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Cheers to Beer

INDEPENDENCE -- The end of the month is deadline time for Gail Oberst -- seemingly endless hours spent in front of the computer in her home office compiling a 24-page magazine.

Michael Cairns, Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns (from left) toast the first anniversary of the Oregon Beer Growler.

Photo by Pete Strong

Michael Cairns, Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns (from left) toast the first anniversary of the Oregon Beer Growler.

July 23, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- The end of the month is deadline time for Gail Oberst -- seemingly endless hours spent in front of the computer in her home office compiling a 24-page magazine.

Oberst is no stranger to the publishing industry, having more than 25 years experience in the business, but her current situation is still somewhat foreign to her, even after a full year.

The Oregon Beer Growler, the free, monthly magazine published by Oberst and her two partners, husband Michael Cairns and son Will Oberst-Cairns, celebrated its first birthday in July.

What better month for a beer magazine to celebrate its anniversary. July is, after all, craft beer month in Oregon.

Oberst spent the better part of the month finding stories and photos to fill pages instead of contemplating the Independence-based magazine's birthday.

"We haven't had much time to celebrate, we've been too busy," Oberst said. "The nice thing about this is you get to drink on the job."

The Growler dove head first into a publishing industry that is far removed from its glory days but the Oberst publishers show no signs of slowing down. In fact, Oberst is looking to expand and bring more people on board.

"I have the whole process written out because I'm trying to gradually turn over my work -- our work -- to employees or contractors as we get larger," Oberst said. "I'm doing most of the pagination work, I'm also the editor, the publisher and I write a lot of the stories -- and I take a lot of the pictures."

Oberst has freelanced here and there and worked for several travel and wine publications in her two-plus decades as a journalist.

Gail Oberst works on an "Oregon Beer Growle" banner Friday that will go on the publication

Photo by Pete Strong

Gail Oberst works on an "Oregon Beer Growle" banner Friday that will go on the publication's booth at the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland this weekend.

Oberst-Cairns has been a homebrewer and beer blogger for years. When he transferred to Western Oregon University from the University of Oregon to finish his business degree, the idea for the magazine started brewing in his mind.

Growing from this organic process, the family coalesced its talents and filled a vacuum they saw in the local beer industry.

"Will is the one that actually thought up this whole scheme," Oberst said. "There was a market for a publication like ours. There was such a demand for more information about Oregon beer, and it just took off."

Labeled as "Oregon's Beer Magazine," the publication is dedicated to all things malted, fermented, hop-infused and brewed coming out of the beer capital of the West.

"At the end of 2012, there were 137 brewing companies with 174 brewing facilities in 59 cities (in Oregon)," Oberst said. "Oregonians are increasing the amount of craft beer we drink. Maybe we're not drinking more beer, but we're drinking more that's brewed in Oregon."

The Growler was met with open arms from the Oregon beer community during its inaugural year.

Representing brewers and beer as a whole in Oregon, the Oregon Brewers Guild celebrated the arrival of an all-Oregon magazine.

"It's great to have an all-Oregon-based beer publication," Brian Butenschoen, brewers guild executive director, said. "I think they saw an opportunity there to have the same reporting and focus on the industry that the wine industry has had for a long time."

Oberst-Cairns meticulously researched marketing techniques and took small business classes with the MicroEnterprise Resources, Initiatives & Training (MERIT) program through Chemeketa Community College in Salem. His business major at WOU has also proved pivotal in fine tuning and streamlining the magazine.

"I get more out of the education from Western if I try and use homework projects on things that I wouldn't normally think about, so that when I come back to the company I've got a little more practice at it," Oberst-Cairns said. "It's always tempting to use the business as a model for homework, but I try to refrain from doing that."

It would be almost impossible to produce a beer magazine without thoroughly enjoying beer.

Oberst and Cairns are professed hop heads -- someone who enjoys India Pale Ale, a style known for its hoppy bitterness.

Oberst-Cairns took a European beer tour in the spring of 2012. He traveled across the continent for five months, sampling all the beer the region had to offer.

"It wasn't long enough. I'll have to go back and just take three or four months in Belgium," Oberst-Cairns said. "I like beer. I've got two current favorites, seasonal and local."

Check It Out

* The Oregon Beer Growler is published at the beginning of each month and highlights Oregon craft beer. It can be picked up, for free, at most any place where Oregon beer is sold. For more information: www.oregonbeergrowler.com.

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