The partners behind Bend-based Silver Moon Brewing set ambitious goals for themselves this year, and the year is still young.
They plan on doubling production at the 30-barrel brewery they created on the outskirts of Redmond 1½ years ago, starting limited distribution in California and increasing their presence across Washington. With a year-old canning line in operation, the brewery is starting a marketing push behind its four styles available in cans, the most recent a fruit beer, Mango Daze Mango Pale Ale.
“Given that my business partner and I are formerly from the Bay Area, we’ve had an interest, business and personal interest, in starting to migrate down into some California territories,” said James Watts, who partnered with Matt Barrett to purchase the Bend-based brewery in June 2013.
Portland-based Columbia Distributing, the Silver Moon distributor since March 2014, acquired the former Mesa Beverage Co., of Santa Rosa, in fall 2015, along with distribution rights in Sonoma County, California, said Jeff Lyons, Columbia Distributing general manager for Central Oregon. Working with Silver Moon has been a textbook exercise, he said.
“It’s everything we could ask for in a brewery partner,” Lyons said Tuesday. “They’ve been innovative, and really creative in their packaging. It really comes down to putting great beer in cans, bottles and kegs. It’s a good story to tell retailers and customers out there.”
Silver Moon is finding shelf space in grocery stores like Safeway and Albertsons, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Market of Choice and other outlets in Oregon and Washington. And Watts said he already plans a wider footprint in the Golden State.
“We have a couple of California distributors that were intentionally looking at a fall launch just because we’re deep into our summer plans already,” he said Wednesday. “But we have a couple, including Santa Rosa, where we want to capitalize on spring and summer.”
Although constrained by its territorial rights, Columbia could be part of those plans, Lyons said. “Either we partner with another distributor, acquire another distributor or make some sort of deal,” he said.
Barrett and Watts last year also brought two investors on board that added punch to Silver Moon’s plans. Kevin Cox, president and CEO of Ageia Health Services, a Bend-based operator of senior-living facilities in Oregon, and Chris Ruder, whom Watts described as a Harvard-schooled attorney, hedge fund manager and Bend transplant, separately became involved at about the same time last year, Watts said. Cox said he holds a 30 percent share; Ruder holds a lesser share. Watts and Barrett each hold a little more than 30 percent and run the company day to day, Cox said. “I’m a big beer guy and I love their beer, that was really it for me,” he said Wednesday. “We’re looking for growth, nothing in the short term. My interest isn’t in profiting in the short term.”
Silver Moon, when it built a production brewery at 2095 SW Badger Ave., in Redmond, set an immediate goal of brewing 8,000 barrels a year, Watts said in November 2015.
In 2016, the Redmond brewery sold about 3,300 taxable barrels of beer in Oregon alone; the Greenwood Avenue, Bend, brewpub sold 804 barrels, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The company said it produced about 4,800 barrels total, according to a company news release. Although short of 8,000, the brewery doubled its 2015 Oregon sales. The goal this year is to produce 10,000 barrels or more.
Cox and Ruder arrived just as Silver Moon acquired its own canning line, Watts said. He said the Silver Moon line is a “starter unit” that turns out about 42 cans per minute.
Cans are better packages for beer, cost less than bottles and the Silver Moon graphic design “mimics our outdoors-lifestyle brand,” Watts said. “We obviously like the green, environmentally friendly message behind cans, so those will not go away.”
In Washington, Watts said he expects expanded sales from Bellingham to Spokane. In Seattle, where the Pour Fool blog delivered its take on Silver Moon this week, the company just hired its first, full-time sales rep, “so that should make a dramatic difference,” Watts said.
“It’s pretty widely known,” he said, “that Washington is pretty accepting of good Oregon beer.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This story has been changed from the original to clarify ownership stakes in Silver Moon Brewing.