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What Beer Bubble? Bend “nowhere close” to saturation point

By this time next year, not one but two Bend breweries will have colonized corners in Portland with classic brew pubs, showing the world that Bend is ready to make its mark not just locally but abroad.

Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing Company aren’t the only breweries using Bend as a home base for their ever-expanding operations—this town now boasts 20 breweries producing anywhere from just a handful of barrels a year for local consumption to tens of thousands of barrels for export.

“Things are still banging forward,” said Garrett Wales, an owner of 10 Barrel, which has made major leaps in growth since its humble beginnings as just a few taps inside JC’s bar in downtown Bend. Now, through hiring some of the best talent in the area and some strategic investments, the company owns the second largest brewhouse in town, a pub in the heart of Bend, a pub in Boise, and is poised to open that new Portland location too.

It’s a success story that puts to rest any of the questions about whether Bend’s beer bubble is about to burst. Garrett and other brewers in the new Central Oregon Brewer’s Guild say there’s still no limit to the growth potential for beer manufacturing in Bend.

“We’re nowhere close,” said Garrett.

It’s not just Bend—the micro-brewing industry around the country continues to boom with the production of craft beer growing at around 12 percent per year. And though the overall market for craft beer makes up just 10 percent of total beer sales now, craft beer is projected to make up nearly 15 percent within five years.

Here in Oregon, the Brewer’s Association estimates the value of the industry to be around $1.3 billion and employing about 15,000 across the state, including pub staff and brewery workers.

The Central Oregon Brewer’s Guild is hoping to keep that number growing by partnering with Central Oregon Community College to create a brewer certification program, which would add even more talent to a pretty deep pool.

Already Central Oregon boasts a qualified local labor pool for brewery work with organizations such as the Central Oregon Homebrewer’s Organization regularly spinning out excellent new staffers for local breweries. The fabulous recreational amenities of the area are also a major draw for experienced outside brewers—recruiting talent is not a problem, said Garrett.

In addition to the ready-made workforce, Bend also just has the right ingredients for great beer. Our water, which comes from an acquifer deep in the Earth or a fresh mountain stream above town, frequently wins awards.

The City of Bend is also committed to growing sewer capacity to accommodate all the wastewater associated with brewing. A major sewer upgrade is in the works, and while it will be tough to add another brewery to the westside, the potential for growth in the industry in east and north Bend is nearly unlimited.

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