Bend, Oregon, is a small, beer-loving city full of scenic views, rich traditions, and a deep appreciation for local craft beer. Deschutes Brewery, located on the Deschutes River, has been brewing craft beer for over 30 years. Founder, Gary Fish, started Deschutes as a local brewpub with good food and even better beers. Since 1988, the brewery has installed numerous fermentation tanks and scaled from selling only 300 to over 425,000 barrels of beer annually. Deschutes has expanded to over 32 states, a few countries and has grown to be Oregon’s leading craft beer producer.
Deschutes Brewery, known for its diverse beer offerings, from robust Jubelale to their mainstay Black Butte Porter, they have become a landmark to craft beer fans in the Pacific Northwest. Deschutes is consistently producing innovative beer using their adaptive artificial intelligence, exploring new ways to make sustainability an integral part of their business, and supporting their community.
Heady Times had the opportunity to speak with Brian Faivre, Deschutes’ Head Brewmaster, to learn more about this top-performing craft brewery from the West Coast.
Heady Times (HT): Tell us more about your background and how you started with Deschutes.
Brian Faivre (BF): I have always been drawn to computers and enjoyed mathematics. I coincidently lived across the street from a brewpub and discovered my love for home brewing in college. I was, unfortunately, persuaded away from brewing, so I pursued a career in computer science. I continued to homebrew whenever I could, and after five years working as a software engineer, I decided to take a break. I ventured to San Francisco and found my dream job, combining my love for computers, mathematics, and beer. It was then I discovered an assistant brewer position, and the rest is history.
After two years, I enrolled in UC Davis Master Brewers Program to gain a formal education in brewing. I took a production brewing job at Deschutes Brewery the summer following the program. I am biased, but almost 16 years later, I can honestly say I love everything about the beer industry. The fact that we get to develop the beer, watch the progression, and taste them daily is extremely rewarding.
HT: Your famous Black Butte Porter has been called “America’s Favorite Craft Porter.” Can you tell us more about that?
PF: Black Butte Porter is most definitely our flagship beer, and it’s the beer that started it all. It’s a classic American porter aged since 1988, filled with notes of chocolate and coffee. It’s no secret that there are all these misconceptions and stereotypes centered around dark beers, but when consumers get a chance to taste it, and I watch their reactions, they truly fall head-over-heels in love with this porter.
HT: 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, how did Deschutes operate under such unprecedented circumstances in the Pacific Northwest?
BF: Unfortunately, we had to lay off about 50% of our staff, which was an extremely difficult task to complete. For the most part, we’ve been able to bring back almost all of the people that we laid off temporarily, but it’s been a very challenging and emotional time for everyone. Thankfully, we’ve seen a rebound, especially in the off-premise, where sales have spiked. We have produced and sold more in the last three months than we did in the previous year. The ability to adapt during these difficult times is key.
HT: Can you tell us more about the innovation behind how your Reserve Series is produced?
BF: Three years ago, we designed a pilot plant at our production facility to help us create limited release beers and to give us more of a creative outlet. One-barrel production permits us to do small testing batches, examine new hop varieties and different types of malts and yeast strains. We have a new series called “Send It Series,” which will be released in our tasting room in single-serve offerings. Pilot gives us the ability to do more rapid innovation to see how these beers will do in the market.
HT: We are all very anxious to see what 2021 will bring us. Can you provide a glimpse of what’s coming up for Deschutes?
BF: Every year, we have our anniversary beer with Imperial Porter, and the flavor combinations change annually, but we decided to go with a product called Whiskey Butte. We took some of our barrel-aged Anniversary Black Butte Porter and blended them with our regular Black Butte, which creates a beer that’s about 7.5% ABV rather than the large 13% from Imperial Porter. I am super excited about for consumers to taste this product.
901 SW Simpson Ave, Bend, OR 97702 • https://www.deschutesbrewery.com/