Karl Ockert, the Deschutes Brewery director of brewery operations, will be leaving the company at the end of March, he and the brewery announced Wednesday.
“This marks my 35th year in craft brewing,” said Ockert, who helped start BridgePort Brewing Co. in Portland in 1984 with Dick and Nancy Ponzi. “I’m not retiring, but I want to do some stuff before I conclude my career. Deschutes is a great place to work: It’s challenging, and they are great people. I kind of want to make room for the new generation that’s coming in.”
Ockert came to Deschutes in July 2015 at age 55 as the company built onto its brewery at SW Simpson and SW Colorado avenues and was hunting for an East Coast location for a second brewery. He took a leading role in those and other projects, including the addition of a 2.1-barrel pilot brewery and a new canning line.
“It’s been a really busy three years,” he said. Conceptual engineering for the new brewery in Roanoke, Virginia, was completed last fall with groundbreaking scheduled next year, he said. The pilot brewing system is a playground for creative folks, he said, and the canning line, for which planning started in June, started production just weeks ago.
“It’s been a whirlwind year,” Ockert said. “Deschutes definitely keeps you busy.”
His career covers the spectrum of brewing from brewpubs to regional craft brew houses to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark, New Jersey, Deschutes Brewery wrote in its new release. He worked for Anheuser-Bush as a brewing supervisor from 1992 to 1993. In 2015, he complimented the technical skill of Anheuser-Busch brewers during an interview with The Bulletin.
Wednesday, he said the trend in big multinational brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev buying up handfuls of craft brewers, such as Bend’s 10 Barrel, has become lamentable.
“What AB InBev decided to do is, instead of putting their own labels on beer, is to go out and find breweries that are sexy breweries in their own labels,” he said. “They’ve done some stuff that’s regrettable,” such as taking advantage of distribution networks to find better shelf placement, lower pricing for their new products and “bump out the local people,” Ockert said. “It goes against what craft brewing was all about.”
During his career, he also taught courses in beer operations and wrote for beer industry journals. Ockert said he plans to do more writing, speaking and teaching. He also plans to return to his consulting practice, Karl Ockert Brewing Services LLC, in the fall. He also looks forward to a collaboration project coming up to mark Deschutes Brewery’s 30th anniversary.
“I hope to be part of that, as well,” he said. “I’m leaving (the brewery) in good hands, a talented, teamwork-oriented group, one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”
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