The old saw makes the rounds every time we hear some piece of good news about Bend beer: Surely, surely, there's no way this region can support yet another brewery. But, despite a couple of closings in recent years—and let's face it, the beer they were producing has not been missed—Central Oregon's breweries never seem to run out of paying customers. The result: Expansion, a topic the Source last discussed in depth a year ago.
Just in the past couple of months, the Source has discussed expansion efforts at Silver Moon, currently building a new production facility in Redmond to keep up with demand in Oregon and Washington, and Three Creeks, set to officially open their brand-new Sisters brewhouse during Central Oregon Beer Week in May. But that's not all the expansion Bend-area breweries are enjoying (or stressing out over) right now. From big to small, expansion is the watchword on everyone's minds—both within Oregon and, for our hometown's biggest brand name, nationwide.
Rumors have been spreading around town for months now that Deschutes Brewery was looking to open up a second operation somewhere in the eastern United States. Doing so would see Bend's oldest brewery follow in the footsteps of fellow craft-brew giants Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues, all of which started in the West but now boast enormous production plants east of the Mississippi. When you're as big as these guys, opening another factory makes financial sense—instead of eating all the costs of transporting beer from Bend to, say, Philadelphia, brewing it closer to the eastern time zone offers massive cost benefits over time. (It could also allow Deschutes, which distributes in 28 states, to cover all 50 the way places like Stone and Lagunitas currently do.)
Now, Deschutes president Michael LaLonde is talking publicly about the company's plans—and the sites they're looking at aren't a big surprise. In addition to rumored earlier visits to Texas, Tennessee, and Minnesota, Deschutes reps did a tour of the mid-Atlantic in December, visiting sites like Asheville, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina. Asheville, in particular, seems a perfect fit for Deschutes—really, you could call it East Bend, so similar it is in terms of size, proximity to mountains, craft-brewery density, and rate of funemployment. "We're looking for a place where employees who live here in Bend would love to go and move to an East Coast location," LaLonde told the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper last week. "We think that's really important so we can continue to develop a culture similar to the one in Bend, with the same values and mission."
A final decision still seems a while off on the eastern facility, which is planned to have a capacity of at least 200,000 barrels a year. But other breweries are taking action right now—as the Source predicted following the sale to AB-InBev last year, 10 Barrel is already making efforts to expand to other states. A soft launch has already taken place in bars around Denver, Colorado, according to their Facebook page, with more releases planned for Colorado and its huge, frenzied, Oregon-like beer scene in the future.
On a much, much smaller scale, however, even The Ale Apothecary—a one-man operation that the term "artisan brewery" was all but invented for—is beginning to grow a bit. Brewer Paul Arney's Ale Club membership has expanded to nearly 200 people, many of whom converged to his warehouse in east Bend last week to pick up allocations of beers like Carpe Diem Mañana (the brewery's hoppiest yet), Ralph (a wild ale brewed with white fir tips), and Beermongers (aged in Elijah Craig 21-year-old bourbon barrels). Warehouse distributions like that will soon be a thing of the past, because TAA's long-planned public tasting room, located not far from Century Drive near GoodLife, is slated to open in early to mid-summer. Arney's beer doesn't come cheap, but there's nothing else like it in the United States—something that's attracted attention from across the country.
Thus, the drums of expansion continue to beat. Where will it end? In more and more empty glass pints, probably—a resolution we all can agree on.