Beersite is not a thing yet, but it should be and it rhymes. So voila! It’s been several weeks since I came back from my trip to Oregon, and I still talk about the craft beer scene in the Bend area as if I had been there yesterday. Bend is a hophead paradise, and you should visit if you haven’t been.
Do stop by Deschutes Brewery (because it’s impressive, and the tour is awesome), but don’t forget about the (slightly) smaller guys. I was looking for a good place to grab a bite for dinner and found Craft Kitchen & Brewery. I like their concept. They have their own BBQ food truck outside and make darn good brews onsite. Wanna meet the owner? Here she is! Beer Lover Reader, meet Courtney. Courtney, meet Beer Lover Reader.
Hi Courtney, how did you get involved in craft beer?
I am Courtney Stevens and I am from Atlanta, GA (which reflects in the food) and my husband Mark Stevens (also our head brewer) is from Minnesota. We have been together for about 10 years. We both have lived in Oregon for over 20 years. We have a 5-year-old daughter named Elly Mae Stevens. I also serve as secretary and treasurer of our local non-profit hospice, Friends of Hospice.
My husband and I created, own, and operate Craft. My husband, Mark Stevens, is the head brewer, handyman, bartender, cook, dad, husband, superman, and a great guy! He does it all on top of the brewing. He apprenticed for six plus years under three different brewmasters. He started brewing for craft December of 2017, and his beer has been well received but I am biased. I am the glue; I do all the admin stuff, accounting, social media, sales, events, bartender, cook,… you know, all normal owner stuff (jack of all trades). I am also excited to say that I have been studying the fermentation (or cold side) of brewing, which is yeast cell counts for vitality and viability, quality control all the way around, troubleshooting, harvesting, etc. I am studying all aspects of brewing as well and hope to brew my first batch solo by the end of the year.
We decided to get into this industry because of our passion for our craft and love for the service industry, which I know sounds weird. I personally love communication with people. Everyone has their own story, and they are all different. And I love to hear them! Our passion comes from just wanting to share what we love, food and beverage. Quality is of the utmost importance to us and we are able to provide that to people because we are a small-batch and ingredient-focused establishment. I think with all these businesses going so big, that mom-and-pops will become its own niche because they will be able to better maintain (on all levels) the quality of the product and service.
How did Craft get started? What’s the future looking like?
We started the LLC in 2014, started brewing in 2015, and opened a 180-seat restaurant on the river 6 months later. The restaurant on the river was closed down September of 2017 for a multitude of reasons but mainly to maintain quality of everything including life. Then we decided to open our taproom with food cart which is attached to the brewery in October of 2018. Really the best decision we could have made and couldn’t be happier with our setup. It’s casual, family friendly, and we can do what we want and maintain the integrity of our product and service. We have tons of potential for growth there as we are going to make a “brew and breakfast” house in the back with a walk through culinary garden, move the food cart into the suite next to us and open up the bar, and eventually take over the warehouse and make the front some kind of community co-op. We really want to be community focused and have a place that is for everyone, even the four-legged friends.
How does Mark go about creating recipes?
Our beer is very ingredient focused. So we have multiple strains of yeast that we use and resource as well as the variety and quality of grain/malt we use. This variety makes each beer have a distinctive taste. Our brew system is a 3.5-barrel system with 7-barrel fermentation tanks. This small system gives us room for lots of one-offs and just a fun system to play around with. We are also on a direct-fire system so we have more control of the boil, and just that personal touch of elbow grease (no real grease included) and love. We also mill our grain right before we brew, day of, so the grain is as fresh as it can be. Like bread, grain can get stale. Hops are as fresh as we can get. So needless to say our beer is not cheap to make but we think you can taste the difference.
So, you are from Georgia. Tell us about the BBQ food cart.
Our food, like our beer, is quality focused. Being from the south we do have a south flair to the menu, which we think pairs well with the beer. Our Brisket/Burnt Ends are made fresh daily and goes quick, that’s why at the end of our menu it says “When it’s gone, it’s gone!” We also offer other southern-type things like; Pulled pork, Fried Chicken Sando, Oyster Po’Boy, Southern greens, baked beans, jalapeño cornbread, etc.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
We have also become a hub for comedy. We do open mic on Tuesdays and showcases twice a month (maybe more coming up) and they have become quite popular so they tend to sell out. We also do free concerts for kids once a week in the mornings on the lawn. We also give back to our community through non-profits. We just brewed a beer with the Central Oregon Beer Angels and made a honey Raspberry Pilz. The proceeds go to a non-profit of their choice.
Really it’s all about having good food and beer in a safe, fun setting for everyone. We love what we do and we hope others do as well. We want to give Bendites that small-town feel again, the things that built Bend to what it was, small mom-and-pop types that give you that warm feel of coming home to family.
More photos of Craft Kitchen & Brewery: