The owners had only purchased the place recently, but an Oktoberfest celebration Saturday at a downtown Vancouver brewery was a family story more than a century in the making.
Trusty Brewing Co. held the celebration Saturday afternoon and evening. The brewery offered traditional German music and food and debuted an Oktoberfest beer.
Anja O’Neil, the brewery’s co-owner, sported traditional Dirndl as she waited tables. Since the family purchased the business in early August, O’Neil has been operating it with her father — Steve Malone — and several other relatives.
Malone’s family immigrated to Oregon from Germany in the 1880s. In the 1960s, Malone spent several years living in Nuremberg, Germany, where he studied brewing.
After meeting O’Neil’s mother, Malone moved back to Oregon, and the couple began to raise a family. But they’ve returned to the country several times since.
“We just like the change of scenery, I guess you could say,” Malone said.
Malone changed careers after studying brewing, but he’s brewed his own beer for decades. O’Neil retired in 2015 after serving 28 years in the Air Force.
When the family purchased the brewery, they fulfilled a longtime goal.
“We had been talking about it the past 10 years or so,” Malone said. “We looked at each other and decided it was the thing to do.”
But the challenges of entering the restaurant business are acute this year given the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars in Clark County remain limited to 50 percent capacity and no more than five people per table.
“It’s really trying,” O’Neil said. “It’s been challenging, but I’ve really relied on fellow brewers in the area.”
On Saturday, she had some support from a few friends as well.
Laurie Miller of Salem was part of a group of four that sipped beer flights and munched on Bavarian pretzels early Saturday afternoon. Miller previously lived near O’Neil in the early 1990s at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, and they’ve kept in touch.
“I’m like, ‘We’ll still come and support,'” Miller said. “We wear masks when we need to. We really haven’t let it slow us down too much.”
Bella Roushall of Vancouver has worked with O’Neil as a flight attendant for several years. Roushall said that O’Neil had long wanted to host an Oktoberfest,
While she and her husband, Scott Roushall, waited for their food Saturday, the couple jokingly described their friends as “super German.”
“Oh absolutely. She’s been talking about it a long time actually,” Roushall said. “I love that they are so into the culture, the history and everything. They’re so excited to bring that culture here, and with them I feel like I’m getting the real deal.”
Malone has always sought ways to connect with fellow German Americans in the area and has long celebrated German holidays with his family. Standing behind the bar Saturday, he watched his customers dabble in the tradition as well.
“There are a lot of German holidays that we celebrate privately, so we might as well do them here,” he said.