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Monday, September 3, 2012

Boneyard Continues to Carve Success Story

A trip to Central Oregon means listening to a little Black Sabbath. Not necessarily in the car. Black Sabbath is one of a bunch of vintage metal bands you're likely to hear on the sound system at Boneyard Brewing in Bend. Such was the case when I visited on Friday.

I had last-visited Boneyard in late December. (Here's a link back to that post if you're interested). The big takeaway from that visit was that Boneyard's popularity was growing faster than the brewery's ability to meet the demand. It's a good problem to have up to a point. They were working on plans to rectify that situation.

Keeping things REAL in the brewery... 
Beer fans may have noticed that Boneyard's RPM IPA is readily available in Portland. One of the reasons is that Boneyard added three 60 bbl fermenters in recent months. They're still working off a 20 bbl brewhouse, but the additional fermentation space has enabled them to bump monthly production from 650 to roughly 1000 barrels.

Co-owner, beerologist and head brewer, Tony Lawrence, says Boneyard is still working on plans to open a 50bbl production brewery in Bend. When we last spoke, Lawrence said he hoped that facility would be open by summer. That obviously hasn't happened, as they continue to operate out of the space on Lake Place in Bend.

A trio of new fermenters (center) have bumped up production
"We're still working on the expansion project," Lawrence said. "The investment required is more than we can manage on our own, so we're working with a bank. I hope we'll have the new space ready to go by next spring. The plan is to hit 20,000 barrels in 2013...obviously dependent on getting the production facility going."

Related to production levels is the retail distribution project. Boneyard bought a canning line and hoped to be distributing RPM in 16 oz cans long ago. Again, keeping the draft channels fully supplied is the priority and the canning program has taken a backseat. But it has not been forgotten or abandoned.

A back-up supply of beer...goes with their sense of humor
"I hope we can start doing some retail distribution in 2013," Lawrence said. "We may be looking at 12 oz cans instead of the 16 oz version because it appears 12 oz cans may be easier for us to get. I realize distributors and retailers may have issues with the various can sizes. We can't worry about that. We'll go with what makes the best sense to us when the time comes."

Something else Lawrence has been working on is dialing the alcohol content of RPM and Hop Venon down to more user-friendly levels. If you wondering, RPM was originally 7.5% ABV, while Hop Venon was 10%. The tasting room board suggested they've made progress. RPM was listed at 7%, Hop Venom at 8.9%.

A stern warning to brewery employees
"The idea in bringing the numbers down was make the beers more drinkable," Lawrence said. "I think less alcohol actually allows for more flavor...and lets people drink more of this beer. Anyway, the tasting room sign isn't exactly right. RPM is right around 6.6% and Hop Venom is probably a little less than 8.9%."

Speaking of the tasting room, they were pouring RPM, Hop Venom, Girl Beer, Diablo Rojo (all typically good) and Femme Fuego, a pepper-infused sour I didn't care for. I was hoping to see Armored Fist, (a terrific imperial Cascadian Ale) or Skunk Ape (a terrific IRA), but neither were present. Oh well. It's all about timing.

Special kegs headed to the Little Woody Fest
The basic takeaway from this visit is that things continue to go well for Boneyard. They are producing and selling more beer than ever. Indeed, they reached  #10 on the OLCC's craft beer production list for June 2012. (These numbers are always several months behind.) Boneyard was #16 in January. Movin' on up!

If the production brewery comes online as planned in the spring, Boneyard will likely be among the top five producers of craft beer in the state by the end of 2013. Not bad for a brewery that is less than three years old and hasn't sacrificed quality as it has increased production. It's also a terrific, down-to-earth place to visit...if you don't mind a little Black Sabbath with your beer.

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