Crux is opening its first satellite pub in Portland later this summer, as Andre Meunier of The Oregonian reported Feb. 28. I used that breaking news as an excuse to sit down with Crux's marketing director, Jason Randles, to learn more about one Bend brewery's—make that three Bend breweries'—obvious response to the Portlandification of Bend by launching a counter-attack.
In announcing Crux is opening a second location, not in its native Bend but the city that's actually Crux's largest market (by volume, not per capita!), in the Hosford Abernethy neighborhood of Southeast Portland, Crux will become the next Bend-based brewery to open a pub. Deschutes opened a brewpub in the Pearl district of Northeast Portland in 2008, back when Crux founder Larry Sidor was still brewmaster at Deschutes. And 10 Barrel opened its Portland spot five blocks away in 2015.
I asked Randles if the plan is to export "Bendness" to Portland, whether via the original brewpub's famous sundowner (because happy hour can rely on our astral orbit rather than quitting time) or some other measure. As for sundowner?
"I don't see why not," he shrugged. "It's unique to us and something that we love." Beyond that, the brewing concern "will do what we can to make it feel like a Crux space when you walk in, but with a Portland vibe."
A trend that began across pre-pandemic America and is ramping back up across the craft brewing segment of the industry is a focus on opening secondary or additional satellite taprooms. Portland's Breakside, Great Notion and Hopworks have all launched additional pubs outside Portland city limits and even out of state. Even smaller operations like Level, Gigantic and Upright have opened remote taprooms. Additional, non-Portland breweries have established a footprint in Portland such as Eugene's Oakshire, Government Camp's Mt. Hood Brewing, and Washington's Chuckanut. Of course, sometimes this step for business growth can backfire. Case in point, Vagabond Brewing, which originally launched in Salem in 2014 and provided the ultra-fresh source for Portlanders in 2019 but had to pull the plug on the entire business in 2022. The shuttered Vagabond taproom will house Crux's forthcoming one. There isn't presently a brewing system, just some fermentation tanks, and Randles indicated Crux is considering adding a small system, perhaps three to five barrels, to brew truly Portland beer.
"We're so used to — and privileged — with our beer pub culture because of everything that took place in the '80s," opined Randles. He's referring to the Oregon Brewpub Bill, passed in 1985, that allowed for brewers to sell draft beer on premise. It was the brainchild of the brothers behind McMenamins and Widmer, the friends behind Portland Brewing and the couple who founded Bridgeport. Adds Randles, "So why not go to the source and drink your favorite beer?"
Still, as Randles notes, "Oregonians love their beer and will always seek out their favorites."
Now, Portlanders won't have to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Bend. Although as one Portland Metro-based fan commented on Crux's Instagram post announcing the development, "I'd rather drive four hours to Bend than 30 minutes to Portland."
Not only is the Portland market Crux's largest, it's not exactly new territory for an exclusive draft outlet. Crux organized a couple of pop-ups in recent years (a pre-pandemic pop-up in 2019 and a post-pandemic one the day the mask mandate was lifted), so Portlanders have already whet their whistles for fresh draft Crux. Furthermore, the pub that's in the works will be Portland's only retail space to carry everything Crux packages, from six-packs of Gimme Mo IPA to the limited bottlings of Banished (barrel-aged) offerings like Tough Love and Freak Cake, not to mention Crux cider and limited run whiskey projects.
To accommodate the uptick in draft demand, Randles says assistant brewmaster Grant McFarren "is gonna be busy brewing double batches so we can send Portland our (research and development) and single-batch stuff." Like the OG pub in Bend, the Portland pub will have 24 taps. No word yet on whether there will be a proprietary Portland beer, which would surely attract diehard fans to the Portland pub, in addition to that upcoming spot's bigger kitchen and expanded food program.
Ultimately, the goal is that the Portland pub will have a "halo effect" on Portlanders. "It has the energy of being in a bigger city and seeing how that inspires us and contributes to the evolution of Crux overall," concludes Randles. That said, he notes that Bend "is the heart and soul of Crux. We always gotta take care of this."
Stay tuned for news of a secondary tasting room within Bend city limits that "should open by the end of the year."