Barley’s brews of Baker City beat out beer’s big boys

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Monday, October 01, 2007

TylerBrown1007.jpg Tyler Brown

PHOTO BY BRYAN BLOEBAUM

BAKER CITY Once the work of an after-hours home-brew hobbyist, Tyler Brown’s beers are now winning national honors. At this year’s North American Beer Awards, Barley Brown’s Brew Pub pulled in five medals, three gold and two silver. Up against more than 1,000 entries from industry powerhouses, the tiny Baker City brewery was one of only five to take home three gold medals.

Ten years ago, it was just an idea. In 1997 when Brown’s parents were considering whether to remodel the family restaurant or sell off the building, Brown thought, “Shoot, I seek out brew pubs when I travel; we could use one in town.” At first there wasn’t a lot of support for the project. Equipment manufacturers questioned the size of Baker City’s market, and some wouldn’t even give Brown a quote. Undeterred, he found a company to build a small four-barrel brewery, spent five months remodeling and opened in the summer of 1998.

Despite the popularity of microbreweries in the western part of the state, there wasn’t much interest in Barley Brown’s when it first opened. To survive, the brewpub also served hard alcohol, wine and domestic beers such as Bud Lite and Miller. Free samples to customers who ordered more familiar drinks helped cultivate an appreciation and appetite for Brown’s original brews.

The perseverance paid off. In addition to the national attention, Barley Brown’s is now a local favorite. So popular, in fact, that Brown can barely produce enough beer to keep up with demand and is looking for an additional brewing site.

Beer competition medals are nice, says Brown, but he’s more enthusiastic about giving Baker something to brag about. “People who live here love to say, ‘Our brewery is better than the ones in Portland.’”

BROOKE MATSCHEK


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