When it comes to variety, no one does it quite like Block 15 Brewing. Offering unique hop-forward ales, crisp lagers, barrel-aged rarities, and one of the Northwest’s most extensive wild & sour programs, Block 15 produces a range of artfully crafted beers, brewed with a nod toward fresh ingredients and fresh thinking. To learn more, we sat down with Pascal Fritz, Marketing Manager and Creative Director for Block 15 to discuss their beer, his transition from the corporate world to the craft beer industry, and how Block 15 serves their local community.
Tell me about yourself: What’s your background, when did you first hear about Block 15, and how did you become involved?
So, I am our team’s Marketing Manager and Creative Director and have been with Block 15 for about ten months now. This is my first job in the craft brewing industry, and I couldn’t be more excited! I came to craft beer from the corporate world after working for Nike for 13 years in brand marketing and realizing I was ready to try something different. The position at Block 15 presented itself at the perfect time and it’s been really cool to apply my learnings from a large corporate atmosphere to something that’s a little bit faster, more agile, and has more potential for creativity!
Was transitioning into the craft beer industry something you were thinking about for a while?
Yeah, it actually was. Just from a personal interest standpoint, I have always been a fan of craft beer. I love how passionate the craft beer community is about the stories they tell and products they create, and how deep the community runs. I personally became passionate about the craft beer world after meeting people within the community, ultimately involving myself in learning more about certain beers and specific breweries. It was about then when I decided I wanted to transition into the industry, and now here we are!
What was the first craft beer you drank?
The first craft beer I ever had was a New Belgium Fat Tire. I was living in Kansas City at the time and I took a trip out to Colorado to snowboard over spring break. It blew my mind to see what flavorful beer tasted like and to see what craft beer had to offer.
Tell us about Block 15. How did the brewery get started? When was it founded?
Block 15 was founded in 2008, so we just celebrated our 13th anniversary, which is a great milestone. I feel like we have an established footprint in our home state of Oregon, with a very loyal following from being around for so long. It was founded by Nick and Kristen Arzner, who, after attending college in Indiana, returned back to Nick’s home state of Oregon, where they found the perfect opportunity in Corvallis to open up a small brewery in the city’s downtown district. At the time, Corvallis had quite a small craft beer footprint – the Arzner’s wanted to focus on creating great beer beyond the standard IPAs and amber ales and get the local community excited about different and unique craft beer offerings. In 2015 we expanded to build a production facility on the south end of town where we were able to put out a significantly higher amount of beer. It’s been a great experience and Corvallis feels like the right place for Block 15 to thrive.
What’s your all-time favorite Block 15 Beer?
That’s a tough question… it’s like asking to pick your favorite child! Personally, I love very hop-forward beers, and not too long ago we released Joy Pale Ale, our newest year-round offering. It’s a modern take on a pale, but very approachable at 5% ABV. As you get older, you can’t always crush beers, so it’s nice to have something that’s super refreshing and flavorful, still hop-full, but won’t necessarily leave you hurting in the morning!
What is Block 15’s best-selling beer?
Far and away, our best-selling beer is Sticky Hands. It’s our double IPA and flagship beer and has been a massive hit throughout the years! It’s kind of funny to say that a double IPA is your most popular beer, but it has an extremely loyal fanbase. We have a base Sticky Hands offering and throughout the year we do variants on that base recipe to surprise and delight our fans.
You guys are situated in beautiful Corvallis, Oregon. What activities would you recommend to someone visiting Corvallis for the first time?
Corvallis is in a great location in the Willamette Valley, which is a breadbasket of farms, vineyards, and trails. The Oregon coast is just a little over an hour away, and combined with the hiking, mountain biking, and school spirit of Oregon State University, Corvallis is the ideal place for any outdoor enthusiast.
Obviously, I have to get out there and visit sometime. Which of your beers would you recommend a first-timer at Block 15?
We take pride in being very good at brewing a variety of beers while still keeping our selection approachable and inviting. No matter what you’re into, we’re going to have an offering that we’re confident you’ll really enjoy! Obviously, we create a lot of hop-forward beers and IPAs, but our barrel catalog is amazing. In fact, we were the first brewery in Oregon to have a cool ship – so we have spontaneously fermented beers that are incredible. Our Peche is a GABF Award-Winning beer, and ultimately, I would put our catalog up against anyone out there!
Speaking of Corvallis, Block 15 is well represented in the community. Could you tell me more about the People’s Pint initiative?
At Block 15, we have a tremendous focus on our local community and how we can help to improve it. With our People’s Pint initiative, we work with a new non-profit partner every month to help fundraise for their initiatives. We do so by earmarking one on-tap beer that will run throughout the month, and a portion of those proceeds go directly to the organization. It’s been an amazing experience to hear the stories of these incredible groups and find ways we can help out in any way possible.
Block 15 predominantly distributes in Oregon and Washington currently, but I noticed you have a few distribution locations in Arizona; are you planning to expand outside of the Pacific North West?
As a self-distributor, we primarily distribute in Oregon and Washington, but every once in a while, we will have the opportunity to partner with another distributor to get out of state. The Arizona opportunity presented itself last year, and since we hold very high standards when it comes to the shipment of our beer, we made sure that our distribution partner cold-shipped our beer and delivered it in an appropriate amount of time after brewing. Ultimately, we saw it as a unique opportunity to surprise the beer drinkers down in Arizona as they continue to develop their craft beer scene. We want our growth in Arizona to happen organically, though we do have plans for overall growth in the future.
We know you’re a self-distributor: where can we find you? What is your most successful channel?
The easiest place to find our offerings and where you can find our beer is through our website. We have an interactive “find our beer” map feature where you can see which locations sell our packaged goods and which places have Block 15 beer on draft. We partner with some incredibly loyal bottle shops all throughout Oregon and Washington that have our product on hand nearly all year round. We try to limit the doors we get into though, it’s important for us to build relationships with those shops we do conduct business with.
What do you see as the next big trend in the craft beer industry?
I personally feel that the next trend in the craft beer industry will be continuing beer education with your drinkers. Something I’m super excited about is our initiative to highlight where our ingredients are coming from. It goes beyond informing our customers on what exact type of hops went into their beer – we want to highlight what farms they’re coming from and in what regions certain ingredients originate. This has existed in the food industry for years at well-established restaurants, and we have found that the interest level is there in the craft beer community as well.