By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The sparkling idea old Joe Priestley had back in 1767 didn't reach its most useful purpose until 2014.
It was 247 years ago when the chemist, who lived next to a brewery and began experimenting with their gas in Leeds, England, made carbonated water. But he stopped there. Making draft beer portable would have to wait.
As you know, beer naturally carbonates during fermentation; yeast eats sugar, making alcohol and carbon dioxide. Problem is that when you take the beer out of the barrel, air gets in and spoils the brew. So to take Joe’s discovery a step further, someone would need to fill that empty space in a barrel with what was called “fixed air” and preserve the freshness. Eventually this would lead to kegs — big kegs for taverns and pubs, pony kegs, Cornelius kegs, none of which are very portable. They are heavy and require attached external devices to get the beer out. But jump ahead to modern times at a bar in Portland and you’ll find another option.
“To keep good beer from going bad.” That’s what I told the guy on the stool next to me when he asked why I paid $149 for the stainless steel uKeg the ponytailed bartender at the Widmer Pub in North Portland was filling with Altbier. When I went on to explain that the uKeg is easy to use and keeps beer fresh for up to two weeks, he chuckled and said, “Who keeps beer around that long?” So, I asked him, “Haven't you ever had a beer you wanted to enjoy a little at a time, a seasonal release or, maybe, after you fill a growler you don’t feel like drinking it all in a couple of days?” “Well,” he said, “how do they keep beer fresh in that big can?”
This is where a trip to an Oregon beach comes in.
“I brought a glass growler and a cooler.” Standing in the front office of GrowlerWerks in Southeast Portland, Shawn Huff recalls how inspiration for the uKeg came from the good beer he’d put in his glass growler. “It was a Boneyard RPM IPA. I drank it one day, put it down, didn't drink the second day and then pulled it back out on the third day. It was flat. It was oxidized. All the work the brewer put into that IPA was ruined.”
So, I was thinking — pressurized growler,” Shawn Huff explains. “I saw some other people were doing it, but no one really from an engineering design perspective.”
Engineers! Brewers get a lot of attention. But who knows the engineers? Meet three you should know: Huff, Brian Sonnichsen and Evan Rege. (Evan was at a manufacturing plant in China when I visited the GrowlerWerks research-and-development warehouse.) Brian explains they met while working for ClearEdge Power, an alternative-energy company. He says Shawn’s idea for a pressurized growler came at just the right time.
“ClearEdge Power went out of business as we were working on this as an after-hours hobby, trying to figure out how to make it work.” Brian has a degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 13 patents to his credit. Evan has a UC Berkeley degree in mechanical design and knows how to build fuel cells. Shawn owns four patents and is a chemical engineer; but, just as important, he won a business plan competition in college. All of that schooling and experience set them up for a dive into entrepreneurship. Brian says they figured, “What the heck? Let’s try this for six months because we can. There’s a program in Oregon that will let you start a business and you don’t have to look for a job for six months. It worked out fantastically.”
Some of the technology involved in making the uKeg is confidential and now being patented in both the U.S. and overseas. But when Brian and Shawn share what they can about how the uKeg works, it sounds simple.
“This is a double-walled, insulated vessel, so it keeps beer cold.” Shawn points out the first thing you’ll probably notice about the uKeg is a brass pipe climbing from the bottom of the vessel to a mini-tap at the top. “We go through the vessel so the beer exits from the bottom.”
Putting the tap on top means they can store a CO2 cartridge inside the variable pressure-regulation cap. “What that allows is you can put the top on, and once it is on you can set this dial and it automatically maintains your carbonation level. So all you have to do is pour.”
Thumbing through the owner’s manual that comes with the uKeg, Brian points out various carbonation settings, from 6 pounds per square inch (PSI) for stout, porter and cream ale to 12 PSI for lager, pilsner or even kombucha. A window on what they call the “sight tube” shows how much beer is in the uKeg. You can check it before you grab the brass handle provided for making your fresh draft beer portable.
“Our brand,” Brian reminds us, “is keeping beer fresh and being able to take it with you.”
Joe Priestley would be proud.
The GrowlerWerks trio has encountered some interesting liquor laws as they’ve moved into new markets. In Florida, there was a law allowing for gallon-sized growler fills, but not half-gallon sizes. In another state, the tap on a freshly filled growler had to be shrink-wrapped to prevent customers from pouring while driving. And when beer drinkers in Japan received the growlers they were due as part of the Kickstarter campaign, they found that Japanese law does not allow for growler fills.
For more information on the uKeg, go to growlerwerks.com.
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
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s difficult to believe Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing is already 10 years old.
But from its humble beginnings, the quickly growing brewery is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, complete with another pub opening this spring in its hometown.
A lot has happened in those 10 years, including the now-famous purchase of the brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014.
The new brewpub, which is located on 10 Barrel’s east side Bend campus, is part of a larger expansion. A new building in excess of 60,000 square feet will be where all of 10 Barrel’s packaging and shipping takes place. It also includes warehouse space. 10 Barrel had easily outgrown its current facilities.
“It’s going to be great to be able to spread out in new offices, to have a little more room.” 10 Barrel brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit told Oregon Beer Growler.
But for people in Bend and fans of the beer in Oregon, the brewpub is perhaps the most exciting news.
10 Barrel’s original brewpub on the west side of Bend is a cozy affair, and often overflowing with guests during peak hours and on weekends.
The new pub will offer a similar intimate experience to that one, but will feature some of the same feel as bigger 10 Barrel pubs in Portland, Boise, Denver and San Diego (scheduled to open in April) with exposed wood, concrete and steel.
Display windows in the pub look into the new 10 Barrel facility. Patrons will also get views of the Cascade Mountains from the patio.
The new pub should do well as soon as the doors open, as the east side of Bend is underserved in terms of brewpubs, with only Worthy Brewing in the vicinity. (It also comes as another of Bend’s biggest breweries, Boneyard Beer, has plans to open a pub this year near downtown.)
Lovers of 10 Barrel’s beer will be happy to know that there are 22 taps on site. That gives the pub the ability to offer a variety of exclusive brews in addition to 10 Barrel’s flagship and seasonal-run beers.
Ian Larkin, formerly of Bend Brewing Company, will head up the brewing for the pub. That reunites him with Tonya Cornett, another Bend Brewing alum working at 10 Barrel. Bend Brewing has consistently produced award-winning beers before and after Cornett’s departure.
Seifrit said he plans to turn Larkin loose to make cool and unique beers, including special barrel-aged and sour beers.
“I told him I want him to come in here and go crazy, and take every idea you want to do, and do it,” Seifrit said. “My mantra is not to micromanage. My job is to give guidance and be an enabler — put the materials in their hands and do the best beer they can.”
10 Barrel tells Oregon Beer Growler that the new pub’s “estimated opening is the end of May," with an exact date still up in the air as of press time. You can find the new pub at 62970 NE 18th St. in Bend. 10 Barrel is also hosting a 10th anniversary party on campus on Saturday, May 13th, featuring a free concert headlined by hip-hop group De La Soul.
The pub is perhaps the biggest change in town. But the new facility is obviously going to change things for 10 Barrel far beyond Bend. The company and Seifrit maintain the brewery holds onto its roots, no matter how big it gets.
“Now, as we’re able to increase capacity, we’ll slowly start sharing the beer with people around the country,” Seifrit said. “But No. 1, we’re always going to focus on our core market — that will be tried and true until the day we die. As a company, we never want to forget where we came from and the people that supported us.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When the 2017 American Hop Convention came to Bend in January, it sparked a unique opportunity for the craft beer community in Central Oregon.
The convention, which is held in different cities across the country annually, examines the future and history of the hop industry across several days. It attracts hundreds of people associated with the beer industry.
But such a big event doesn’t come through relatively small towns like Bend all the time, so the brewers in the region decided to take the opportunity to do something special.
A variety of brewers came together — via the Central Oregon Brewers Guild — to brew a special beer for the convention, called Oregon Tr’Ale IPA.
Robin Johnson, the assistant brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery’s Bend location, recounted the effort to get a beer ready for the convention at the urging of Crux Fermentation Project’s Larry Sidor. More than a dozen folks from area breweries got together at the pub, as Johnson recalled.
“As we started kicking around ideas, everyone really liked the idea that it would be an all-Oregon brew,” Johnson said.
No detail was spared in making sure it was an Oregon-centric beer:
—Experimental hops came from Willamette Valley Hops.
--Madras’ Mecca Grade Estate Malt, used by several area breweries already, was tapped for the malt.
—The label is in the shape of the state of Oregon.
—The bottle cap features the state seal.
Picking the style was an easy choice, given the platform for the beer.
“We said, let’s do an IPA here,” Johnson said. “Let’s showcase the hops and show the convention what we can do as Central Oregon brewers.”
The group settled on using two varieties of experimental hops from Willamette and the Vanora and Pelton malts from Mecca Grade.
In all, 10 breweries had a hand in conceptualizing the beer and making the idea a reality. Boneyard Beer did the brewing, Deschutes coordinated the gathering of raw materials and Crux provided the bottling machine. A variety of breweries helped with the bottling process.
Showcasing hops was a major theme throughout the week in January when the convention was in town. Growers offered up experimental hops to area brewers who wanted to play around with them. Crux put 18 of those beers on display at a special tasting at its Bend pub.
But the biggest effort came with Oregon Tr’Ale. Will we see any more collaborations in the future from the Central Oregon craft brewing scene? Don’t count out the possibility.
“For this beer, we saw an opportunity to do something cool for Oregon,” Johnson said. “We would all be open to do it again in the future. It was a really positive experience and we felt really good about the beer we produced.
“But we’re all pretty busy guys with our own beers,” Johnson said with a laugh.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The craft beer scene in Central Oregon is constantly evolving, with new breweries and events every year, and changes to the existing ones. Here’s a look at what to watch for in Bend-area brewing and beyond.
The most anticipated craft beer attraction in Bend for next year is an easy one: the coming brewpub from Boneyard Beer. One of the biggest beermakers in Bend has skipped out on having its own brewpub until now, with just a tasting room for samples and growler fills. But it has plans to open a pub on Northeast Division Street in the first half of 2017, after initially hoping to launch in 2016. Co-founder Tony Lawrence says patrons can expect to see 16 beers on tap — mostly Boneyard but a few guest taps, too — along with food, outdoor seating and a specialty cocktail bar. Also in 2017: Look for bottle-conditioned sours from Boneyard sometime in the first quarter.
10 Barrel’s Expansion
The Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned craft brewer is in the midst of a major expansion — more than 60,000 square feet — on the east side of Bend that will more than double its current space. While most of that new room is dedicated to production and distribution, The (Bend) Bulletin has reported that a restaurant and outdoor patio are part of the plans, although 10 Barrel Brewing has been mum on the details.
The Hopservatory — a giant telescope run in conjunction with the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver — should be open by January. Part of a major construction project at Worthy Brewing Company, the telescope is definitely the most unique offering from a Central Oregon brewery. Both public and private tours of the facility will be available for a fee.
Bend Brewing’s Beer Garden
Bend Brewing Company is hoping to have its outdoor space open for business by summer. After years of being surrounded by empty lots, it should be a big upgrade for one of Bend’s oldest breweries. The beer garden is likely to feature a pouring station, a fire pit and an area for live music. Bend Brewing is also actively looking to increase its production and distribution, so you may be able to find its beers on more taps in the not-too-distant future.
Prineville’s Second Brewery
Crooked River Brewing won’t be offering up its own beers when it opens in January, joining Ochoco Brewing Company as the second brewpub in the town. But it will have more than a dozen craft brews on tap in its expansive space on North Main Street, according to owner Jesse Toomey. Visitors will also be able to play a variety of games, like cornhole, pool and foosball. Crooked River’s own beer should come sometime in the second half of 2017, once the proper permits and licenses are acquired.
Terrebonne’s First Brewery
Another brewery on tap for 2017 is Terrebonne’s Good Earth Brewing. On the site of Smith Rock Hop Farm, the brewery will use any hops the farm doesn’t sell in its own beers. Good Earth hopes to specialize in styles one wouldn’t normally see in the region: from barrel-aged saisons to kriek lambics.
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