Brew Beer, Drink Beer, Have Fun: Touring 10 Barrel Brewing

Words by Chris Zimmerman
Photos by Chris Zimmerman

After starting out brewing in the basement of a local Bend, OR, bar in 2006 with a ten-barrel brewing system, 10 Barrel founders Chris and Jeremy Cox, and Garrett Wales have since grown their humble operation beyond their wildest dreams. Still based in Bend but with brewpub locations in Boise, Denver, Portland and San Diego, 10 Barrel has seen a growth trajectory like few other breweries. After their partnership with Anheuser-Busch in 2014, becoming a member of The High End family of craft brands, 10 Barrel was given the resources and infrastructure it needed to expand, while a long leash to do things like host snowboard contests, make beer vending machines and build a new office/brew pub.

Through all this expansion, state-of-the-art brewing, bottling technology and increased distribution, the company has been able to hang onto its roots and stick to the founder’s mission of brewing beer, drinking beer and having fun. It’s pretty simple when you think about it, but in practice, few companies actually achieve this balance. Being based in the adventure hub of Bend, OR, definitely helps, as 10 Barrel employees frequently head to the mountain before work or hit the mountain bike trails after work. If your office was connected to a brewpub, had more beer than anyone could ever drink and its own Big Buck Hunter arcade game, it might be hard to get anything done at all, but the 10 Barrel crew keeps things moving.

It’s this work-life balance that creates a fun atmosphere and drives their constant creativity, of course good beer also helps. Even with the expanded distribution, the brewers at 10 Barrel are constantly working on pushing boundaries and making good beer, with each brewpub location having its own brewmaster with the power to experiment and create specific beers for that location. We had a chance to head down to Bend to visit the brewery and offices, eat at their award-winning pub, and crack open a few cold ones with the crew to learn more about the brewing process. 

Built last year, the new office (left) is right next door to the brewpub (right). Not a bad spot to go eat lunch.

With a large indoor and outdoor patio, the brew pub features a great selection of year round, seasonal and small tank series beers. You can literally see the bottling operation if you look to your right and the office if you look through the glass behind the bar.

The open concept of the office really shows how small the team running 10 Barrel is. Plus all the brewers, obviously. You can see the original beer vending machine tucked into the back corner. We found that someone actually had to crawl inside it, check ID’s then drop a beer through the hole. The fully automated version makes a lot more sense and requires no one getting inside it.

Before we headed next door to start the tour, we made a quick stop at the office beer vending machine to beer up.

Then we geared up with the proper safety accessories.

Parked in front of the brewing facility is the newly retired Pray for Snow truck. Built from an old army truck and featuring a drop-in ramp, this was basically an event on wheels.

The brewing facility is full of huge ass tanks, so big they actually had to remove part of the roof and air drop them in with a crane. There were a lot of these tanks and each one was filled with a different variety of beer. From here the beer is piped across the alley to the bottling building. The wooden barrels are used for different barrel-aged beers.

Here are some more barrels at 10 Barrel. These come from different distilleries and wineries, giving each brew a unique flavor.

The bottling plant is state-of-art. It was so mesmerizing watching this machine load the empty bottles, wash them, fill them, cap them, label them and box them that you could have watched for hours. This machine is so efficient it actually only needs to run a few hours per week so we were fortunate to see it fired up.

All these stacks of cans and bottles are empty and waiting to be filled with delicious beer. All a forklift operator has to do it load the pallet into the machine and it does the rest.

Nice cans.

While the 10 Barrel operation runs on a much smaller scale than something like a Budweiser bottling plant, it was definitely cool to see how many different beers they could brew. Seeing the passion and enthusiasm on all the employees working at 10 Barrel made us appreciate the beer even more than before. Thanks to 10 Barrel for the tour and letting us poke around the office!

 

 

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