The Les Schwab Amphitheatre is the crown jewel of Bend, Oregon. There’s a million reasons to love it. The rolling green grass. The intimate stage. The brilliant wild flowers. The verdant hop wall. The adjacent Deschutes River and cat-tail abundant riparian zone. The honkers flying overhead.
A million things. Not to mention the excellent bands the venue attracts. Acts ranging from Bob Dylan to Phish, Chris Botti to Peter Frampton. And the amazing variety of local food trucks.
It’s a special place, where you can enjoy the show, dance if you’d like, admire the river, sidle up to the stage, enjoy a tasty meal, and cavort among the beautiful people of Bend.
There’s just one little hitch. Bend is renown for it’s world class craft beer. Tourists flock here for it. The locals support it. And the independent craft breweries here pretty much work together for the common good. Sure, each of us wants to succeed, but not at the cost of our brethren.
But the beer sponsor at the venue is not from Bend. In fact, they’re not even from America. The beer sponsor for the concert series is AB/InBev, a foreign owned conglomerate. They are a monopolist. Make no mistake, their mission is to snuff out competition, with superior fire power, lawyers, lobbyists, beholden distributors, Madison Avenue sharpies and money – lots and lots of money.
For many craft beer enthusiasts, going to the show presents a dilemma. Yes, we want to drink up and dream on during the show with a cold frothy. But many of us do not wish to support AB/INBev, including their wholly owned subsidiary, Ten Barrel. Yes, Ten Barrel helped put Bend on the map. Their beer is awesome, as well as their home grown employees.
But they are not craft. When they agreed to be bought out by Ab/Inbev, they gave up their membership in the club. That’s not a disputed statement. It’s a fact. Ten Barrel no longer meets the definition of an independent craft brewery. That of course may not be important to many consumers.
So what’s a craft disciple to do? A few suggestions.
First, enjoy a craft beverage before the show. Be mindful of the open container law. Don’t try to secrete a beer into the venue.
Second, if, like me, you can’t stomach supporting the AB/INbev with your hard earned dollar, enjoy a glass of wine or cider, instead.
Third, if you’re a security guard at the amphitheatre, please understand that craft aficionados have a deep, sincere and nearly religious devotion to craft. If you should encounter a guest outside the venue who is draining the last drops from his or her indy beer, yes, ask them nicely to finish it up and dispose of the container properly. But refrain from provoking a confrontation.
And finally, a note to the Old Mill District. We know that your group does as much as anyone to preserve and enhance the friendly and organic atmosphere here in Bend. I’m sure you’re not ecstatic about depriving the locals of authentic craft beer at your wonderful venue.
As a work-around, Worthy Brewing would be pleased to negotiate with you an outright buy out of your contract with Budweiser.
In the alternative, Worthy would be please do spearhead an effort to create a consortium of local craft breweries who will step into Budweiser’s topsiders, buy them out, and offer up an eclectic menu of home grown craft beers. Your crown jewel would then truly represent the heart and soul of Bend's craft beer appellation.
It’s a shame that in a town renown for it’s indy craft breweries, beer lovers are forced to go dry in order to stay true to their faith (no disparagement of cider or wine intended). We hope that the Old Mill will consider this request. And we thank them for bringing so many awesome artists to Bend, as well as organizing the fun, exciting and must-colored and flavored Bend Brewfest.