Charlie Devereux is president of the Oregon Brewers Guild and a former co-owner of Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. 1859 caught up with Devereux, 48, to have a beer with a prominent figure in Oregon’s surging craft brewing industry.
How did you get started in the Oregon beer industry?
I was lucky enough to be hired by John Harris as his assistant brewer at the then-new Full Sail Brewery at the Riverplace in Portland. I started with John in May of 1992.
At that time, what were your overriding observations about the industry?
That Oregon was the place to be a magical combination of high- quality brewers, growers, natural resources and true beer enthusiasts. It’s still true today.
What phase of growth is the Oregon brewing industry in right now?
Extremely dynamic. We have brewers specializing in pretty much every traditional beer style under the sun, and an incredible amount of experimentation and innovation is happening, too. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re in the thick of it, but what we’re experiencing in beer these days in Oregon is unprecedented.
When is the brewery scene overcrowded?
As long as the people starting breweries are bringing passion and experience and great beers to the table, I don’t see proliferation as a problem, yet. At some point, it will be statistically impossible to maintain the growth we’ve seen over the last decade, but there still seems to be plenty of business to go around, with new fans coming on board every day.
What are the biggest challenges for brewers going forward?
Different brewers face different challenges. Newer, smaller brewers are entering a mature market and need to have a pretty strong game plan to gain attention for their brands. For some of the bigger brew- ers, the challenge might be staying relevant in a beer scene that has become so sophisticated. At the end of the day, though, the thing that unites all Oregon breweries is the everyday challenge of run- ning small, capital-intensive businesses. That and trying to secure the best hops.
You just sold your ownership in Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. Can you tell us your reasoning?
Simply put, it was time for both a break and to think about doing something new, closer to my home in Portland. I’m proud of all the good work Matt Swihart, co-founder and brewmaster at Double Mountain, and I did together. I see nothing but positives for both of us going forward.
What would you like Oregonians to know about the indus- try and excise tax?
As a former owner who had to borrow large sums of money to grow my business, I can attest to the fact that low excise taxes make it easier for breweries to invest, grow and create good jobs. I think it’s impor- tant that legislators and taxpayers recognize that there is a direct con- nection there. Also, people need to realize that the simplistic “nickel- a-drink” language that’s been used to promote higher excise taxes is a fallacy, since the tax is assessed at production, not at the checkout aisle, once it’s been marked up through the wholesale and retail channels. It’s disingenuous at best.
How is the relationship between local hops growers and local brewers changing?
It has gotten closer, which is a great thing. More growers are selling di- rect to brewers, and the emergence of annual fresh-hop beers (where the brewer literally drives to the hop farm to get hops for that day’s brew) has helped put faces to names and made us all more collegial. It’s an honor to get to know our growers, who are doing such amazing work year in and year out.
What’s your favorite style of beer?
Unfair question! I tend to gravitate towards classic styles done extremely well. But like many craft beer fans, I am pretty much omnivorous when it comes to beer.
You have some new idea brewing. Can you share?
There’s not much to share yet, other than I love the Oregon craft beer industry and plan to be a part of it for a very long time. We’ll see what bubbles up.
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