The owners of 10 Barrel Brewing are hiring to expand their beer production fourfold as Bend’s craft brewing industry takes off. Clockwise from top left are 10 Barrel owners Jeremy Cox, Garrett Wales, Brad Wales and Chris Cox.
The ownership team for 10 Barrel certainly doesn’t look like a cutthroat bunch when I drive out to meet with them in a half-deserted business park off Empire Avenue. They’re soaking up sun in the parking lot, cracking jokes and drinking from a keg. Co-owner Chris Cox, who is 33, boasts about the great whiffle ball games in the parking lot as he leads me back to an office decorated with a poster advertising Extreme Midget Wrestling. His partner Garret Wales joins us a short time later with a container full of Mexican food.
Cox and his brother Jeremy were in their 20s when they moved from Portland to Bend to escape their corporate jobs and take a shot at buying and running a bar. It was boom time in Bend, so their bar did extremely well. They hired brewers and got into making their own beer, sold it hard, brought in ownership partners with experience in distribution and sales. They did everything right — except they bought property in Bend.
“Our property investments are down 70%,” Cox says with a grin. “But that’s how it is in Bend. You can tell the saddest sob story about all the money you lost and chances are the guy across the bar from you has been through something 10 times as bad.”
When the bottom fell out of the economy, the brokers and builders who used to flock to the bar to celebrate their successes stopped showing. The Coxes hired two out-of-work attorneys as servers. The value of the land they’d bought just kept falling. But their 10 Barrel brand held up well, in Portland as well as in Bend. Cox and his co-owners overruled the cautionary advice they heard from everyone they talked to and opened a brewpub in February 2010. Rather than sputter, the place has taken off. They couldn’t keep up with demand for their beer, so they decided to expand production fourfold, bringing in 14-year Deschutes Brewery veteran Jimmy Siefert to lead the transition. Siefert is hanging out in the parking lot, and when I ask him how he feels about his new job, he launches into a passionate monologue about how much fun it will be to grow 10 Barrel like they grew Deschutes.
Cox smiles. “We drink beer all day long, but we work really hard, too.”
It’s not the typical path to job creation, but it’s working for 10 Barrel. Launched in 2006, the company is up to 100 jobs. Cox expects to hire 20 more people to keep up with production and move the beer into new markets outside of Bend.