Food-and-drink pairings don’t get much better than pizza and beer. Bolt Minister has carved a long, productive career out of his ability to brew the former. Now he’s learning how to bake the latter.
Minister’s 54-40 Brewing Company opened a location in downtown Stevenson on Wednesday, Sept. 8, featuring New York-style pies similar to those made by the facility’s former occupant, Andrew’s Pizza.
“I’ve been making beer for a long time, so it’s really refreshing to learn a different side of yeast — baking it is totally different,” Minister said. “(The owner of Andrew’s Pizza) actually trained me to make dough and make pizza, and I’m going to get my feet wet, to say the least, in the day-to-day operation for quite a while. I’m so excited to learn a new trade. I’ve always been a New York pizza guy, so this opportunity was fantastic to actually be able to dive in.”
Andrew’s Pizza owner Derek Ostergard announced in an Aug. 10 Facebook post that he sold his facility to Minister and his wife, Amy Minister.
“I have decided to retire, (but) great news — new owners anticipate opening in a couple weeks,” Ostergard wrote. “54-40 Brewing will be contributing great things to our awesome Skamania County.”
The Ministers opened 54-40 Brewing’s first location in the Port of Camas-Washougal’s industrial park in Washougal in 2015. They started talking about opening a taproom in another city earlier this year, enticed by the prospects of growing their brand and ensuring the quality of their beer.
“When we use distributors to sell our beer, once it leaves here, we really don’t have a lot of control over it,” Bolt Minister said. “Also, we lose a lot of margin on it. It’s a better decision to pour beers over your own taps than sell it wholesale to somebody and lose a little bit of control over the product. We were looking for another location so we can pour more beer and also grow the business by being part of another community. This checks both of those boxes for us. It’s so close but it’s also so far away from Washougal that we can share a demographic that we know is needed over there.”
The Ministers looked at a Portland location, but decided instead to expand into another small community. They became sold on Stevenson once they received a call from Ostergard, who Bolt Minister had gotten to know while working with Skamania County’s Walking Man Brewing.
“Ultimately, my wife and I decided that if we were going to make a jump, it was going to be to another community that was more rural,” Bolt Minister said. “We wanted something that was a little more community-oriented, like Washougal is, and maybe a little underserved. Washougal-to-Stevenson was kind of a no-brainer.
“People understand beer out there,” he said. “There’s a ton of proper Gorge traffic that streams through there. (Our location is) right on the main drag, and we will be able to service a lot of folks if they’re going in and out of the Gorge on hikes or what have you. We couldn’t turn this offer down. It’s fantastic.”
The “54-40 Beer Lodge,” located at 310 S.W. Second St., Stevenson, features the 54-40 brews, New York-style pizza, sandwiches and other items. The Ministers are hoping to retain the entire Andrew’s Pizza staff and hire several more employees.
“We’re incorporating a lot of the stuff that you’d already see in our main tap room in Washougal,” Bolt Minister said. “We want to make it (resemble) somebody’s living room. We want to make it something where somebody can sit down and stay for a meal and have pints with their family and friends. It’s very much the same aesthetic.”
“It’s … a slightly different menu, and obviously the clientele is going to be a little bit different from what we have in Washougal because we’re going to get a lot of different passers-by,” he added. “But we hope to capture a lot of the folks in Stevenson and build a really welcoming community space for them.”
54-40 Brewing is thriving, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to opening their Sevenson location, the Ministers are adding a full kitchen and expanding their space at the Washougal-based 54-40 Brewing
“It’s the community support that brings you through these hard times, so seeing what Washougal did made us think about where that next jump would be,” Bolt Minister said. “If and when that next hardship happens, you need the community support behind you, and that’s going to happen in rural communities and maybe far less in bigger metropolitan areas. What got us through was definitely Washougal being ‘Shoug Strong’ and going all in to help small businesses. Knowing that, and knowing that in the future something might happen again, we wanted to find another community that could be as supportive as Washougal.”