This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
See Cramer's multi-million dollar portfolio for FREE and get his new book Get Rich Carefully! Learn More

How Brewer John Harris Began His Second Act

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- John Harris is a near-mythical figure in the Oregon beer community, but the reality is that he's just another brewer with beers to make, a brewpub to run and bills to pay.

Harris' brewing career dates back to 1986, when he was a brewer at the McMenamins chain of breweries and brewpubs in the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, he landed a brewing job at Bend, Ore.-based Deschutes Brewing creating the recipes for styles that have helped that Deschutes grow into the fifth-largest craft brewery in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group, and the 12th-largest U.S. brewery overall. Every time someone drinks a Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Obsidian Stout or Jubelale holiday beer, they're drinking a brew Harris built from scratch.

Harris spent the past 20 years as a brewmaster at Hood River, Ore.-based Full Sail Brewing, creating that brewery's Brewmaster Reserve line of experimental small-batch beers. From Full Sail's small facility in Portland, Harris worked within a small corner of the company creating outsized beers that took more chances -- and generally cost more to drink -- than Full Sail's higher-capacity, production-brewed mainstay and Session beers. Harris' line pushed Full Sail's creativity and helped it grow from 76,000 barrels of production in 2008 to 110,000 barrels last year.

This year, for the first time in his career, Harris is striking out on his own. After spending more than a year attracting investors and laying groundwork -- including a guerrilla marketing effort that made T-shirts for his newest venture ubiquitous at this year's Oregon Brewers Festival -- Harris opened his Ecliptic Brewing in a former industrial space in North Portland at the end of October. His current lineup of beers is by no means permanent, his restaurant menu is as vital to his brewery's future as the products in its tanks and his impressive resume does little to assuage the issues that face every new brewer -- including a wonky drainage system that caused Harris a brief headache the day we dropped in for a visit.

Even for someone as seasoned as Harris, a new stage in his career and a fresh start in an industry he's already made a considerable contribution to can be tricky. We sat down with Harris and talked about his plans for Ecliptic, his motivation for launching a startup brewery and how Portland helped his decision:

This seems like an incredible challenge to take on at any stage of someone's brewing career. What made you decide to take it on after working at Deschutes and Full Sail?

Harris: I was approaching the end of my 20th year at Full Sail in April 2012 and, as I led up to that, I started thinking about where I was and what I'd done. I had just marked my 25th or 26th year of brewing beer and was thinking about the kind of beers I really wanted to make and how I was wanting to get back into the brewery/restaurant setting and I thought to myself that if I was going to do this, now was the time.

At that point I was 48 going on 49 and I wondered, when I turned 50, how much energy I was going to have to undertake this. Sure enough, we open and I'm 50, because it took a year and a half.

As I've told other people, Full Sail was a great place to work and was a loyal company. I have shares in the company. It was a great space, but as I looked into the beers I wanted to make and where that brewery was going with its brands, they weren't lining up. Not in a bad way, but as a creative brewer who ran the Brewmaster Reserve line for many years creating new beers every year, that's what was very important -- creating new product. The way that was going was in a different direction and I knew I couldn't just be a production brewer. I had to be able to make beer.

It also wasn't just some random jump-off-the-cliff kind of moment. It was very well thought out. I got some initial backers and developed a business plan before I left the company. I realized that If I was going to go raise money, I couldn't be at Full Sail looking for money. It would be unfair to the company. With my wife's approval, I quit my job and my benefits and my paycheck and it was a year and a half until this opened.

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
DOW 16,408.54 -16.31 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,864.85 +2.54 0.14%
NASDAQ 4,095.5160 +9.2910 0.23%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto
Advertising Partners

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs