From some of Oregon’s best wineries to award-winning craft breweries to facilities for fizzy kombucha and bespoke distilleries, O’Brien’s expertise and specific knowledge help shape the buildings that focus on fermentation.

Fermentation is one of humanity’s oldest practices, tracing its origins back to around 10,000 BCE. An integral part of various cultures throughout history, this ancient approach transforms food and beverages into more nutritious, flavorful, and sometimes medicinal products that have profoundly impacted human culture and technology.

Science + Art

At its core, fermentation is a chemical process where microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert sugars into simpler substances, such as ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is foundational to the creation of a wide array of products, including beer, wine, liquor, bread, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt. For alcoholic beverages specifically, fermentation involves converting sugars into ethyl alcohol, a process that has been perfected over millennia through trial, error, and keen observation.

Crafting Enjoyable Beverages

The appeal of fermented beverages lies not just in their alcohol content but in their sensory, nutritional, and sometimes pharmacological benefits. The joy of producing a beverage that people genuinely love is a significant motivator for those of us involved in the industry. From the grand opening of a new brewery to the first sip of a newly aged wine to a healthy glass of kombucha, the process brings immense satisfaction and joy to producers and consumers—as well as the architects and builders who design and construct these facilities. And its importance to Oregon’s economy is growing every year as production and sales of alcohol have become the state’s 3rd largest source of tax revenue.

Building the Perfect Facility

Over decades of hands-on experience designing and building these projects, our team has learned that creating a facility for beverage fermentation involves unique challenges depending on the type of beverage being produced.

Wineries: A winery is essentially an industrial plant inside of a custom home, combining equipment and processes with inviting hospitality components such as tasting rooms and event venues. The additional square footage required for bottle and barrel aging storage—sometimes in underground wine caves–can also be costly, but essential.

Breweries:  Whether repurposing an old building or constructing a new facility, creating spaces suitable for brewing consistently great beer requires literally tons of process equipment and an environment designed for stringent sanitation.

Kombucha: Probiotic beverages require large warehouses to house the numerous tanks necessary for the stages of fermentation, specifically designed and built for uniquely high humidity and specific environmental needs under which its symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) thrives.

Equipment & Infrastructure

Regardless of the type of beverage being fermented, the construction of these facilities is heavily reliant on specialized equipment and infrastructure. The building itself is a minor part of the overall cost; the real expense lies in the equipment, process piping, and support systems such as boilers, chillers, transfer pipes, and nitrogen generators. When planning projects, equipment needs and associated energy loads should be the very first thing pinned down to inform design requirements

Key considerations include

Water Quality: Essential for all types of fermentation, testing the water before establishing a facility is crucial to ensure it meets the necessary pH and microbial standards.

Sanitation: High water usage for constant wash-downs is common, especially in wineries and kombucha breweries. Breweries utilize CIP (clean-in-place) systems, which are crucial for maintaining sanitary conditions.

Ventilation: Proper ventilation is critical due to the production of CO2, a potentially hazardous gas. Facilities need appropriate flues, exhaust systems, and other mechanical equipment to ensure air quality and safety.

Drainage: Effective drainage systems with proper floor slopes and adequate sizing are vital to handle the effluent produced during the fermentation process.

Infrastructure: Site work can be unexpectedly significant depending on jurisdictional requirements for fire access roads, fire ponds, process waste, lighting, drainage, and septic.

Regulations: Navigating the myriad regulations surrounding alcohol production is essential to avoid costly pitfalls and ensure compliance with local laws such as land use, health department approvals, building codes, and Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) requirements.

The Role of Expertise

Successful fermentation facility projects require knowledgeable professionals who understand the intricacies of equipment, process piping, and fermentation operations. Hiring the right architect and contractor is crucial. These experts must manage budgets carefully, as not all clients have the financial flexibility of a tech mogul. It’s about creating efficient, cost-effective facilities that meet all regulatory and operational requirements.

Fermentation is a time-honored tradition that combines chemistry, art, and a deep understanding of microbial processes. Whether it’s crafting a fine wine, brewing a robust beer, or creating a refreshing kombucha, the journey from raw ingredients to a beloved beverage is both complex and rewarding. With the right expertise and infrastructure, the joy of fermentation can continue to flourish, delighting consumers and honoring ancient traditions.

Brew Dr Production Equipment
Creating the Kombucha
Brew Dr Production Facility

With five offices throughout Oregon, opportunities abound for O’Brien’s team members to get outside and enjoy all that the region has to offer for recreational activities. To celebrate Earth Month, we asked a team member from each region in which we have offices to share their personal “hidden gem” so that others can discover and explore Oregon’s natural beauty.

Central Oregon

“I love, love waterfalls in the spring–especially in Central Oregon. This time of the year, the snow is melting and the waterfalls get huge and have a lot of water volume coming over the edge. A couple of local favorites are Tumalo Falls and Benham Falls. But one that I love and have been going to since I was a kid with my parents is Sahalie Falls. It’s a gem in between Bend and Springfield off the Mackenzie Hwy and is absolutely amazing this time of the year. I definitely recommend a good waterfall!” – Leonard Jarvis, Assistant Project Manager.

Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls are located along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass and West Cascades National Scenic Byways off Highway 126. The Waterfalls Loop Trail, part of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, connects the two waterfalls and offers up close views of the wild McKenzie River. Sahalie Falls is a mass of foaming white water plunging 100 feet (30 m) over a natural lava dam. This famous falls can be spotted in Disney’s movie Homeward Bound.

Portland Metro

“Big fan of Dog Mountain in the Spring! A little more challenging of a hike but there are wildflower fields near the top that are beautiful.” – Alex Noble, Project Manager

Located East of Stevenson, Carson, and Home Valley, WA; West of White Salmon, WA, and across the river from Cascade Locks, OR, Dog Mountain Day Use Area and Trailhead is the access point for two of the most scenic trails in the Gorge, Dog Mountain Trail #147 and Augspurger Trail #4407. These two trails form a popular loop hike, if you connect via the 1.5 mile Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail.

The area is most popular for its spring-blooming yellow balsamroot meadows, which occur at its upper meadows. Look for other wildflowers, such as white phantom orchids, Indian paintbrush and purple lupine, that add color to the mix. During the peak spring wildflower season, a permit is required to park at the Dog Mtn Trailhead parking lot on Saturdays and Sundays. Permit season for 2024 is April 27 – June 16 and Memorial Day. If there are no permits available, hikers may take the shuttle from Stevenson and a hand stamp will serve as your hiking permit.

Oregon Coast

“Kayaking in the Yaquina Bay gives you a great experience to get up close to sea lions and the NOAA research vessels, and check out a huge variety of waterfowl, including Great Blue Herons and Brown pelicans. On the south side of the Yaquina Bridge by the Rogue Brewers on the Bay is a non-motorized boat launch–and a great walking pier you can fish and crab from, or just enjoy the view of the bridge.” – Rian Martinsen, Director of Safety.

Kayaking Yaquina Bay provides enthusiasts with an intimate way to explore its diverse ecosystem, from its tranquil estuaries to its bustling harbor. Paddlers can enjoy lovely views of the Oregon coast while gliding through calm waters, encountering wildlife such as seals, seabirds, and even occasional whales. With convenient launch points and opportunities for both leisurely paddling and more adventurous exploration, Yaquina Bay offers recreation for kayakers of all skill levels.

Willamette Valley

“My recommendation is Silver Falls. There are several really nice hikes around the falls and the adjacent area. There is a sort of a cave behind the falls that is part of the trail where you can sit and have a snack while enjoying the view.” – Jeff Stafford, Superintendent

The Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is a breathtaking hiking experience renowned for its natural beauty and cascading waterfalls. Spanning around 8.7 miles, this well-maintained trail winds through lush forests, offering stunning viewpoints of ten majestic waterfalls along the way. As visitors explore the Trail of Ten Falls, they are immersed in the tranquil ambiance of the Pacific Northwest, making it an unforgettable outdoor adventure.


Earth Month is a vibrant celebration of sustainability and environmental stewardship, with communities coming together for events like tree plantings, beach cleanups, and educational workshops. Throughout April, we highlight projects and activities that protect the region’s diverse ecosystems, promoting a greener and more sustainable future for generations to come.

NATURE’S HIDDEN GEMS

With five offices throughout Oregon, opportunities abound for O’Brien’s team members to get outside and enjoy all that the region has to offer for recreational activities. To celebrate Earth Month, we asked a team member from each region in which we have offices to share their personal “hidden gem” so that others can discover and explore Oregon’s natural beauty.

Central Oregon

“I love, love waterfalls in the spring–especially in Central Oregon. This time of the year, the snow is melting and the waterfalls get huge and have a lot of water volume coming over the edge. A couple of local favorites are Tumalo Falls and Benham Falls. But one that I love and have been going to since I was a kid with my parents is Sahalie Falls. It’s a gem in between Bend and Springfield off the Mackenzie Hwy and is absolutely amazing this time of the year. I definitely recommend a good waterfall!” Leonard Jarvis, Assistant Project Manager.

Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls are located along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass and West Cascades National Scenic Byways off Highway 126. The Waterfalls Loop Trail, part of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, connects the two waterfalls and offers up close views of the wild McKenzie River. Sahalie Falls is a mass of foaming white water plunging 100 feet (30 m) over a natural lava dam. This famous falls can be spotted in Disney’s movie Homeward Bound.

Portland Metro

“Big fan of Dog Mountain in the Spring! A little more challenging of a hike but there are wildflower fields near the top that are beautiful.” Alex Noble, Project Manager

Located East of Stevenson, Carson, and Home Valley, WA; West of White Salmon, WA, and across the river from Cascade Locks, OR, Dog Mountain Day Use Area and Trailhead is the access point for two of the most scenic trails in the Gorge, Dog Mountain Trail #147 and Augspurger Trail #4407. These two trails form a popular loop hike, if you connect via the 1.5 mile Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail.

The area is most popular for its spring-blooming yellow balsamroot meadows, which occur at its upper meadows. Look for other wildflowers, such as white phantom orchids, Indian paintbrush and purple lupine, that add color to the mix. During the peak spring wildflower season, a permit is required to park at the Dog Mtn Trailhead parking lot on Saturdays and Sundays. Permit season for 2024 is April 27 – June 16 and Memorial Day. If there are no permits available, hikers may take the shuttle from Stevenson and a hand stamp will serve as your hiking permit.

Oregon Coast

“Kayaking in the Yaquina Bay gives you a great experience to get up close to sea lions and the NOAA research vessels, and check out a huge variety of waterfowl, including Great Blue Herons and Brown pelicans. On the south side of the Yaquina Bridge by the Rogue Brewers on the Bay is a non-motorized boat launch–and a great walking pier you can fish and crab from, or just enjoy the view of the bridge.” Rian Martinsen, Director of Safety.

Kayaking Yaquina Bay provides enthusiasts with an intimate way to explore its diverse ecosystem, from its tranquil estuaries to its bustling harbor. Paddlers can enjoy lovely views of the Oregon coast while gliding through calm waters, encountering wildlife such as seals, seabirds, and even occasional whales. With convenient launch points and opportunities for both leisurely paddling and more adventurous exploration, Yaquina Bay offers recreation for kayakers of all skill levels.

Willamette Valley

“My recommendation is Silver Falls. There are several really nice hikes around the falls and the adjacent area. There is a sort of a cave behind the falls that is part of the trail where you can sit and have a snack while enjoying the view.” Jeff Stafford, Superintendent

The Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is a breathtaking hiking experience renowned for its natural beauty and cascading waterfalls. Spanning around 8.7 miles, this well-maintained trail winds through lush forests, offering stunning viewpoints of ten majestic waterfalls along the way. As visitors explore the Trail of Ten Falls, they are immersed in the tranquil ambiance of the Pacific Northwest, making it an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

The March 2023 International Mass Timber Conference was the largest gathering of mass timber experts in the world. Our booth was a hub for meeting new people and sharing information.

We met people from all over the world exploring the role of innovative wood products in design + construction

With nearly 3,000 people attending from around the globe, the 2023 International Mass Timber Conference provided our enthusiastic team with a smorgasbord of opportunities to learn new things and meet new people in a shared exploration of innovative wood products currently being used and under development. From cross-laminated timber and glulam mass plywood panels to dowel-laminated timber, and laminated veneer lumber, we were blown away by the potential of these products and approaches to design and build projects that are more beautiful and high performing.

This conference is recognized in our industry as the most important single event to learn about innovative wood products.

Our booth was a big success and our people came back with new approaches that we can immediately apply to projects. “One real benefit of being at this conference is that we learned quite a bit more about Glue Laminated Timber (GLT). After about half an hour spent talking with Tom at Vaagen about the pros and cons of GLT vs. CLT, we were able to directly apply this new information to our Accretech project by suggesting swapping out GLT rather than CLT, which lowers the cost while maintaining high performance.  With this minor change, we eliminated about half of the CLT beams required to build Accretech,” says Sarah Young. 

The March 2023 International Mass Timber Conference was the largest gathering of mass timber experts in the world. Our booth was a hub for meeting new people and sharing information.

We met people from all over the world exploring the role of innovative wood products in design + construction

With nearly 3,000 people attending from around the globe, the 2023 International Mass Timber Conference provided our enthusiastic team with a smorgasbord of opportunities to learn new things and meet new people in a shared exploration of innovative wood products currently being used and under development. From cross-laminated timber and glulam mass plywood panels to dowel-laminated timber, and laminated veneer lumber, we were blown away by the potential of these products and approaches to design and build projects that are more beautiful and high performing.

This conference is recognized in our industry as the most important single event to learn about innovative wood products.

Our booth was a big success and our people came back with new approaches that we can immediately apply to projects. “One real benefit of being at this conference is that we learned quite a bit more about Glue Laminated Timber (GLT). After about half an hour spent talking with Tom at Vaagen about the pros and cons of GLT vs. CLT, we were able to directly apply this new information to our Accretech project by suggesting swapping out GLT rather than CLT, which lowers the cost while maintaining high performance.  With this minor change, we eliminated about half of the CLT beams required to build Accretech,” says Sarah Young. 

We are speechless. Three of our projects were recognized at the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon 2022 Top Projects Awards last night.

We received two first place prizes for Nestucca K-8 Expansion (General Contractor) and Amaterra Winery (Owner’s Rep). Additionally, Steeplejack Brewery was awarded second place, a project our OCA team proudly designed.

Huge congratulations to the teams that worked on these projects and all other companies that were recognized for their contributions to our communities.

PROJECT TEAMS:
Nestucca Valley School DistDLR GroupDAY CPM Services LLCZCS Engineering & ArchitectureOtakO’Brien/Open Concept Architecture

Steeplejack Brewing CompanySwinertonColeBreit EngineeringCentral Geotechnical ServicesWaypoint Contracting Inc. O’Brien/Open Concept Architecture

Amaterra WinesGBD ArchitectsEmerick Construction CompanyGlumac InternationalHumber Design Group, Inc.TM Rippey Consulting EngineersO’Brien/Open Concept Architecture