Spinning Wheels Brewing Project opens beneath Lake Taco
Story and photos by Laurel Brown
Most Gorge-folk are quite familiar with beer and breweries thanks to the many options in the area. From Carson to The Dalles, there is no shortage of places to quench your thirst. Add to the list Spinning Wheels Brewing Project, a new taproom in downtown Hood River.
Spinning Wheels Brewing Project had its grand opening April 29 in the space below Lake Taco on Oak Street. Owner and Head Brewer Andrew Rosette is excited to start his own entrepreneurial endeavor after years of working and learning with other breweries. After volunteering to clean the downstairs tap lines for longtime friends Maria and Enrique Ortega, owners of Lake Taco, he discovered the potential of the space and proposed using it for his own project.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Rosette moved to Seattle in 1996 and found his way to Hood River in 2012. He worked in IT for much of his life and found the Gorge thanks to his love for biking.
“There was a race here that I would come to pretty much every year,” he said. Once settling in Hood River, Rosette decided he wanted to make a career change.
He shifted from technology to beer. Matt Swihart, owner and co-founder of Double Mountain Brewery and Cidery, taught Rosette about the brewing process and the brewer-owned model — which is not very common in the Gorge. However, Swihart would not hire him.
“He didn’t think I was serious about the career change,” Rosette said.
To prove it, Rosette went to brewing school in Chicago and shortly after landed a brewing job at Double Mountain for a few years. He then left the U.S. to help start a craft brewery in Southwest Ireland called Killarney Brewing Company. Though he was enjoying the craft, Rosette missed the Gorge; like many others, he found his way back, and took a job as head brewer at Thunder Island in Cascade Locks.
It’s here that Rosette believes his reputation as a brewer began to gather a following. He assisted Thunder Island in opening and establishing their new brewery space. Rosette said that Lake Taco still offers several Thunder Island beers on tap.
“I brought the skills of making balanced beers from Ireland and consistency from brew school [to Thunder Island],” Rosette said.
He spent around three and a half years there and, once the new head brewer was prepared at the new location, left that position to pursue his own project.
“I decided that the next thing I do is going to be my own,” he said.
However, COVID-19 delayed his start and he dipped back into IT jobs while social spaces were shut down. Rosette took the long route to opening but once public congregating was allowed, his brewery plans commenced.
In January 2022, Rosette formed the Spinning Wheels Project and began to figure out licensing and branding ideas. He settled on the name for a few reasons, like its reference to bicycling as well as the colloquial meaning, sitting on an idea for a while, just as he was spinning his wheels on the idea of a brewery for a long time.
The project logo is a reference to bike gears and another essential component of his taproom: Music. The inner circle of the gear in the Spinning Wheels logo is designed to look like the a 45 rpm record insert. Rosette has acoustic treatments and special lighting in the taproom to add to the vinyl-inspired atmosphere, as well as a speaker on the corner of Oak Street to draw pedestrians in for a pint.
Rosette takes pride in his brewer-owned business, driving to his workspace in Portland on brew days and packaging days. “I know what’s going on in the industry and I wanted to create a gathering space. I appreciate the community pub or taproom like they have in Ireland — I’d like to bring back that local pub feel,” he said.
His first few brews have included a pale ale, a Mexican lager, and collaboration beers like a red ale with Double Mountain and an Italian pilsner with Ferment. He also has an IPA in the works with an art collaboration for the can design.
“I want to control the quality so I’m only doing draft or local cans right now. The goal is to have people come to the source for the beer,” Rosette said. He’s not yet interested in larger production or distribution, instead focusing on gathering a local following. He does plan to branch into special events, but does not plan to close his doors to regulars for private events.
“July 4 and Christmas might be the only days I decide to close,” Rosette laughed. His current hours are 4-8 p.m. every day except Friday and Saturday, when the hours are 8-10 p.m. He has a few part-time employees but Rosette is there every day, enjoying his hands-on approach and creating the right aesthetic for his taproom. He mentioned his “soft play” business moves, like organic growth and building a faithful following.
With goals like building a stage and on-site brewing, Rosette is grateful to have established roots in the Gorge years prior to starting his own brewery. His friends helped design and hand-make many elements of the taproom, including the taps and spouts, drip tray, drinks rails, and bar.
The wall art is comprised of photos from Rosette’s personal stash, concert posters, and memories with family he has collected. “Everything in here has a personal experience and story behind it. I like being able to be creative and do my thing. Making the beer, seeing people enjoy my work, and curating something personable,” he said.
Rosette is excited to share the space with Lake Taco, since he does not want to do anything more than snacks. His menu is simple, with options like pickles and Japanese style cocktail peanuts. The patio, which is dog-friendly, is home to Taquito, the resident cat at Spinning Wheels and Lake Taco.
“Lake Taco and the [Spinning Wheels] taproom have become symbiotic businesses, it’s been great,” he said. Customers can order upstairs and bring a buzzer down to the brewery, or enjoy their food there once it’s ready. Lake Taco is open anytime Spinning Wheels is except Mondays, and they adjusted their hours to offer a late-night menu on weekends. Details can usually be found on their Instagram, @spinningwheelsbp.
Rosette’s sights are set on building a stage on the back patio for live performances and getting fire pits for the coming winter.
“I want people to be able to come here and feel comfortable,” he said, believing that positive word of mouth is the best marketing.
Beer-lovers may very well have a new community spot to frequent, complete with vinyl records and tacos. “Anyone selling old record collections might have a new buyer, too,” Rosette added.