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Mazama Brewing Opening Restaurant in Downtown Corvallis While Eyeing Portland

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Jeff and Kathy Tobin, owners of Mazama Brewing, have purchased Big River Restaurant and Bar and adjoining 101 Eat & Drink in downtown Corvallis and will remodel and rebrand it as Mazama Brewing at Big River. The company is also eyeing a Portland expansion that could bring a satellite taproom or restaurant to the city. Big River is a thirteen year-old upscale restaurant that’s been a popular spot in downtown Corvallis with a loyal following, but also reportedly had an upscale vibe that draws a certain crowd. The Tobins, along with new partner Matt Shuman (an electrical engineering instructor at Oregon State University), are to keep all the working elements of Big River intact while making it more approachable and less high end, adding Mazama Brewing’s beers, branding and possibly a pilot/pub brewery into the mix.

Founded in the Spring of 2013 on the outskirts of Corvallis, Mazama Brewing set themselves apart by staking claim to a traditional Belgian-style lineup of beers like wit and Belgian blonde. Over time the brewery has pivoted a little more into hops, and co-owner Kathy Tobin tells me the team wants to brew more specialty and experimental IPAs while broadening the barrel program and sour beers. Currently Mazama Brewing produces about 6,000 barrels per year on a 20 barrel brewhouse but would like to see bottles in bigger chains with broader distribution and increase visibility in the market.

Mazama Brewing Experimental IPA cans

Mazama Brewing now operates a production facility in a small strip mall industrial park with a tiny taproom as part of it. The pub doesn’t serve food and it’s more of a casual sampling, growler fills and sports on the TV area than a bustling brewpub. The Tobins had been looking at possibly opening their own brewpub in downtown Corvallis for the last few years.

Big River Restaurant bar area. Photo credit Kaplan, via OregonBusiness.com

“We considered starting a new brewpub from scratch but when we looked at the number of restaurants in downtown Corvallis we felt there was not room for yet another one. Therefore, we started looking at existing businesses,” says Kathy Tobin on why they purchased the well known Big River Restaurant in downtown Corvallis. “Big River became an attractive option due to its location, historic building, and visibility within the region. There is also enough room in the building to build out a pub size brew system.”

Big River Restaurant in Corvallis. Photo credit Kaplan, via OregonBusiness.com

Big River Restaurant is an established Corvallis institution known for fine dining that opened in 1995 and also has a bakery operation that will remain under the current longtime ownership. Mazama Brewing wishes to keep the high quality food but make the restaurant more accessible, more pub friendly, and a showcase for Mazama’s beers. The adjoining and more casual bar 101 Eat & Drinks will remain open with a full license for liquor cocktails and wine. Big River Restaurant will close on Sunday, August 26th for a remodel and interior refresh that will presumably add the Mazama branding. Bar 101 will remain open and serve the Big River lunch and dinner menu during the refresh with a target to open with a Grand Reopening Party under the new name “Mazama Brewing at Big River” by September 7th. It turns out this is just the first step into increasing visibility and selling more direct to consumer over the bar for Mazama Brewing, as Kathy Tobin says the brewery plans to soon announce plans for a Portland project they hope to have open by the end of the year.

Mazama Brewing at Big River
101 NW Jackson Ave
Corvallis, Oregon 97330

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

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