Oregon craft beer in 2012: 5 things to watch


(Eugene, OR) – The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has released its year-end brewery list ranked by barrels of beer produced (and sold) in-state. In 2011, the OLCC taxed approximately 435k barrels of beer from Oregon producers, an increase of just over 10% from 2010. Here are five things to watch in The Beaver State from a perspective of national interest…

1. CBA SALES DECLINING: The Craft Brew Alliance had a soft year for Oregon production and sales out of Widmer Brothers Brewing’s facility in Portland (producing Widmer Brothers, RedHook and Kona). Sales declined 8% from 93k barrels to 85.5k barrels. Widmer Brothers sales were down a bit on the year and it looks like declining interest right in the home market may be one of the things driving those numbers. CBA/Widmer Bros. is the state’s top producer.

2. DESCHUTES IS FLAT: Deschutes had a strong year, up 11% in production, though none of that growth came from Oregon. In-state sales increased 6% in 2010 but slightly declined in 2011 to just under 82k barrels. That said, if Widmer Brothers has another down year in 2012, Deschutes actually has a chance to become the top-selling Oregon brewer in the state. With both former Deschutes brewmaster, Larry Sidor, starting a brewery (to be named) and former Laurelwood brewmaster, Chad Kennedy, starting Worthy Brewing right in Bend, Deschutes faces some future competition right in town, too.

3. NINKASI ON FIRE: And who is taking Oregon market share from Widmer Brothers and Deschutes? Ninkasi. In-state sales jumped 68% to 36.5k barrels. The brewery is expanding distribution to Montana this year but, for the most part, is staying “local” in the Pacific Northwest and focusing much of its sales efforts right at home.

4. HENRY WEINHARD’S TOO? There is one company that is keeping pace with Ninkasi production growth in Oregon. Tenth and Blake. Contract production of T&B’s Henry Weinhard’s seems to be picking up at Full Sail. In-state sales climbed nearly 75% to 25k barrels.

5. OREGON MICROBREWERY OF THE YEAR: Giving the nod to Boneyard Beer. The company virtually came out of nowhere, surging into the top 20 breweries in terms of production. At just under 3,000 barrels, the operation may seem small but not for long…

The New School Beer Blog reported in December, “[…] they had just signed a lease, effective December 1st, to move the entire operation to a new 15,000 sq ft building that will house a new 50 barrel brewhouse and a full packaging line. Making the jump over will be the brewery’s current 40 barrel fermenters to allow for the making of lagers and specialty high gravity batches.” Oh, and the brewery will be (already is?) packaging beers in cans.

10 thoughts on “Oregon craft beer in 2012: 5 things to watch

  1. Great post, the Weinhard’s item surprised me. Boneyard, incidentally, isn’t canning yet, I believe they ran into issues. Hopefully when they get moved.

  2. Pingback: Oregon Beer News, 02/23/2012: The Brew Site

  3. The long established players are getting killed by the new generation. Gotta give Widmer credit for trying to get back into the game with some new brews that aren’t half-bad but they still can’t compete with the upstarts. If you have a tap-list with Double Mountain, Oakshire, 10 Barrel, Breakside, Upright, Vertigo, etc etc, are you going to pick a Widmer? I think not.

  4. You just might choose a Widmer if you just go by what’s in the glass, rather than who’s the Flavor of the Month. Craft brewing’s culture, sadly, is every bit as trendy and fickle as wine, distilled spirits, or any other consumer product. Case in point: last week, in Seattle, I arranged a quick blind tasting of five double/Imperial IPAs. In the line up was Ninkasi “Tricerahops”, 21st Amendment “Hop Crisis”, Hair of the Dog “Blue Dot”, and Firestone Walker “Double Jack”…and one ringer. I poured for five 30-something hard-core craft beer geeks and four of the five chose the ringer as the best ale. The fifth guy rated it second. The ringer: the new Pyramid “Outburst”. (All five were absolutely appalled)

    Widmer is brewing outstanding beers these days, and you can either enjoy them for the rather startling quality they’ve somehow come up with or pat them indulgently on the head – “trying to get back into the game with some new brews that aren’t half-bad” – and just miss a lot of great beers.

  5. And just so we’re absolutely clear on this, I did the same blind tasting later, when two of these five said, “Bet you couldn’t do any better.” I had one of the five pouring, again all in identical glasses, no cans or bottles showing. I chose “Tricerahops” first and “Hop Crisis” second…and Pyramid third.

  6. I haven’t tasted the Hop Crisis or the Outburst. Would be interesting to see if I picked the Ninkasi over the Double Jack. I’ve consistently rated the Double Jack over the Ninkasi in non-blind tastings.

    The challenge for Widmer is most places do not have the new generation Widmers on tap. To turn the tide with losing market share they probably need to make some hard decisions and replace some of the weaker brewers outright. Widmer needs to change people’s perceptions of their beer. They can’t do that with hard to find options. The serious beer geeks aren’t the ones who fled costing them so much share — it’s the average joe.

  7. The issue boneyard ran into with canning the beer, is simply capacity. In their current place they basically can’t brew it fast enough. Last I heard it will be late summer before they are up and running with cans.

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