In 2010, Brandon Woodruff began with a simple dream of running his own craft brewery. After twists and turns, and two prior incarnations, Manifest Beer Company is now pouring in an 800-square-foot space in the heart of downtown Eugene. They celebrated their grand opening last month.
“Since I started homebrewing back in 2006, I have always brewed mostly by myself or in a place of solitude,” says Woodruff. “It is for sure different brewing next to one of Eugene’s finest art galleries, in a building with more windows than walls.”
With experience including barista and bartending work, Woodruff has been building toward this for some time. His original brewery concept started to come to fruition in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, but he lost the space in 2016. For more than a year Manifest languished in operational and production limbo. An alternating proprietorship with Elk Horn Brewery kept the brand alive — and imparted valuable lessons.
“Brewing over at Elk Horn, who has won awards at GABF and the World Beer Cup, helped me refine my beer styles and work more efficiently,” explains Woodruff. “Yield in the brewhouse has gone up by over 15 percent. Taking risks and trying new things helped tremendously. You don’t know how good something can be unless you try it.”
In 2017, Woodruff began talking with Gary Miller, owner of Doc’s Pad Restaurant & Sports Lounge. The two longtime Eugenians realized they had a “common vision of local first,” and saw the potential of having a brewery in a key part of downtown. After agreeing to a co-ownership, during 2017 Woodruff began setting up Manifest’s new home at 740 Willamette St., inside Doc’s Pad. The new brewery’s open floor plan allows people to be right in the thick of things. “It can get pretty tight,” says Woodruff, “but we have outside seating and standing areas.”
The 4-hectoliter brewhouse includes one open fermenter, one brite tank, three unitanks (all 12 hectoliters), and three 8-hectoliter unitanks. Woodruff double- or triple-batches each beer. Inspired both by traditional brewing ingredients and the mixology behind cocktails, Woodruff plans to focus on “wild and spontaneous” creations, plus “Northwest-inspired, hop-forward beers.”
Releases have included Manifest Best pre-Prohibition style lager, American Tradition, a “hybrid between an American amber and English brown that we call an amber,” and Imminent Haze, a hazy IPA brewed with Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic and Mosaic Cryo hops. “It is super juicy at over 6 pounds of hops per barrel,” explains Woodruff.
Other specials include a monthly open fermented beer. Part of a Belgian-inspired “Soup of the Day” series, “varying wine staves” will be used throughout fermentation.
“Funky wild beers have been something I have been doing a long time at home to share with friends and family,” says Woodruff, but he decided it was time to turn those homebrews into production beers. “It’s another color palette to work with. Blending and mixing has been all I have known since I started working in my first job. It’s the best way for me to share my appreciation for something you can’t fully control.”
Manifest is also using its Instagram and Facebook presences to talk up releases of its “Single Day IPAs.” Getting them ready is a challenge, but “that’s what we do,” says Woodruff. “We look for challenges and go after them. Released at the brewery and select self-distributed locations the same day they are packaged, these small batches sometimes have only a dozen 50-liter kegs available.
“The goal is to give the customer a beer we feel is at its pinnacle,” explains Woodruff, who has hand-carried mason jars of beer to area bars and taphouses in order to drum up interest.
As Manifest establishes itself with downtown’s lunch, evening and weekend crowds, Woodruff sees the neighborhood as a great fit for the third incarnation of his brewing dream.
“Gary and I both have worked in this area for many years, and we love it down here,” says Woodruff. “It’s great to see the redevelopment of the downtown area, and we hope to be part of the many events that people are already familiar with. We are pretty excited to be right next to Saturday Market and the Lane County Farmers Market. We also have all the parking a brewery could ever need, as we are located under a parking garage.” •