Glass is half full for craft brewers

BEND — Central Oregon's craft brewers say their business has been growing through the recession, even though the rate has been not quite so stout as it once was.

Deschutes Brewery, the first microbrewery established in Central Oregon more than 20 years ago, has plans to expand and increase brewing capacity within the next 12 months, marketing manager Jason Randles told The Bulletin.

Deschutes increased its production from 162,000 barrels in 2007 to 180,000 barrels in 2008.

Last July, Three Creeks Brewing Co. opened in Sisters, and Brewtal Brewing Co., currently being renamed, plans to start selling beer at local restaurants and bars on July 4. It is owned by former Deschutes brewer Anthony Lawrence.

Three Creeks, in its first nine months of business, has done better than expected, said Wade Underwood, co-owner and general manager.

"It's drawing a consistent crowd out here, and the microbreweries, in general, help to draw the local community," Underwood said. "It's almost a gathering place."

Randles says sales in pubs and restaurants, with some closing, have taken a bigger hit than those of package goods.

Overall, Oregon beer production rose 6.1 percent in 2008, said Brian Butenschoen, executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, but he said there was a slight decline in Oregon beer production from November through February.

In 2008, the craft-brewing industry "fared very well, especially considering the economic times," said Julia Herz, a spokeswoman for the Colorado-based Brewers Association. "There has definitely been a softening in growth, but the interest shown has been focused on local beer and the options available."

The association has released statistics that show Oregon ranking No. 3, behind Vermont and Montana, for the most breweries per capita in the United States.

With a total of 97 breweries in Oregon, not including those in the planning stages, and a population of 3,790,060, Oregon has one brewery for every 39,073 residents.

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