Full Sail Brewing Company is a craft brewery in Hood River, Oregon, United
States. Founded in 1987, Full Sail was the first commercially successful
craft brewery to bottle beer in the Pacific Northwest for retail sale, and one
of Oregon's early microbreweries. The first beer packaged was Full Sail Golden
Ale, followed in 1988 by Full Sail Imperial Porter, Full Sail Amber Ale, and
Wassail Winter Ale.
The Full Sail Story in their words
Sitting on the deck of the brewery here in Hood River on a brilliant August day
never ceases to make us eternally grateful for every moment we get to spend in
this amazing place. A little town full of blossoming fruit orchards and
postcard-quality roadside stands, where every summer a landlocked surf town
magically emerges from its winter ski-village cocoon.
Obviously, it’s not hard to figure out what attracted us to this setting. Then
again, if you’d stood in this very same spot back in 1987, on the day we first
laid eyes on our future brewery, you might not have noticed the sails or the
waterfalls or the cute little town that was suddenly attracting windsurfers from
all over the world. No, standing in what was then old Diamond fruit cannery, you
would have been preoccupied with other thoughts. Like wondering how time had
somehow stopped, Twilight Zone style, circa 1972.
A LABOR OF LOVE
The cannery had pretty much laid abandoned and derelict for 15 years, frozen
in a kind of fruit-tinged Technicolor funk. And, while the workers were long
gone, their dusty girlie calendars and magazine clippings still clung to the
walls, witnessed only by the resident pigeons and passing seasons.
We knew it was going to take a Herculean effort to turn this place into a
brewery. But we felt the potential that day in ’87 -- like we were setting out
on an adventure, determined to create something new and wonderful.
And with that, we put a down payment on the haunted Technicolor pigeon cannery,
set about converting the apple juice press room into a brewhouse, and began
working night and day to turn a romantic notion into a bonafide brewery.
FULL SAIL AHEAD
Much has been written about the day you drive off the lot in your first new car,
but let us tell you, there’s nothing quite like taking delivery on your very
first, brand new stainless steel mash tun. (Woo hoo!)
Determined to make world-class beer in our own backyard, one of our first, and
perhaps best, decisions was to invest in new, state-of-the-art brewing
equipment. Other micros had been brewing with varying degrees of success in open
fermentation tanks or old, cast-aside dairy equipment. But we weren’t taking any
chances: the beer had to be great or there was no point in brewing it. So we bit
the bullet, laid down our borrowed cash, and spent the better part of 1987
installing the new system.
By September, we had our first crew on board – a classic mixture of beer geeks
and boardheads – and we were ready to brew. Yeah, our operation was tiny and the
work was nonstop, but to be in Hood River at the forefront of not only the craft
beer movement, but also the rise of windsurfing, was thrilling.
Microbreweries were springing up all over the Northwest. The windsurfing craze
was in full swing. Hood River’s storefronts were filling up with gear shops. And
we put up a whopping 287 barrels that first year. Things were really humming.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
Stoked at our success in getting the brewery up and running, the next year we
set our sights on yet another goal -- something the beer litterati said was next
to impossible: Putting our microbrew in a bottle.
Our original bottling line was this cute little red Italian job that we
nicknamed Mimi. Designed to bottle still wine -- a whole different beast than
carbonated ale -- Mimi proved to be every bit as temperamental and capricious as
you’d expect an Italian prima donna to be. What’s more, Mimi was a manual
bottling line. Every operation had to be done by hand. (Picture Laverne and
Shirley and you begin to get an idea of what a day with Mimi was like. Only
minus the comedy.)
Nonetheless, with Mimi’s help we succeeded in putting our beer into bottles,
simultaneously silencing the critics and making great beer as close as the
corner store for the first time in generations. Not long after, Full Sail Amber
became our best-selling beer and garnered us our first heavy metal: A gold at
the 1989 Great American Beer Festival.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
We don’t bottle our beers using Mimi anymore (thank God) and kiteboarders now
outnumber the sailboarders in the Gorge, but a lot of things have remained the
same around here. We still craft all our beers by hand, in one of the few manual
brewhouses of its size in the country. Our hops and barley still come from
trusted local farms. Our water, from a spring on Mount Hood.
And we continue to do whatever we can to be sensitive to the environment that
lured us to this amazing place: By operating our own award-winning water
treatment plant; distributing our spent grain to nearby farmers; using a
sustainable filtration system; packaging our products in recycled paperboard;
and becoming a founding member of the Hood River Greensmart taskforce. We love
our community. So we support over 300 events and charities each year, with a
focus on those in our local area. Our most significant commitment by far,
however, came in 1999 when our little brewery reached a turning point.
A MASSIVE BREWFORCE OF 47
For years, we’d been thinking and talking and dreaming about the idea of
becoming an employee-owned company. So many people had put so much work and love
and dedication into Full Sail, and we wanted them to share the same pride of
ownership we did. But that’s not the whole story. The reason we started Full
Sail in the first place was to build a company that was completely different
from the ones where we’d previously worked. It wasn’t about business as usual.
It was about finding our calling in life -- about truly appreciating our “human
resources,” and balancing work, life, family and friends in a way that makes
life truly worth living. It was in that spirit that we became an independent,
employee-owned company in 1999, divvying up the company between the 47 of us. Of
all our accomplishments, this is the one that makes us most proud.
STOKED TO BREW. BREWED TO STOKE.
So here we are. Ever humble, ever grateful, ever amazed that we got here in one
piece. Still a mix of beer geeks and boardheads (not to mention mountain bikers,
surfers, Ultimate fanatics and powder hounds). Still independent. Still trying
to find that perfect balance between art and commerce, work and play,
inspiration and perspiration. Thanks for reading. And next time you’re in Hood
River, stop by for a beer.