In the past 15 years, Dean Howes of Vagabond Brewing has lived a crazy life full of adventures most people can only imagine. Marine Corps combat veterans, Howes and two friends, James Cardwell and Alvin Klausen, traveled the world after a decade serving their country before finally settling in Oregon to go to school using the GI Bill. During their time in the military and traveling they found that beer really connected people and were motivated to open their own brewery in Salem, Oregon.
“I think we all really felt the vacuum created in our lives after leaving the service — you miss that connection and the community; it leaves a lot of guys kind of rudderless,” Howes says.
To battle that feeling, the trio started Vagabond both as a place to belong as well as a project to keep themselves busy and seeking success. Five years and four locations later, Vagabond has become that place where other vets and those looking to belong have come — for a beer and camaraderie.
1) What is your favorite Vagabond beer and why?
We have always brewed the beers we like to drink and paid close attention to popular styles and trends. My all-time favorite beer is probably our Into the Wild IPA — it is a more traditional West Coast-style IPA brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops. Recently I have been enjoying our various lagers and our array of Hazy NE style IPAs.
2) Many people don’t think of breweries as family friendly. Why was that important to you to have a family-friendly venue?
When we started Vagabond we didn’t have kids of our own but knew that many of our friends and family did. Your average craft drinker these days is likely to have them. Not all of our locations allow minors but the ones that do make sure to be an environment where you would enjoy taking them. We have games, arcades, changing tables and family areas. Now that we have kids of our own it’s that much better.
3) What are your pipe dreams? Anything new you’re working on?
We are always trying to push the envelope a bit with our beer styles. Trying new things is one of the joys of owning a brewing company this size. We are also constantly looking to the horizon for the next project or opportunity. Each new location for us has been more about recognizing opportunity as it comes our way and collectively steering towards that new goal. With the success we have seen so far and the support from our communities, who knows how far we can take things.
4) What are your favorite tunes to jam to when at the brewery?
We have a fairly eclectic taste in music around here. Lately the ambient music is likely to take a fairly random turn at any given moment. One of my partners, James, figured out how to play a new song of his choosing even if he is across town. This has turned into a bit of a musical war that specifically drives our shift brewer, Ryan, crazy. It’s not uncommon to walk in and hear Miley Cyrus at full volume while he’s toiling away in the brewery. In all fairness he could just turn it off. Maybe he likes it.