Progress Update: We’re Open!

Wow.  It’s been a while.  Sorry about that, but so much has happened in the last month!  Let’s see… Nick’s cat went on a diet, our Resident Long Haired Hawaiian left to visit the homeland—oh, and we opened the restaurant!  That’s right, for those who haven’t been in yet, we opened our doors on the 26th of December.  We thought it’d make a great late Christmas present to ourselves.  Or an early New Year’s present.  A belated winter solstice present?

Regardless, Chef David has put together an awesome menu that features loads of local choices and some downright delicious food items.  (If you haven’t read our post on him, check it out and get familiar with the man behind the curtain.)  So far, fan favorites have been the Farmstead Pizza, Stout Battered Fish and Chips and, of course, our burgers.  Especially the Chefslayer (featuring a fried egg and IPA onions, served with a side of Food Coma) and the Bacon and Bacon Burger (we weren’t content with just bacon, so we made a bacon jam as well, because, really, the best pairing with bacon is always more bacon).

 

We’re also featuring 20 beers and ciders on tap, 11 wines on tap, a stellar handcrafted specialty cocktail list and a full bar for all of you drinking connoisseurs out there.  So far, our flagship Common Block Pale Ale has received rave reviews, and we’re about to start brewing more beers!  Keep an eye out in February for our Common Block IPA and Porter.

We’ve been so excited with the support that Medford and our surrounding communities have shown, and if you’ve already visited us, we thank you!  We’re humbled and grateful for the enthusiasm and feedback from our guests as we get this brewpub show on the road. And if you haven’t visited, all we can say is…

What are you waiting for?!

Progress Update: The Final Stretch!

dsc_0338You know how we’ve been saying we’re going to open “soon” for the last year and a half? We’ve had good intentions, promise! It’s just that we’ve really thought we were just months away this whole time, and then new projects and challenges pop up along the way. Such is the restaurant business. And we remained eternally optimistic all along that opening day was just around the corner, because, well, we’re really excited about it.

Now, we’re ready to say opening day really is coming up quick. We still don’t have an exact opening date yet (still waiting on final approval of the last permits), but we can tell you we are planning to open in the next couple weeks. That could mean anywhere from next week to New Years, but we’re definitely staring straight into that blaring light at the end of the brewery-building tunnel.

So what can you expect when we finally open our doors? Well first, it’s a big space. We have our bar area, a big, open main dining room, and mezzanine seating if you like sitting up high and people watching. Our small team built the entire second level out of steel and concrete, with plenty of room to seat guests and make beer.

Speaking of beer, while we won’t be opening with our brewing equipment on site, we do have our flagship Pale Ale on tap and ready to debut. Our brewer, John, contract-brewed our beer at another brewery, using their equipment to make our recipe. You’ll also find another sixteen (awesome, we think) craft beers from the region, as well as hard cider and wine, all on tap.

Our chef, David, has been creating some taste-erific recipes for the menu, and we even got to try some last weekend at our employee training party. We spent last Thursday through Saturday training our big, awesome opening crew, and they’re oh-so-ready to start serving up beer, food, and good times at our tables (see photos of our team and training weekend below).

So we guess what we’re saying is: stay tuned. Like, really tuned. We’ll send first word of our official opening date via our newsletter, so sign up at the bottom of our home page if you’d like to be on that list. And thank you to all for being so patient and supportive while we make our from-scratch brewery dream come true. Cheers, and we look forward to seeing you all over the holidays!

Brewery-Building Photo Update

Yep, we’re still building. To be honest, it’s kind of fun. We’re getting our hands (and pants, and gloves, and shoes) dirty, making our space just what we want it to be. But don’t worry, we’re making time for outdoor fun, too. Our crew ran and biked in the Pear Blossom race last Saturday, and we’re putting a team together for the Siskiyou Challenge Multi-Sport Relay at the end of this month. Because if you can’t have a little fun along the way, what’s the good in that? Did we mention we’re having beers after these races?

Here are our latest photos of the brewpub, and new things are happening every day. Our most recent big, exciting completion: the staircase to the second level. We’re using heart pine for the stairs, which was reclaimed from a brewery in Milwaukee, WI. A little bit of brewing history in a new space across the country…we’re pretty excited about it. Up next: pouring concrete for the upper-level and half-wall in the bar. Check out the “before” photos below to compare with the “after” in our next photo update!

Serving tank upstairsloft seatingbar areawalkin coolerhallway

Wrapping Up 2015: Brewery Progress Update

Things are starting to look, well, more brewery-like around here. We’ve revamped our concrete floors, played with some big welding projects, and begun framing a section of the restaurant. Up next: finishing steelwork for the brewing mezzanine, insulating and building walls, and bringing in all our kitchen equipment for the prep area and cooking line.

While our construction team has been working away on the building projects, our busy graphic design team has been creating plans for Common Block glassware, coasters, shirt, signs, menus and more. And don’t forget about John…our brewer has been testing recipes for the big brew tanks once they get here.

Just so you don’t think we’re hibernating for the winter over here (ok, maybe we took a brief break at Thanksgiving), we put together a photo recap of some of our brewery progress over the last couple of months. You can also stay in touch on Instagram (@commonblockbrew) for the most up-to-date photos of Common Block projects and happenings.

Here’s what’s new on the block:

hallway

restrooms

IMG_2916

busy bodies

new concrete floors

 

Meet the Brewer: John Donehower

Meet John. John likes beer. John likes to make beer. We like John.

We’re thrilled to have John as our head brewer, and while our brewing equipment won’t be ready for a few more months, he’s been busy making homebrew recipes at the brewpub and at home (for R&D purposes). He’s also donned his beat-up denim jeans and old t-shirts everyday to come help build the brewery from the ground up. You’ll often find John wearing safety goggles, either for making a small batch of beer or chiseling away at some construction project.

John 1995

John’s first batch (stout) in 1995

Here’s a bit about Mr. Donehower, his brewing history, and what he sees brewing in the future for Common Block.

John, you beer-making machine, tell us about your personal and professional brewing history. 

I brewed my first beer in 1995 on a stovetop. It was a 5-gallon partial mash batch of stout. A lot went wrong. The kettle boiled over. I over-filled the carboy. The fermentation blew the airlock off spraying beer all over the coats in the closet. However, I got the beer successfully bottle-conditioned and it turned out all right. I drank every bottle!

Gauge Tap

Eight years later I was brewing 10-gallon all-grain batches on a three-vessel
system with propane burners and a pump and hoses, hacking air-conditioners for controlling my fermentation temperatures, and pouring the finished beer from a three-faucet home-made kegerator. There was nowhere to go but pro.

IMG_2481

Making the Rough Draft Ale at Common Block

My first brewing job was at Pyramid Breweries in Berkeley, CA, working in the fermentation cellar and in the brewhouse. I couldn’t wait to learn how to do everything. The sheer size of the equipment was amazing. Mashing six or seven thousand pounds of grain and hopping four thousand gallons of boiling wort is a mighty thing. While working there, I studied brewing at UC-Davis.

In 2011, I went to Arizona with two other former Pyramid folks to build and to open the Phoenix Ale Brewery. I enjoyed building a brewery from the ground up and designing all of the recipes, but when it’s 110 degrees outside you can guess how hot it is inside standing next to a 20-bbl brewhouse.

And so here I am, finally, in beer heaven swinging a hammer, turning a shovel, and snapping chalk lines again on a brand new brewery. The old homebrew rig is back out and busy turning out fresh ideas. It’s going to be so much cooler this time.


We’ve spotted you with beer in hand after running the Wild Rogue Relay
 and Mt. Ashland Hillclimb this year. Be honest, is it part of your motivation when you’re out there running?

If you have to run 13.2 miles uphill for a beer then you’re probably
doing something wrong! The beer is more like step 1 of recovery. And
steps 2 and 3.

John at permit party

Showing onlookers his homebrew set-up at our Permit Party in August

Can you give us a sneak peek of the beer styles you have in mind for brewing at Common Block?

Common Block will have a multi-tap format where we’ll pour our beers alongside beers from other craft brewers. This allows us to offer a wide choice of styles without limiting our brewing capacity to the usual pale ale, IPA, stout, and amber line up. I see us doing things like single-hop pale ales and IPAs alongside one another for the sheer joy of comparing ingredients, or bringing in authentic yeasts to brew flights of Belgian ales and German lagers, or taking advantage of the Rogue Valley to brew with seasonal ingredients like grapes, peaches, pears, apples, and of course, fresh hops. I’ve also got my eye on an out-of-the-way spot in the brewery where I think a few oak barrels will fit nicely.

Thanks John! You can read about more folks on our Common Block team here:

Meet Common Blocker Nick Blakeslee

Meet Common Blocker Ashley Nunes

Meet Common Blocker Rachel Koning

5 Steps to Opening a Brewery

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Welcome to Our Brewery-Building Journey! We’re diving in and remodeling our historic building, developing our website, and launching our new blog. We’ll keep you up-to-date with brewery happenings, craft beer industry news, beer and food pairing tips, behind-the-scenes Q&A’s, and more. Really, whatever tickles our fancy for the day.

Though we’re still several months away from opening our doors at Common Block, we want to share a bit about what we’re learning along the way. We’re calling it: 5 Steps to Opening a Brewery, but you could also call it An Oversimplified List of All the Things to Keep in Mind When Jumping into the Huge Endeavor of Opening a Brewery. Because – wow – there’s a lot to do. And it’s also ridiculously fun. Which is why we’re throwing a few highlights your way…

Step 1: Decide to dedicate your life and time to craft beer. Sure, this sounds like the easy part. And in a sense, it is. We’re doing this because we love joining together over craft beer and good food, and we can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. It’s also time-consuming, tiring, mind-boggling, fun and rewarding. It’s a complicated range of emotions, and we promise we won’t spill any tears into the brew tanks (whether they be of exhaustion or joy).

Step 2: Assemble a team of people who feel the same way. There’s nothing quite like geeking-out around a table about a topic we all love. Talking about making good beer while drinking good beer is about as good as it gets in our minds, and we spend hours discussing the smallest brewpub details because, heck, they matter.

Step 3: Pick a location for your brewery. Make it one that you love, because you’ll be spending a lot of your time there. We knew from the beginning that the history and style of the Monarch building was exactly what we wanted for our vision of Common Block. Love for craft beer is universal, and breweries succeed in all kinds of settings from alleyways to main streets, from strip malls to immense campuses. Make sure it’s a place you love and feel connected to (but maybe not your mom’s house, if that’s what you’re thinking).

Step 4: Develop an idea and feel for your place. Will your focus lie in brewing great traditional styles, or pushing the envelope with new ingredients and varieties? Will you serve food, or call on local food trucks to bring by snacks for hungry fans? Personally, we’re looking to brew ales with Pacific Northwest ingredients, make food from scratch in our prep kitchen, create a kid-friendly atmosphere, and roll up our big garage doors to let in some fresh air. Mmmmm, we can see/smell/taste it now….

Step 5: Complete the following steps #6-782. No kidding, the list is actually huge. We just couldn’t put that in our post title (who would read 782 Steps to Opening a Brewery? Well, we would, but we’re nerds). The list of things to do is ridiculously long. Gathering permits, finding equipment, writing proposals, submitting plans, generating recipes, and picking the right color of paint for the ceiling. But it’s also fun. Like, outrageously fun.

Stay tuned for more news on Common Copy Blog. Thanks again for joining us as we jump head first into everything Common Block!