The plan was to head north to Alaska, work on the Trans-Alaska pipeline project and save up money to start a winery. In 1974, Larry Sidor was fresh out of Corvallis with a shiny new degree in food science from Oregon State University.
The plan was foolproof.
But the first stop on that journey was Tumwater, Washington, to stay with a friend. “You should come work with me at Olympia Brewing,” his friend said over a pint.
Larry shook his head, determined to build his own winery.
After a few more pints, the two friends closed down the bar and went for an early morning tour of the brewery — an experience Larry will never forget.
“It was 2 a.m., and everybody was working a graveyard shift,” he says, the memory still vivid decades later. “And it was the cleanest, most well-thought-out looking place with the happiest employees I had ever been around.”
Larry went to work at Olympia Brewing and ended up staying for 23 years.
After Olympia, Larry did get into the wine business, owning a small vineyard near Yakima, Washington, for a few years. But he recognized his passion really was in brewing. So after selling the vineyard, he moved to Bend in 2004 to take the job as brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery. Over the next eight years, he led development of brews like Hop in the Dark, Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, Inversion IPA, The Abyss, The Dissident and several barrel-aged specialty beers.
The detour into viticulture aside, Larry never gave up on his lifelong dream to start his own business. And in 2012, he did: Crux Fermentation Project.
“All of the other names were taken,” he explains. “And the brewery itself is exactly in the middle of Bend.”
Two years in, Larry says he’s shocked at the success of the business. He expected 10 percent of Crux’s net income to come from its tasting room, but instead it’s generating closer to 70 to 80 percent of the profits.
Next up for Crux is a new brew house to help balance out the business. The current one adjacent to the taproom in central Bend is too small for Larry’s bottling ambitions and passion for the craft of creating new beers.
“I have 20 beers on tap,” he says, “and I do beers all the way from very light, low alcohol, to light malt to heavy malt, to light roasted malts to really burnt malts with scotch. You know, I can make people love beer as long as they keep an open mind.”
Although Central Oregon boasts 26 breweries, Larry says there isn’t much competition between them. He compares the camaraderie of brewmasters to a fraternity working together, trading equipment and helping each other when they can.
Larry says the best brewmasters aren’t too scientific, but they aren’t too artistic, either. His favorite beers are dark Belgians and European Saisons, but he’s known to show up to a dinner party or backyard barbeque with a six-pack of Off Leash, the very first beer Crux ever brewed.
“It’s somewhere between a pale ale and an IPA. It’s very hop-forward, hop-flavorful,” he explains.
Larry says beer fits in perfectly with the culture of Bend. He notices that people wake early to go for a run with the dog or take a dip in the river or get a few ski runs in. “I live out toward Mt. Bachelor, so at about noon on the weekends, I start to hear the cars coming back into town. By three or four in the afternoon, people are ready for a beer and a sandwich, and I’m here for them.”
Larry maintains his ties to Oregon State. He has friends among the faculty and staff in the College of Agricultural Sciences, provided internships to fermentation science students at Deschutes and has hired Oregon State alumni as brewers at Crux.
He is excited about the brewery’s growth, and with it, the ability to hire more people and create new jobs.
“I never thought that Bend, Oregon, would or could ever support another brewpub,” Larry says. “It’s very gratifying to me that people feel good enough about my beer to support me here.”