written by Bronte Dod | photos by Kellie Standish
Never say never.
Tony Lawrence, founder and co-owner of Boneyard Beer, was once quoted as saying that he makes beer not burgers, and that Boneyard would never open a pub. But soon, Boneyard will do just that. The brewery has purchased a property on Division Street on the east side of Bend, and will open a pub by the end of the summer.
Rumors in the beer industry spread fast, especially in Bend, with twenty-nine craft breweries and a culture built on beer.
After the closely guarded secret was leaked earlier this year, Boneyard posted a photo on Instagram confirming the news. The picture showed the word “Boneyard” graffitied on a concrete wall with the caption “Just having a little fun decorating the walls of our new PUB! Opening in Bend this summer…you ready or what!?”
Unsolicited resumes came flooding in, as did calls from the media. Boneyard kept its head down, quietly brewing more beer and making plans for the pub. Lawrence, while appreciative, doesn’t love the attention.
“We like to believe that we’ll do a good job and let the chips fall where they may,” Lawrence told me in an interview.
Boneyard is known for being a nontraditional force in the brewing industry. The pub comes six years after Boneyard started brewing beer. It’s a break from the typical brewpub strategy—and fitting with Lawrence’s own path.
Lawrence got his start at the beginning of the craft beer boom in the 1980s. He landed in Bend not with a passion for beer, but for the mountain. John Harris, the first brewmaster at Deschutes Brewing, hired Lawrence as a dishwasher. When he first met Lawrence, he saw him as a snowboard bum with a spark for brewing.
“He had a good work ethic,” Harris said. Seeing potential, Harris promoted Lawrence to be a cleanup brewer.
“I showed him here was a job he could have, but he’s got to work his ass off,” Harris said. “Once Tony got into brewing, he got way into brewing.”
In the two decades Lawrence worked in the brewing industry he slowly amassed his own “boneyard” of brewing equipment. Then in 2010, along with two other cofounders, Melodee and Clay Storey, Lawrence officially started brewing Boneyard beer. After slowly building a loyal Boneyard following, its flagship RPM IPA was voted Oregon’s best beer in 2015.
Since the first barrel was brewed, Boneyard beer has only been available on tap or in three-ounce tasters at the brewery’s tasting room. While the tasting room is always packed, legal restrictions in the 300-square-foot industrial space prevent Boneyard from serving pints, which was one part of the impetus to open a pub.
For Lawrence, the pub is part of a larger, long term plan for Boneyard. Lawrence also doesn’t want Boneyard to miss out on Bend’s beer tourism industry.
“The tourism in Bend is so wild, and people are so interested in craft beer,” Lawrence said. “At this point in the game we’re probably leaving the brand a little short.”
Lawrence won’t reveal many details about the pub, but the plans are being made by the Boneyard team, which is made up of about twenty employees including brewers, office staff and employees at the tasting room.
“Six years into it, we’ve got a really good brewing team and staff, and a rhythm and pattern so that we can experiment with this other opportunity,” Lawrence said.
Part of that rhythm is the communications manager, Kate Fleming-Molletta, who has worked with Boneyard and Lawrence for four years.
“[Lawrence] has his hands in basically every part of the business,” said Fleming-Molletta. “He’s very involved, and since we’re small that works.”
Fleming-Molletta said that it took some time for all the employees to get on board with the pub, but now, everyone is excited.
“We’re going to put a focus on the food. We’re going to make it as good as our beer. It’ll be a destination spot. We’re not downtown. We’re not in any of the super hip areas,” Fleming-Molletta said. “But it wouldn’t be Boneyard if it wasn’t off the beaten path.”
An opening date for the pub still hasn’t been announced. Holding true to its original ethic, Boneyard won’t be serving burgers. Sometimes, you can say never.