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Deschutes County Approves This Crazy Idea of Ours

Good Earth Brewing Building Permit Conditional Use PermitAfter way too many trips to the Deschutes County Community Development office, and way too many county employees looking at us with a confused look on their collective faces… they sent us a building / conditional use permit that states the following:

The Deschutes County Planning Division has approved a Conditional Use permit to establish a small brewery operation (“nano-brewery”) as a Type 1 home occupation on a 18.54-acre parcel in the Exclusive Farm Use Zone.

This was only possible because of the engineering documents drawn up by local firm LB Engineering. It’s now time to start building!

BOOM! How to use explosives to install a brewery septic tank.

Most of Central Oregon is covered in lava, either above or below ground. And one of the worst places for underground lava rock is near Smith Rock State Park. Our brewery lies less than 2 miles from the magnificent geological features, and rock removal has been a pain in our arse since we started building the hop farm trellis back in 2014.

Today we brought out a demolition and explosives expert to make quick work of the rock in the alpaca pen where we need to install a septic tank. This is part of our plan to capture all brewing waste and apply it to our multiple compost piles that eventually are used on our 900 hop plants. One big circle.

The 2017 Craft Brewers Conference

Currently sitting in the Redmond, Oregon airport waiting for a flight to Portland that will connect me with a flight to Washington D.C. It’s 4am, I slept about 3 1/2 hours, but damn I’m excited. That’s because my partners at Good Earth Brewing and Smith Rock Hop Farm believe in what we’re doing and trust enough in me to see value in sending me to the Craft Brewers Conference.

Craft Brewers ConferenceFrom the conference’s website: “The Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) is the only industry event that serves both brewpubs and packaging breweries. This is an annual show that travels to different cities each year.

For professional brewers, CBC is the number one environment in North America for concentrated, affordable brewing education and idea sharing to improve brewery quality and performance.”

I have packed my week full of interesting and informative seminars, meet-n-greets, lectures, and brewery tours. Here’s what it looks like:
Sunday:
– Wood & Beer Seminar with Peter Bouckaert, the brewer from New Belgium

Monday:
– 5 brewery tour in the Virginia countryside (7am to 5pm)
– Welcome reception at the Natural History Museum
– Sierra Nevada Beer Camp @ Union Market

Tuesday:
– General Session I (Keynote Address)
– Brewing History
– Staying relevant in the brewing industry
– Hospitality Suite: Economic Developement Partnership of North Carolina
– Starting with Quality: Planning a lab and quality program
– Brewers Association Quality Subcommittee/Glass Quality Group Open House
– Official Nightly Event: Ball Presents Oskar Blues 20th Anniversary Party

Wednesday:
– Historical Beers Roundtable
– The Truth About Diacetyl
– When Yeast Attack: The Story of Bell’s and Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus
– Brewers Association Brewpub Committee Open House

Thursday:
– Harnessing Brettanomyces for Flavor Development
– Dry Hopping and its Effects on Beer Bitterness, the IBU Test, and Beer Foam
– Pilsen-Style Lager Beer Production: Secrets and Variations

Let the engineering…begin!

I might have mentioned that our new septic system has been on hold for months. We received a quote for it, had them dig several test pits, paid the county of Deschutes for a site evaluation, and even passed the evaluation. But as soon as the contractor connected with the county, they discovered that our proposed brewhouse is a structure that was not permitted by the previous owner, so therefore it is not on record.

LB Engineering - Bend, OregonAfter receiving several referrals, multiple quotes, and having one engineering firm bail at the last minute… we chose a highly recommended firm by the name of LB Engineering. Lori and Lennie were out at the farm today for their first visit, which included an up close look at the proposed brewhouse. They have estimated 4-6 weeks for plans to be drawn up, submitted to the county, and for them to be approved.

What’s A Nano Brewery?

Back on January 13th, we submitted our Land Use Application to the Deschutes County Community Development department. The permit is needed so that we can operate a business from a residential property, much like an accountant or a pet groomer. Technically, we’re a Type 1 Home Occupation in an Exclusive Farm Use Zone. Sounds fancy, but just limits what we can do with our brewhouse, the amount of traffic we can contribute to the main road, etc.

The approval process can take up to six months, depending on the backlog. Along the way, the county can ask for clarification with respect to how the operation will be set up. Luckily, so far they have only asked about the dimensions of the grain room/dry storage and the yeast lab, what our expected output will be, and what exactly defines a “nano brewery”. An email from the county:

I’ve started to draft the decision and I’ve noticed the referenced Wikipedia definition for “nano-brewery” has been revised. Can you provide a robust explanation for what a nano-brewery includes, citing your sources will be helpful, and how the proposal falls within this definition.

kobold brewing - steve anderson - source weekly

Steve Anderson of Kobold Brewing, Bend, OR, on his 2bbl system. Photo copyright The Source Weekly

Like with any “definition”, it depends on who you ask. The general consensus is that a nano brewery brews 3bbls (93 gallons) or less. Some even put this maximum at 7bbls (217 gallons), which is seen as the minimum size needed to truly see a profit in brewing. Here are the references I sent the county:

“The most-widely accepted description of nano breweries is a brewery that produces in batches of three barrels or smaller.” probrewer.com/library/nano-breweries/nano-brewery-basics/

“It’s a loosely defined term, so suffice to say that the designation describes any brewery that 1) makes very, very little beer (say, between one and three barrels, or roughly ninety gallons at a time)…”
pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/04/nano-breweries-the-art-and-economics-of-brewing-at.html

“…although nanobrewery production generally doesn’t exceed 100 barrels a year, said Paul Gatza, director of the nonprofit Brewers Association based in Boulder, Colo.”
bendbulletin.com/slideshows/1597928-151/making-beer-the-nano-way

None of these are truly official sources, most likely because the definition is something coined over a few pints and has been used loosely in marketing over the years. To us it doesn’t mean we are doing things in a better or worse way than larger breweries, but it does say something about our current size. That means we have to work a bit harder to brew each batch, but our risk is lower …since dumping $200 worth of beer is easier to swallow than dumping $20,000 worth of beer.


– Are nanobreweries a good first step …?
No-o to Nanos