Craft beer expanding in Eastern Oregon
By Beau Eastes
WesCom News Service
JOHN DAY — Bend resident Ken Brown is slowly but surely helping develop new craft brew fans in his hometown of John Day, converting even those who don’t drink beer.
“Their menu, it’s not huge, but it’s fun,” Tammy Bremner, the office manager for the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, said about 1188 Brewing in John Day, which Brown owns with his wife, Jennifer, and Shannon and Jeremy Adair. Jennifer Brown and Shannon Adair are sisters.
“For here, it’s a little bit different,” adds Bremner, who doesn’t drink beer but raves about the downtown brewpub and the energy it has brought to John Day, a rural ranch and agricultural community of approximately 1,800 people about 150 miles east of Bend. “You can get street tacos and I just love the sliders. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
Craft beer is no longer just the drink of choice for Portland hipsters, Bend mountain bikers or Eugene graduate students. While regional breweries such as Bend’s Deschutes Brewery, Newport’s Rogue Ales and Full Sail Brewing in Hood River produced most of the state’s 1.6 million beer barrels last year — Deschutes alone was responsible for 337,094 barrels in 2014 — Eastern Oregon is experiencing a craft beer explosion of its own. Ten breweries, including 1188 Brewing in John Day, now operate east of Prineville, which is itself home to the recently renamed Ochoco Brewing.
“Five years ago, we were sitting at 10 Barrel on a beautiful Indian summer day in October and the place was absolutely packed,” says Ken Brown, who works for Redmond Fire & Rescue. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we get involved in something like this?’ We started homebrewing not long after that.”
1188 Brewing — the brewery’s name pays homage to two of the owners’ fathers, Rich Brown and Jim Brady, whose snowmobile race numbers were 11 and 88 — manufactured about 58 beer barrels in 2014, production similar to a small brewpub operation like Redmond’s Smith Rock Brewing. Ken Brown, who spent most of his childhood in John Day, says 1188, which will celebrate its two-year anniversary in August, hopes to double its production this year and soon expand beyond the brewery’s current two-barrel brewing.
“Right now, we’re only brewing on Sundays,” says Ken Brown, explaining that 1188’s brewing system is close enough to the brewpub’s kitchen that brewing while the pub is open would be too chaotic.
Similar to what Terminal Gravity and Barley Brown’s did for Enterprise and Baker City and what Prodigal Son is doing in Pendleton, 1188 has helped rejuvenate downtown John Day, attracting younger adults who perhaps developed a taste for IPAs, porters, stouts and saisons while going to school in Eugene, Corvallis and Portland.
Terminal Gravity planted the seeds for Eastern Oregon’s craft beer scene in 1997 when it originally started brewing its iconic IPA. While Terminal Gravity was the first Eastern Oregon brewery to find a place on Willamette Valley tap handles, Barley Brown’s, which was launched in 1998, has brought national prominence to the region after winning four gold medals at the last two Great American Beer Festivals. With breweries like 1188 in John Day, Prodigal Son in Pendleton, Hermiston Brewing in Hermiston and Beer Valley in Ontario, the Eastern Oregon Brews Byways was formed as a way to co-market the area’s emerging brew culture.
“It really has become an anchor spot for downtown in the evening,” Labhart says. “And it’s become real popular with bikers: motorcycles and bicyclists. It’s something different that they don’t expect in a place like John Day.”
In the future, Ken Brown says he sees 1188 expanding not just in terms of distribution, but possibly adding more brewpubs.
“We’ll probably always be in John Day,” he says. “Could we be somewhere else too? I assume so. … Maybe we’ll have a brewpub (in Bend), or Boise or La Grande. Who knows?”