Kill the fatted calf and fire up the grill; Portland's prodigal beer is coming home. Yes, that's right, Henry Weinhard's--or at least a few of its less adulated flavors--is returning after a four-year hiatus across the border in Tumwater, Wash.
Miller Brewing Co., the current caretaker of the Blitz/ Weinhard legend, has signed a long-term agreement with Full Sail Brewery's Hood River facility to brew Weinhard's Hefeweizen, Northwest Trail Blonde Lager and Amber Light. Henry's Private Reserve will continue to be produced at Miller's behemoth brewery in Los Angeles.
Miller absconded across the border with Henry's in April 1999, breaking the last remaining tie Portland had with its oldest brewing company. The once-local beer had been passed around like a cheap date after being sold to Pabst Brewery in 1979 (it temporarily became property of G. Heilman, Alan Bond and Stroh Brewing Co.) but remained Portland-brewed until uprooted by Miller.
It's also cause for cheers at Full Sail, which, like many overbuilt regional brewers, has the capacity to brew a lot more beer than it sells under its own label.
"It's great to get our local beer back in our state," says Jim Parker, head of the Oregon Brewers Guild. "It's also great news for Full Sail. They're coming out of a couple down years and this will get them closer to full capacity."
The contract with Full Sail begins July 1, and Miller is planning a Portland-area celebration for the month of October. "We're excited to bring Henry back home," says Miller spokeswoman Lori Barthelemy.