By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

A couple from Denver who set a goal of someday living in Bend will become the new owners in January of a landmark downtown brewpub.

Wendi Day, owner of Bend Brewing Company, on NW Brooks Street, said Monday she’s selling the 20-year-old family business to Packy and Leslie Deenihan.

“I love craft beer, have always wanted to get into the industry but don’t have any experience actually working (with) or brewing beer,” said Packy Deenihan, 29. I’m “hoping to bring my business acumen to the industry.”

Packy Deenihan, an Oregon State University graduate and avid snowboarder, visited Bend frequently during his college years, he said. He moved to Bend in 2008 and owned and operated two food carts selling crepes. He said he also worked at Mt. Bachelor ski area running the Pine Marten lift. When the Great Recession took hold, he moved to Denver in 2009. Most recently, he said, he sold hardware and software for a wireless network.

“I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit,” Deenihan said. “Really about two years ago my wife and I made a commitment. We’re living lives that are great but aren’t as fulfilling as we’d like them to be. I was working a corporate job, and that’s just not my personality and style, and that’s when we started looking for other opportunities.”

Leslie Deenihan, 28, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, a former collegiate skier, TV broadcaster and marketer for a jewelry firm in Denver. She said she looks forward to increasing the brewery’s social media presence and tying it to the lifestyle she and her husband say brought them to Bend.

“We’re superexcited that it’s a family-run business, and, really, our family could have had fun with any project,” she said, “but the fact that we get to do it with a brewery makes it just a blast.”

Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Packy Deenihan said he would assume Day’s role as overall brewpub manager. Leslie Deenihan will take on the advertising and marketing responsibilities. The two said they planned no immediate changes to the operation. Ian Larkin, the head brewmaster, and his assistant, Josh Harned, will stay on, Packy Deenihan said.

“The immediate future, really, the only change we’re focused on is expanded production and distribution,” he said. “Because everybody in the community knows Bend Brewing Company has a long tradition of award-winning craft beer and, really, a family-oriented environment. We really have full intentions of carrying on that tradition.”

The brewery produces its five signature ales and four seasonal brews on the second floor, above the brewpub, and is at maximum capacity, Deenihan said. The biggest challenge ahead is to increase production, he said, and he’s looking for a site in which to expand. The immediate task, however, is a smooth transition to new ownership, he said.

“We’re fortunate enough to have the best beer makers in the industry to help with this new venture,” he said.

The Bend Brewing Company contract with Bigfoot Distributing will continue, Packy Deenihan said. The company distributes Bend Brewing Company beers as far as Eugene, Roseburg and parts of the Oregon Coast, according to the brewery website.

The brewery during the first eight months of this year produced 659 taxable barrels for sale in Oregon, according to the August beer report from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The brewery, which employs 30 people, last year produced 962 barrels total, making it the 65th-largest brewery by production out of 203 in the state, according to the OLCC.

Bend Brewing Company beers are consistent prize winners; its Ching Ching American Sour took a gold medal from the 2014 North American Brewers Association and a bronze at the 2014 World Beer Cup, for example. Its Salmonberry Sour won a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Packy Deenihan, who favored India pale ales, said his tastes are evolving.

“I’ve become recently, say the last six months, a big sour fan,” he said. “It’s always been IPA, but I’m developing a taste for sour beer.”

Day, 46, said the Deenihans’ story echoes her own start with the brewery. She was 25, married about a year, like the Deenihans, and working in Seattle for The Bon Marché department store when her father, Jerry Fox, offered her a management spot with the brewery. She, too, knew she’d be back in Bend someday and within a month of the offer was back in town with her husband, Rob Day, now 45 and a national sales manager for Bend software company G5.

Bend Brewing Company, the second-oldest brewery in Bend, was founded by Fox and Dave Hill in 1995. Day bought the brewery from her father when he retired in 2000, according to The Bulletin archives. It has survived downtown Bend’s real estate boom and bust, which left the property around it bare.

Day said the brewery was not for sale when the Deenihans approached her through a broker with an offer to buy. Packy Deenihan said they started talking to Day in August. Personalities clicked early in the process, Day said.

“What really made this feel right is the personality fit that the Deenihans have with me and my husband, Rob, and my family,” Day said Monday. “In the next two to five years, I probably had planned to sell, but because of the timing …and the personality match seemed perfect, I’m confident that this is the right time.”

Day said she feels like she’s handing responsibility for her business family over to the Deenihans. Her sister, Nanci Huston, a manager and bartender at the brewpub, plans to stay on. And Day said she’ll be available if the Deenihans need someone to fill in.

“I got to pick a new family member to take my place, and I think they’re going to do great,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,