If you are looking to make a name in the beer business, bringing in a guy with more than 22,000 followers on his beer-related Instagram page sounds like a smart move.
That’s what Chris Stonebraker did when he bought Beer Stop in Redmond in May and hired Matthew Ward as general manager. As “Bend Brew Daddy” (@bendbrewdaddy) on Instagram, Ward built a name for himself with his beer photos on the photo-centric social media site.
One reason Ward was brought in is to improve Beer Stop’s social media presence. Stonebreaker said he’s done that by increasing the store’s Instagram account to more than 1,600 followers from 300.
“As far as getting people in here, Instagram has really helped us,” he said. “We’ve had people from all over Oregon come in to check us out.”
The Beer Stop page is similar to Ward’s, in that both show cans of beer in scenic settings, often doing perplexing tasks like pouring itself into a glass or balancing on a rock. But the Beer Stop page lets customers know what is available in the store’s ever-rotating selection of craft beer, while Ward’s personal page features all kinds of beer he likes.
Ward, who has long enjoyed photography, combined that with his love of beer about eight years ago. He said his porch has a scenic view that works well with the beer photos.
He’s been hired to do photography for breweries, but Beer Stop is Ward’s first full-time beer-related employment.
“I do a good product shot, but, for me, it’s more about the experience of the beer I’m drinking at the time,” he said. “I don’t take pictures of beer I don’t like, unless I’m paid to do it.”
Now, Ward is using his beer knowledge to curate a great tap list at Beer Stop, he said.
Stonebraker had been looking to open a beer business in Bend, but after talking with then-owner Tim Herberger, who started Beer Stop in 2015, he decided to buy the business in a shopping center at 2498 S Highway 97, Suite C.
“I had a career I was done with,” Stonebraker said.
“I worked for a big box store and wanted to do my own thing. I was ready for it. I was there for 18 years.”
Stonebraker has been transforming Beer Stop from a growler fill station to a place where customers can hang out and enjoy beer. While they still fill growlers, as well as 32-ounce cans called “crowlers,” with their rotating 20 beers on tap, they focus more on beer that’s consumed on site.
“We kind of slowly turned it into a taproom,” he said.
Beer Stop also has a CBD drink on tap, which can be mixed with beer.
While Central Oregon is known for its craft breweries, most of the beer served at Beer Stop is lesser known varieties from out of town. They figure people can go to the brewery for local beer.
The expansion is continuing. They plan to extend the bar by taking over part of the space next door, adding a total of 700 square feet, Stonebraker said.
Beer Stop has a cooler filled with 90 varieties of canned and bottled beer. Among its more popular brands is Great Notion of Portland.
The cooler beers range from $4 for a can to $30 for a large bottle, while beers on tap range from $5 to $7 per pint.
Even though he’s no longer the owner, Herberger was hanging out at Beer Stop last week.
“I know when I come in here, the guys are getting some beers I can’t get anywhere else,” he said.
And they plan to add food items, including panini sandwiches, soup and appetizers like hummus and cheese plates.
Ward has several large versions of his beer art on display at Beer Stop, while customers can buy coasters featuring some of his more popular images for $8 each.
There’s even a large mural of beer flowing from Tumalo Falls on the exterior of a walk-in cooler. That one was painted by Bend artist Travis Knight.
With the catchy Beer Stop name, Stonebraker would like to expand to Bend and Portland. While they don’t have concrete expansion plans, they hope to add new locations within two years.