Bend's 10 Barrel Brewing is one of the most rapidly growing breweries in the state, yet outside of central Oregon it keeps a pretty low profile. The brewery is selling beer and expanding at an incredible rate, refilling the tanks the moment they run dry and still not keeping up with demand. As such, 10 barrel recently announced plans for a new 50 barrel system and hired two of the bestbBrewmasters in town in Jimmy Seifrit of Deschutes and Tonya Cornett of Bend Brewing. However, this is just the beginning of a larger plan that includes opening yet another new brewery and pub in Idaho.
10 Barrel was founded by twin brothers Jeremy and Chris Cox as a small startup called Wildfire Brewing in a local bar that they owned. The two jumped into the industry without any real experience, but both had a lot of passion for craft beer. After going through a name change in early 2009 to their current name of 10 Barrel and dealing with rebranding, the brewery seemed to be reinvigorated and gained a larger foothold in the valley. In January of 2011 they hired Jimmy Seifrit, the Brewmaster of the largest brewery in town and largest independent brewery in the state - Deschutes Brewery. Soon after news came in that they would be expanding to a 50 barrel brewhouse and had hired award winning brewer all-star Tonya Cornett of Bend Brewing to take over the smaller 10 barrel brewhouse for special releases and product development.
I met the brothers and Brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit at their small office next to the old 10 barrel brewhouse in an industrial park warehouse space not far outside of downtown Bend. They were gracious hosts and our conversation spanned from brewing to construction to the business of beer.
The namesake 10 barrel brewery is behind two roll-up garage doors in this pretty unpopulated stretch of offices and warehouses, next door to a Columbia Distribution plant and in an environment that reminded me a bit of Tualatin. They operate here under pretty tight and cramped quarters, with just about every inch of space filled and jerry-rigged to fit in here. Even later in the evening a brewer was busy at work raking out spent grains from a just-finished new batch.
The 10 Barrel business was built one keg at a time, as the brothers explain it. Being bar owners and longtime Bend residents, they know everyone in town and during the early days they would hand deliver a few kegs to other restaurant and pub owners themselves. If a beer just was not selling they would go drink it themselves so that a customer never felt they had a raw deal or a keg that was just not moving. The 10 Barrel Brewpub, located not far from downtown, is hugely successful and requires long waits to get a seat at almost any hour. With the planned brewery expansion they also will upgrade the pub, adding 10 more taps all supplied by the original brewhouse and created by Tonya Cornett.
These guys obviously have a keen business sense, and bringing their beer to the costly Oregon Brewers Festival back when they were still Wildfire undoubtedly helped them get their name out there. Eventually signing a distribution with Maletis Beverage for the Portland area market and bottling their beers, they have exploded onto the scene and captured more taphandles in central Oregon than anyone but Deschutes.
Though Chris Cox will tell you they knew little about the industry when they got into it and just concentrated on having fun, these guys are nothing if not ambitious. Instead of a slow gradual expansion or renting more warehouse space, they have taken on a loan and another investor to buy a large chunk of 4 acres where they are constructing a new 15,000 square foot warehouse and brewery from scratch. The new brewhouse, built by JVNW, is a 50 barrel system that will include 600bbls of fermentation tank space and 400bbls of conditioning space. This is all in addition to their current setup, which they will move over to the new warehouse located just a few minutes up the road.
Built into the new expansion is an ambitious sour beer program. This will be run by Brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit and will feature four mother tanks with different types of wild yeast strains (both stand-alone and blends for primary fermentation) and a capacity of 100+ wood barrels for a second fermentation. The barrels with be in a temperature/humidity controlled sour cellar. And unlike many other breweries jumping on the sour beer bandwagon, the folks at 10 Barrel are not afraid to take their time with the brews.
"We are planning on releasing one sour a year starting in 2012 not including some small batch specialty stuff" says Chris Cox.
Their devotion to specialty beers while not losing focus on the standard year-round offerings shows that they have a keen sense how the market is moving towards the newest freshest thing, and they don't move cautiously:
"The day the new brewery starts producing beer, Tonya and Jimmy will start brewing beer on the 10 BBL system and start putting away beer in barrels. We have a barrel room with the capacity of 300-400 Barrels. Our first really cool beer will be our Summer Seasonal released in the spring. They have 2-3 different directions they are thinking about going with the beer, but all three would be a non-traditional beer. It is really fun being a fly on the wall listening to them talk beer strategy."
But if all that is not epic enough, the big news is that the groundwork has been laid for yet another new brewery and brewpub in a very different locale--Boise, Idaho. Currently the brewery's beers are not available outside of Oregon, so the move to Boise is a surprising jump, especially as most Oregon brewers move vertically to Washington or California. The Cox brothers believe Idaho is an untapped market and Boise is just a city they like. As a base of operations, a new 10 Barrel Brewhouse along with a brewpub is to be announced this coming year and the lease has already been signed. Much like the seasonal and experimental brews they hired Tonya Cornett to brew, they have again reached deep to hire another very well-known and well-liked award winning Oregon brewer who will be relocating for the job. As of now these guys are tight lipped about who said brewer is, but believe me when I say it will be quite shocking when said brewer makes his announcement and puts in his resignation from his current brewery. Eventually they hope to launch a another line of beers and bottles branded from the Boise facility.
10 Barrel expects to produce 3,200 BBLs in 2011 with a projection of brewing around 7,000 BBLs in 2012, a number that should continue to climb. Much like I asked fellow Bend brewer Tony Lawrence of Boneyard Brewing, I asked the brothers what their goal was for the brewery; what was their endgame, so to speak?
"We don't really have any size goals for our brewery. We want to focus on the beer and being one of the most creative breweries in the Northwest. With that said, we have break-even points with our new brewery expansion that we have to hit so we can focus on the creative beer. We have to double the size of our brewery, which will take us to about 6000 BBLs."
One thing is for sure, these guys ain't no joke, and 10 Barrel isn't some flash in the pan.
|Jeremy Cox, Jimmy Seifrit, Chris Cox stand in the shell of their new Expansion|