Nick Ellis pours a pint of oatmeal pale ale Saturday at Apocalypse Brewing in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Nano-brewers barrel ahead

Apocalypse Brewing Company's motto is simple: Enjoy the time you have while you have it.

You'd think a nano-brewery that names its beers after doom-and-gloom imagery might cater to a dour clientele and be crafted by a pale-faced ghoul straight out of Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal."

Nick Ellis, the brewery's co-owner, is anything but fatalistic.

"We call ourselves 'apocaloptimists,'," Ellis said. "We're happy and easy-going here."

Ellis is one of a growing number of nano-brewers setting up shop in the Rogue Valley.

Nano-brewing is practiced by a dedicated group of beer enthusiasts who don't have the means, or maybe even the desire, to open a 12,000-square-foot taphouse and production space.

Instead, nano-brewers focus on small-batch craft, usually three barrels or less.

The idea is to work hard to perfect your beer, one barrel at a time.

Nano-brewers usually work out of small spaces, sometimes behind their homes such as Portal Brewing Co. in Medford, before branching out when the time is right.

All the while, nano-breweries embrace a do-it-yourself ethos that gives them freedom over their product and allows them to grow organically, instead of taking on heavy debt in the early stages, Ellis said.

Think of nano-breweries as the punk rock of the beer world.

Ellis, along with his partners Erin Ellis and Dennis Poncia, opened Apocalypse Brewing Company in September.

He brews half-barrel batches out of an open store-front at 545 Rossanley Drive in Medford.

They don't bottle — yet — but do sell kegs and growlers of Fallow Fields, an American brown ale, and The Sixth Seal, a Pacific Northwest ale, from out of the business park they inhabit.

It's not fancy, by any means, but it'll do if you want to enjoy a unique small-batch craft beer.

"We are starting small but want to grow," Ellis said. "We'd like to open a taproom someday and get some accounts."

Ellis began brewing three years ago when he was desperate for another hobby.

He was walking around Black Bird one day and spotted some brewing equipment and a light bulb blazed above his head.

The name is a tongue-in-cheek reaction to watching the news, Ellis said.

"We would watch the news and read the paper and it was all bad," he said.

"We came up with the name Apocalypse Brewing Company because it was kitschy and fun."

Ellis prides himself on pouring "honest pints" of 16 ounces, which can be a rarity in bars and pubs across the country, which sometimes fill 12 to 14 ounce glasses.

"When you come here, you get a true pint that is 16 ounces," he said.

Meanwhile, Mike Dimon and Theresa Delany are working hard to open their nano-brewery Portal Brewing Co., which sits behind their home near the North Fred Meyer in Medford.

Portal Brewing Co. will feature a one-barrel system and will sell kegs and growlers to go, Dimon said.

"We are about two weeks out from selling beer," Dimon said. "We are looking to brew at a sustainable rate and not take on a lot of debt."

Dimon and Delany hope someday to move to a taphouse in Medford or Ashland.

In the meantime, they will work to perfect their brews and maybe sell at local farmer's markets.

Dimon said the Rogue Valley's nano-brewers are a supportive bunch who want to see each other succeed.

"We have a nice network of brewers here and we want to see each other survive," Dimon said.

Brandon and Tayna Overstreet recently moved back to Ashland to open a nano-brewery after attending school in Colorado.

They hope to get Swing Tree Brewing Company off the ground in spring 2013. They plan to open their three-barrel system in the Hersey Street business park in Ashland and get their Porch Swing Pale Ale into local bars.

"A lot of bars are moving their faucets to craft beer and that is really good," Overstreet said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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