By Carlos Perez
Quite a bit has been written about Bend’s Boneyard Brewery – rightfully so, the talented crew over at Boneyard craft some of the tastiest brew around. Their top seller? R.P.M. A hop forward and well balanced IPA that just tastes great. It’s actually been such a big hit, that they needed more room just to keep up w/ demand. More room to the tune of 15,000 sq.ft. Enter the (mostly) RPM factory.
I met up with Tony Lawrence late November for a tour of the new brewery, located over on the north side of town surrounded by other commercial enterprises – somewhat of a departure from the original brewery spot downtown. It just so happened that Clay Storey (partner) was there at the time so that was a bonus. Boneyard’s new space is significantly larger than the the Lake Place location - way more elbow room for sure. By the looks of it these guys are now even more committed to producing copious amounts of beer for all the “Boneheads” (like me) out there.
Expansion: The Boneyard Way
New year new brewery! So, new brewery, new equipment right? Nope. Staying true to the Boneyard way, much of the brewing equipment has had some previous lovin’. The 40 bbl system was originally from Bert Grant’s (a craft beer pioneer in his own right) brewery in Yakima, Washington, which then worked its way down to Mexicali, Mexico, and back up to Bend – the copper kettle is a beauty. Other items in and around the brewery from the Mexicali deal include the whirlpool, bucket elevator, and grain silo. Most of the brewery components will be used for sure. There are four 100 bbl fermenters and two 200 bbl fermenters both from Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta, a mix of Newlands (from Canada, eh) and Mueller (USA) tanks. The Mueller tanks are burley! Although the brewery system wasn’t completely dialed in when I was there, I could see the makings of a sweet full production brewery in progress. Tony also mentioned they had plans to install some massive garage doors that were previously part of the Sisters Fire Station.
In addition to the used equipment, there’s some new stuff too. Tony was particularly stoked on a G&D Chillers Glycol system which stood outside the facility waiting to be installed. The brewery floors, oh my. The floors were a pretty penny, but they wanted to do it right. Once the tanks go in, there’s no chance to upgrade the flooring, right? The original floors were demolished and removed, digging followed, rebar was then placed, and a drain system installed. The floors were designed with a slopes for easy drainage and then a special top coat was applied. It’s one of the nicest brewery floors I have seen. The next big install is the catwalk, which should fit in nicely.
Life-Friendly Production Schedule
The new brewery is set up primarily for production, and Tony has the numbers figured out. The plan? 40,000 bbl a year. That’s no random number. It’s based on several things, obviously the equipment, but also the Boneyard crew. The idea is pretty simple: 3 brews a day, Monday - Friday, no more weekend brewing and no more graveyard shifts. This will allow the brewers to meet the market demand, focus more on their family beers like Bone-a-fied and Armored Fist, have time to make some special brews, and have some free time to boot. Sounds good to me, but they’ll have to see how it actually plays out.
‘Live Up to Our Own Expectation’
More is more, but enough is enough. Now that Boneyard’s capacity to brew has pretty much quadrupled, you’d think that their goal is to continue to expand all over the place like several craft breweries have. But as Tony said “We want to continue to make good beer that can live up to our expectations and do our own thing.” And that thing may just mean getting beer to the good people of the Northwest and that’s it. Tony wants to keep Boneyard a well-oiled, finely-tuned machine and has high expectations on quality production. That translates to focused distribution of draught beer – canning is out, and bottles are on the distant, distant horizon, “We’re sticking to draught,” says Tony. Even with the new expansion, Boneyard is a “Sold Out” brewery, keeping up with orders is challenging enough, and producing anything else than draught is secondary. So for now keeping it simple is the plan.
That’s not to say that you couldn’t possibly one day get a Boneyard in a bottle tho, but not just any bottle. Beautifully painted, wax-topped liters or magnums filled with limited edition special brews (There happens to be a EASU & HUEBER filler station tucked away in the new building). But don’t hold your breath, it could be at least a year before this thought even manifests into a bottle in your hand.
Behind the new brewing facility is an older warehouse, pretty nondescript actually – less the Mexicali grain silo that stands next to it. However the closer you get, Boneyardiness sets in. Parked out front is a most excellent 1954 Buick Super that needs some TLC. As you enter, there are motorcycles: a chopper, a cafe bike, a dual sport, a motorized bike of some sort – all in various states of disrepair/repair, again, waiting for some TLC. It’s part garage, part keg storage, part workshop, all awesome. This is also where they’ll continue to hand make make their tap handles. With the move to the new brewery, Boneyard has successfully managed to bring some of the soul of what makes Boneyard Boneyard, and it resides quite nicely in what Tony calls “The Clubhouse”. I glance at Tony, and back again at the custom chopper waiting for some parts, mainly the motor – he say’s with a smile “I like horsepower and torque”, now the name R.P.M. set’s in. It’s apparent that this is where the playground will be, and if Clay, Tony, and the rest of the crew find the time, some of these bikes and that Buick will one day see the road again.
On the short walk back to the main brewery I notice what looks to be like scrap steel. Tony tells me that the pieces are steel from tank cradles. But they will not go to waste, they’ll make tables out of it. Another project, when time allows.
Boneyard has made the leap. With the combined efforts of the entire Boneyard crew and Tony, Clay & Melodee (Clay’s wife) at the helm, Boneyard has grown into a thriving full production craft brewing business in just over 3 years. If there’s one beer that helped pave the way, it would have to be R.P.M., and once you’ve had that, you’ll soon come to be a fan of all their other brews as well. And R.P.M. fans can rest assured that over the years the recipe has stayed true with only minor tweaks in process for clarity, and a .5% shift in ABV for drinkability.
For 2014, keep you eyes peeled for some Boneyard sour beers, as well as a collaboration with Widmer – it’s their 30th year Anniversary and only a handful of breweries were chosen to collaborate, Boneyard being one of them. Brew 1 will continue to operate and focus on specialty beers. The tap room will remain open to the public and people are encouraged to get their fill over there.
( a ) 37 NW Lake Pl, Bend
( p ) 541-323-2325
(h) 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Every day
Owners: Clay and Melodee Storey and Tony Lawrence.
Brewer: Tony Lawrence
Note: The new brewery is not yet open to the pubic
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.