Going off of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission's year-end numbers in 2019, selected both because it was the last of the pre-pandemic sales and because the Commission has stopped reporting the numbers, 10 Barrel Brewing sold nearly half a million barrels of beer in Oregon. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly half a billion barrels produced by its parent company, AB-InBev.
But while everybody in town knows about 10 Barrel, easily one of Oregon's most award-winning breweries, it would be easy to be in the dark about tinyHAUS. The brand is one of 10 Barrel's imprints—like its line of barrel-aged beers called Fancy Beer—that produces a miniscule 50 barrels (more specifically, 47 cases of five different beers) throughout the year. Credit 10 Barrel's R&D Brewmaster, Tonya Cornett and her small team of innovative brewers.
Cornett describes tinyHAUS as "a brewery within a brewery." To keep customers engaged, especially the kind who are always ISO the new-new, tinyHAUS serves as a creative outlet to explore emerging styles, chiefly with respect to unique ingredients (from new hop or malt varieties to culinary elements) and techniques. The beers are exclusively available at Bend's two taprooms, the east side production brewery and pub and the west side pub on Galveston. Not even 10 Barrel's pubs in Portland or Boise get the beer.
"We had a small canning line in house," Cornett explained. "(I said,) 'Hey, it'd be super cool if my team could put out some projects in cans to put out in the pubs.'" The irony being, it was the early days of the pandemic and the pubs weren't open. "We get to showcase our high-end beer projects and marketing creates amazing labels that are outside the normal 10 Barrel packaging." When all the mainline 10 Barrel beers come in plain-wrap white cans with basic black copy, tinyHAUS's labels are colorful and whimsical.
In a world approaching 10,000 breweries nationwide, it's increasingly difficult to be truly innovative. "I do feel like everything's been done," cedes Cornett, "but you put a personal twist on it. I judge a lot of competitions so I look at interesting flavor combinations. I keep a running list of ideas. It's hard to be creative all the time."
Gindulgence, a beer Cornett credited to Ian Larkin (one of her team members who followed her from Bend Brewing Co. to 10 Barrel), is a prime example of what tinyHAUS does. The base beer is a Berliner Weisse, a heritage German-style sour ale much like Cornett's creation of the Crush series that spawned Cucumber Crush, quenching thirsts for a full decade. In lieu of pureed cukes, Gindulgence is flavored with peach, chamomile tea and Ransom Spirits' spent botanicals used to make its gin.
One interesting tidbit about the tinyHAUS beers is that, while they're designed to push boundaries and rope in drinkers always looking for the new hotness, they are continuously tweaked, finessed and dialed in. It's something even ultra-trendy breweries rarely do. To craft a recipe is one thing, but to perfect it, said recipe needs to be honed. Gindulgence actually debuted in 2019 and earned a bronze medal at the Oregon Beer Awards. A couple more bronze and silver medals later, a revamped version unlocked gold at the 2022 Great American Beer Awards, arguably the most prestigious beer competition.
Another cocktail-inspired beer that debuted last year is Goat Thievin' Lowlife. It's a tropical, Spaghett-like beer (meaning a cocktail of beer and Aperol), infused with lime, orange zest, rhubarb and gentian root brewed in collaboration with San Simón, the bar tucked into Bend's Tin Pan Alley. It garnered double-gold upon its release at the Sip Northwest awards.
Not that everything Cornett's crew does is in the vein of cocktails. Sugar High is a pastry stout with a new iteration aged on Brazilian Amburana wood. Equatorial Haze is a fruited hazy IPA. A personal fave, Money Cat, is a Japanese-style rice lager which, last year, earned gold at the only competition that competes with GABF as the most prestigious, the World Beer Cup.
I asked her if it bothers her that she and her squad put so much creative energy into these small-batch, er, tiny-batch beers that so few people get to enjoy. She mentioned that each new release sells out quicker than the last. "(TinyHAUS beers) are starting to get momentum. The first year was trying to figure out how many people it takes to pull it off within the constructs of this company. Three months ago, they finally made their way to our menus. If you didn't look in the (beer to-go) cases, you missed them."