More than just a brew fest…

More than just a brew fest…

I hadn’t really planed on this year’s trip to Bend for Zwickelmania being anything more than just a good time with great friends drinking beer. As it turns out, it was really an IPO of sorts for Apocalypse Brewing. It was awesome… really, and rather unexpected. Here’s how the trip went down, why we’re “going public” now, and where we go from here…

Zwickelmania is an annual beer festival sponsored by the Oregon Brewers Guild. Held at participating breweries throughout the state, Zwickelmania is an opportunity for the community to experience the working-side of breweries up close and personal. Folks are offered tours of brewing facilities, and brewers are on hand to answer questions and hang out with fans (us beer geeks). For those serious about beer, it’s an all-around awesome day.

As we did last year, Erin and I chose again to visit Bend for the 2012 Zwickelmania. We love Bend and the breweries there. This year we decided to drag along some friends and were excited to have our business partner Dennis, his wife Penni, and home brewing Jedi Steve and his wife Chis with us.

I had a very full itinerary planned for us as there are now 11 breweries in Bend and I was determined to visit them all. With plan and maps (well… google maps anyway) in hand, we arrived in Bend early Friday afternoon. After a quick check-in at our rental, we hastily made our way to the first brewery on our list – Silver Moon Brewing Company. Silver Moon has a classic (modern) pub/bar feel and some pretty tasty beers. We hung out for a bit, played some pool, and enjoyed a number of their fine beer offerings.

Wasting no time, we then headed off to Three Creeks Brewing for dinner and brews. Located in Sisters Oregon, Three Creeks is the most “remote” of the Bend Breweries (not really Bend obviously… but close enough) but certainly not forgotten. As it happens, Bendistillery is on the way to Three Creeks, and while we weren’t really in the region to explore the distilled spirits there, we certainly have no aversion to them and so it was decided a quick stop to check things out certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone. A flight of vodka and gin, and a short drive later, and we arrived at Three Creeks Brewing. We obviously arrived just in time because while we were able to snag a table without a wait, the place quickly filled up and lines were formed. It’s not hard to understand why either… the food was excellent and the brews equally tasty. After an amazing dinner and a number of pints, we headed back to the rental. After a long enjoyable day, it was time to call it a night.

Saturday was the official Zwickelmania event and we had a full schedule. First stop… Boneyard Brewing. Last year we arrived later in the day, the place was packed, and we really didn’t have much of an opportunity to check things out very well. This year, we got there before they opened and had a wonderful tour and tasting. The folks there were great. Brewers were pulling samples off the fermenters so we could taste their offerings at different stages in the process and we had a great chat with one of the employees about the origins and progress of the company over only two short years. No loans, no investors, a hodgepodge of repurposed equipment, and they’ve grown in a very short time to a very successful (and soon to be) 50 barrel brewery!!

Next stop(s)… Good Life Brewing and Yet To Be Named (YTBN) Brewing. Both of these breweries are new, with Good Life just getting started and YTBN not yet operational. Good Life is HUGE! Coming out of the gate with a 30 barrel, 4 vessel brew system and a 200+ barrel fermentation capacity, Good Life has big plans. Their facility is like a zillion square feet and their tasting room is equally impressive. Yet To Be Named Brewing, on the other hand, hasn’t yet installed their system or opened (officially) their facility. Operating out of an old transmission shop, this brewery is sure to be another gem in central Oregon. The place is currently gutted and undergoing major renovation, but the owners opened their doors anyway to share their architectural plans and chat with future patrons. This dream team of brewers and business leaders comprised of Lary Sidor (previously of Deschutes), Dave Wilson (currently of 21A brewing), and Paul Evers (of tbd creative agency), will no doubt be producing some awesome brews. Steve and I chatted a bit with Dave while we were there and are super excited for what they’ve got planned. The coolest part? They’re going to be doing some open fermentation in coolships!!

The last brewery of the day was 10 Barrel. They’re bringing their new 50 barrel facility online soon and opened up the new space to the public for all to see. When we arrived, the place was packed. The facility is giant and the equipment is all in place. After partaking in one of my favorite 10 Barrel brews, S1NIST0R Black Ale, I began to explore the space. As I’m walking around the side of one of the new fermenters, I hear Dennis call to me from the side of the room. Walking over to him to see what’s up, he introduces me to the guy he’s been talking to, Chris Cox. Chris is one of the owners of 10 Barrel and an all around awesome guy. After chatting a bit with Chris about our plans for Apocalypse Brewing and his ongoing success with 10 Barrel, Chris took our group (as in just those of us from ABC) on a personalized tour of the facility. It was awesome! Chris offered a wealth of information and support. At one point his twin brother and fellow 10 Barrel owner Jeremy Cox came over to hang out for a bit. Like Chris, Jeremy is an all around awesome guy. We all chatted a bit more, had some laughs and finished our beers. They both wished us the best of luck, told us to give them a ring once we opened, and we all parted ways. It was an unexpected encounter and totally awesome. (for those curious, ask Dennis how he bumped into Chris in the first place…)

By this time we were all ready for some food! Continuing with the 10 Barrel theme, we decided to hit up their pub. As usual, the place was packed and we had to wait. No biggie… just more time to drink more beer! For those that haven’t been there, the 10 Barrel pub is awesome. Great vibe, amazing food, and copious quantities of killer beer. Need a menu suggestion? Check out the pub nachos… they’re the best frikin nachos any of us had ever had. Seriously.

We were about comatose at this point and decided to call it a day. We did go check out Winterfest a bit that night, but we were rather out of place. At some point I guess we all reach an age where we’re just too old to hang out at a giant college ski party… which is basically what Winterfest (at night) is. At any rate, after a long day of mass beer consumption, we all needed our rest.

Thinking the weekend had peaked with the 10 Barrel tour, we figured Sunday would be more mellow and uneventful. After hitting up the REI in the morning (because really… who doesn’t like REI), we headed over to Cascade Lakes Brewery. Unlike the other breweries we visited, Cascade Lakes doesn’t actually produce beer at their pub in Bend. It’s essentially just a restaurant that serves their beer. We enjoyed a quick pint there and rushed off to Deschutes Brewing to catch the 1pm tour.

We got there just in time and lucked out… the last 6 on Mark’s 1pm tour. Mark was a great tour guide and quite entertaining. We went through the tour and were rather impressed with their newly expanded brewery. Recently adding over 6000 square feet of brewing space and currently 3 (soon to be 6) rather massive fermentation vessels, the brewery is on target to produce over 300,000 bbls of beer this year! After the tour, we got to chat a bit with our tour guide Mark and brand ambassador Jeff. It turns out Mark is not only a guide for Deschutes, but owns a brewery tour guide business with franchises all over the country! We chatted with him and Jeff about our plans for ABC and both were exceptionally supportive.

Amazingly, considering their size, Jeff was rather excited about our endeavors here in Southern Oregon! He spoke to how this area is primed for an explosion of craft breweries and that he’s surprise he hasn’t seen/heard about more of them popping up. Then, out of the blue, he asks me what size shirt I wear. I tell him and then he says “wanna trade?” (we were both wearing our respective breweries work shirts). “Sure!” I say and we swap out. It was awesome and quite unexpected… after all, why should he care about us and our gear – he’s Deschutes Brewing!! Anyway, it was a killer goodwill gesture and made my day.

The rest of the day is kind of a blur. We all headed over to Bend Brewing for a bit, had a couple pints and a snack, then off to some family/friends that live in Bend for a BBQ. 12 hours later, back at the rental to crash for the night. Overall, a great day.

Monday was quite uneventful. We hit up McMennimens on our way out of town for some breakfast and then made the long(ish) trek home. A whirlwind trip but one for the books that’s for sure! A big thanks to all those we met and chatted with while there – your support and encouragement meant a lot to a nobody like me!

So… there’s the long, possibly boring and tedious description of our Zwickelmania weekend beerfest extravaganza!! As to the question of “why go public now?” Well, frankly, after many months of working quietly, in relative secrecy, we decided it was time to share our plans and journey with the world. This trip was a bit of an emotional boost for all of us, filling us with encouragement and confidence and the commitment to make this dream a reality.

From here, our primary task is to find the right space. There’s much to consider and we have a few options in mind. We’re looking at spaces weekly and hope to find something soon. A location is key and the catalyst for everything else required to open a brewery… so once we find it, we’ll be moving into hyper speed as we work through the licensing and start-up process.

Thanks to everyone for their support. I can’t tell you how excited we are about this endeavor and how much we appreciate all of your encouragement. We look forward to making the journey with all of you!!