Bend Brewing anniversary and profile of Head Brewer Ian Larkin

Bend Brewing CompanyBend Brewing Company is 17 years old this year, and tomorrow, Saturday the 3rd, they are celebrating this 17th Anniversary with specials, live music, and a killer beer line-up:

Beginning at 4pm we will have 1/2 priced appetizers, as well as $2.75 pints. At 7pm there will be live music from Tone Red. Raffle prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.
On this special night we will have some of our most award winning beers on tap including; Outback X Strong Ale, HopHead Imperial IPA, Wicked Medicine Belgian Strong Ale, Scottish Heart Scotch Ale and 1 keg of Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter.

This year also sees BBC with a new Brewmaster, Ian Larkin, who was assistant brewer when Tonya Cornett was the Brewmaster. He stepped into the position when Cornett joined 10 Barrel at the end of last year, and I thought it would be befitting BBC’s 17th Anniversary to profile the new Brewmaster. I reached out with a series of questions and Larkin was kind enough to answer them in detail.

Ian Larkin

First of all, you’re officially Brewmaster over there, right? Are you brewing by yourself or do you have/will have an assistant brewer?

I am the sole brewer at BBC now and hope to be for some time to come. I have hired an assistant, his name is Josh Harned. Josh is an accomplished and enthusiastic homebrewer. He has a good grasp of the fundamentals of brewing, but just as I did, he will have to go through the school of hard knocks before getting to brew. Right now he is cleaning and moving kegs, learning how to clean/sanitize/purge serving tanks, and I hope to have him doing transfers for me by this summer.

Prior to BBC, what’s your brewing background? I see on your [Facebook] profile that you studied with American Brewers Guild, was BBC your first gig?

Prior to BBC, I had been homebrewing for about 6 years. I was taught the basics by Tony Luciano (former brewers assistant at BBC) and was lucky enough to have Paul Arney (of Ale Apothecary, and former Deschutes Pub Brewmaster) loan me his homebrew system for 4 of those years. Having been friends with Tonya Cornett for a long while, and picking her brain for brewing tips for years, when Tony left BBC, I was offered the assistant position. After 3 years of learning that brewing isn’t all fun, I still had enough passion for the art to enroll in the Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program through the American Brewers Guild. After sacrificing my summer to schooling, I was honored to be offered the Head Brewer position at Bend Brewing Co.

Ian Larkin

So far it seems BBC is still going through the last of the seasonals that were brewed while Tonya was still there, and you’re brewing some of those recipes as well (along with the house beers of course). Any plans to branch out and work on some signature “Ian” recipes? In the same vein, how much creativity do you have to develop your own beers?

I was fortunate enough to be left with a good stock of aging beers that I am very excited to get out on tap. I plan on carrying on with the traditional recipes of our beloved signature beers, and most popular seasonals. Bend Brewing Co.’s owner, Wendi Day, is incredibly supportive and allows me to brew to my heart’s desire. I was encouraged to help on recipe development as the assistant brewer and look forward to having some beers with my own twist on them. Beer recipes I helped work on include Ching Ching Sour, Eclipse CDA, and Scarlet Imperial Red. Beers that I have whirling around in my head include a Peach Sour, a Smoked Porter, a Winter Warmer, an IPL, and a Flemish Red amongst others.

And somewhat related, any plans for any collaboration brews with any of the other brewers in town?

I am always interested in doing a collab beer. I am planning on doing a collaboration brew with Chip Hardy, the owner of The Bier Stein in Eugene and former brewer at Steelhead, this next month. I also hope to do another collab brew with Curt Plants at Goodlife, the Scotch Ale recipe he helped develop is incredible, come down to the pub and try it.

Ian Larkin

I know BBC’s brewery is pretty small and has a limited capacity. How often are you brewing, and what do you find to be the biggest challenge?

As with most breweries, the “bottle neck” in the process is the limited amount of fermenters. At BBC we focus more on quality than quantity, I would rather run out of a style of beer than rush it to the tap before its ready. On a typical week at BBC I brew 2 to 4, 10bbl batches, but like I said, the beer is the boss, and it tells me when and what to do. I would have to say the biggest challenge is planning the brews 2 to 4 weeks out (sometimes longer), and making sure I have the tank space/kegs to move it down the line.

Finally, what drew you to brewing? What do you find most exciting about it?

I think it was just a natural match for me. I worked as a Kitchen Manager/Chef for 15 year prior to getting into the brewing industry, so I have a great appreciation of the interaction of complex flavors in beer. The science side of brewing literally flows through my veins, being the son of a advanced biology teacher, and the grandson of a chemist. Plus I truly enjoy working hard, I don’t think i could ever work a desk job, I like to get my hands dirty.
The most exciting thing about brewing is when you can sit down with a cold pint at the end of the day, and savor the fruits of your labor with friends, and other craft beer lovers.

Ian Larkin

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