Two breweries in Bend, Oregon just announced that they’ve teamed up by virtue of a “joint venture” agreement. The companies announced today that Boneyard Beer has been acquired by Deschutes Brewery, the nation’s 11th largest craft brewery. According to a statement released today, they are calling it, “a unique, Bend-based, local-to-local, craft-to-craft partnership.”
Boneyard Beer was founded in 2010 by Tony Lawrence and two partners who built the brewery using old equipment collected from more than a dozen breweries across the country. Hence the name Boneyard. Deschutes Brewery brewed its first beer back in 1988. According to the statement, the two breweries will maintain their separate identities.
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Tony Lawrence will become a shareholder in the resulting venture. For Lawrence, who started his brewery career at Deschutes Brewery in 1989, the agreement represents a sort of homecoming. According to the statement, he will continue to manage the Boneyard brand.
“I cut my teeth at Deschutes and it’s still a home of sorts,” said Lawrence. “It was an integral part of my personal and professional journey. My experience as a 21-year-old snowboard transplant falling into the Deschutes orbit was amazing. It gave me a direction to follow and an opportunity in both Bend and craft beer. To combine forces with Deschutes in Bend and explore what Boneyard is capable of is simply a dream come true.”
“This partnership is built on relationships,” said Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes. “Family and employee-owned, our two breweries become a collection of inspired people maintaining their individualistic free spirit and undying vision for what beer can be. I am beyond proud of what Tony has accomplished in Boneyard and am thrilled to be working with him again.”
In a report by Brewbound, Lawrence said “a very large portion” of Boneyard’s 18-person production crew will retain their jobs. He also said that Boneyard staff joining Deschutes will be eligible to take part in Deschutes’ Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
Boneyard’s original 20-barrel brewhouse will continue operations, said the report. The brand’s 15-barrel brewhouse location will continue operations for six to 12 months before likely being phased out. Lawrence will continue to own and operate the Boneyard Pub in Bend.
Apparently Fish and Lawrence have talked about linking the two businesses for years. The pandemic turned casual conversations into serious discussions when on-premise sales ceased at the Boneyard taproom and at the many accounts who purchased Boneyard’s draft product. The company pivoted and began packaging its products in aluminum cans, but that represented a complete change in the business model.
Not only did that shift the way Boneyard Beer packages its product, in cans instead of kegs, but it also created a need for greater distribution and availability at retail locations. Lawrence says they’ve had trouble filling the pipeline at retail locations, like grocery store chains. The partnership provides an opportunity to expand Boneyard’s availability and satisfy the demand for Boneyard’s beers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity this union provides both companies,” Fish stated. “Boneyard’s rebel spirit and independent attitude will be great for Deschutes.”
Lawrence says that throughout his 12-year experience at Deschutes, Fish gave him the autonomy to creatively figure out complex challenges during years of explosive growth that can often stunt the growth of a young company.
“He never doubted or challenged our efforts,” said Lawrence, who adds that he is looking forward to redirecting some of his attention from the boardroom to the brewhouse. “I whole-heartedly believe we can do great things together; we have respect for our roots and we’re proud of our journey, but that journey is far from over.”
“Since the late eighties Deschutes has been not only a steadfast source of great beer, but also great brewers, all schooled in that original idea of bringing better beer to the people.”