RAYMOND — It all began with three buddies drinking beer in a basement.
Roughly eight years later, Grant Forrest, Cristian Dumitrescu and Ryan Porter produce their own line of beer, wine and mead from Raymond-based Wild Man Brewery.
In June, Wild Man Brewing joined Willapa Brewing and North Jetty Brewing as the third microbrewery in Pacific County, the culmination of a dream that started with a $50 beer kit.
Brewery born from kit
The brewery officially opened at 203 Duryea St. in Raymond on June 14, but the seed was first planted about eight years ago, when Porter, 43, received a present from his wife.
“My wife bought me a Mr. Beer kit,” Porter said. “It got me into the hobby and I started brewing regularly.”
The $50 beginner kit offered an all-inclusive crash course into home brewing 101, and produced a couple gallons of beer with step-by-step instructions.
“Every beer since then has gotten progressively better,” Porter said.
Before his first batch of beer was finished fermenting, he had already ordered more equipment, including a propane burner and an eight-gallon kettle.
After two batches he graduated to bigger, electric “brew bag” system, built from the ground up so he could brew indoors, increasing his production to 10 gallons.
Five batches later, he upgraded to a three-vessel system, including a boil, mash and hot liquor kettle.
“That’s really when I started doing it the way you would commercially,” Porter said. “I turned my hobby and manufacturing experience into my basement brew fest. A lot of my friends who drank my beer thought it was better than what they could buy commercially.”
In May, after acquiring the necessary permits and licensing, he graduated to a five-barrel system.
“I went from 10-gallon batches to 155 or a little above,” he said. “We’re capable of doing 310 gallons in our double-batch system. We wanted to have the capacity to grow if we needed. If we maxed it out, we can do 40 barrels of beer a month.”
Memorable experiences inspire beer names
Wild Man Brewery serves 15 different varieties of beer, wine and mead spread across 16 taps, including one “guest” beer.
There have been some learning experiences along the way, one which resulted in a very unique beer that tested at 155 IBUs (International Bitterness Unit scale). The heavily hopped brew was so bitter they considered dumping it down the drain.
“I thought we were going to have to throw it away,” Porter said.
After a few days, the bitter brew began to grow on Dumitrescu and Forrest, eventually earning the name “It’s Not Awful IPA.”
“All of the names of our beers have a story behind them,” Porter said.
“English Only Kolsch” was inspired by conversations between Dumitrescu and his brother Adrian, who routinely spoke in their native Romanian language.
“We don’t know what the hell they’re saying,” Forrest joked. “So we yell at them ‘English only!’” Porter added.
“Five Years From Now IPA” was inspired from Dumitrescu’s insistence on opening a restaurant and brewery, to which Porter often responded ‘Five years from now.’
“Sledgehammer Peanut Butter Stout,” among latest additions, was inspired by a mishap Forrest had involving a rubber mallet and a barrel of beer.
The brewery’s name is a tribute to the infamous “Wild Man of Wynoochee,” a hermit who resisted human contact and lived in the woods around Montesano from 1880 to 1913.
Porter uses his own recipes for his beers, but was inspired by counterparts on the East Coast, particularly Tree House Brewing Company in Charlton, Massachusetts.
“They’re one of the front-runners for the Vermont-style IPA, a type of hazy IPA,” Porter said. “After trying those I knew that was the kind of beer I wanted.”
He now considers their version of New England-style IPAs to be one of their specialties.
“East Coast IPAs are usually juicy, citrus flavors,” he said.
Westport-based Blackbeard’s Brewing Company, South Bend-based Willapa Brewing Company and Raymond-based WooHoo Winery helped along the way.
“The brewing community has been extremely helpful,” Porter said. “There’s some stuff you just don’t know.”
Hearing feedback from customers has been his favorite part.
“You can tell when you have a special beer,” he said.
Wine and mead
Growing up in Romania, Dumitrescu helped his father make homemade wine, gaining vintner experience at an early age.
Today, Dumitrescu, 41, continues his craft in small batches for the masses.
During a visit to England a few years ago he was introduced to mead, an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey and water.
“It was the best thing ever,” Dumitrescu said. “So I learned how to make mead and that’s my passion now.” He made his first batch of mead two years ago.
“Mead is honey wine. Whether you ferment grapes or honey, it’s the same.”
Dumitrescu brews a few batches each week, a couple gallons at a time, experimenting with new mead flavors and ciders.
“Nectar of the Gods,” is considered their classic mead, among several fruit varieties including raspberry, pineapple, strawberry and “Sneaky Bastard,” blended with five styles of hops.
“It’s a mixture between wine and beer because sometimes you feel like drinking both,” Dumitrescu said. “In the 1600s they used to make a lot of it, but people forgot about it.”
Balancing the cost of production with the price people are willing to pay has been the trio’s biggest problem.
“Not too many people make mead — it’s very expensive to make, because you’re fermenting honey,” Dumitrescu said.
Fresh fruit, a common flavoring for the mead, pushes costs even higher.
Dumitrescu estimated that 1,000 pounds of honey have been used so far, producing over 500 gallons of mead.
The historic Dracobly Building, built in 1914, houses the brewery at 203 Duryea St. in Raymond. Porter, who grew up in Raymond, recalled the space serving as a department store before being sold to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the 1990s.
“The VFW put in a bar, kitchen and dance floor,” Porter said. “Then a guy named Harley Hendrickson bought the place and operated Harley’s Bar N’ Grill until about 2015.”
The partners had been searching around for a brewery space, particularly in Montesano, Elma, Aberdeen, Westport and Grayland, but after they toured the Dracolby Building, they knew it was the place.
In December, they started remodeling and updating the 4,500-square-foot interior, dedicating each weekend and afternoon after work for months. The six-month overhaul reconfigured the layout and opened the interior, including a new cooler, paint and flooring. The second and third floor of the colossal structure is largely unused due to the occupancy permit, Porter said.
The bar top is reclaimed lumber salvaged from a local homestead barn that was more than a century old.
Forrest built the booths and Dumitrescu customized the wooden floor.
A cook and two servers were hired to help run the bar and restaurant, serving panini sandwiches ($12), sausage ($9), wings ($12) and appetizers. Breakfast and mead mimosas are served on Sundays.
Wild Man Brewing beer and mead is currently on tap at Aloha Alabama BBQ and Bakery in Westport, but Porter is hoping to expand into neighboring areas including Grays Harbor, Lewis and Thurston counties.
Introducing a lager to the beer lineup is also in the works, as well as hiring more people and expanding production.
“We want to be a big brewery and provide jobs to the community,” Porter said.