Bend Brewing Company’s 20th Anniversary

Bend Brewing CompanyBend Brewing Company is one of the most award-winning breweries in Bend, Oregon, and ironically is also one of the smallest—they are still brewing on the same 7-barrel system in the same downtown Bend brewpub space they started in back in 1995. Fortunately this hasn’t hurt their popularity or longevity any, and coming up on Friday, February 20, they are celebrating their 20th anniversary with a street party, live music, and lots of beer!

The celebration will run from 5 to 10pm, and the theme will be “20 beers for 20 years” and yes, the plan is to offer 20(!) beers on tap. I can already offer up a sneak peek of one of those beers—Tainted Love, which they posted about here:

In celebration of our Anniversary month we put a new spin on one of our favorites, Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter. This imperial porter has been aged in stainless for 2 years, then soured for 4 month. The resulting beer has a bright, tart cherry flavor, underscored by a deep complex malt body, and finishes with a pleasant tartness. 9.5% ABV 30 IBUs

Bend Brewing Tainted Love

That went on tap this past weekend and I had a snifter—and it was excellent! The creamy, chocolatey smoothness of a well-lagered Baltic Porter with just the right amount of cherry and lactic acid.

It’s been amazing to watch BBC’s growth over the years, from starting out as Bend’s only other brewery in the 90’s to hiring Tonya Cornett, who helped to put the brewpub on the map, to handing off brewing duties to Ian Larkin who has continued to win awards and brew some of the best beer in Central Oregon. And in fact to help commemorate the two decades in business, I thought I’d run some excerpts of the history behind Bend Brewing from my book:

[In] Bend [in November 1993], businessmen Dave Hill and Jerry Fox were hoping to launch the Brooks Street Brewery downtown, in a building a few doors up from the historic Pine Tavern restaurant overlooking the Deschutes River. Though they “both had experience in drinking beer,” Fox recalled, they had no experience in brewing it. Fox credited Hill with the idea to start a brewpub, and despite the need for extensive renovations for the building they purchased, they hoped the brewery would be open by the following summer.

That timeline proved to be overly optimistic, but the plans for the brewpub were not: the Bend Brewing Company (the name had been changed “in order to give it an identity that would be easy to associate with the city in which it was located,” said Fox) opened its doors in 1995, becoming Bend’s second craft brewery.

Bend Brewing Company opened to the public in February of 1995, located in a building on Brooks Street that had once housed a glassblower. Dave Hill and Jerry Fox oversaw renovations which installed a seven-barrel brewhouse in the upper level, a cramped space packed with tanks and equipment that looked out a large picture window to the dining room below. The west-facing dining room itself looked out onto the Deschutes River through large windows. The brewer was Scott Saulsbury, an alum of Deschutes Brewery who had joined Deschutes in 1993. The brewpub launched with a lineup of five ales: High Desert Hefeweizen, Metolius Golden Ale, Elk Lake IPA, Outback Old Ale, and Pinnacle Porter.

Hill ultimately had other interests besides the brewery, and Fox bought him out within that first year of opening and brought in his daughter, Wendi Day, to manage the day-to-day operations of the brewpub. Day had moved to Bend with her family from Cleveland, Ohio in 1986, and after graduating from Bend High in ‘88, left for Arizona State University to study accounting and marketing. It was at Arizona State that she met her future husband, Rob Day, and her post-college years found her in Seattle working in retail management. When the offer came from her father to manage the business, Day and her husband returned to Bend in 1995.

Bend Brewing from the beginning focused exclusively on the brewpub and restaurant business, with their small-batch beers served only in-house and not packaged for distribution. The brewpub soon became a popular downtown destination, particularly as a post-recreation stop for locals and tourists alike. “Bend Brewing is more upscale than its friendly competitor, Deschutes Brewing Company,” reported The Brewpub Explorer of the Pacific Northwest, published in 1996. “Large windows offer a pleasant view of the park and the Deschutes River. Antique tables and chairs possibly once gracing an old English pub are scattered about the main dining and bar area.”

By February of ‘96 the brewing duties for Bend Brewing had been taken over by Dan Pedersen, a graduate of the Siebel Institute who had spent the previous year and half brewing in Eugene, Oregon for the Eugene City Brewery. Scott Saulsbury moved on to southern Oregon, with brewing stints at Wild River Brewing in Grants Pass, Caldera Brewing in Ashland in 2001 and in 2008 joined Southern Oregon Brewing in Medford.

[The] brewpub continued to be an increasingly popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Brewer Dan Pedersen left in 1998 and brewing duties were taken over by Christian Skovborg, a former brewmaster from the defunct Nor’Wester Brewing. By 2000 Jerry Fox was anxious to retire and wanted to turn over ownership to his daughter Wendi Day. Day was reluctant at first, but partnered with her kitchen manager Terry Standly to purchase the business from her father.

Meanwhile, there was a quiet revolution taking place at Bend Brewing Company. In 2002 Wendi Day hired a new brewer, Tonya Cornett, who was to become one of Bend’s most well-known brewers thanks to a well-honed instinct for an emerging trend in sour ales, a number of high-profile awards, and a featured role in a documentary about women in the brewing industry. But that would be in the future.

Cornett grew up in Marion, Indiana, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology before moving to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1996, where she experienced her first taste of craft beer and became hooked. She began homebrewing with a kit that had ostensibly been for her husband, Mark, and started working at H. C. Berger Brewing in Fort Collins putting together boxes and giving tours. Cornett then segued into an unpaid apprenticeship learning the ins and outs of commercial brewing, and when Cornett and her husband moved back to Indiana in 1998 she took a brewing job at Oaken Barrel Brewing.

After three years at Oaken Barrel, Cornett decided to enroll in the Siebel Institute to further her education. Enrollment in Siebel’s World Brewing Academy took her to Chicago and Germany, during which time her husband Mark was scouting three possible “go to” states on the West Coast to move to when she returned. She graduated in 2001, and was ready for larger-scale, production brewing; she wanted to apply her newly-acquired knowledge to a brewing operation beyond the scale of the brewpub. Ironic then, that Cornett ended up accepting a job offer with Bend Brewing, but the opportunity to run the show proved too appealing, and she started at the brewpub in 2002. (The recommendation for Cornett came to Wendi Day from a high school friend of Cornett’s who worked for Day’s cousin, who owned the Southside Pub in Bend.)

There was only a two week overlap with the former brewer, Christian Skovborg, and Cornett took over brewhouse operations entirely. (Skovborg subsequently opened and still owns the Reed Pub in southeast Bend.) She was working 50 to 60 hours per week, brewing four batches per week, and quietly improving the quality of the beer. “I do quality checks all of the time,” she told the Bend Bulletin in a 2002 interview. “I’ll even test the fermenting to detect change. From the beginning, I’ll make sure it’s on the right track.” In addition to cleaning up the house beers (there were no master copies of any recipes, only brewing logs), she was experimenting and developing new recipes, brewing beers such as a “peach lambick [sic] and a razzwheat” (types of beers that would herald the styles for which she would later gain notoriety). The fruits of this labor would begin to pay off in only a few short years.

[She] was consistently improving the core lineup of beers at the brewpub, and introducing seasonals such as Apricot Summer Ale, Axe Head Red, and HopHead Imperial IPA. The HopHead in particular was a popular beer, so much so that the brewpub began offering it in 22-ounce bottles available at the pub only in 2005, and in 2006 the beer won the gold medal in the coveted “American-Style India Pale Ale” category at the Great American Beer Festival—the first such medal for Bend Brewing, and a sudden thrust into the brewing spotlight for Cornett. She would follow up with a win in 2007 with a silver GABF medal for Outback X (a double, or strong, version of the brewpub’s popular Outback Old Ale) and Bend Brewing would go on to win at least one medal per year subsequently.

The GABF medals were followed by an even more prestigious award for Cornett in 2008: at the Brewers Association’s World Beer Cup, Bend Brewing and Cornett won the Champion Brewery and Brewmaster award in the “Small Brewpub” category. Even more significantly, Cornett was the first female brewmaster ever to do so.

In 2011 it was announced that Tonya was hired by 10 Barrel Brewing, and (current) brewer Ian Larking stepped into the brewmaster position. Ian just won the gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival for his Salmonberry Sour, in the “Indigenous/Regional Beer” category—a huge honor! And he’s been earning medals for BBC since Tonya left. A few years back I ran a profile and interview with Ian for the brewpub’s 17th anniversary. These days Ian brews with his assistant brewer, Josh Harned.

So make sure you’ve cleared your calendar for the 20th, and join Bend Brewing Company in celebrating 20 great years! Yes, I expect people to travel from out of town as well! It’s going to be great party, with terrific beers, and BBC has earned every year of it.

Be there!

Oregon Beer News, 02/09/2015

Oregon BeerHappy Monday! Here’s the news in Oregon beer for the second week of February. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news as I find it, so check back often. If you have news to share, please let me know and I can get that updated as well.

One of the big events this week has become one of the biggest beer events spanning the entire state—Zwickelmania! It’s taking place this Saturday, February 14 (yes, Valentine’s Day) from 11 to 4, and if you’re unfamiliar the one-line description is, “the annual one-day event in Oregon when breweries open their doors to the casual and hardcore beer fans.” Free tours, samples, and special events are being held by all the various participating breweries. Worth checking out—and if you want some additional fun, print out and play Zwickel Bingo to take along with you!

Belmont Station (Portland) is continuing their Bigger, Badder, Blacker! event today (and through Wednesday the 11th), pouring “big, dark, luscious beers” in honor of Stout Month (which all started with Astoria’s Fort George Brewery). Today’s theme is Stone Cold Monday: “Featuring 2013 Imperial Russian Stout, 2013 Espresso IRS, Woot Stout & more.” Don’t miss it!

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The Session #96: Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?

The SessionYesterday was the first Friday of February, and among the beer blogging world that means it’s time for another collaborative blogging effort—The Session! Each month a different host suggests a common topic upon which to write, and everyone tackles it from their own point of view. All bloggers are welcome to participate, not just beer bloggers!

This month’s host is Joan Villar-i-Martí of Blog Birraire, and he’s got a question about beer festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?

The discussion at hand is “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?”. I guess it is pretty much clear, but apart from exposing whether the answer is A, B or C (the latter being “it depends”) I expect participants to give us some insight into their local beer scene to better understand the importance or irrelevance of Festivals in each area. My guess is that it can be quite different depending on the popularity of beer in different countries and cultures.

Here in Oregon, we have both—plus the “it depends” option which can also apply to either. There are the larger, more general, more populist beer festivals like the Oregon Brewers Festival or (here in my hometown) the Bend Brewfest are certainly less beer geek-oriented and fill more of the dissemination role, bringing together a wide variety of breweries with representative beer, but little in the way of “geek beer” (though in recent years both of these fests have added “X-Tap” specialty pours).

They are parties, not that there’s anything wrong with that; I enjoy attending these types of festivals as there are always new beers I haven’t yet tried. But I like to attend as early as possible, and leave before the crowds and the lines grow too large. There is no doubt that these festivals do a great job of sharing beer and drawing crowds of all types, and boosting the local economy as well—take a look at the OBF’s economic impact on Portland for a sense of just how much a larger festival can generate.

And then there are the “geek gathering” festivals, like Bend’s The Little Woody which focuses exclusively on barrel- and wood-aged beers, many of which are brewed and aged specially just for this event. This is a fest that definitely caters to the beer geeks but, in the same way that the populist beer fests are drawing in the geek crowd (for lack of a better term), fests like the Woody are also reaching into that populist area, with more and more people who aren’t particularly beer geeky attending each year.

An interesting phenomenon here in Oregon, and perhaps elsewhere where there is a strong beer culture, we’re seeing new beer festivals popping up for every conceivable occasion and location. Salem just had their first Winter Ale Festival recently; Portland has a major one for (nearly) every season; this weekend sees the KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene supporting Oregon’s NPR radio station; McMenamins has their own lineup of festivals at their different properties; and so on. There are big festivals, like the Oregon Brewfest spanning five days, and little festivals, highly localized one-day affairs in small venues like Bailey’s Taproom‘s Cellarfest. (Digression: do small one-off type “festivals” really count as proper festivals? Or should they be considered something akin to large parties or street fairs or something, especially considering the more traditional definition of “festival“?)

I believe we have a beer festival covering each region of the state (except southeastern Oregon), and covering a wide variety of themes: winter beers, fresh hops, aged beers, barrel beers, stouts and dark beers, lagers, collaborations, fundraising for various causes, dogs, firkins and cask beers, fruit beers, Belgian-style beers, wild and sour beers, chocolate, Fred Eckhardt’s birthday, strong beers, session beers, organic beers, nanobreweries, the Oregon Garden, guys named Ben…

whew. I actually could go on but it’s even wearing me out. About the only beer festival theme I can think of off the top of my head that we don’t have (yet?) is a beer bloggers festival… and who knows, that might be announced on Monday.

Bottom line, we here in Oregon are not lacking for beer festivals and probably have one or more to suit just about anyone’s fancy. Yes, you might have to travel a bit, but you don’t have to work hard to find one.

Personally, for as much a beer person as I am, I only get to a handful of the larger festivals each year, plus a number of the smaller local events (depending on if you want to define them as “festivals” or simply “events”…). It would be easy to point to the number of fests going on each year in Oregon (with new ones added all time time) and call “oversaturation” but at the same time, I do think it’s a sign of a healthy, thriving beer culture, and there’s an undeniable monetary impact that can provide a boost to the local economy.

Plus, they are fun to attend—whether simply disseminating beer or more geek oriented. And ultimately isn’t that what they’re really about?

Oregon Beer News, 02/06/2015

Oregon BeerTGIF! Here’s the Oregon beer news for the weekend starting Friday, February 6. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news, so check back often. And if you have news to share, please let me know and I can get that updated as well.

Deschutes Brewery (Bend): Today is the release of Jubel 2015, the brewery’s ordinarily-once-a-decade “Super” Jubel aged in barrels. The release celebration takes place all day at the Bend and Portland pubs, and you’ll be able to buy bottles as well as samples and food specials at each pub. Here in Bend they will also feature artist Dennis McGregor as part of downtown Bend’s First Friday celebration; McGregor’s “art was featured 15 years ago on the 2000 label of Jubelale.” Cheers!

Belmont Station (Portland): Tomorrow, Saturday the 7th, is the start of Belmont’s “Bigger, Badder, Blacker!” winter event, which lasts through the 11th! “In honor of Stout Month, we will be pouring several big, dark, luscious beers in the biercafe and they will be rotating through during the entire event. So keep an eye on the draft list here on the website and skedaddle over when something strikes your fancy, because it might be gone before you know it!” They have a teaser lineup on their event page, and today is “Deschutes Day” featuring a vertical of Black Butte XXIV, XXV & XXVI. If you’re a stout fan, don’t miss the next 5 days at Belmont!

Continue reading “Oregon Beer News, 02/06/2015” »

Pictures from Bridge 99’s tasting room opening

Still catching up! Here are pictures from the official opening launch of Bridge 99 Brewery here in Bend (which took place on January 22-23). I stopped in on the 22nd around 5:30 and got some pictures of the space and had some of the samples they were pouring as well as a pint of the Winter Trail Stout.

Bridge 99 Brewery tasting roomThe new tasting room and brewery space is located across the parking lot from Wubba’s BBQ Shack (which is the main outlet for the lineup of beers), at 63063 Layton Avenue. I say “brewery space” because adjacent to the tasting room (the garage door in the picture) is the space that brewer and owner Trever Hawman will be moving his (currently 1.5 barrel) brewery into, and will be where he upgrades to at least a seven barrel system. Right now it’s mostly empty, of course, though that night it was packed full with people.

Bridge 99 tasting

Brewer/owner Trever Hawman, center


Bridge 99 beer samples

The tasting room itself is understandably a bit small, but looks great: the walls are paneled in juniper, and the bar is a gorgeously sanded and polished chunk of reclaimed redwood (they found the wood behind the building).

Bridge 99 tasting room and bar

Too much movement! Trever Hawman, left, and Trever’s wife Angel (center) in the gorgeous tasting room


Bridge 99 tasting room and bar, Angel pouring

Bridge 99 tasting room and bar, Angel pouring

There are I believe nine taps with the full range of Bridge 99 beers available right now, and plenty of room to grow. I even got a sample of the Red Eye Rye, the barrel-aged brew they collaborated on with the Platypus Pub, that was present at the Little Woody last year. Tasty.

Bridge 99 hoodie

Local books at Bridge 99!

Obligatory book shot! They were on display in the tasting room.

All in all it’s a great space and I’m looking forward to watching Bridge 99 grow there.