The craft beer industry has a diversity problem, which should be obvious to anyone who has ever seen the overwhelming amount of burly bearded white dudes (full disclosure: I am one of those dudes) roaming tap rooms or spraying down tanks in the brewery.
Tristan Cooley and Josh Cosci have known each other since middle school, and are taking their decades-old friendship to the next level by starting Gratitude Brewing, which is set to open around December 2019 in the former Sam Bond’s Brewery location.
Cooley, a builder who spent time working in solar energy in Portland before returning to Eugene to do construction and consulting, is taking care of the business and construction. Cosci, who has a decade of brewing experience on top of an Associate’s degree in vineyard management and oenology, will wrangle yeast. Until Cosci moved to Sisters to work at Three Creeks, then to Bend where he worked at Worthy Brewing and Immersion Brewing, he and Cooley had lived close to each other. Hearing them communicate the intricate details of this new endeavor, it’s apparent they have a deep mutual respect for one another.
The two are disarmingly calm about the brewery project, though they have worked tirelessly since taking over the lease at 540 E. 8th Ave. Much of the work has been on paper, and the duo “frontloaded” work on permits from the TTB and the city. “Everybody from the city has been really helpful. Same with the OLCC,” says Cooley. Once the TTB approval came through, they closed the sale of Sam Bond’s Brewery’s equipment.
Cosci, who was brewing at Immersion Brewing in Bend at the time, saw Sam Bond’s brewer and co-owner Jim Montgomery’s listing for people to buy out his partners on Pro Brewer. Cosci was looking for a bigger venture, started a conversation with Cooley. “Knowing how to jump into things wholeheartedly,” says Cosci of Cooley, complemented his own desire to go into business.
Once in the space, it was apparent some changes needed to be made. Both the brewery and kitchen were arranged somewhat haphazardly and will benefit from an upgrade in efficiency and a deep clean.
“We’re hitting the reset button,” Cooley says of the space in general. Large, dark timbers will be replaced with molded concrete and stainless accents that will capture diffuse light that enters the north-facing front, rather than dampen it. “We don’t like the English Pub aesthetic.” Instead, he will channel “the look of breweries that are popular in my my mind.” That means some structural changes to the linear pub space, pulling the brewery equipment closer together for more convenience and a cohesive look, and completely redoing the bar. For infrastructure, he’ll build an enclosed grain room and install upgraded kitchen equipment. The electric, glycol, and draught systems will also get the makeover treatment.
Being from Eugene, the two are adamant about celebrating the town and its culture. “We want to give back to Eugene,” says Cosci. In order to do that, they’ll need to attract guests. The brewery’s location, just east of the Federal courthouse building, is actually quite close to downtown and the Willamette River path, though it did not achieve the volume that Sam Bonds’ brewery owners expected. There is a large development planned at the old Eugene Water & Electric Board steam plant nearby that should attract plenty more people when it’s open, and it’s rumored that a brewery or taproom will be one of the businesses moving in. But Gratitude Brewing will be very different from Sam Bond’s, with “elevated pub grub” and a range of modernized beer styles on tap. Cooley and Cosci are both very optimistic about attracting people to the spot.
“Anything going into the steam building won’t be competition,” says Cooley.
“On an ownership level it’s competitive, but on a brewer level it’s collaborative,” adds Cosci. It’s clear he’s looking forward to the latter part.
Cosci, who helped develop Three Creeks’ award-winning Fivepine Chocolate Porter and worked his way from the cellar to lead brewer at Worthy, likes creating diverse lineups. Hop-forward options, clean drinkable beers, sour and barrel-aged beers will all work their way into the lineup. “Something for all the drinkers,” he says. At the top of mind will be a vibe of creativity and collaboration that permeates the business.
Gratitude Brewing, thus far, does not have big banks behind it. Personal funds, some lines of credit, and family loans comprise the current coffers.
Gratitude, though not the original brewery name concept, has complex origins. On one hand it refers to the Beastie Boys song from the Check Your Head album; on the other, the word has deep personal resonance, especially for Cosci relating to life events. The branding, though not finalized enough for publication here, has elements of an LP and is modern, mature, and straightforward with positive vibes. They have hired Figoli Quinn & Associates to develop branding; Tony Figoli did the original brand art for Ninkasi Brewing, and the firm also works with local beer businesses Alesong Brewing & Blending and Oregon Brew Lab.
Gratitude will have a space that can be rented out for private parties or meetings, and will also serve as a live music space. Though a lot of work remains before the ship sets sail, Cooley and Cosci are already infusing the space with their vision. “We’ve accomplished a lot” already, says Cooley, since getting into the building in July.
Aaron Brussat is a complex living organism with an interest in all things fermented. He started writing about and working in the beer industry in 2010. His experience stems primarily from spending six years at The Bier Stein as a beer steward, homebrewing since 2005, and passing the BJCP and Certified Cicerone exams. Highlights along the way include numerous collaborations with local brewers, curating beer dinners at The Bier Stein, and traveling to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Peru, and New Zealand (as well as many parts of the U.S.) for a chance to drink beer at the source.