Meet the Producer: Tonya Cornett, Bend Brewing Company
Learning the Craftuser rating
Tonya Cornett, the brewmaster at Bend Brewing Company in Bend, Ore., talks about favorite beers, new challenges and how American brewers can’t sit still for long.
When did you first get interested in beer making?
In the mid 1990s I lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. The restaurant I worked in had 40 different draft beers that I was expected to describe. There was a buzz in Fort Collins about the developing beer scene and after a short stint home brewing I decided to pursue brewing as a career. My first job was at H.C. Berger brewing. I started in packaging and worked my way up.
How did you end up craft brewing at Bend?
In 2001 I attended Siebel Institute of Technology and after graduating, I took over as brewmaster here. I was interested in Oregon and wanted the challenge of working in the heart of beer country so I took the job. I had been doing pub brewing most of my career but to my surprise, I have flourished in this environment. It has been much more challenging than I ever expected.
Do you have a personal favorite beer that you brew?
I have to say I love brewing lagers. Ales normally have about a two-week turnaround time but lagers take a minimum of two months. I’m not sure if it’s the delayed gratification or that they are a challenge to master that makes me love to brew them so much.
What are you particularly excited about now in craft brewing?
American brewers can’t sit still for long. Once we master a style we move on to the next challenge. The recent trend is Belgian Sours. It can take up to three years to begin a sour program. The sour character is achieved by fermentation with a combination of yeast and bacteria.
You won the Brewmaster Award at the World Beer Cup. What do you think it is about your beers that are so special?
I always say it’s because of the girl sweat but I believe it is really due to critical dissection of flavors. It usually takes me three times to dial in a recipe. I take great care in getting the aroma, flavor and mouth feel just right.
Your beer is only available in Bend. Why is that?
We make occasional exceptions for beer festivals around the state but we take pride in the fact that our beer is consumed locally at its peak of freshness. I have come to learn that bigger doesn’t mean better.
Clearly you appreciate fine beverages. If you knew it were going to be your last meal, what would you eat and drink?
I love sweets, so my last meal would consist solely of dessert. I recently had a coconut and Macadamia nut stout from Stone Brewing. I would love this beer with a huge scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Pure yumminess! —Susan Segrest
Susan Segrest is a contributing editor to foodspring.com and has also written for Marie Claire, the New York Daily News and Prevention.