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  • Steve Marcotte,

Northern Pine Brewing

A compassion for fellow Marines turned a hobby of crafting beer into a dream-come-true business for Northern Pine Brewing co-founders Aaron Ortega, Anne Ortega and Robert “Bobby” Parsons.

Northern Pine Brewing, 326 N. Horne St., offers a variety of craft beers, including ambers, cream ales, IPAs, pale ales, porters and stouts. The brewing collaborative began in 2009.

“Bobby (Parsons) was one of the first friends I met when Anne (Ortega) and I moved here from Oregon,” Northern Pine Brewing co-founder Aaron Ortega said. “I learned how to brew from Bobby. He has been brewing for about 14 years now. When Bobby was on deployment, he read a book about the chemistry of brewing. He read this book over and over, then came back home and started brewing.”

They began small.

“Anne and I started brewing on a stove top in our condo. Eventually, we bought a house and started upgrading our equipment,” said Aaron. “Then we started brewing together with Bobby. We were doing 10-gallon batches each. I would bring our equipment over to his place or he would bring his equipment to mine, doing two batches at a time. We added a third batch. So all at one time we would have three different beers boiling up and that was pretty cool.”

They brewed their beer for friends and word spread, so they began brewing for special events, weddings and fundraisers. A tragedy at Camp Pendleton spurred the team to take its brewing to the next level.

During a pre-deployment night training exercise in 2012, two helicopters collided, killing all on both aircraft.

“Whether you are in or you’re out, that’s your family. Always!” said Aaron. “We wanted to do something big to show our support for that. We came up with the idea of brewing a specialty beer for the Marines. A morale boost, something they could say cheers with to the fallen Marines.”

The original plan was to brew 25 gallons and then they decided to double it. “We went to the commanding officer and told him what we wanted to do. Let him know that the community was behind them and the job they had to do despite the tragedy,” Aaron explained. “He was all for it, but we discovered that this squadron was larger than the average squadron, so our plan was not going to be enough. Fifty gallons was just not enough beer.”

With their home brew equipment, it would have been difficult to brew one beer six different times.