Bend Brewing Co
Tonya Cornett grew up in Marion, Indiana—Bud Country. But when she moved to beer-mad Fort Collins, Colorado (home to über-successful New Belgium Brewing Co), in 1995 and landed a job in a 40-tap bar, she got so fired up about craft beer that she began making her own. A couple of apprenticeships and a brewing degree from the prestigious World Brewing Academy later (along with training in Munich, Germany), Cornett found herself in the top spot at Bend Brewing Co, making her one of just a handful female brewmasters in the nation. Soon after, she became the first woman to win the small-brewpub brewer-of-the-year award at the World Beer Cup, in 2008. In April her Outback X ale took home top honors at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
Favorite brew: Hop-Head, Cornett’s imperial IPA, is a Bend standby. “I don’t think I could ever brew enough to make everyone happy,” she says.
Ninkasi Brewing Co
Back in 1994, Jamie Floyd was just another homebrewer at the University of Oregon. After graduation, he scored a gig working the kettles at Steelhead Brewery in Eugene and proved to be a quick study: today Floyd has 40 staff members to help brew nearly 10,000 barrels annually (up from just 1,600 barrels when Ninkasi started in 2006), not to mention a rabid fan base. Ninkasi is the state’s No. 1 seller of 22-ounce bottled beer. In part by harnessing the power of social networks (Floyd boasts about 10,000 Facebook fans) and clever guerrilla marketing tactics like his Ninkasi logo “Bat Signal” spotlight in Eugene, the upstart beer-lover’s hero has quickly conquered Oregon. Next up: the world?
Favorite brew: Last year, Total Domination IPA was the top-selling 22-ounce beer in the state and 10th in the nation, with just four states (Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Idaho) selling it. You do the math.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co, Rose Garden facility
Massachusetts-bred Ike Manchester first got his brewing legs at a small Northern California brewpub and later at the vaunted Siebel Institute of Chicago, a brewing school. After a chance meeting with a Widmer brewer, Manchester headed to Portland to man the tiny Rose Quarter pilot brewery where Widmer develops new releases like its Prickly Pear Braggot. Manchester also heads up Widmer’s Collaborator Project, which helps out a few homebrewers each year by developing their recipes for a run on the big boys’ equipment. Under Manchester’s watchful eye, the beer goes on tap at select area pubs, and can even become legendary: Snow Plow, a 1998 Collaborator beer, was tweaked in 2004, released commercially, and earned a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival.
Favorite brew: Manchester loves brewing the limited-production Alt Bier, on tap at the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus. A favorite of the late beer writer Michael Jackson, the beer is a cult classic in Portland.