Kevin Stewart keeps an eye on his latest creation
Photo by Branden Andersen
By Branden Andersen
Hidden away in a residential district off of Redmond’s main street, Smith Rock Brewing is not on Central Oregon’s brewing grid. For now, that’s the way co-owner and co-founder Kevin Stewart likes it.
“We’re just a neighborhood place,” Stewart said. “As long as our customers are happy, we’re happy.”
Smith Rock Brewing opened in November 2012 with a homebrew kit in a house-turned-restaurant. Located 3.5 miles from its namesake, the half- barrel brewery currently only brews enough to keep a couple of its beers on tap, but, an expansion is under way. Stewart is upgrading to a 3-barrel system, with hopes of one day distributing.
“If you look at what we’re doing, we’re not built to be huge,” Stewart said. “We’re on the north end of Redmond, and we’re way lower key. We’re not trying to compete with Cascade Lakes.”
Stewart met his wife, Danielle, in Southern California, where they both worked in the restaurant industry. Kevin, a restaurant equipment manager at the time, said both Stewarts knew they wanted to run their own restaurant one day.
Around five years ago, the Stewarts, along with Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, weren’t finding beers that matched their palates, so they started homebrewing with beer-making kits. Kevin built a system fit for 22-gallon pots, giving them the capacity to brew enough for two couples that love beer.
Soon, word got out about the Stewart’s beer, and the possibility of opening a place became a reality.
“Friends will tell you they love your beer,” Stewart said. “But the question is, will they pay four dollars a pint for it?”
It turns out the Stewarts felt comfortable enough answering that question to open their own brewpub. They settled on a location in residential Redmond, in a space that was formerly an Italian restaurant. Stewart reinterpreted the previous decor and gave it a stucco-filled southwest feel, accentuating the outdoors focus and national park-themed wall hangings.
Stewart said the experience has been exciting, but not always easy. Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, who once worked at the brewpub, are no longer actively involved.
“It requires long hours, no pay, and a generally tough life,” Stewart said about owning and operating a restaurant and brewery. “We absolutely don’t blame them.”
Stewart tries to keep at least two Smith Rock beers on tap, which can vary depending on the season and what Stewart wants to try brewing. Their loosely-defined year-round offerings consist of 8am Pale Ale, a smooth easy drinker; and Morning Glory IPA, brewed with an eye on Boneyard’s RPM IPA, with Centennial, Cascade, Citra, Sterling and Magnum hops. The brewery has also produced beers ranging from a cream ale to a Cascadian Dark Ale.
Going forward, Stewart said he’s excited about the expansion and the prospect of putting out more beers. The idea is to keep their consistent beers available, while trying more experimental styles and continuing to produce great food.
“We’re so small, we really can experiment with different styles and have fun with it without huge cost to us,” Stewart said.
“We came in at a good time,” Stewart said. “The beer industry is growing around us and we’re getting regulars from our area to keep coming back. It proves our theory: Provide good food and good beer, and people will know through word of mouth. We’re going to grow at a gradual pace, and we’re okay with that.”
Smith Rock Brewing
[a] 546 NW 7th St., Redmond
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.