Let's Talk Saturation | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Let's Talk Saturation 

Is there such a thing as too many breweries?

Given the lack of a formal announcement, it might have been a surprise for fans of Redmond's Juniper Brewing to go onto the local Craigslist a few days back and find the brewery for sale.

The whole of Juniper's operation is now on the market, including the two-barrel brewing system, 90-gallon brew kettle, four fermenters, 176 kegs, 10-tap bar system and a 9-foot-long shuffleboard table. It's a turnkey offer, ready for an immediate onsite takeover, and it comes with the whole 3,200-square-foot facility with a year and a half left on the lease. The ad did not disclose the reasons for the sale, nor the price.

Speaking honestly, one can think of a few challenges that someone taking over Juniper might face. The location, close to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds with few food options nearby, lacks in curb appeal—although this hasn't stopped many breweries in business parks across the U.S. from succeeding. More telling, perhaps, is Juniper's lack of presence in the bars of Bend and elsewhere. Even diehard beer nerds in the region might have difficulty naming so much as one of its beers.

Juniper follows several Oregon breweries that either closed or similarly went up for sale in recent months. Among the ones that distributed to Central Oregon, these include Fire Mountain Brew House in Carlton and Amnesia Brewing, formerly of Portland. The most sorely missed, however, might be Southern Oregon Brewing in Medford, makers of solid ales such as the Pin-Up Porter and Na Zdravi pils.

Speaking to the local "Mail Tribune" newspaper, SOB owner Tom Hammond put the blame on an increasingly competitive local scene and a bid at larger-scale distribution, which failed. "We don't have the resources to compete in today's beer market," he said. "There has been a literal explosion of craft breweries in the Northwest during the past five years. Competition for shelf space and tap handles is fierce."

So is the sky falling? Is saturation going to torpedo the beer market? Probably not. Growth in 2016 slowed down for craft beer nationwide, but it's still growing rapidly, and there are now over 5,000 operating breweries in the United States. And for Oregon breweries, two strategies seem to win out: Keep it local to appeal to loyal fans, or expand into full production and get aggressive with out-of-state sales. "There is just too much competition and market saturation to be able to reach large production numbers by relying solely on Oregon consumers," stated Josh Lehner from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. "For these smaller breweries, I think the outlook is bright. The brewpub model works."

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