Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

JOSEPH — Fans of Terminal Gravity will cheer at the news of their new digs in Joseph: East Fork Brewery.

Over the summer, East Fork Brewery opened as a “pop-up” brewpub in Joseph, serving Terminal Gravity brews and a limited menu out of a cart.

On Oct. 6 the East Fork sign was hung on Main Street, and a few dozen local business owners sampled Terminal Gravity beer and tried items from the more extensive menu served out of the new restaurant’s kitchen. The following day, the new menu and beer offerings were made available to the public.

Kevin Harlander, Terminal Gravity’s marketing director, said Joseph wasn’t an obvious choice to expand the TG brand. Initially, cities like Boise, Seattle, Portland and even Walla Walla and Tri-Cities, Washington, were considered — places where TG is a familiar product in bars and restaurants.

“We wanted to figure out a way to provide a similar experience in a different town while pushing the envelope and trying new styles of beer,” Harlander said.

In the end, the management decided to open its second brewpub just six miles up the road in Joseph.

“It wasn’t the intention to get this place full during the summer season but to get the staff trained up in the middle of summer and test recipes,” Harlander said.

This summer, the former site of Mutiny Is Brewing on Main Street was transformed into a brewpub serving Terminal Gravity beer, tacos and Cubano sandwiches out of a food cart out front. It quietly opened during the week of Chief Joseph Days and was marketed as a “pop-up” business, using the recognizable TG logo.

But that was just the beginning.

For the next few months, the beer on tap at East Fork will be made at Terminal Gravity’s Enterprise brewery, but the new facility’s four-barrel brewing system will be used this winter to make beer that is unavailable anywhere else, Harlander said.

“It allows our customers to try beers they never had before and gives us an opportunity to try out a beer we might put into production at our bigger facility,” he said.

Using East Fork’s brewing facility as an experimental lab, Harlander said, also allows them to play around with collaborations with neighboring Stein Distillery to barrel-age beer and with Red Horse Coffee to make coffee-brewed beer.

The menu is already quite different than Terminal Gravity’s pub in Enterprise. Will Hadden of Walla Walla brought his own style of pub food with pork and beef tacos served with fresh cheese, fried chicken sandwiches and a choice of two very spicy pork sandwiches, chicken wings and French fries to go with the locally grown hamburger.

Harlander insists East Fork wasn’t opened as a place to maximize tourism income, but to provide jobs and a comfortable place that fits in with the Wallowa County tableau vivant.

“We want East Fork to be considered a local watering hole,” he said.

The decor is pure Wallowa County: beef, beer and black-and-white photos copied from Troy rancher Orvis Moore’s collection and artfully transferred to canvas and hung by David Weaver of the Wallowa History Center.

“The concept is centered around conversation at a public house, celebrating where we came from as a society and what we might talk about when we see those photos,” Harlander said.

Restaurants are a tough business, but Harlander, who is 27, said the young staff is ambitious and not afraid of hard work.

Natalie Millar grew up working at Terminal Gravity; her parents are part owners. At the age of 25, she gave up her job with global accounting giant KPMG in Seattle and came home to work with her dad, Ed, as general manager. Opening East Fork was just one of many tasks she has taken on since returning to Wallowa County last spring.

Millar said she brings her accounting skills to the finance side of the business whereas Harlander, who worked at an ad agency before joining Terminal Gravity, focuses on marketing. She said their two ways of thinking complement each other.

“We work together really well, planning for the future and setting goals,” Millar said.

Even Hadden, who turns out some of the best fried chicken outside of the South, is a mere 24 years old.

Rounding out the staff is Jocelyn Hatch, who was a fisheries biologist for the Nez Perce Tribe before she was hired to manage East Fork. Harlander said she is a poised problem-solver with a depth of knowledge and a sense of kindness when handling challenges.

“We have a nice division of labor,” Harlander said.

The East Fork’s kitchen and wait staffs are trained and ready for a steady flow of patrons. Harlander said it’s important the staff knows how to talk about the brewpub’s food and beer. The next step is getting the brewery running and hiring a brewer.

The Joseph business community has been welcoming, Harlander said. The two new wooden signs, one on the highway and one over the front door, were milled by Randy Slinker, one of Terminal Gravity’s owners, and engraved by a machine owned by Tyler Hayes, who is bringing his manufacturing know-how from the East Coast back home to Wallowa County.

As for reopening a popular spot on Main Street, closed for two years, Harlander said, “There is a real sense of collaboration around this town.”