Oblivion brewmaster Darin Butschy (left) recruited three new partners last fall, and their capital, enthusiasm and labor have re-invigorated sales and visibility. Pictured, clockwise: Bryan Harrison, Chris Springer and Ryan McDevitt. Photo courtesy of Ryan Schneider, Oblivion marketing/digital media coordinator
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oblivion Brewing in Bend has been on an economic roller coaster since opening in the summer of 2013.
Owner/brewer Darin Butschy and his wife started the small eastside brewery. Sales were slow at first, especially since it was a bare-bones, two-person operation with self-distribution out of their Subaru. The clean, crisp, easy-drinking beers soon gained a following and a local restaurant owner decided to open a pub on Northwest Galveston Avenue and feature Oblivion’s beer.
“We gave them rights to our name. We had nothing to do with the pub itself. We had all eight tap handles,” said Butschy. The pub was busy — too busy for owner Jon Sargent and he closed it after seven months at the end of 2015.
“It hurt the name,” said Butschy. “People thought the brewery was closed.”
When the couple split up, Butschy was on his own for a while. Business was definitely down. That’s when he recruited three friends to help shore up the operation. Together, they bought 65 percent of the company and Butschy retained 35 percent. Chris Springer, who worked at JELD-WEN for 23 years before retiring a couple of years ago, is now the assistant brewer and production manager. “When we came to meet Darin we really liked his beer and wanted to be involved,” he explained. The rest of the trio includes Bryan Harrison, who handles business management, and Ryan McDevitt, who is in charge of sales and distribution. “We have 85 active accounts now. We self-distribute all over Central Oregon in Bend, Redmond, Prineville, La Pine, Sisters and Sunriver. We are talking with distributors now,” McDevitt said.
Starting last fall when the new partners came on board, the brewery has seen steady growth. Production alone has increased to 60 barrels a month — three times the amount made in the same period of time last year. A small office was recently repurposed as a taproom inside the brewery for tastings and growler fills. The space is similar to Boneyard Brewery — no frills, just beer. While there are limited hours at this point, Butschy said drop-ins are welcome if you call ahead since someone is almost always there working.
Butschy learned to brew at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo, Calif. while he was studying chemistry at Cal Poly. “I was there for six years during the time when Firestone Walker was negotiating a buyout,” said Butschy, “foreshadowing what it has become.” His brewing work brought him into contact with California’s craft leaders like Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Anderson Valley Brewing Company.
He moved to Bend for the Northwest lifestyle and the excellent water. “I kept brewing to stay sharp on my game,” he said. As he saw more and more breweries pop up, he decided to go commercial. “I brew more traditional beers. I try to keep it balanced and traditional. That’s the way I was trained, not swaying away from what beer should be.”
His 10-barrel system includes a couple of 10-barrel fermenters along with one 20-barrel vessel and two 40-barrel tanks. Business manager Harrison is not stopping there, though, adding that “six more 40-barrels are on our wish list.”
The top-selling flagship beer is an IRA called Road Ryder, described as a “dry-hopped bomb.” Introduced as a fall seasonal, it took off and is now available year-round. “Our red is one of the best; it’s where we stand out,” said Harrison.
Oblivion has six regular beers, with additional seasonals and a few one-offs. All the beer is draft only. Other beers include a German-style pilsner with German lager yeast and hops in accordance with the German purity laws, a summer ISA, an IPA with five different Oregon hops and a stout featuring ten malts. Butschy is also aging a blond in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for the low-production/specialty XTap at the Bend Brewfest in August. Additionally, Oblivion’s Oblivious Blonde recently won the Central Oregon Beer Week SMaSH (single malt and single hop) competition. It’s customary for the winner to brew the official Central Oregon Beer Week beer the following year.
With that victory and a path for continued growth, Butschy and his new partners are looking forward to reestablishing Oblivion in Central Oregon and they’re having a good time while doing it.
Oblivion Brewing Co.
63027 Plateau Drive, Suite 4, Bend
Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Acacia Cooper started as brewmaster at Climate City at the end of May. The native Bend-ite is happy to be back in her home state. “I had always had it in my mind to return at some point to buy property and start a family, so it was wonderful timing when the brewmaster job opened up.” Photo courtesy of Acacia Cooper
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The new head brewer at Climate City Brewing Co. is ready to shake up the status quo in her brewhouse. Acacia Cooper, who started working at the Grants Pass business at the end of May, said she is coming into the new position with the goal of diversifying the beer offerings at her workplace.
“It’s very common for a brewery to have only one strain of yeast and use it exclusively, but I want to brew beer styles from all over the world with all different kinds of yeasts and with all kinds of unique ingredients,” Cooper explained. “I want to push the boundaries of what is traditionally considered "beer" ingredients and expose people to some extremely different, creative and delicious beers. I've already got styles on tap from Germany, England, France and the U.S., and I'm planning on introducing many more.”
Cooper, who graduated from Southern Oregon University five years ago, got her start in the industry with a paid-in-beer internship at Ashland’s Standing Stone Brewing Company. Like many professional brewers before her, Cooper became fascinated with the mix of art, biology and chemistry after taking up the hobby of homebrewing in college. “So, instead of pursuing my pre-med degree I decided to follow my heart, got my degree in chemistry anyway, and applied it to brewing,” she said.
The stint at Standing Stone was followed by a summer as an intern at Snake River Brewery in Wyoming. Cooper landed her first job at California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company, where she was the lead research and development brewer for four years. She believes that prepared her to take on the new role.
By taking the job at Climate City, the native Bend-ite gets to be back in her home state. “I had always had it in my mind to return at some point to buy property and start a family, so it was wonderful timing when the brewmaster job opened up at Climate City,” Cooper said. Her perfect desert-island beer is, in an appropriate nod to her hometown, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale. When not working up a sweat in the brewhouse, Cooper enjoys organic gardening with her husband and making compost tea. But tranquil pastimes are not her only passion. Cooper welcomes a good, old-fashioned bar fight, so take note of her guns if you happen to see her after work.
“I'm also pretty good at arm-wrestling, and can sometimes be talked into friendly competition at the bar after a few good pints of craft beer,” Cooper said. Consider yourself warned.
Climate City Brewing
[a] 509 SW G St., Grants Pass
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