Bend, Oregon’s Old Mill Brew Wërks has untapped it’s last keg and closed last weekend. It’s always something just short of panic in the craft beer industry when a brewery closes—the idea of that infamous “beer bubble” creeps up again, just as we were feeling so comfortable that the thought was a figment of the non-believers imagination. However where one brewery falls another is there to take it’s place as in this instance with Craft Kitchen and Brewery who will also operate a new brewhouse and restaurant in Brew Wërks place.
First, Central Oregon saw the fall of Phat Matt’s (although still unconfirmed due to a lack of responding to emails, it appears their death rattle was as silent as an actual death rattle), a brewery in Redmond with a couple of distributed bottles that seemed to fall off the face of the Earth mid-2013. Since then, the region has seen roughly 10 new breweries pop up, including two in Redmond.
But, with all the great beer coming into Central Oregon, some less-successful brands have to find their way out as is the case with Old Mill Brew Wërks .
Established in 2011, Brew Wërks started as a brewpub deep in the Old Mill area of town and purchased 10 Barrel’s original brewing facility on the Northeast end of town—near Oblivion, 10 Barrel and Bridge 99—where in 2012, brewmaster Michael McMahon created many of their recipes distributed at the pub and eventually around town.
The brewpub has largely been on decline, though, with local juggernauts Boneyard, GoodLife, Worthy and Crux joining center stage with Deschutes and 10 Barrel. McMahon separated from the brewery in summer 2014, as the brewing portion of the company was swinging blind to keep consumers drinking its beer.
Finally, on Sunday 4, the Brew Wërks page said the company was calling it quits and offered specials all day, clearing the restaurant of beer, food and merchandise.
But, as Brew Wërks’ dies, another idea opens.
Craft Kitchen and Brewery, the replacement for Old Mill Brew Wërks, is already moving along at a blistering pace to take over what the failed brewery left behind.
“It’s a different group of owners, a different business plan, and a different projection of how we want our restaurant to operate,” said Courtney Stevens, owner of Craft. “We’re going to rebrand and strive for a fresh start and a new outlook.”
She said the company aiming for a “roots revival” relaunch, starting with scaling the brewhouse down from 10-barrels to 3 1/2 barrels and bringing McMahon back to the team.
“We are going to make beer for Bendites, and only for Bendites,” Stevens said, adding that the focus will be on interesting and unique beers including reduced gluten options.
It’s not just the beer getting a remodel: the restaurant will be experiencing a facelift as well. Where pricey entrees and rich burgers used to exist, now Stevens said the menu will fill with local offerings priced affordably and chartecurie.
With a brewing system designed by McMahon and Mathew Mulder (former owner of Phat Matt’s, story to come hopefully) and manufactured in the good ol’ USA, Stevens said McMahon is going to have full creative control of the brewery with some staples but plenty of unique beers to play with. Distribution won’t be a focus, but kegs could see their way around town or the region.
“Overall, we’re really focused on the locals,” Stevens said. “We want to get some involve home and amateur brewers involved with the process. We want to get the community involved with the process, because that’s what we’re here for—we’re community centric.”
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