Brewery in the Front, Party Acres in the Back

by | Mar 30, 2023

Big dreams become a big reality with Backwoods Brewing’s new property in Carson, Washington

Even when we have the most comprehensive plans in place, dreams often need a bit of luck to become reality.

Few know that more acutely than the Waters family of Carson, Washington, which pounced on the unexpected and auspicious availability in 2020 of a 19-acre tract of bare land 200 yards from the current site of Backwoods Brewing Company’s taproom, which the family has operated in the Columbia River Gorge town of 2,800 since 2012.

On that land, the Waters clan is building Party Acres, the pie-in-the-sky brewery-resort-in-the-woods dream of family patriarch, Jim Waters, and his friends. In their younger days, they all pined for a rural getaway spot such as this.

“Party Acres is so fanciful and legendary-sounding that it’s almost magic that this opportunity showed up in the first place,” says Steve Waters, Jim’s son and CEO of Backwoods. “We’re so lucky to even get this chance.”

The Waters family currently rents both the taproom in Carson and the 20-barrel production facility in Stevenson, five miles west down the Gorge. With the Party Acres dream now becoming realized, the Waters family can bring all their holdings under one roof, so to speak.

When they leased the Party Acres site from a private seller late in the summer of 2020, they accomplished everything in one move, with the realization of Jim’s dream as the cherry on top.

“We got a good deal for the land, but with the pandemic just starting, we wondered if that was the time to invest in land to pursue this dream,” Steve says. “We talked about it a lot, and negotiated with the seller on monthly payments so we could hang onto it while we made our big plans.”

Steve and the family knew they wanted to put family-friendly, pet-friendly, for-rent cabins on the property first, and started construction on the first eight one-bedroom, en-suite cabins late in 2022. 

Steve reports that those cabins are basically finished, courtesy of local contractor Wind River LLC, with only finishing touches remaining before they’ll be available to rent in May or June.

Folks can get on a mailing list at Backwoods’ website if they’re interested in the cabins, and when all is ready, the website will have a button leading to the booking engine.

The eight cabins are only the first phase of the Party Acres development project, which is slated for year-round use. The second phase centers on moving the Stevenson production brewery and the Carson taproom onto the Party Acres property.

More amenities are scheduled to follow, including a proposed disc golf course, more cabins (including two-bedroom units), a small campground for tent camping, a small amphitheater to host live music and a zipline course.

“It’s our first time developing bare land like this, and there are a lot of things to think about, like getting utilities out there and there are stormwater concerns since the land is on a bit of a hill,” Steve says. “Thankfully, we’re crazy people and do silly stuff all the time. But 19 acres is a big canvas to work on, and we really had to sit down and think about how we want to orient the property.”

For example, the cabins will be tucked away at Party Acres, giving them a secluded feel conducive to a woodsy getaway.

“We want to make sure the cabins will be away from the brewery and pub, so people don’t feel like it’s just a big party on site,” Steve says. “With a name like Party Acres, there could be the impression that it’s just a place where you just get wasted, and that’s not not what we want. It’s still a getaway, and Party Acres can be a jumping-off point for other fun things to do nearby.”

Backwoods’ current taproom in Carson shares its space with the Carson General Store, also owned by the Waters family. When the taproom moves to Party Acres, the store will occupy the whole space and be rebranded as Backwoods Country Market, and will be available to help Party Acres guests stock the kitchenettes in their cabins.

The family will lean on the services of Carson taproom general manager Nic Peterson and Party Acres cabins manager Kelsey King during the transition, but Jim and his wife, Debbie, Steve and his brother, Tom, are hospitality veterans who aren’t babes in the woods when it comes to the transition from brewery/taproom owners to resort operators.

“My parents operated a bed and breakfast out of our own house when we were kids, and they owned the Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins 15-16 years ago that are still right across the street from us now,” Steve says. “Doing that was a huge passion for my mom and dad, and it would be a lot more difficult to jump into something like this if they hadn’t cut their teeth on those kinds of businesses before.”

Those familiar with the brewery resort model that Backwoods is going after in Carson will naturally draw comparisons with McMenamin’s, the chain of pubs, restaurants and hospitality spaces across Washington and Oregon. 

Backwoods’ plans for Party Acres have similar tenets, but on a smaller scale.

“We don’t have the same amount of space that they have, but we’re hospitality people. That’s what we do best as a brand. We give people a comfortable place to hang out,” Steve says.

“Yes, this was a miracle thing that fell into our laps, but at the same time it felt 100% our speed, down the line,” adds Steve. We’re definitely open to expanding on Party Acres in the future. We love this model. We get the best reaction out of people when they come out and visit us in person and we have a chance to show them who we are. Having people stay with us for a long weekend, and showing them we care about what we do only increases that involvement.”


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