Curtis Endicott was running around with a half-crazed look on his face when I ran into him. As the co-founder/co-brewmaster/co-salesman/co-everything of Central Oregon's newest brewery, Juniper Brewing Company, he was bombarded with hands to shake, beers to recommend, and smiles to share.
"Nice to meet you face-to-face," he yelled to me over the crowd. "When it slows down—if it slows down—I would love to talk with you."It didn't for the rest of the evening. The in-depth interview will have to wait until a later date.Endicott and his partner, Scott Lesmeister, cut the ribbon on March 6 to officially open their tasting room to the public. A huge crowd gathered to try Redmond's fifth brewery, nestled in an office building on the way to the airport.
"I'm still catching up on sleep," Lesmeister said. He added that the traffic didn't stop at the opening—Juniper has been busy most days since and at a point ran out of beer. Endicott and Lesmeister started homebrewing in 2006, making five-gallon batches on their kitchen stoves. Just as with most married homebrewers, Endicott and Lesmeister's wives asked the two to take it somewhere else. "We took it out to a garage at Scott's house," Endicott said. "We worked our way to getting better equipment and won a couple of homebrew competitions."Custom tap handles add a rustic but classy feel to the tap room.Endicott said he and Lesmeister talked about opening a brewery together, but it wasn't until December 2012 that they got serious about it."We had a couple of things that lined up that made it possible to go for it," Endicott said, who still works for Jeld-Wen. Lesmeister is still working as a warehouse manager for a Bend-based plumbing company.A year and three months later, Endicott and Lesmeister were finally running around, half-crazed with a red ribbon draped over their necks."We really didn't expect this many people," he said. "This is crazy—this is better than I could have imagined."Juniper staff served three selections from their 2-barrel system for the opening: Milkman Belgian Wit, Old Roy IPA, and Espresso Black Ale.Nothing prettier than shiny, new fermenters.The black ale greeted with a subtle but rich chocolate nose. The beer was light-bodied to medium-light bodied with a nice caramel flavor with a hint of floral hops. I would look for a little more finish from this one, but it was a great first impression.
Lesmeister said they renamed this beer because it wasn't the same black ale they usually put out. He said the next batch of the black ale will be the one they are looking for."Our black ale is going to be a game changer," Endicott said, explaining that most beer drinkers will turn down a dark beer because they don't like stouts or porters. "If we did a blind taste test with this, I think a lot of people would think it was a different style. It's not like what anyone else is doing."Juniper's IPAThe IPA was a blast of citrusy hops and a huge bitter profile. Weighing in at 6.8-percent and 70+ IBUs, it's clear the brewers understood they needed something for the hop heads. "People expect every place to have some sort of strong-hopped beer," Endicott said.
The one I wasn't able to try was Juniper's Milkman Wit, which has become a early flagship for the brewery.
"People have come into the tasting room and asked for the wit," Lesmeister said. "When I tell them we've run out of it and there's another one fermenting, they tell me they will wait. They aren't even interested in trying another one."The brewing company is open weekdays from 4 to 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. For the most part, if Endicott or Lesmeister are brewing, they are happy to open the doors.
Juniper Brewing Company
1950 SW Badger Ave
Redmond, OR 97756
Branden Andersen is a Bend-based beer writer who regularly contributes Central Oregon stories to The New School. He started casually beer writing in the spring of 2013 under the pseudonym "The Beer Detective." Since then, he has contributed to local and regional blogs and freelanced to regional and trade magazines. Branden is currently studying to become a Certified Cicerone and is always looking to expand his knowledge of the beverage and industry as a whole. To check out his personal site, go to www.thebeerdetective.wordpress.com. For tips or leads, email him at email@example.com.