Deaf owners offer special lesson in communication at Clackamas River Growlers

A taproom in Estacada will celebrate a special milestone this weekend, and there's a lot more than beer on the menu.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 7:03 AM PDT
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ESTACADA, Ore. (KPTV) - A taproom in Estacada will celebrate a special milestone this weekend, and there’s a lot more than beer on the menu.

Dozens of choices can be found on tap at Clackamas River Growlers, but owners Mark and Linnea have no problem picking their favorites.

“I know all of the beers, my favorite is an IPA,” said Mark.

“I like to travel around. I like ciders when it’s hot, stouts when it’s cold,” Linnea said.

The couple opened their Estacada business six years ago, fueled mostly by Mark’s love of craft beer, but it wasn’t just the diverse beverage selection that made this taproom so unique - both owners are deaf.

“I initially wondered how I would communicate with the community, with my hearing customers that didn’t know sign, I wasn’t sure,” Mark said.

When FOX 12 stopped by Clackamas River Growlers to speak with the owners, Linnea’s daughter Kristen provided translation. She doesn’t work at the taproom, and most days Mark might be the only person behind the bar.

“At first I was really nervous, and then I realized people really understand and they’re willing to learn and really make an effort to communicate,” Mark said.

For hearing customers, there’s a number of different ways you can order a drink. For one, they have little boards where you can write down you order, or there’s a number of signs throughout the taproom that will teach you how to order in sign language.

Clackamas River Growlers
Clackamas River Growlers(KPTV)

What seemed like a challenge six years ago actually became a fun calling card. Mark and Linnea say they have some regulars who are deaf and like to support a deaf-owned business. But the majority of their customers do hear and many of them learning a new way to communicate.

“And some people are surprised, ‘Oh wow, they’re deaf. Okay, we can figure this out.’ And they actually find it more exciting,” said Linnea.

This Saturday, Clackamas River Growlers will celebrate their anniversary in Estacada.

“We opened April 16 of 2016, so we will be having free pretzels, free food coming out, and just thanking the locals for supporting the business,” Mark said.

In the end, it’s all about raising a glass, making some friends and being part of a fun conversation, no matter how you say it or sign it.

Happy sixth anniversary to @crgrowlers ! The Estacada business is owned by Mark Long and @23mermaid who offer visitors...

Posted by Joe V. Fox 12 Oregon on Friday, April 15, 2022