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Brew-pub on tap for former Chili's site

Golden Valley features all-natural beef and 10 handcrafted beers
by: Jaime Valdez Golden Valley Brewery could open this fall in the former Chili’s restaurant site at 1570 N.W. Bethany Blvd.

To some, the neighborhood pub is just another local business that provides a workaday backdrop for the occasional beer and burger.

To a growing number of others, it's a de facto community center where friends gather to relax and fraternize over carefully crafted microbrews and a hearty array of casual, yet creatively prepared menu options.

Peter Kircher sees his Golden Valley Brewery, which could open as early as this fall in the former Chili's restaurant at 1570 N.W. Bethany Blvd., in the latter category.

'In Europe, pubs are an integral part of their culture. It's part of their daily life,' he says. 'You visit those places to see friends. I think we're just starting to get that woven into our culture. There's a huge value to it.'

Kircher, 56, should know. He's fostered that culture of camaraderie since 1993, when he opened the original Golden Valley Brewery in McMinnville.

True to its evocative name, the restaurant and bar specializes in handcrafted beer and tasty appetizers and entrees featuring all-natural beef. Kircher and his wife, Celia, raise the source steers on their Angus Springs Ranch near McMinnville.

Kircher says he anticipates hiring 80 to 90 new employees for the 5,500-square-foot Beaverton restaurant, which - once a series of bureaucratic hurdles are overcome (see accompanying article below) - will be fully renovated.

The brewery, however, will remain in McMinnville, with kegs of Golden Valley's 10 or so sudsy options 'imported' from its headquarters to the south.

The eatery will also include a full bar with liquor and a specialty drink menu.

'The brewery stays here,' Kircher says from his McMinnville office. 'The water and electricity in Beaverton are too expensive. And we can barely fit a restaurant on that (property) footprint.'

Limitations aside, Kircher says a recent convergence of opportunity and events convinced him Beaverton would make an ideal second location for the Golden Valley concept.

'It was the perfect storm for us,' he says, noting how the property and financing dovetailed at what seemed the right moment. 'I think it fits perfectly with the Beaverton demographic, which is highly educated people who know about food and care about what they eat.'

Stressing that Golden Valley's beef is raised 'all natural' as opposed to organic - a more complex but less cost-effective approach - Kircher says his family raises steers with feed that's free of hormones or antibiotics.

'You're getting an all-natural product,' he observes.

The menu, which can be found online at GoldenValleyBrewery.com, also includes fresh seafood, pork and a slew of entrée salads, all featuring ingredients from local growers and suppliers.

'Our strength is providing real, fresh, handmade food at a price point that's not just a special occasion restaurant,' he says. 'You can come out and get dinner and a beer for 20 bucks, easy.

'But if you want a good steak and a nice bottle of wine,' he adds, 'you can do that too.'

Kircher admits the precarious economic climate is less than encouraging to a small business owner looking to branch out. He's confident, however, that what he offers is appealing to an ever-expanding customer base.

'It fits a need in the culture,' he says of the neighborhood brew-pub concept. 'And once it fits in, it's not going to go away.'

Brewery owner flummoxed by a city zoning technicality

The McMinnville-based Golden Valley Brewery is on track to open this fall in a renovated former Chili's restaurant on Bethany Boulevard. But the restaurant's owner says an unusual zoning technicality is creating a mountain of unnecessary expense and paperwork for him and his associates.

Because the property at 1520 N.W. Bethany Blvd. is zoned 'office commercial' and Kircher needs to renovate the building to accommodate his brew pub, the city of Beaverton requires a conditional-use application.

Kircher said he's irked that he must spend thousands of dollars on the application - not to mention a consultant to help grease the bureaucratic wheels - when the zoning requirement is likely by this winter to be but a memory.

City officials are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation - which has a regulatory stake in properties near thoroughfares such as Highway 26 - to change the designation and official maps in the area to 'commercial special' zoning, which would eliminate the conditional-use requirement.

'Because they're not done with the process, from a small businessperson's perspective, the time and the money it takes makes it awkward for us,' Kircher said. 'There's an incredible amount of paperwork necessary to get a project like this going. That's not the case in McMinnville. 'But we're moving forward, and they're expediting the process.

Kircher is referring to Jana Fox and Scott White in the city Planning Department. They have worked with Kircher and his associates to keep the process moving.

'They are working really hard in getting this through,' he said.

Fox, an associate planner with the city, noted Kircher could use the building as-is without the special-use application. But until the laborious zoning-change process is finalized, her office is obligated to follow existing rules.

'We have no doubt Golden Valley Brewery will be a successful use in Beaverton,' she said. 'However, we must follow the same rules that would apply to any other similar use.'

Fox added she's confident the city Planning Commission will be able to consider Kircher's proposal by its July 13 meeting.

'We've got them where we hope we need to be,' she said.

If all goes well, Kircher said he'd like to see construction under way by late July.

LMC Inc. of Beaverton is the project's lead contractor.

While frustrated with the rigidity of the rules under extenuating circumstances, Kircher said he realizes bureaucratic hassles for small businessmen are often par for the course.

'It takes what it takes,' he said. 'Nothing is unusual when dealing with the city.'