As Jon mentioned on his post earlier in the week, last Thursday evening we ran out the door after getting a text saying to meet a Portland writer in 15 minutes. We figured he was in town for a spur of the moment beer trip, so I tagged along because another friend was in town and we texted her to meet as well. Turns out, Brian was in town for the peek into the big year that 10 Barrel Brewing is having and find out what new beers were coming on the scene. It was a quick hour talking to other beer writers in a casual setting. [Ed. note—10 Barrel was hosting a junket for various media folks.]
I introduced myself (and Jon) to the 10 Barrel Brewing’s PR rep, Jeff Segvich, and stated that Jon would have been there except he could not step away from his day job, but if there was any announcement, I would be happy to step in for Jon if they allowed me to join very last minute, as I occasionally write on this blog. Jeff said it would be no problem for me to join and I set off the next morning on a quick walk to the brewing facility.
When I arrived, the beer writers were still on their hike, so I talked to several staff members and was offered a beverage (a “Greyhound”) and observed a nice, homey atmosphere where several brewers and office staff were waiting for the others to arrive.
Now, think what you want about AB and their aggressive acquisition tactics over the past year. Yes, Bendites love their hometown beer and are very passionate about what they drink and where from it comes from. Most of the Pacific Northwest and California have created a niche of strong craft beer and dedicated fans along the way who does not want change of any kind. Please look away if you are such a fan. I went into the press junket on Friday with an open mind, wanting to hear from the Cox brothers themselves and brewers and workers there. I was excited to hear from their point of view, which is different than the chatter in this small craft-beer-loving town.
Once joined up with the main group, we were treated to a burrito breakfast from Los Jalapeños and mimosas. Jeremy and Chris Cox joined us along with brewers Jimmy Seifrit and Tonya Cornett (as well as several other brew staff) and they had an introduction and announcements! First off, 10 Barrel Brewing is expanding! Yes, they are expanding within the Bend area, most notably, purchasing the lot next door and with a $15 million price tag, they will be able to increase production and have a bottling line that will help create efficiency and go from old-school production to automated, thereby increasing the production at the Bend, Oregon facility. They do hope to have at least a tasting room on site as well at some point.
I have noted that the use of the phrases “pre-acquisition” and “post-acquisition” were used quite frequently and positives were noted with the “post-acquisition”. There have been changes regarding safety practices (we had to wear reflective vests and eye protection). I had been in the brewery a few times previously, and now when you walk in, there are gates stopping just anyone walking in to an active brewery. And there are many (many) new beautiful (BIG) bright tanks.
They now have a QA/QC lab in house, “Quality is the most important thing we do”. Their beer is flowing in more states (Colorado, California, Nevada, and just came on draft last week in New York City). They dictate their expansion of where they would want to go and what states they would like to be in. They would like to sell their beer “everywhere” and grow their brand and that includes pubs as well. It’s not known exactly where they would like to focus on next, but many states are being looked into for growth on the pub side. “Pre-acquisition” were benefits of taking home some beers and now with a pay raise across the company, they do have benefits for employees. They have access to more ingredients that are high in quality and a “YES, DO IT if you think that will work” mentality. Just hearing about it seems like a great environment, regardless of what you think about their overall boss. It seems like for the safety, quality, and growth prospect, this was the right move.
There also was another announcement, Tonya’s award winning Crush series will be available in 4-pack stubbies next spring. They will start with Cucumber Crush and rotate with Apricot, Strawberry and Lemon. She’s also working on her first apple cider to be bottled in the spring as well. We sampled many of her wares and I’ve had Cucumber Crush previously, Apricot (that’s summer in a bottle), her Strawberry is fantastic (sampled on Friday) and we sampled a crisp and clean (and refreshing) apple cider. I can’t wait for that one!
We toured the facility and, my, has it grown! As I said, there’s now a gate at the entrance and first thing you see besides the gate are many new tanks. In fact, throughout the whole facility, the tanks have taken over! We missed visiting for Zwickelmania this year, so it’s been about 1.5 years since I’ve visited the facility. They definitely need the new building up ASAP! There will be a new bottling line that will take the place of “old school” creating the boxes, filling the bottles, putting them in the boxes, etc. The new bottling line will be automated and can go from filling all size bottles (even the stubbie) and even their cans! Some of the rooms are the same, just filled a bit more (it’s been 18-ish months!) with goodies aging away and Tonya’s original 10 barrel system is in her corner. It’s nice to know some things stay the same.
Lunch was provided by Shred Town Food Cart and some beers were had (I asked Tonya for the Strawberry Crush that was not drank on our tour of the facility). A great lunch was had, some more conversations and sneak peeks of the mock up of the Crush bottles that are to come out soon. I took some pictures of the lot as I walked back reflecting on the few hours spent at 10 Barrel Brewing.
Overall, think what you want about how things went down, but in a world where you can stumble so many times (their words), how often do you get a chance to pick yourself up (after issues with the Portland pub coming to fruition and the Swill fiasco of 2014) to expand your passion beyond your wildest dreams. It was the timing of it all, that they started up in 2007 to be Bend’s sixth brewery and ended up expanding to their production facility in 2011 and hiring world class brewers to where they are now. They had to learn from mistakes and yes, reach out to help them grow where they are now to take them into a future where everyone will know their story of “two boys from a small town on the Oregon Coast”.