By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

The Madras Redevelopment Commission approved a request for proposals Wednesday aimed at brewers who’ve expressed interest in locating the first brewery or brewpub in the city.

Among brewers that have contacted the city since October, when the city announced its campaign, are an established company based in Portland and another based in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, said Nick Snead, the Madras community development director. He declined to identify the Portland company. The Australian brewer, Craig Wealands of Thirsty Crow Brewing, contacted The Bulletin for information, then contacted Snead. Wealands did not respond to a request for comment.

“I don’t know if I’m deluged” with requests from brewers for information, Snead said Thursday, but “I’m ecstatic.”

Brewers from a wide spectrum of experience, from homebrewers to established brands, have inquired about locating in Madras following news reports of the request for proposals. None of the familiar Central Oregon names have inquired, so far, he said.

“We have a consultant (Pratt Rather) for that kind of exposure,” Snead said.

Rather, the co-founder of GoodLife Brewing Co., in Bend, and Rick Allen, the former mayor and city manager of Madras, consulted on the brewery recruitment project.

A four-member subcommittee and city staff will evaluate proposals, which are due March 2, Snead said. The commission also approved an $8,000 contract in October with Every Idea Marketing, of Bend, to produce materials for a marketing campaign to attract a qualified brewer.

The city may provide incentives to a brewing business that commits to locating in the city urban renewal district, which is basically downtown Madras around U.S. Highway 97. In the past, the city paid cash grants to developers of the Inn at Cross Keys Station and the Madras Cinema 5. A downtown brewery or brewpub would serve as a catalyst for development, Snead said. The redevelopment commission also has two properties of 0.24 acres and 0.57 acres available on “flexible terms,” both zoned downtown commercial.

“To be clear, the last thing anyone wants to do is provide public assistance to incentivize a brewery to open and have it close after a short amount of time,” Snead said.

Allen said he’s no longer active on the project, but helped out on the marketing campaign. The commission can provide the bridge that reduces risk or provides the missing piece of a business venture, he said.

“They’ve been getting a lot of calls. The (Madras Redevelopment Commission) has the ability, and they’ve had success when they set a priority,” he said.

Madras, a city of 6,729 and alone among the largest Central Oregon municipalities without a brewery or brewpub, makes a good brewery site for a number of reasons, according to the request for proposals. It has access to “ultra-pure water” from nearby Opal Springs, availability of “farm-to-table” products such as malted grain for brewing and proximity to craft beer culture in Oregon.

More than $18 million is spent on food and drink in Madras annually out of $50.5 million spent on tourism in Jefferson County, the document states.

A locally owned brewpub probably would be a better fit for Madras than a production brewery whose first priority is to make and sell beer for distribution, Rather said. He said he hoped to see a family-friendly gathering place result from the brewery project.

“Farm-to-tap and farm-to-table could be a real interesting setting,” he said Thursday. “If I could paint the picture, that’s what I would paint.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,