REACH BREAK BREWING CLOSES

Reach Break Brewing is closing its downtown Astoria brewery and taproom, citing rising costs and increasingly stringent regulations that continue to chip away at already narrow profit margins.

“We gave it a good run,” said Josh Allison, Reach Break’s founder and head brewer. “I’m proud of what we did, for sure.”

Known best for its popular summer patio ringed by food trucks, Reach Break opened in 2017 in a former used car lot and repair shop owned by the Lovell family.

Allison, a biologist and avid home brewer, remodeled the Duane Street building adjacent to the Norblad Hotel and quickly built a loyal following with an impressive tap list, ranging from sours to IPAs and pilsners.

His passion for making beer never waned and, until very recently, the future looked bright.

After launching a fruited hard seltzer line last summer, Allison added a second taproom in November that doubled his indoor seating and created an event space.

Last year, Reach Break had its second-best sales year, according to Allison.

But financial projections showing shrinking margins continued to be fluttering red flags. When he threw a New Year’s Eve party at the brewery, he’d made up his mind: It was either close now  or risk a more painful slow death later. 

Josh Allison never lost his passion for making craft beer.

After consulting with his wife, other family members and advisors, Allison notified his dozen employees of the decision. On Friday, he posted an emotional video on Instagram to make it official, expressing his love and appreciation for Reach Break’s many supporters.

“Thank you for allowing us to fill a little corner of our community,” the bearded brewer said. “We’ll always be grateful, and we love you for that. Cheers, Astoria.”

The video doesn’t say why Reach Break is closing, but Allison said in an interview that his health also had something to do with it. He’s long suffered from a neurological condition that led to the amputation of a leg and the rigors of brewery work were taking a toll.

“There’s not a singular reason,” he says of the closure. “There’s a multitude of things. It’s a tough gig out there, running a small business. … In the best of days, it was difficult. We fed off our passion.”

Another factor was the city of Astoria’s increasingly stringent regulations, which led to a new “industrial” designation for the small brewery, Allison says. Besides more wastewater treatment and testing, he was facing additional costs for running separate water lines to the food trucks.

Also troubling was an overall decline in craft beer sales nationwide that only recently began hitting tourist areas like the North Coast.

While Reach Break is the first brewery in the region to close, it may be the start of a shaking-out period as the beer industry evolves. Brewery shutdowns are sadly becoming more common in Oregon and elsewhere.

Reach Break’s newly expanded taproom.

Allison says he doesn’t have a new job lined up and isn’t sure what he’ll do with the seven-barrel brewhouse and space. It’s possible the brewery can live on with a different owner and name.

In the meantime, Allison is taking a few prized possessions off the walls, including a hand-carved sign depicting a river scene.

“It’s a tough chapter to close,” he says, emotion filling his voice. “Because it’s been so amazing.”

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