Von Ebert’s Cook Leads by Following

When the Von Ebert tasting panel team sits down to taste and discuss beer, Tom S. Cook is one of the first to give his thoughts. Not because he is the co-owner and developer of the Portland brewery and what he says goes, but because the whole tasting panel team agreed that those with a less developed palate should taste and give critiques of a beer first as to not be influenced by a more experienced tongue. Namely, the brew team goes last. And Cook says they are the hardest group to please.

“One of the things that I think our team does a fabulous job of is they are their own best critics,” Cook said. “I don’t really have to be tough on them. I’ll say my critiques — and they are fairly limited — and the head brewer will say something like, ‘I really think we have to get another half a pound of Saaz 30 minutes into the boil.

“The fact that they can even taste that way and find what they see as the problem is pretty amazing. The team has done a phenomenal job of taking the lead on guiding Von Ebert to be what it is, a very collaborative effort.””

The brewpub is a rebirth of sorts. What started as a franchisee of Cleveland’s Fat Head’s Brewery morphed more than two years ago into its own entity. Over the course of 11 days, Fat Head’s shut down and Von Ebert began with a new brew team and new beers — namely German-style Lagers and hop-forward beers.

“One of the things that we did is we put all the brew logs away and never looked at them ever again,” he said of the Fat Head’s brands. “As a first-time brewery, you wouldn’t have brew logs to refer to.

Cook also put together a talented brewing team as well, as five members of the previously led brewing operations at another brewery or served as a head brewer. Specifically, Von Ebert Glendoveer (the brewery’s second location that opened soon after the switch over to Von Ebert which focuses on small-batch Lagers and mixed culture fermentation) head brewer Sean Burke was highly sought after following the unexpected closure of The Commons. The change also came at the right time as the top two brewers for the Fat Head’s franchise both were looking to make professional changes themselves, which opened the door to start Von Ebert with a new team as well.

“We went out to find the best that we could and landed with a — in my opinion — pretty fabulous team that has pushed the envelope,” Cook said. He noted that each location (The Pearl, which opened first in March of 2018 while Glendoveer opened four months later) function mostly as two separate teams.

“I would say they work extremely well together,” Cook said. “There’s a tremendous amount of interaction between the two on a daily basis.,” Cook said. After just one year of opening, Von Ebert has nabbed three gold medals at three different beer competitions for three different beers, including a GABF Gold for their Obeisance in the Specialty Saison category and an Oregon Beer Awards fresh hop competition Gold.

“I think the awards are helpful from a sales perspective,” Cook said, and admitted it does add some legitimacy in the public eye for the brewery. But he quickly deflected the honors to his staff.

“Our brewers are extremely humble. It allows me to recognize them for working their tails off in a way,” he said. “It shows it’s not just me who thinks that the beer is great. To have that independent validation I can use as a recognition tool is also very helpful.”

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