A few weeks ago we were able to sit down with Deschutes Brewery founder Gary Fish and Assistant Brewmaster Ben Kehs. The pair, along with innovation brewmaster Veronica Vega (interview coming soon) were in Portland to introduce a number of new Deschutes products that ranged from barrel-aged beers to Wowza, a 4% ABV low-calorie Hazy Pale Ale and their new Modified Theory brand.
Deschutes Brewery is Oregon’s largest independent craft brewer and one of the largest in the country overall. While Deschutes has remained a healthy, successful company for 31 years, they are struggling like many other legacy breweries. In the current industry climate, consumers are looking for something new and fresh, and breweries are grappling with constantly changing trends. Like any other established brewery, Deschutes’s struggle is to stay fresh and relevant.
Like it or not, larger consumer trends are shifting toward lighter and more health conscious beverages like low-calorie beers and light hard seltzers. While the beer geek fanbase is nothing if not rabid and persuasive, the small but vocal minority pushes back against hard seltzer and toward bigger, bolder, sweeter and boozier. It’s a difficult needle for any big brewery to thread, to stay relevant to both the beer geeks who made them who they are today and the broader consumer base that doesn’t give a crap about that.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.