Q/A WITH KYLE CHRIESTENSON OF BREAKSIDE BREWERY 

Most business people dream of having a corner office one day. Kyle Chriestenson already has his – at the corner end of the bar at Breakside Brewery’s downtown Astoria brewpub.

That’s where he can often be found, greeting customers and tending to the demands of being a general manager. That includes importing the right combination of kegged beer from the Portland brewery and ordering enough fresh oysters to satisfy a growing number of customers.

Chriestenson is a self-professed craft beer fan, but he’s much more than that. The Kansas native is an experienced chef and restaurateur, having launched The Diner in McMinnville, which he continues to co-own. 

When he’s not working, he enjoys hiking, kayaking and fly fishing. He’s married with two teenage children and calls Astoria home. 

We recently sat down with him for a wide-ranging chat:

Q: Don’t want to start with a bummer, but your neighbor, Reach Break Brewing, recently announced that it was closing for good. What was your reaction to the news?

A: I was definitely super-bummed, but also a little upset that it closed and then there was an announcement. I would have loved to know ahead of time and go buy hoodies and empty their beer fridge.

But other than that, it’s just a bummer because Astoria is a beer town, and I think the more the merrier with the breweries and things like that. We don’t brew here at all, so we’re just like a tasting room, but the more [beer] destinations that are here, the better it goes. 

It’s a bummer when we’re becoming a beer destination to see somebody go out like that. So that’s definitely hard. That’s kind of our main industry here, you know. We have the medical and Coast Guard and beer.

Q: Is this part of a shaking-out period for craft beer businesses, here and elsewhere? 

A: It’s all over Portland. They’re super-saturated with breweries, and there’s been a good number of closures there. Some people are doing well, but then there’s also these closures. I think the cost of goods is the most to blame. Malt costs are up, hop costs are way up, water costs are way up, utilities – you know. 

Q: Breakside has a good business model, it seems, offering a full bar in addition to beer at its satellite pubs. And the owners don’t have to worry about brewing restrictions and regulations outside of Portland.

A: We never intended to brew beer here. … We also realize that not everybody is going to be a beer drinker, so [we offer] wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic choices, too. 

The diversifying of your revenue streams is important. Hitting different crowds, targeting different audiences. To have a nice sparkling wine or a person’s favorite cocktail, they [customers] feel comfortable bringing their friends, knowing those friends will find something they like, too. We’ve started to see a lot of that organic growth over the past six months.

Chriestenson holding a bowl of fresh oysters, a menu staple.

Q: Don’t forget the oysters on the half shell. Not too many beer joints offer that.

A: We can get them five dozen at a time every couple of days. The idea is to get as little as possible and try to run out. … From Christmas to New Year’s, in five days, we sold 40 dozen oysters. It was order, order, order.

Q: Maybe we can break some news. Are you planning to expand into the heart clinic space next door?

A: At this point, we’re not considering it. We’re not filling all the seats on this side yet. … Providence does plan on leaving next year, but they [Breakside owners] hope to lease that out. 

It’s definitely a potential [move] down the road thing. It’s just the initial investment right now. … Initially it’s cheaper for us to up our patio game than to lease another side of the building and put in a kitchen and all that, because that’s a big investment. 

Q: You’ve hosted some cool parties since opening on Memorial Day weekend – for the Solstice, Halloween, New Year’s Eve and more. It’s a lot of work, obviously. Has it been worth it?

A: It’s a way to bring in new people, a way to expand business. But it does take work and extra labor. Yeah, I think overall it’s worth it. It’s also fun. Like the Halloween party. To have a day that busy in October is really nice. 

Long-term, we’ve had people come in for the first time during these parties who then come back a different day to get a crab roll or oysters. The repeat business is the best. 

We’re going to have more things coming for sure. We’re looking at doing a regular [event] schedule. Maybe the first Tuesday of the month we do bingo. Or trivia. Or some board game nights. 

Breakside extensively remodeled the old Astoria Co-op building on Exchange Street.

Q: How’s business been overall? 

A: I think we’re doing alright. I don’t know what the projections were from the owners, but we had a good summer and holiday weekends. … Since I had already been in Astoria for over a year when I started here, I had more of the insider scoop on how seasonal this place really is. I kind of had to talk them [owners] off a bit of a ledge.

Q: How are your relations with Fort George, Buoy and the other local breweries? When you opened and your chairs hadn’t arrived yet, Fort George loaned you some. That was pretty cool.

A: [Laughs] Absolutely. I loved it. That’s like my favorite thing about the beer community. And also, Astoria is a small town so it’s kind of gone beyond the beer community, where we all help each other out.

Q: What’s the most fun part of the job for you?

A: [Smiles] I really enjoy shucking oysters. That’s been one of my favorite kitchen things forever. 

Facebook
Twitter
Email

Q/A WITH ANDREW BROWN OF ASTORIA BREWING

Andrew Brown deserves much of the credit for Astoria Brewing’s revival. His arrival as head brewer in March 2022 signaled a major transformation for the city’s oldest craft brewery.

Recipes that had grown stale were updated. New beers appealing to modern tastes were introduced. The inventive side of brewing, long neglected, was also unleashed, with Brown  experimenting and collaborating with other North Coast breweries.

Read More

suds with your buds

Share the love of craft beer with your friends and family.

Get in the zone

We’ll be sending out occasional best-of-the-blog roundups for beer aficionados. Join our newsletter mailing list.