We were thrilled that Chad Kennedy wanted to share with us some information on his future as brewmaster at Worthy Brewing in Bend, Oregon. Since breaking the news of Kennedy’s departure last week, we have, at the brewer’s request held back from saying too much too soon. In a week that saw a lot of change at Laurelwood, brand manager Micah Bell also departed for a new gig with Oakshire Brewing of Eugene. Both will undoubtedly be missed.
According to Kennedy, the new undertaking is being financed by Indie Hops partner Roger Worthington, who spent much of his career as an attorney working asbestos-related cases. “Roger lives part time in California and part time in Bend,” Kennedy says. “While I was sampling some of Indie Hops’ varietals once, (Roger) made a comment ‘ I should start a brewery.’ I said ‘If you do give me a call.'”
Kennedy and Worthington kept communicating over time as the idea burgeoned. “Roger was looking for a change and I suppose so was I,” Kennedy admits. “I got to a point where I needed a change,” he says. After nine years at Laurelwood Kennedy had assumed many duties in addition to being head brewer. “I am confident not only in that I am a good brewer, but I have a good business sense and am passionate about being successful,” he attests.
The name Worthy, says Kennedy, is a spin on Worthington’s name, but also serves indirectly as a counter to the “you’re not worthy” mantra of Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. It’s a sense of community and inclusion that the brewer looks to foster.
So when will Worthy Brewing open? According to Kennedy it will likely take up to a year and a half before beer is flowing. “It’s amazing how much stuff is involved” he divulges, realizing “I’ve never started a company from scratch, though it is something I’ve always wanted.”
When asked what kind of beer he would like to make, Kennedy says, “We are trying to be academic; not take the fun out of it.” That being said, he revealed that an IPA is an obvious choice. “I’ll miss my Workhorse,” he says of the flagship India Pale that he created while at Laurelwood. And he jokes “So I’ll need to make another beer for me to drink for free.” Kennedy also expresses a great interest in developing a lager, siting favorites as those of MacTarnahan’s and his old mentor Christian Ettinger of Hopworks Urban Brewery.
Proposed to be situated on the east side of town, Worthy, according to Kennedy, will feature a 30-barrel brewhouse, as well as a smaller pilot system. “It won’t be anything like Sabco or Brew Magic,” he states. “Maybe a one or two-barrel system,” adding, “It’d be fun to do small Bend brews with brewers in the community.”
As mentioned, there’s still a lot of work to be done before Worthy gets the go-ahead. Having just submitted plans to the city, the company awaits feedback. “It’s not a done deal” says Kennedy. “I am not going to uproot my family (in Portland) until a shovel goes into the ground.” Currently, however, Worthy has land and architectural plans drafted. Now it’s up to the city of Bend to conduct water and traffic studies as well as a slew of other details that must pass approval. And as anyone who has gone down this road before knows, these things take time and patience.
With all of the breweries opening around Oregon, we asked Kennedy if he sees a tipping point approaching. “I do,” he attests. “I don’t think that everyone opening up today will be around in ten years.” However, he sites Colorado as a craft beer community that has embraced packaged brew. So, if Colorado, why not Oregon?
Thirstily anxious Oregon beer enthusiasts will have to be patient to get their paws on some of Kennedy’s next brews. But he assures that while he will thoroughly enjoy his time off from a maddening July and Oregon Craft Beer Month, when it is time to roll up his sleeves he will be quite ready. “As a production brewer, I’ll be coming straight out the gate with bottles and maybe cans.” In the meantime Worthy will take advantage of Worthington’s lupulin connection with Indie Hops. Kennedy is already busy studying new varieties and developing some recipes as he has in the past. We wish him the best and look forward to great things from him in the future.