Larry Sidor gets around. Last month he was fishing in Alaska. This month he’s in New Zealand for Beervana.
His brewing career has moved around from Olympia Beer, Pabst Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, and now his own venture, Crux Fermentation Project. Larry is based in Bend, Oregon, 260km southwest of Portland. Bend is a craft brewing hub, with 170,000 people and more than 20 breweries, including Deschutes.
At 66, Larry describes Crux Fermentation Project as “my retirement programme. I’ve never had another job in my life except brewing beer.”
Crux started in 2011 after Larry left his job as master brewer at Deschutes, where he’d worked for eight years. Before that he’d worked for Pabst as director of R&D and quality control. Each move was towards smaller volumes of better beer.
“Oh, Crux is tiny. I brewed just a little over 600,000L last year – I used to make 600,000L an hour!”
Which gives you an idea of how important craft beer is in Bend. Crux has just opened a production brewery alongside its brewpub, for a total annual production of 1.4ML. To put that in perspective, Larry’s ‘tiny retirement project’ would be one of New Zealand’s largest craft brewers.
“There’s about 26 breweries in Bend and we’re probably the fourth biggest. Deschutes (at 30ML/yr) is by far the big dog. I’m really not trying to do volume, I’m trying to be interesting. I’m not entering the IPA wars that are going on right now in the States.”
Trying to be interesting means Larry has built Crux to be a very flexible brewery where he can experiment with different brewing techniques and ingredients.
“I’m quite the brewing technology geek and I love to do different things, so I bought a used, German-designed, five-vessel brewhouse from Japan. I won’t say its full automated but it’s fairly automated. The point is that I can do just about anything I can dream up – decoction mashing, open fermenters, barrel aging, wild yeast strains, experimental hops.
“I’ve been brewing for so many years, and I have so many contacts, that just about any material, hop, malt, I can think of, I can get a hold of somehow, and it leads me to all sorts of interesting things. Now I have a production brewery that’s even more dynamic than my pub brewery, so it’s been a good ride.”
Larry has brewed with New Zealand hops before but this will be his first visit. “I went to Australia a little over a year ago for the hop harvest and found that very interesting.”
While he’s here Larry will do a collaboration brew with Panhead, and then check out the Road to Beervana before attending Beervana itself. “My daughter is attending an exchange programme with Lincoln University. So she’s going there for a couple of days, then she’s meeting me in Wellington to be my Director of Entertainment and I’ll be doing whatever she tells me to do.”