"We definitely understand that the first reaction is shock," 10 Barrel co-founder Chris Cox told the Source last week, the very day the brewery's sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev was revealed. "But," he added, "we really believe this partnership is the best thing going forward."
The response from many craftheads across Oregon was, "Yeah, right."
But the deal with AB InBev, a brewery-industrial complex that produces more beer in two hours than 10 Barrel will in all of 2014, defies simple descriptions. It's neither a Metallica-style sellout nor a comic-book villain swooping into Bend to ruin it. And despite Cox's assurances, 10 Barrel will be vastly, dramatically different in a few years. Here are five predictions, based on how AB InBev's handled previous forays into craft:
1. Distribution will boom. No immediate distribution expansion is planned, Cox said, but for a brewery that was already among the fastest-growing in America, the ambition has to be there. A California rollout seems logical, given InBev's plants in L.A. and the North Bay area. And speaking of:
2. Apocalypse IPA won't be brewed in Bend. Maybe not even in Oregon. Goose Island, the Chicago craft icon bought by AB InBev in 2011, now makes its flagship 312 Urban Wheat Ale at InBev plants in New York and Colorado, opening space in the original Chicago digs to up production on fancier beers like the Bourbon County Brand Stout series.
3. Brewers will leave. They would anyway—this industry has always featured a lot of churn. But Goose Island head brewer Greg Hall jumped ship immediately after the AB InBev purchase (he now runs a cidery), and according to one industry source, GI turned over "a good half" of its production staff in 2013.
4. But the restaurant will get spiffed up. "That's our flagship and love it as much as anything in this company," company partner Garrett Wales said. "As far as plans to expand that... It's something we'll talk about, in terms of priorities."
5. And the beer, however non-Bendian it is, will kick ass. As Cox said, part of the attraction was "the access we'll have to raw materials, hops and malts, of the highest quality that we don't have right now." Harnessing that kind of access could make 10 Barrel more experimental and more consistent, even as it balloons in size.
Sit back and see how it works out.