Excerpt: History of 10 Barrel Brewing

10 Barrel BrewingThe news of 10 Barrel Brewing selling to Anheuser-Busch has died down a bit since it broke last week, but I am still running into a good number of people who want to talk about it and know what I think. I wrote down some of my own thoughts on the sale, but it’s also helpful to know a bit more about the history behind 10 Barrel to get a sense of where they are coming from. And since I just happened to write a book on the subject (available now!) I thought it would be timely and interesting to post some excerpts about the brewery and how they got started.

These passages are excerpted from Chapter Six.

In 2003, twin brothers Chris and Jeremy Cox were tired of the corporate business world and were seeking a change. The brothers, originally from Lincoln City, Oregon, had graduated from Oregon State University and were working “for the man up in Portland in the corporate world.” They were ready for something new. Casting about for ideas and opportunities, they settled on two possibilities:

It came down to a drift boat company or a bar, and the drift boat company was too expensive; we didn’t have any money. So the bar was super reasonable. We never worked in bars before or anything. We just wanted to get to Bend; we couldn’t find any other way to get to Bend to get jobs, so we bought a bar.

They purchased Lucy’s Place, a small bar and diner located downtown, and renamed it JC’s Bar and Grill. For the first year of ownership, they still worked their corporate jobs in Portland during the week (in software sales and business consulting), drove to Bend on Fridays to work the bar for the three day weekend and then went back to Portland to start the process over again.

Although the brothers had no bar experience or background in the beer industry, they had the business acumen, a desire to learn and a willingness to take risks, and JC’s was a successful venture, proving to be a popular nightlife destination.

Their idea of starting their own brewery had continued to simmer [since 2004], and when brewer Paul Cook left Deschutes Brewery in 2005, he joined with the brothers to bring that dream to reality and formed a new brewing company, Wildfire Brewing, which they announced in November 2006… [By] late March of 2007, they had started brewing the first batches of beer, destined to go on tap at JC’s. The first two beers in the lineup were Code 24 Pale Ale and Logger Lager, which were on tap by late April, and those were soon followed by Backdraft IPA.

[The] young brewing company faced another hurdle in the latter half of 2008 in the form of a trademark violation notice: the Wildfire Restaurant chain… advised the brewery of its trademarked name and suggested that it change the name within six months or face a court battle. Wildfire Brewing opted to change its name, and in December, it announced the new moniker: 10 Barrel Brewing Company. It became official in January 2009.

Although 10 Barrel had a loyal following and a successful presence in Central Oregon, the owners themselves were not making any money—it all went back into the business. That began to change when 10 Barrel’s beer was picked up by a distributor that brought its beers to Portland in mid-2009. The beer was a hit in Portland, and as sales increased, the owners realized that this new market could take the business to the next level—even become profitable. They decided to take a new leap, a risky one in the current economic climate, and in August 2009, they announced plans for their own brewpub, to be opened on Bend’s west side… The pub opened in February 2010, and any doubts about opening a restaurant and pub in the down economy were put to rest, as it was an immediate success.

You can read the whole story and more in Bend Beer, on shelves now and available online.