If there is one thing that rivals Oregonians’ love of coffee, it is their passion for craft beer. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in Portland. The city and suburbs boast 84 breweries, and if you ever want to strike up a conversation with a stranger, ask them what’s the best IPA in town, then sit back, pour yourself a pint, and be prepared to hear a well-constructed thesis.
It’s an educated and thirsty market, and two Syracuse alumni are more than happy to help quench that thirst, having cracked into the industry when it was on the brink of its latest stout growth spurt. McKean Banzer-Lausberg ’99 co-owns Migration Brewing, while Spencer Raymond ’10 is a co-owner of The Civic Taproom and Bottle Shop. A third beer establishment, Hopworks Urban Brewery, also has Orange ties: The architect of its cutting-edge brewpub is Roy Ettinger ’67, whose wife, Karen Welsh Ettinger ’65, is also a Syracuse graduate, and whose son, Christian, is the head brewer.
Banzer-Lausberg grew up in Portland, and went to high school downwind from the Henry Weinhard brewery. (“We could actually smell the beer when it was brewing,” he says.) Wanting to expand his horizons, he was drawn to Syracuse, where he earned a degree in marketing from the Whitman School of Management, gaining valuable business skills, including those in supply chain and operations management that would later prove to be surprisingly useful.
Following graduation, Banzer-Lausberg returned to Portland, worked for a brewery, then served in the Peace Corps in Morocco. After heading back to Portland, he soon figured out he wanted to get back into working with craft beer. He and some friends hatched the idea for a brewery, and in October 2009 got to work literally building it themselves. “There was a while there where I felt like I was going to be a construction worker for the rest of my life,” he says.
They poured the first beer at their 5,000-square-foot brewery and pub the following February. As Migration’s chief operating officer, Banzer-Lausberg runs the business side of things, and has been busy focusing on opening a second, larger brewery and pub in spring 2018 east of Portland. Having an inside view of what’s been a high-growth industry in a city that greatly values handcrafted items has been a fun ride. “The customer base is exceptional, and it is amazing to be in such an innovative industry right now,” Banzer-Lausberg says.
Raymond followed a somewhat similar path, growing up in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego and heading across the country to the ’Cuse for Newhouse’s lauded broadcast journalism program while also majoring in policy studies at the College of Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School.
After graduation, he worked the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for ESPN Deportes and later hosted an English-language TV show in Beijing before also ultimately returning to Oregon. When a contract job he had at a tech company was eliminated, he and a friend decided to open a beer-themed bar. A location was available across the street from the stadium of the beloved Portland Timbers and Thorns soccer teams, and he tapped the East Coast hustle he got his first taste of at SU to react quickly, opening The Civic Taproom on Thanksgiving weekend in 2014.
“I think it’s cool that all the way out here in Portland, a few of us Orange men have figured out little niches in creative ways, maybe in ways we never thought we would when we were at school,” Raymond says, “but we’re back in our home community and we’re doing something that I think is fun.”
This story was published on . It also appeared as “Tapping into Portland Brewing” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.
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