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Four friends combine talents to open Ridgewalker Brewery and Taproom

NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY CHASE ALLGOOD - Justin Marble pours a pint at the Ridgewalker Brewing taphouse.Some breweries are born out of a passion for beer and a dream of something better. That dream was realized earlier this month when Ridgewalker Brewing opened its doors to residents for the first time at 1921 21st Ave. in Forest Grove.

Former Stecchino’s owner Christian Geffard bought the old structure in October 2013, intending to open a tapas restaurant there. After remodeling the outside and raising the excitement level among local foodies, Geffard abandoned the plan and the city, opening a restaurant in Portland instead.

Just before he left in March 2014, Geffard told the Forest Grove Leader he’d like to see the building used as a restaurant or brewery: “It has a large deck, that would be perfect for a brewery.”

Four local friends, Justin Marble, Storm Brown and brothers Jason and Chris Cirlincione were up for the task to deliver such an establishment to the town’s denizens, especially since all four either grew up or lived in the area.

Brown and Marble first met in the fifth grade during the Forest Grove School District’s annual spelling bee finals. Taking first and second, they began a friendship which lasted through high school and college, up to this very day. NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY CHASE ALLGOOD - Kevin Marble brings out some of the nosh offered at Ridgewalker Brewing taphouse to a table.

During summer breaks, the duo began brewing their own beer together. Sharing new techniques and methods and becoming more and more familiar with the science of the process — their beer transitioned from drinkable, to decent — then finally to something they would be proud to offer to others, they said.

After graduating, the two became roommates with Jason, who recognized their passion for brewing and raised the possibility of making something happen, which prompted a serious discussion among the trio. Brown and Marble began brewing regularly and developed recipes that could be duplicated and sold as a product. The only thing missing was a name.

In the spirit of the group’s many travels through the mountains of Oregon and along the Pacific Crest Trail, “Ridgewalker” was a name that stood out.

“Justin and I were working on home brewing, and we said ‘let’s open a brewery,’” said Brown. “Three years later, here we are.”

Shortly after deciding on a name, Chris was brought on board as someone who could navigate the series of licenses, taxes and certifications needed to turn two guys making beer into a legitimate operation.

NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY CHASE ALLGOOD - Jeff Farrar of the Ridgewalker Brewing taphouse and a freshly poured growler.Brown and Marble continued to brew new styles and tastes while refining old practices, while Jason converted a garage into a location where a small commercial brewhouse could be installed. Chris continued to hammer away at the local, state and federal agencies, and brought Ridgewalker to the point where it could actually sell beer.

“We’ve been brewing out of Beaverton for a few years now,” said Brown. “We found a great location for the taproom — it’s close to downtown Forest Grove and the university, which we’d also like to build a relationship with.”

Since last October, Ridgewalker Brewing has been selling its beer at taprooms and brew houses in Hillsboro, Aloha and Forest Grove and hopes to continue its success as Forest Grove’s fourth combination brewery/taproom.

“Having more places will bring more people into town. I think it’s a good thing,” Marble said.

The other three taprooms in Forest Grove are Bull Run Cider at 2225 Cedar St., Kaiser Brewing on Hawthorne Street and Waltz Brewing on the corner of 19th Avenue and A Street.

Marble said he and his partners talked extensively with Waltz owner Adam Zumwalt and his son Noah. The friends were inspired by Waltz’s brewery model and tap selection — having a small brewing system and a big selection of taps from a wide variety of brewers.

“They buy our beer, so I think that speaks volumes. And I’d be willing to sell Waltz’s beer. It’s mutually beneficial,” Marble said. “There is competition, but it’s generally a friendly environment. We don’t plan to steal anyone else’s regulars.”

Ridgewalker’s taproom features 34 faucets, which serve an eclectic mix of wine, nitro brews, beer, kombucha and cider. So far, the Longstride IPA is a favorite, with two kegs gone.

The kitchen is serving up traditional barbecue fare for anyone who gets the munchies while enjoying the brews on tap. The menu is limited for now, but soon customers can expect to chow down on ribs, brisket, chopped pork and more.

“For the next few months, we just want to get comfortable and figure out what the community wants,” said Brown. “We’re really looking forward to being a part of the town, and we’re providing a nice environment where people can get some drinks and food, and get comfortable.”

The hours of operation are still a work in progress, but for now, the venue is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 10 p.m. For information on the tap list, visit the Ridgewalker Brewing Facebook page.NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY CHASE ALLGOOD - Ridgewalker Brewing taphouse is on 21st Avenue in Forest Grove.

Travis Loose contributed to this story.