Bend’s booming beer industry

Bend BeerI hadn’t blogged this link at the time because it was behind our local newspaper’s paywall, but last month (just after the Bend Brewfest and the Beer Bloggers Conference), the Bulletin ran an article about Bend’s Beer Boom which was very good and a well-done overview of Bend’s crazy brewing industry. (It’s been made free to read now.)

There’s a lot more I want to write about on this topic, but some choice pulls from the article:

At their current production rates, Central Oregon breweries can put out more than 226,000 barrels a year, which means they can produce a little over a barrel and a quarter of beer for each of the just over 200,000 people who live in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.

But the region’s brewers and those industries that benefit from the growing industry — especially tourism — have high hopes that one day Central Oregon’s beer scene will rival Portland’s, which has been nicknamed BeerTown and Beervana.

Definitely from a tourism/economic standpoint, Bend is already well on its way in the beer realm. But rivaling Portland?

But to get to Portland’s size and stature — or even come close — the region’s brewers will have to overcome major challenges including Bend’s infrastructure and a lack of a major interstate highway to make exporting beer easier.

The brewers also will have to find ways to boost demand for their beers outside the region as some people begin to question whether a region of just over 200,000 people, including cities such as Redmond and Sisters, can support more than a dozen breweries….

I’ve been questioning that myself (and I’m continually surprised by each new brewery announcement). To be fair, the article follows this with talk of a possible “brewery bubble” for the region. And then there’s a serious technical limitation (which I touched upon) when I wrote about Rat Hole Brewing:

But even if the region’s brewery industry has more room for growth, the region, especially the city of Bend, may not be able to support it with sewer and water infrastructure.

City engineers met with some Bend brewers Monday to explain that because of the current state of city’s sewer system it won’t be easy for them to approve a site for a new brewery within city limits anytime soon. Breweries create a lot of wastewater for sewer systems.

City Engineer Tom Hickman said downtown, the west side, the south side and the north side all have major limitations for sewer usage, although the situation could be different in a few years.

Amazingly, demand is still high for local beer—so high that breweries (10 Barrel and Boneyard, for instance) are actually running out of beer. Yes, that seems like a good problem to have but even so with five area breweries in various stages of development (Solstice in Prineville is open as a restaurant/pub but isn’t set up to brew beer yet and is hence on that list) I still have to wonder what the tipping point is.

It’s a good article, go give it a read.

3 Responses to Bend’s booming beer industry

  1. bendover says:

    Deschutes Brewery Is already doing something to reduce their waste stream into the sewer system.

    Borlen Cattle Company, uses the brewery’s spent yeast and high strength waste to fertilize local alfalfa fields (to the tune of 230,000 gallons per month) or 7400 barrels of waste water.

  2. Jeff Alworth says:

    The idea that Bend needs to rival Portland is a false way of framing things. Bend has a tenth the population of Portland, and the physical region is vastly larger. Why compare them at all? Bend has it’s own circumstances and its own scene–very different from Portland’s, but no less impressive. If you were, say, an industry insider looking to learn from different cities, you’d look at Portland and Bend for different lessons.

    Portland is the leading city in craft brewing, but it shares company with a half-dozen other cities. What’s happening in Central Oregon is unprecedented anywhere in the country.

  3. Jon says:

    Agreed, I was going to say something along those lines myself Jeff; Bend and Portland are too vastly different to compare in such a way. Bend will never “rival” Portland because there’s nothing to “rival.” Plus there’s no benchmark to “rival”—the amount of beer produced? Consumed? The variety of styles brewed? Number of breweries?

    What’s happening in Bend is very exciting, from a beer perspective, and I prefer to think of it as complementary to Portland (and the rest of the booming beer industry).