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Ten Questions for 10 Barrel on its Tenth Anniversary

Garrett Wales, a third of the team behind 10 Barrel sat down with us to talk beer, Bend and what 10 Barrel looks like in the next ten years.

What’s been your favorite beer you’ve made?

Every beer we’ve ever made has been designed out of the intentions of something we’ll love. To me, it’s ISA. ISA has been my all time favorite.

What 10 Barrel projects are you excited about right now?

We’ve got a lot of cool stuff. Our new pubs are really exciting. We’re going to open the San Diego pub in the next week, and that’s been a really long process. It’s exciting to see it come to fruition. The Denver pub just turned out really beautiful. I’m really proud of those. And this project—this is huge. The offices alone, just having this space. Getting everyone back under one roof. The pub out here I’m really excited about. We’re going to get maybe a lot of locals back, a lot of folks on the east side who don’t want to wait in line or deal with that. We’re a lot closer to a lot of neighborhood homes. We’re really excited to get back in touch with those guys.

How has 10 Barrel changed in the last 10 years?

What’s more important, and what’s easier to list is what hasn’t changed. Because obviously everything has changed. We went from bootstrapping, literally delivering kegs out of our truck—Chris, Jeremy and myself and one employee—to this. It’s a path that none of us saw coming. We didn’t plan for it. It’s just the way it went. We were just aggressive and young enough and dumb enough to think we could pull it off, and it just happened. But what hasn’t changed is who’s leading the charge. The passion for the product and what we’re doing and the passion for our team and our people—bringing in the best people we could find. That’s something that’s never taken a backseat. And also just having fun with the product. It’s definitely a business and the business side of the industry is what catches people off-guard, but it’s also really fun. And we started to make products that we were really proud of and stoked on and keeping that mentality and that approach and being able to maintain that, not only through the last couple years and the acquisition but even through our initial growth.

What have you learned from 10 years in the brewing industry?

We’ve learned everything, and most of it the hard way, and proudly. It’s a little cliché, but the importance of staying true to the foundation of the company and sticking with what’s most important and being very authentic. I think that’s one thing about our brand that no one could ever knock us on is that we’ve always been authentic to who we were as a company and what was important to us. If I had one lesson to share with a business class it would be that.

How do you think Bend’s craft beer industry has changed in the last 10 years?

Dramatically. I think especially if you go back, not the last two, but the prior five years to that, that was when we were kind of the first of the second generation of breweries in Bend, if you look at what Deschutes started. That’s one of the reasons why the craft scene has been so successful here is because of Deschutes and the early approach that they took. We’ve had a very educated consumer, we’ve had a much larger market share than nationwide, even statewide for a long time. You’ve seen a lot of people come into it. Obviously it’s grown, the reputation has grown. It’s become a legitimate tourism industry just like the mountain or the golf courses. So that’s been pretty cool. We’ve mostly had successful breweries join, putting out a lot of good beer. I think even now the industry itself is in a bit of a right sizing across the board, across the country. We’ll see the quality of the product and the strength of the brands and how that withstands whatever may be coming down the road.

How have you dealt with some of the reactions to 10 Barrel opening brewpubs in new cities?

The reaction in general has been extremely positive. There’s a very small but very vocal minority [that is negative]. We’re getting great feedback, the neighbors are excited. Especially in San Diego, we’re first of the revitalization in a worn down neighborhood. The support we get here is awesome and people from Bend are so stoked to share a little piece of Bend and what we started here and these new markets. It’s not an accident that we picked some of the most craft-centric markets in the country to go into. People come in [to those pubs], there’s still great beer that’s brewed locally. We’re providing a lot of jobs, a really fun experience and staying true to the brand and people are having a really good time.

How do you think 10 Barrel’s role has changed in the craft beer industry?

It hasn’t. Not at all. Our goals have always been to be a good part of the community. We help people out whenever we can. We always answer the phone. If anything now we’ve got more ability to help people. We just want to continue to be innovators. We want to continue to be pushing the edge. We want to continue to be out in front of trends just like we always did in the past. Our role is just to put out a quality product and stay true to what we wanted to do and see where it all shakes out. When it’s within the family, within the AB portfolio, we’ve been a resource for almost everyone that’s been purchased.

What do you wish more people knew about 10 Barrel right now?

The people that are fans and that enjoy the product know all there is to know. That’s all it’s about at the end of the day: It’s about the beer. Maybe those that are critics of the deal, I maybe wish they could see the inner workings a little more, and everything we’re saying about who’s in control, who’s making decisions, who’s driving the creativity, the autonomy that our brewers have, things like that, are all very real. Seeing that, and seeing who’s been the driving force and seeing who’s been making the decisions, it’s the exact same people it always has been, which is good.

What trends are you excited about in the brewing industry?

Not hazy IPAs. Not New England-style IPA. I think we’re kind of caught in between trends right now. Session IPAs are still big, but that really was last year or the year before. Getting back into the lighter-style beer, a little less complicated style beer. Those are all still hot and they’re what’s moving, but I wouldn’t say they’re what’s next. The crush and sessionable sours I know we played a real driving force in creating, and it’s huge for us and it’s huge nationwide. I’m excited to really see what’s next. We’re trying a lot of things.

What does the next 10 years look like for 10 Barrel?

I have no idea. That’s the thing. There never was a five-year plan. There never was a three-year plan. Just make as much [beer] as we can, sell as much as we can. That’s really what our strategy was, to grow organically, grow healthily as a business, and that still maintains today. We’re expanding into a lot of new markets, the beer is going further than we planned. The plan isn’t to become some big new national powerhouse. The plan is to focus on the home market of the Northwest, and just continue to have fun.

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