“W” can stand for a lot of things, but in the case of the eastside Bend-based fledgling Worthy Brewing project – which could be the most ambitious start-up yet in the bourgeoning craft beer industry – you’re mostly just left mouthing “Wow…”
The awe is inspired by the sheer scope of the “Beertopia” vision formulated by founder Roger Worthington and the ace team he has assembled, culminating in the completion of a three-acre campus encompassing a modern steel-framed 30,000 square foot building including an expansive 30-barrel production brewery and full-service restaurant (complete with wood-fired stone hearth) as well as a Bavarian style beer garten, hop garden, herb garden and greenhouse.
After meticulous preparation, Worthy Brewing, which is positioning as a major regional production player, has hit the ground running with a hi-tech system capable of producing upwards of 60,000 barrels annually, plus a small batch pilot brewing set-up “for nailing recipes and concocting experimental beer styles,” says Brewmaster Chad Kennedy, who joined the venture in its conceptual stage following a previous stint with Portland-based Laurelwood Brewing Company.
Other features of the enterprise located off Highway 20 include an Italian-made 14-head Vimercati canning line capable of filling over 3,000 cans an hour, likely to ramp up in the Spring, as well as cutting edge bottling, packaging, kegging and cold storage capability, all housed in a highly sustainable energy-efficient environment including an extensive solar array boosting power and thermal water heating capacity. A partial second story also accommodates office and conference space.
The transformation of a hardscrabble lot on Bellevue Drive into an oasis for the city’s growing band of craft brewery aficionados has already been warmly welcomed as incorporating a first brewpub option on Bend’s eastside, with crowds thronging daily and managers reporting projections outpaced threefold in the first week of opening.
One of the several inaugural in-house beers served on-premise is even named ESP “East Side Pale Ale” after the operation’s local roots, and the story of three post-Superbowl Sunday “Prineville Pilgrims” who camped out from 5:45am to be the bar’s first customers has already passed into local folklore.
The Worthy project is the brainchild of asbestos case specialist attorney and part-time Bend resident Roger Worthington, who is also a partner in Indie Hops, which supplies Oregon-grown aroma hops to craft brewers.
Indie Hops has been steadily building infrastructure in the Willamette Valley, partnering with leading farmers and investing in hops research and breeding new varieties geared toward servicing the craft beer market from “America’s premium aroma hops terroir.”
Worthington, who is also an accomplished masters cyclist, said, “Hops and craft beer are something I am passionate about and four years ago I got involved in building the hop company.
“The next logical step seemed to be to open a brewery, partly to utilize new hop varieties and create exciting new products, and the vision evolved to be a comprehensive concept covering many facets.
“In my legal practice I have seen a great deal of anguish and melancholy, so I have gone from misery, to happiness in the hop business, to ecstasy with the brewery!
“We are excited also to have partnered with Oregon State University and Oregon farmers to grow hops on-site, opening the door to research and experimentation that we anticipate will culminate in even more flavors to enjoy.
“Also, if you don’t have the time and money to go to Oktoberfest in Munich, you can enjoy our Bavaria beer garden experience – complete with picnic tables, fire pits and festooned with lights – and also learn about hops. We want to have a tourable facility and to offer education wherever possible on all things brewing related.”
The idea of starting the brewery was advanced after Kennedy met Worthington while sampling some of the varietals offered by Indie Hops, and provided input on how the initiative could be ideally assembled. The concept blossomed after continued dialog, leading to Kennedy formally joining as Brewmaster after looking to spread his wings following nine years in a senior capacity with Laurelwood.
Worthington also brought in local architect Neal Huston and SunWest Builders, who he had worked with successfully on a residential project, once the overarching vision distillated and his team had navigated through an exhaustive commercial rezone process with the City of Bend.
He was also conscious that many breweries can get hemmed in to existing space so also wanted to build in extra capacity to accommodate future growth and expansion.
Huston said that the design incorporated opening up mountain views, and also breaking up the scale of the Hwy 20 frontage – the production brewery ceiling height averages 35 feet – by extensive use of glass, and employment of clerestory windows to maximize natural light throughout the facility. Cascade Range-framed sunset vistas from the West-facing beer garden patio promise to be impressive.
The 150-seat restaurant is comfortable and well furnished, with upscale décor and a long bar leading toward a glass wall allowing a view of the production area.
Intricate details abound, including a hop mosaic path – designed by a Southern California artist with each piece numbered, and meticulously set by a local Central Oregon artisan – inlaid in the polished concrete floor and leading from the entrance to the “Beervana” brewhouse.
Another striking mosaic, loosely based on Van Gogh’s Starry Nights, adorns the centerpiece pizza-centric dome shaped stone hearth oven and has been jokingly dubbed “Van Dough” by the restaurant’s acclaimed master chef Mike Harrison, who added that fresh local ingredients are used wherever possible in a menu featuring “American pub fare with global influences.”
The restaurant bar top, table tops and benches are notably fashioned from reclaimed old growth Doug Fir sourced by Worthington from the demolished Oregon State Hospital featured in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – based on the novel by famed Eugene resident Ken Kesey. A firm fan of the esteemed counterculture hero, Worthington has an art wall devoted to the movie and the tale of the rescued 9,000 board feet of timber.
As part of encouraging a ‘beer university’ ambience, there is to be a yeast-propagation area in the grounds with the greenhouse to be named after America’s Greatest HopMeister, Dr Al Haunold.
The Worthy website says Dr. Haunold, from 1968 through the late 1990s, “gave the American public 23 varieties of hops which he cooked up, crossed, tested, perfected and released while serving as the USDA HopMeister. It is therefore our honor and privilege to help continue his sterling legacy by dedicating the greenhouse to Dr. Haunold. Stay tuned for the official dedication.”
With the help of associates at Oregon State University, Worthy will also be planting a number of exotic, ornamental varieties as well as a few of the craft beer workhorse varieties in a dedicated hop yard.
Worthy Brewing CEO Chris Hodge – who has 28 years experience in the beer distribution business, most recently as director of specialty brands at Columbia Distributing – met Worthington at an industry conference a couple of years back.
He said: “We hit it off well, and some time later I got a call from Roger out of the blue asking if I was interested in running the new enterprise.
“I had also known Chad for about ten years and was very confident about the business prospects. It took one meeting to see Roger’s passion, vision, intelligence and desire to build a true cultural beer Mecca.
“In all my years in the business I have never seen a start-up with such a big investment in the future. It is truly a unique ‘Beertopia’ and I am excited to be involved.”
Kennedy, who is familiar with Hodge’s track record in building brands and generating sales, added, “We have a full-size production brewery. Each batch of beer that we do is about 60 kegs.
“It’s not sort of the brew pub model. It’s more about the production of beer — beer that’s also going to be canned and bottled.”
Worthy Brewing is open 11am to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, 11am to 11pm Friday and Saturday.
495 NE Bellevue Drive, Bend • 541- 639-4776
Property Owner/Developer: Roger Worthington
Contractor: SunWest Builders
Project Cost: $4.1 million
Sitework Start: February 2011
Completion: December 2012
Square Footage: 28,885
Amenities: Production brewery, restaurant, business office, beer garden, hop garden and greenhouse
Project Manager: Mark Maxwell (SunWest)
Supervisor: Jon Page (SunWest)
Architect: Neal Huston & Associates, Architects Inc.
Principal Architect: Neal Huston and Mark Ward
Structural Engineer: Walker Structural Engineering
Civil Engineer: WHPacific
Mechanical Engineer: MFIA
Interior Designer: Kirsti Wolfe Design
Subcontractors and Suppliers:
GH Surveying, LLC, Latham Excavation, Tri County Paving, Green Thumb Industries, Western Protective Coatings, Northwest Quality Construction, Ultra Quiet Floors, Roger Langeliers, Solid Rock Masonry, All Position Welding, B & B Steel Erectors, Oswego Drywall, Miller Lumber, Frame to Finish, LLC, Pro Shop Millwork