New distillery plans to open in Bend

Backdrop Distillery to operate inside GoodLife brewery

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

Backdrop Distilling is working to open this summer and become the Bend area’s fourth craft spirit maker.

But unlike other distilleries, Backdrop plans to share space with GoodLife Brewing Co. in the Century Center on Bend’s west side and capitalize on its customers, owner Mark Plants says.

“We’re kind of a unique situation. There aren’t really very many distilleries in breweries within the same building,” Plants said.

Making craft beverages runs in Plants’ family.

“My brother (Curt Plants) is the head brewer and one of the owners here at GoodLife. Our family is all investors in the brewery,” he said.

Plants, who works for a sound company in Bend, said plans for the distillery have been in the works for about two years. He said he’s hoping to start producing alcohol in mid-August and to start selling it by September, but he is still waiting for federal and state approval.

Ty Barnett, co-owner of GoodLife, said it has always been a dream to be able to add a distilling element to the brewery.

“All we really needed was the still, the knowledge and somebody who was dedicated to making that happen,” he said.

As aficionados of fermentation, Barnett said it makes sense to transfer the knowledge of making beer to making spirits. But the paperwork that is involved and the regulations are not easy to overcome, even though the businesses are separate entities. He said regulations for making spirits are more stringent than those for brewing.

“It’s going to be a one-stop tasting room to be able to taste craft beer and craft spirits,” Barnett said. During a recent remodeling project, GoodLife extended its bar to make room for cocktails.

He said he’s talked to a number of brewers who are considering opening distilleries in their breweries. Barnett said Fort George Brewery in Astoria has started the permitting process.

“This is definitely a new trend where breweries are going to be adding distilleries,” he said.

Rob Vallance, general manager in charge of brewing, distilling and wine making for McMenamins Inc., said having a distillery and brewery in the same location is ideal because of the symbiotic relationship.

For example, McMenamins uses the Edgefield brewery’s equipment to make its whiskey wash — a malt extract from ground grain — and later uses its whiskey barrels to age its beer.

By offering both spirits and beer, he said, it expands the McMenamins product line. However, he said beer is a much larger percentage of McMenamins’ sales.

At Backdrop, Plants plans to produce a vodka first, then a slightly aged rum within two to three months after opening and eventually a bourbon and whiskey. As soon as he’s open, he said, GoodLife will exclusively use his liquor in its cocktails, which will give him instant sales.

Plants said there are multiple perks to collaborating with GoodLife. To start the distillery, Plants said, is going to cost him $130,000-$150,000. Without GoodLife, he said, it would have cost $200,000 more. Additionally, he gets to use GoodLife’s brewing equipment to make his beer mash, which will help him create his spirits. And eventually, he plans to work with the brewery to make beer-related spirits, such as a Sweet As Whiskey, using GoodLife’s Sweet As Pacific Ale, and help GoodLife create barrel-aged beers.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,

rrees@bendbulletin.com