Business: Local Watering Hole Offers Local-Only Brews

A lot has changed since Chris and Callie Fraser bought the local watering hole in Toledo about two years ago.

When it was still open, Harry’s Place was the sort of dive bar that small towns are famous for. Locals might have loved it, but it attracted a very specific kind of clientele. When the Frasers bought it, they wanted to keep the bar spirit alive, but they had broader vision for what it could be, thus the St. Helens Tap House was born.

Owner of the St. Helens Tap House, Callie Fraser, right, gets ready to leave the bar for the day on Monday afternoon in downtown Toledo.

Owner of the St. Helens Tap House, Callie Fraser, right, gets ready to leave the bar for the day on Monday afternoon in downtown Toledo.

“We wanted a place where people could come in and be comfortable,” Callie said.

They moved to Toledo about six years ago as a young couple in search of a business opportunity. Neither one had any connection to the town, but came because it was the halfway point between Chris’ Air Force job at Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord and Callie’s firefighter/paramedic job in Camas. Owning a bar wasn’t originally in the cards, but was kind of a natural progression from Chris’ passion for beer brewing and his impending retirement from the military.

“We already made our own beer so we said, ‘Huh, we have no experience but we’ll buy the tap house,’” Callie said.

A07_150616With a little community help, they remodeled the walls, installed a new floor and took out the old coolers and replaced them with a wall of 20 taps. At any given point, two to three of the beers are brewed by Chris in his backyard nanobrewery. Now they offer a rotating stable of beers that are only available in the tap house.

They grew the food menu to include a bunch of in-house smoked meats, then topped it all with a bar inlaid with more than 16,000 polished pennies. As a finishing note, they placed a lone 1896 buffalo head penny at the center of the bar. 

They’ve also started sponsoring several community events and clubs, such as the Toledo Lions Club, local fundraisers and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Katie Buswell, a long-time Toledo resident and friend of the Frasers, said she became friends with the couple quickly after returning to town from a decade-long career in the Coast Guard. As a service person herself, she understood the military life and was taken by their ambition.

“This place gives this town the young blood it needs. The brain trust is leaving, all the young kids are leaving” she said. “These are young people with vision and plans and want to change things.”

About the Tap House

The St. Helens Tap House and Grill is located at 112 Ramsey Way in Toledo. The telephone number is (360) 864-2700.

For more information, visit the business’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/St-Helens-Tap-House-Grill/129022517261871.

By Dameon Pesanti / dpesanti@chronline.com