Crux, Oblivion, other locals left out of Bend Brewfest

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Photo credit Bend Brewfest 2014 Matthew Lasala.

Crux, Oblivion, Bridge 99 and others are left out of the Bend Brewfest this year, begging the question, “Who is the Bend Brewfest for?”

By Branden Andersen
The Beer Detective

July 14, 2016

The Bend Brewfest (BBF) is no small endeavor. As one of the top brewfests in the state, located in the beer-crazed bubble of Central Oregon, tourists use the brewfest as an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in what Bend’s beer scene has to offer.

“For people to see me at Bend Brewfest is a huge deal,” said Darin Butschy, owner and brewmaster at Oblivion Brewing. “To not be there is a big missed opportunity.”

This year, eight of the 29 local breweries in Central Oregon–including Oblivion–were not granted a spot at the BBF. This leaves many of the smaller local breweries without the marketing opportunity BBF provides. According to Trever Hawman, co-owner and brewer at Bridge 99 Brewing, this is this first year Bend Brewfest has moved away from a local first mentality.

“Usually, they would always admit the locals first and then build from there,” Hawman said. “This year they told me they decided to go a different direction. I hope it works out for them.”

Marney Smith, director of the Bend Brewfest, said she is trying to keep BBF fresh for all of the loyal patrons who come year after year.

“There are many factors that go into deciding which breweries we can fit into the BBF every year,” said Marney Smith, Director of Bend Brewfest. “Unfortunately, it is inevitable that we will disappoint some folks in making the decisions.”

Smith said the number one concern is keeping the price down for the customer. Each year, she says, the price of beer and other beer related necessitites goes up. Also, she keeps an eye on conveience and streamlining — if a brewery burned their obligation on beer or delivery the previous year, they will not be considered. That was a factor in deciding this year’s lineup.

On the other hand, Smith said that any brewery not admitted the previous year, or won People’s Choice the year prior will get admittance to next year’s brewfest. Last year, Santiam Brewing (Salem, OR) won with their Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Pirate Stout and Sunriver Brewing (Sunriver, OR) won with ResinNation IIPA.

Another concern is largely that of space: The Les Schwab Ampitheater has a limited amount of space. Breweries who are represented by distributors have the ability to pour beer from space efficient “tap trailers”, whereas self-distributed breweries pour beer from a cooler-rigged-with-taps called a jockey box. With each brewery bringing two beer styles for the fest, that space is far more effective in getting more breweries poured efficiently.

“It’s not a big deal, but it does affect our decision process somewhat,” Smith said about breweries being affiliated with distributors. “…Inevitably, the jockey boxes provided by the majority of the self-distributed brewers require adjusting and repairs. That takes labor and time.”

Of the eight local breweries left out of the brewfest, seven of them are not affiliated with distributors. Smith, citing her decision making process, said that breweries with distributors are not automatically accepted into the brewfest, and that the majority of the 30 breweries that were turned down were affiliated with distributors.

Butschy, brewmaster at Oblivion, is also concerned about taking local space away by letting out-of-state breweries in. Of the 74 breweries and cideries at BBF, there are seven from California, seven from Washington, two from Idaho and one from Colorado. Butschy, whose beer goes as far as Seattle and is frequently distributed in the Willamette Valley, feels the exposure helps Oblivion Brewing in those markets.

“I’m not a lottery brewery,” Butschy said, referring to the lottery system some of the smaller breweries were entered into for admittance to the fest. “We send our beer too far to be considered a lottery brewery.”

Crux Fermentation Project, who is signed with Northwest beverage distribution giant Columbia Distributing, simply forgot to send in their application and therefore was not considered.

“We were going over our events a couple of months ago and someone thought it was weird we hadn’t heard from BBF,” said Larry Sidor, brewmaster and co-owner of Crux.

He said they called shortly after the realization and were told, because they didn’t apply on time, Crux would be put on the waitlist in case another brewery dropped out. Sidor reports Crux has been diligent about checking in with the brewfest, but at this point no breweries have dropped out.

“We contacted every local brewery when applications were available and some just chose not to apply, or were too busy making awesome beer to turn in an application,” she said. “There are a lot of really great breweries that turned in applications, that we were not able to get in this year. It wouldn’t feel right to jump over all of those folks, as much as we adore Crux.”

Local breweries like Crux and Oblivion feel like out-of-town breweries are against what the fest exists for: Bend. Smith, who also organizes the local-only Fermentation Celebration, said she took the breweries who applied and made the best decision she could to provide a rich, enjoyable experience for all fest-goers.

“We always try to strike a great balance,” Smith said. “If a local brewery applied and we did not have a spot for them, there was a specific reason that decision was made. We are very excited for the BBF this year, and think we have a terrific lineup of craft breweries.”

Sidor feels that local breweries should get priority, and then the rest of the open spots should be backfilled by out-of-town breweries.

“It’s Bend brewfest, not out-of-town brewfest,” Sidor said.

Stay posted at The Beer Detective’s twitter page for updates.

Bend Brewfest
August 18-20, Noon to 11 p.m.
Les Schwab Amphitheater
344 SW Shevlin Hixon Drive
Bend, OR 97702

For more information about the Bend Brewfest, visit http://bendbrewfest.com/

Edit June 16, 2016: The caption on the picture inaccurately described the brewfest layout.

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