You might never have heard the name Larry Sidor. The man who has been brewing professionally for nearly a half-century has put his stamp on so much of the local and regional beer scene.
How he’s stepping away from the business and looking back on a career that stretches from Olympia Brewing in Washington state to Crux Fermentation in Bend.
As we sat down with Larry to reminisce about his career, he poured us a pint of malt-forward IPA — special batch of beer celebrating a decade at Crux Fermentation Project.
“Since I’m retiring or stepping back from the day-to-day, it might be the last beer I brew. I don’t know. We’re going to find out,” said Larry.
After half a century in the business, he still loves making, drinking and talking beer.
“It’s an IPA but it uses four different kinds of hop compounds in it,” said Larry.
His life in beer-world started in the 1970s at venerable Olympia Brewing in Tumwater, Wash.
“They were probably the most solid technical brewers in the world at the time,” said Larry. “The beer they were making back in the 70s would be a craft beer today. It was whole hops. It was rice. It was all sorts of great malts. It was fantastic.”
But that life changed when the industry changed.
“Miller Lite really ruined the beer industry. They kind of changed it from brewers making a good beer to marketing people selling water,” said Larry.
Miller wasn’t the only company going lite.
“One of the lowest moments in my life was in an Olympia board meeting and the marketing guy said ‘Larry we want you to make beer as close to water as possible so we can sell more,'” said Larry.
“Miller Lite really ruined the beer industry.” — Larry Sidor
Still, for Larry and others, it was also an opportunity.
“That allowed the craft brewer to come in and say, ‘Hey, here is a great beer. Here is something that doesn’t taste like Miller Lite,” said Larry.
One of the people who helped him along the way was Bert Grant, a Northwest craft brewing legend.
“His brew pub in Yakima, Yakima Malting and Brewing, was the first ever brewpub in the United States. He paved the way,” said Larry.
After six years in the hop industry, Larry was hired as brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery in Bend — a city just beginning to earn it’s “Beer City U.S.A.” reputation. It’s where he lived by his mantra:
Innovate or die.
“I’ll never forget when we came out with Inversion, our IPA. I kinda had to check my car for car bombs every night because the brewers weren’t too sure,” said Larry.
Then, he tapped all his experience and opened Crux Fermentation Project 10 years ago.
“Being CEO was never my desire, aim, nothing I really wanted to do. I’m good at administration but it’s not something I enjoy,” said Larry.
What he’s trying to say is, “I like making beer.”
Jon Abernathy wrote the book on Bend beer, quite literally. The author of “Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon” says there’s no doubt Larry leaves the region and the craft brewing industry better off than he found it.
“Innovate or die. There’s many breweries that have failed along the way because they were not innovative enough or too staid enough or just didn’t stand out enough,” said John. “He’s been open to pushing brewers to get better, pushing breweries to get better, developing these new techniques, helping develop these new hop strains and hop varieties when he was in the industry there.
Larry appreciates the attaboy.
“The best thing that people come back to me and go ‘Larry, thanks.’ I really appreciate it, I didn’t appreciate it then ’cause you were kind of rough on me but boy do I appreciate it now,” said Larry.
“He’s been open to pushing brewers to get better, breweries to get better, developing these new techniques.” — Jon Abernathy
He sees changing and challenging times ahead for beer makers and beer drinkers.
“I think you’re going to see a huge reduction in packaged beer on the shelf. I think you’re going to see the brewpubs survive quite nicely. But I think a shakeout is coming,” said Larry.
What he sees for himself is a lot less work and a lot more fishing and sailing.
“Kind of get out of the rat race, take the time to enjoy life. That’s what I’m really looking forward for,” said Larry.
And looking back? Many memories, millions of gallons brewed and few regrets.
“I thought, in beer, I was going to join the most boring, staid business in the world and it’s been anything but that. It’s been a journey that’s just been fantastic,” said Larry.