When Larry Sidor opened Crux Fermentation Project’s door just outside of the Old Mill district in Bend, people saw it as his escape from the brewing rat-race; after working at mega-brewery Olympia (purchased by Pabst in 1983) and large craft brewery Deschutes, it was only natural that the talented and experienced brewer would finally start brewing the beers he wanted to.
Enter Crux Fermentation Project—opened in 2012, the brewery banked on balanced, hoppy ales until their actual prize could come out: Belgian barrel-aged beauties.
After a year and some change, Sidor and the whole Crux crew have really come into their own. Releasing everything a clean unfiltered German Pilsner (“Parkway Pilsner”) to a rich, smooth barrel aged strong dark Belgian ale (Walla Walla Woody) and everything in between, the small brewery with the best view in Central Oregon grew into the place people just need to go to if they were visiting Bend.
Shortly after the barrel aged program got off the ground, Crux started bottling both their [BANISHED] barrel-aged series along with simpler, everyday beers. And with bottles came distribution. The team didn’t see a need for buying into a distributor right off the bat, considering a lot of their sales would be right from the brewery. Because of that, since the first bottle left the brewery Crux was self distributed.
“Self distributing is very difficult,” Sidor said. “With the greater volume of beer we were producing, we were going from local shops up to Portland, Eugene, Salem, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. It was a headache.”
That’s when Sidor decided to open the floor to conversations about distributing. He said he checked in with all of the brewery owners in his expansive contact list to ask them about their experiences.
“What we found out was that if we were in a metropolitan area, we could have pulled it off,” Sidor said. “The market in those areas is much bigger than here. But, being in Bend, we needed to travel to expand. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it just added to the jobs we were already doing.”
In the end, the numbers weren’t adding up to stay the course with self distributing. Sidor said although the brewery has grown to its high reputation, it is still running on initial loans.
“When it comes down to it, we have to grow our business so it’s self-sustaining,” Sidor said. “By distributing with greater volume, we can do that.”
Enter Columbia Distributing, Oregon and Washington’s powerhouse distributor. Columbia Distributing covers near three-quarters of Oregon and everything but a couple counties in western Washington. With clients as big as Deschutes, Lagunitas, Pyramid and Sierra Nevada and as small as Hair of the Dog, Silver Moon and Hilliard’s, Sidor felt right at home amongst the other craft brewers.
“I don’t think the distributor I picked is an indication of how large or what kind of brewery we want to become,” he said. “We’ve always known where we wanted to go and Columbia fit right in there.”
Sidor said Crux will continue to focus on the beers that they currently distribute: Half Hitch Imperial IPA, Outcast and Off Leash IPAs, Impasse Saison, and the barrel-aged [BANISHED] series. In the next year, he said Crux will have more of a Belgian emphasis and expanded [BANISHED] series. Sidor also said Crux is also working on a collaboration with Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver, continuing to push the envelope for his sour and funky beers that have placed Crux on the approachable artisan beer map.
“I’m a typical conservative brewer, but with an unconservative, methodical side,” he said.
Although the brewery is expanding (three 50-hectoliter fermenters are on their way, adding about 90 barrels to production), Sidor said they made it clear to Columbia they had a capacity limit and that’s where they are staying for now in order to preserve the feel, look and taste that has made Crux beer one of Oregon’s most exciting breweries.
“We’ve got one of the most complex breweries in the state of Oregon,” Sidor said. “But Crux is just starting to push the envelope. We haven’t even started yet, and I can’t wait until we do.”
Crux Fermentation Project
50 SW Division Street
Bend, OR 97702