In this day and age there are few areas in Oregon that do not have a brewing presence; travelers can often find a brewpub even in small far-flung communities. Breweries are so prevalent that it’s often surprising not to find one, and for a region such as Central Oregon, with 27 brewery operations and counting, a town without a brewery would seem unheard of.
Nonetheless, Madras is one of those exceptions, lacking a brewery of its own.
The City of Madras seeks to rectify that, and in December it launched a campaign to attract a brewpub or a production brewery to the city. As part of that effort, the Madras Redevelopment Commission (MRC) is offering a package of assistance and incentives to help get an operation established and running.
The MRC hired Bend agency Every Idea Marketing and enlisted the help of brewery consultant Pratt Rather (who helped found GoodLife Brewing Company), to develop the marketing materials and website for the project. The end results can be found on the Brew It Madras website, including the official Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP submission deadline is March 2.
While the city is interested in recruiting for several possible brewing models, the desired qualities listed in the RFP appear to favor a brewpub and restaurant:
• Slightly upscale;
• Family friendly;
• A place where friends, family and groups can meet and enjoy good beer, food and service; and
• A place that creates a memorable and distinguished experience that inspires customers to come back time and time again.
“The vision is for a vibrant community gathering place and an inviting destination for friends, family and tourists,” said Madras mayor Royce Embanks in the press release.
Potential incentives apply as long as the brewery is located within the city’s Urban Renewal District, which includes properties on both sides of Highways 97 and 20 that run through the center of town. Incentives in the form of assistance from the MRC include permit fees, site development costs, small business startup loans and technical assistance with waste water disposal.
Why should someone start a brewery in Madras? The city is hoping to tap into the Central Oregon tourist economy, which sees more than four million visitors and hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Most of that takes place in Bend and Deschutes County; Madras is simply on the route to other Central Oregon destinations. On the heels of the August total solar eclipse, which brought 100,000 people to the town, the community is banking on that exposure to help keep more of that traffic local.
Madras is also home to something few other regions can match: locally-grown craft malt. Mecca Grade Estate Malt grows and malts all of its own grain on its 1,000-acre farm located 10 miles north of the city. Prospective breweries could explore the regional terroir and would have access to the freshest possible malt from the source.
“I don’t know why a brewer isn’t established here already,” owner Seth Klann told the Bend Bulletin newspaper in October. “We’re unique in that we have all the local ingredients; it could be 100-percent locally sourced and we could capitalize on that.”
Klann sees the necessity of a brewery differentiating itself from others in the region. “If you’re going to get people to stop, going between Bend and Portland, you have to have something different,” he said via phone. “It would have to be something special, in the scheme of things.”
Once all of the proposals have been submitted by the March deadline, the MRC plans to spend the next two months interviewing candidates and select one to enter into negotiations for a development agreement. Optimistically, the MRC estimates that approval of this agreement could be as early as July.
Even so, there’s no guarantee that a brewery would be open for business within the next couple of years — or even that any proposals will meet the City’s requirements. Still, the City is motivated to end the local beer drought, so it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before Madras is brewing beer. •