Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Gary Fish Oral History Interview, June 12, 2017

Oregon State University
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00:00:15 - Early life/location for a future brewpub

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Segment Synopsis: Fish talks about being born in Berkley, CA, however he only lived there for about a year, before he moved to the suburbs around the area. He discusses how the area has changed so much, and are now such wealthy places that it is hard to relate to the place that he grew up in. Fish discusses his families history with vineyard growing and wine making. Fish shares a story about his first job at a wine themed restaurant in California, and the birth of Napa as a famous wine region. Fish shares about working in restaurants all his life and having the idea to open a brew pub. He shares that he helped a friend open up a brewpub in Sacramento, and wanted to find a place to open up a brewpub of his own, but needed to find the right location.

Keywords: Bend, OR; Berkeley, CA; GI Bill; MBA; Napa,CA; Northern California; Oregon State University; Salt Lake City; WW I; deschutes brewery; wine growing

00:10:43 - Decision to open a business in Bend

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Partial Transcript: So, was that because it was an expensive place to live or a tough place to start a business?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares that building a new business in Northern California was extremely challenged because of things like costs and development laws. Fish discusses how both of his parents were born and raised in Oregon, and told him about how beautiful Bend was. At the time, Bend was recovering from a recession and suffering from the collapse of the timber industry. Fish says that he reached out to a lot of community members in Bend, and all were supportive of him opening a brew pub in the area. He talks about the struggle of finding a bank that would support them, but eventually they did. Him and his wife moved to Bend right before Thanksgiving, and then by the following summer their brewpub was open.

Keywords: Bend; Bend Community; Cost; Moving; OLCC; Oregon; Oregon State University; Timber Industry; college reunion; recession

00:14:52 - Philosophy's of Business

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the pieces, of food culture that you brought to Bend?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares a little bit about his philosophy of success; surrounding yourself with people who are going to be successful. He also has the philosophy of always creating high quality things. He brings that philosophy to deschutes, by only creating the best possible beer, and if its not the best it can possible be, its not to be sold. Fish wants to always put the consumer experience first, in every product that is made.

Subjects: Consumer; Dreyer's Ice Cream; UC Berkley; consumer experiance; food culture; philosophy; quality

00:19:51 - Studying in Utah/Utah Culture

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Partial Transcript: So, you went to school in Salt Lake City?

Segment Synopsis: Fish discusses leaving California for school in Utah. He had heard about Utah, and loved skiing, and they had a pretty good business school. Fish reflects that it was a really good decision for him to go, he had the opportunity to start fresh in somewhere new where he had no connections. Fish shares that he had no aptitude for science classes, or perhaps he would of studied forestry, or became a veterinarian. He shares that he ended up studying economics and it has served him well. Fish shares about how wonderful the Salt Lake City area is. He shares that some people complain about the liquor laws, but says that it was not a problem and people over exaggerate.

Keywords: Business school; City Structure; Salt Lake City; Skiing; UC Berkeley; Utah; career testing; college catalog; economics; food scene; food trucks; outdoor activities; public policy; social and political differences

00:26:54 - Food scene in Salt Lake City/Decision to leave

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Partial Transcript: So, my experience with SLC, which is limited, is that they had really great food. Did you feel like there was a good food scene when you were there?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares that he would not describe SLC as a foodie city. He tells that it is improving, but its not on the same scale as other cities. Fish discusses his decision to not stay in Salt Lake, they thought that they didn't want to raise their family in Utah. He didn't want his children to be excluded for not being a part of the Morman church, and admits that, that was only the perception he had, because he knows of many people who have had great lives raising families in Utah.

Keywords: Culture; Food Culture; Morman; Salt Lake City; food truck

00:30:17 - Development of the brewpub in Bend

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Partial Transcript: So, you moved back, before your wife moved back so at that point where you committed to the brewpub model?

Segment Synopsis: Fish discusses how he always intended on opening up a brewpub type restaurant. The decisions to open a brewpub made sense to him, because of the margins that could be made with beer. He did not at first envision them selling beer outside of of the brewpub itself into a larger market, however they quickly did when they realized that they were much more successful at that, then selling food within their restaurant. Some taverns and bars in Portland approached them about selling beer and then Deschutes started sending some beer up there. Fish discusses the naivety that he and his staff had with their relationships with wholesalers, especially compared to what they have now. Fish discusses how he was encouraged to go into the "darker" beer market, and expand on beers like his Black Butte Porter. He also talks about his business relationship with his father.

Subjects: Black Butte Porter; Brewpub; Margins; Mount Bachelor; Portland; father; kegs; wholesalers

00:35:50 - Bend as a City

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Partial Transcript: What were your early impressions of Bend?

Segment Synopsis: Fish discusses how when he first moved to bend, it still was a very blue collar town, most of its residents had worked in the timber industry which was now defunct. He talks about the types of people that live in Bend and the culture that comes along with that. Fish shares about how the size of Bend has grown exponentially since he started a business here. Fish briefly discusses the tourism industry in Bend.

Subjects: 1987; Bend; Black Butte Ranch; Blue-collar; Community; Growth; Mt.Bachelor; Population; Sun River; Timber; Tourism

00:41:25 - Early days of Deschutes Brewing

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Partial Transcript: So, 1988, you opened downtown, and it was rough going initially?

Segment Synopsis: Fish discusses the first major types of beer that were made at Deschutes. As they began doing more wholesale sales, they gravitated towards direct marketing at the major resorts in the area. While the Portland marker tended to like the darker ales. Fish also discusses why the business decided not to wholesale their pale ale variety of beer. They worried that if they sold that, it would instantly be the only beer of that they were known for. Fish discusses how he wanted Deschutes to be known for their diversity of beer, instead of one product dominating their portfolio. Fish talks about the beer infrastructure that they had in the early days of brewing, and in one episode of the early brewing days they had 10 bad batches in a row. Fish tells how they worked out the kinks, but there was a time when they almost ran out of beer.

Subjects: Beer; Early Beer; Mirror Pond Pale Ale; Obsidian Stout; Portland; beer diversity; infrastructure; tourism

00:48:02 - The business of beer

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Partial Transcript: Where you in contact or working at all with the brewers in Portland?

Segment Synopsis: Fish talks about not really knowing much or being very involved in the early beer culture in Portland. Despite that, Fish still shares about how the industry is very collaborative, he says that people were open for sharing information, but Bend was seen as almost to far away, to be involved in that early brewing community that developed in Portland. Fish discusses how he always felt more comfortable on the restaurant side of the business, he knew brewing, but restaurants were where he felt most a home. Fish discusses the culture within his business, and shares that he believes he could have done a better job, because a lot of the people on the brewing side started to believe they were untouchable, and he ended up having to fire his brew master and a lot of the brewing staff. Fish discusses the struggle within the beer industry, he talks about how its a business and businesses need to make profit, and a lot of the beer makers did not see it that way.

Keywords: Full Sail brewing; Oregon Brewing Guild; Portland; brew master; brewing community; competition; craft beer; job descriptions; restaurant; work attitudes

01:01:18 - Growth of business

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Partial Transcript: What was the point where you knew the facility downtown was not going to meet the need?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares about the rapid growth of business, and how they quickly outgrew the restaurant. He shares they at first they rented out space around their downtown location, but it was not feasible to constantly load and unload trucks in the downtown area. They eventually found the location that they are located now, and when he purchased the land to start their offsite brewing, he knew that they were a success, but, they are always chasing the next thing.

Subjects: Growth; downtown; expansion

01:04:39 - Changes in Bend/Deschutes involvement in Bend

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Partial Transcript: When did it feel like Bend changed?

Segment Synopsis: Fish talks about the growth of bend. He shares that he believes its been a good thing, and loves that there are better parks and schools and businesses. Fish says that Bend as a community needs to embrace its growth, because no matter what its going to keep growing. Fish shares the benefits of living so near hop growers. Fish discusses why they chose to open their brewpub in downtown Bend. He shares that they wanted to be a part of the cultural heart of the city. He says that they made it part of their original business plan to be involved in the community and will always continue to do so.

Keywords: Bend; European Tavern; Growth; Oregon; Oregon State University; Public House; Washington; bikes; community involvement; community ownership; downtown; hop growers; hops; infrastructure; philanthropy; traffic

01:17:00 - Politics of beer

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Partial Transcript: It seems from my perspective, I don't know from the inside, but it seems like there was a benefit to the town and county because of Deschutes success?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares that Deschutes brewing has been an overall good thing for the community in Bend. Fish reflects on the industry itself, sharing how when they started the business there was no market, but it has completely changed today. Fish talks about how when craft brewing started out, businesses had to band together in order to make changes in the beer community. Fish discusses the heavy regulation of the beer industry, and how brewers have to get involved in politics if they want to be successful. Fish talks about how the craft beer industry is supportive of others, but they don't want others to be too successful. Its hard to find the balance of being supportive, but still remembering your in business. Fish compares the differences between the Portland and Bend pubs, but concludes that overall there very much the same and the customers are there for a good experience, and they get that at both.

Keywords: Anarchist; Bend; Brewers Association of America; Brewers Guild; Competition; Lobby; Market; Sagebrush Classic; Salem; consumers; politics; quality; regulation; responsibility

01:31:22 - New facility in Virginia

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Partial Transcript: Your opening a new facility on the east coast?

Segment Synopsis: Fish discusses the decisions to open a new brewing facility in Virginia. It is expensive to ship product all the way to the east coast markets that they are already in. Opening a manufacturing facility over there makes sense, from both an economic standpoint and an environmental standpoint. Fish shares his excitement to open up a facility, and briefly compares Bend and Roanoke as cities.

Keywords: East Coast; Flordia; National brand; Roanoke; Virginia; Washington DC

01:35:34 - Other beer leaders/why Oregon is special

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Partial Transcript: So, at this point in your career, you are certainly on the leader side, do you still have people you to look as leaders?

Segment Synopsis: Fish share people in the industry who he still looks up to, he tells how he is inspired by how hard working they are, and how thy built companies out of nothing. He is happy that he has worked with people who have made such an impact on the industry, and have such a social and cultural impact on society. Fish discusses how craft beer is not just one thing, the business of beer, is larger than just beer. Fish also shares his thoughts on why Oregon became the craft beer capital of the country.

Keywords: Barely; Craft Beer; Creativity; Friends; Hops; New Belgium; Oregon; Perspectives; Sam Adams; Sierra Nevada

01:41:05 - Favorite things about Deschutes

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Partial Transcript: So, as your again at this stage in your career, what are some of the things that your reflecting on now...what are you proud of?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares that the thing he is the most proud of is that he has given his employees the ability to have happy lives. He likes that deschutes allows people to buy homes and raise their families here. He is proud that the beer is great, but more important is the people who work on the beer. He is most proud of the people.

Keywords: Employees; Home ownership; Pride; anniversary; children; familes

01:44:46 - Accomplishment

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Partial Transcript: What did you think I was going to ask, or touch on that I didn't?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares more about the accomplishment he feels when he sees his employees succeed and grow. Fish discusses how its sad when someone leaves, but he is always supportive of people. Fish shares how much he loves the creative process of owning a business. He loves being involved in all aspects of the business and learning new things.

Keywords: accomplishment; branding; business growth; children; customers; employees; marketing

01:53:07 - Most memorable moments at Dechutes/Concluding thoughts

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Partial Transcript: I was just curious to know more about what deschutes was like in the early days?

Segment Synopsis: Fish shares some early memories of deschutes. He tells some early stories about the crew in the in the early days of the deschutes restaurant. He shares the struggle of getting good employees at the beginning. Fish shares how a lot of early customers were in disbelief that they were doing the brewing on site in the restaurant, and some even believed it was fake. Fish shares the benefits of a bar atmosphere, and how it promotes people to communicate with each other in a civil way. Fish concludes sharing his thoughts about how the public house is a cultural center for society and cities.

Keywords: Customers; Employees; Jail; Marie Calenders; Stories; bar atmopshere; children; locals; public house; tourism