Our goal with this is to make a brewery owned by brewers that is making beer that really fucking matters. Neither of us got into this industry because we wanted to make a lot of money. We both knew exactly what we were getting into—we’re not homebrewers with a trust fund. We’re keeping the ownership really small; it’s going to be us. And on the labels themselves, they’re going to say, ‘Brewer-owned brewery.’ All our decisions are going to be beer decisions.”
They say they want to have an authenticity that appeals to fellow beer enthusiasts. Thus, a Gold Dot hard seltzer is exceedingly unlikely.
The two of them already have purchased the brewery from Rick Allen, Lisa’s father, who founded Heater Allen in 2007 and has recently retired. They’ll keep using Heater Allen’s three-vessel, 15-barrel brewhouse, while Davey makes some adjustments to make it friendlier to cereal mashes and decoctions. Meanwhile, the couple have been expanding the cellar and making preparations to re-open the taproom and beer garden by the end of June. They’ll call the beer garden the Gold Dot Spot, and besides their own beers, they also plan to feature Willamette Valley wines, rotating food trucks, and—something that Davey is especially excited about—gourmet hot dogs roasted on an old-fashioned, snack bar–style roller machine.
Why settle in McMinnville? Besides the fact that Heater Allen is already there, there are a host of reasons. “We have this really fantastic water,” Allen says, “and a little bit less of the nitty-gritty regulations that Portland has. And then we also have like cheap rent, utilities—I mean, that’s a driving force. And McMinnville has a strong tourism industry. So, we’re hoping our spot will be a destination spot.”
Davey adds: “We want to be a local hangout.”
Allen and Davey have collaborated on beers before, bringing Heater Allen and Wayfinder together for the Terrifica Italian-style pilsner and Golden Tiger Czech-style amber lager. (In fact, both were three-way collaborations—the first with San Diego’s Modern Times, and the second with Denver’s Bierstadt Lagerhaus.)
“We’ve just been able to collaborate really well together,” Davey says. “And it just it made a lot of sense to me to just say, ‘Why don’t we just keep doing that?’ I feel like we do our best work when we do it together. And we can do something that is considerably different [from] what Heater Allen has been able to do and what Wayfinder has been able to do.”