By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
When I pull up to the modest green house in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood in Bend, there is no indication of what lies within. As Dean Wise greets me at the door and invites me into his living room, I would never guess that there is a brewery in the basement. There are a few beer-related books on the shelves lining one end
of the room, but it takes more than a quick glance to spot them. There’s no beer paraphernalia, no bottles on the nearby kitchen table, not even a hint of the smell of mash. There is, however, a 100-pound rescued mixed breed named Enzo who barks loudly at the back door until Dean asks if I mind if the dog is allowed inside.
We settle into cozy armchairs and, after greeting me with some friendly nuzzling, Enzo eventually lies down on his bed at one end of the room. I quickly learn that if I gesture too much with my hands, Enzo interprets that as an invitation to come over; thus Dean ends up spending most of the interview trying in vain to keep the dog by his side.
While Enzo is not exhibiting his best manners, Dean has much better control of his brewing process. In fact, it becomes readily apparent that one of the things he takes the most pride in regarding his Below Grade beers are their high quality and layers of flavor. “I do not want my beers to be a one-note experience on the palate,” Dean explains.
Dean gained an appreciation of craft beer early in life. He remembers asking his parents to buy beer for him when he was a teenager. Born in Eugene, OR, he has lived in Bend since 1978, with the exception of spending six years at Portland State University where he studied art and architecture.
In 1991, Dean read The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian for the first
time. The book peaked his interest and he started brewing shortly thereafter. He made a handful of extract beers before switching to all grain. After a decade of home brewing, Dean started focusing on being more precise in his methods with the goal of making better quality beers. He has many dog-eared notebooks to attest to those efforts.
In 2010, with years of positive feedback on his homebrews and after losing his job in land development, Dean decided to market test his beer.
Over the past few years, Dean has brewed a variety of unique beers including Identity Crisis, a blend of his naturally soured Nevermind White IPA and Validation Imperial IPA. Lately, he has “enjoyed experimenting with fermentation using Lactobacillus versus Brettanomyces.” Self-distributing to a few local bottle shops and pouring from a booth at the summer-only NorthWest Crossing Farmers Market, his beers have been well-received to the point that he can’t keep up with demand.
Now brewing one barrel twice per week with
an average of 50 barrels per year, Dean is looking to scale up his brewing operation and thus needs
a larger facility in which to brew. He is biding his time, waiting for the ideal space in a preferred area to be available. The focus will continue to be on the beer, so there are no plans for anything more than a brewery with a small tasting room.
The new operation will allow him to increase annual production twelve times. While he understands the advantages of a 10-barrel system, Dean plans to brew on a 5-barrel system three times per week. He’ll continue to make noteworthy beers like Faux Pilz, made with Carapils malt and Saaz hops, that he will debut at Bend Brew Fest
in August. After the expansion, he just might need to change that Seriously Underground Ales tagline!
Dean Wise is scaling up his brewing operation to meet local demand .
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.