Bend brewery sees rapid growth in Box Factory

Sean Lampe is co-owner of Immersion Brewing in Bend.(Dean Guernsey/Bulletin photo)

Immersion Brewing’s co-owners had no idea when they signed a lease in the Box Factory building in Bend in December 2014 that it would turn out to be the destination it is today.

“We were very scared of the Box Factory, actually,” said Sean Lampe, who opened Immersion in May 2016 with his wife, Amanda Plattner, and sister-in-law, Rachael Plattner. “Nobody was taking care of it. There were areas (where) the walls were all covered in graffiti. The doors were broken.”

The craft brewery and brewpub turned its first profit last year partly because of the high-traffic businesses, including Market of Choice and SpringHill Suites, that emerged around the Box Factory, Lampe said.

“We were hoping to be this financially stable by year four,” he said. “The things popping up around us have really kind of helped.”

Lampe, who oversees Immersion’s daily operations, talked with The Bulletin about craft brewing and brewpubs. His responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: How does Immersion’s brew-it-yourself system fit into the business plan?

A: I started as a homebrewer. Then, I went into commercial brewing. Then, I got out of that and went to desk jobs, but I kept homebrewing. So, that was … the core reason I wanted to start all this, so people would have an area to come and get all their ingredients and have all their equipment and experience brewing. It is sometimes a labor of love.

Q: You recently canned some of your beers. Are you planning more distribution?

A: We absolutely hope that we’ll keep canning. If the sales keep at this pace, we’ll be canning quarterly or even more often. We were only doing bottle runs maybe twice a year. The bottles, there’s not much demand for them anymore. We did the 22-ounce bottles, and sales were good but always a little sluggish. Cans have already outsold the last quarter of bottle sales in one day.

Q: What’s been your biggest challenge with the brewpub?

A: Labor. We’re kind of stuck in a tight spot … that we have to pay minimum wage to everybody. (Oregon is one of seven states where tipped employees earn the full state minimum wage.) Diners still kind of expect to tip 18 percent. They see our prices as being very expensive. Really, we’re not taking home that. I can see why restaurants are going to no tipping, so they can pay everybody a decent wage, but also charge what the food and everything costs.

Q: What’s next for the pub?

A: We’re taking over another 1,600 square feet. We’re going to have it as kind of a dual use. We’ve always liked barrel-aged beers. We’re going to use the space for barrel aging. We’ll add a bar and food service ability to have catered events in there. It’s a request we get very, very often. With the new area, we hope we can generate a lot of business that we’ve been turning away so far.

Q: What’s your favorite beer?

A: Ring the Alarm. It’s kind of a malty hoppy mix. That’s kind of the beers I tend to gravitate toward. I really do try to let the head brewers brew what they’re passionate about. It works out because (head brewer Chris Ramsdell) is much more into hoppier beers. And the general public is much more into hoppier beer than I am. It’s a good match there.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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