In just two years, Shades of Brew has become a prominent leader in Salem’s emerging beer scene by brewing its own culture, identity, vibe, and, of course … beer.
Craving a delightfully hoppy, malty, light, or balanced craft beer? There are now many places in Salem that you can visit to quench that thirst. In fact, with several new taprooms and breweries having opened in the past few years, it seems that the Salem area is becoming fertile ground for lovers of liquid grain.
However, the industry growth we are seeing in local brewing isn’t just because Salem has great beer; it’s because Salem is cultivating a great beer community and culture, thanks to enthusiastic business leaders like Shades of Brew Co-Founder/Co-Owner Chade Cruse and his business partner, Stuart Peterson.
A San Diego native and fan of Southern California’s beer scene of the mid-2000s, Cruse was inspired to create a similar beer culture in Salem. The beers he was trying in his hometown were incredible, but it was really the way in which the area’s breweries supported one another — by featuring each other’s products on their taplists — that sparked the idea for Shades of Brew to adopt a similar model.
“Stone [Brewing] was probably the biggest inspiration for me,” Cruse said. “One day I went in there and asked them what the best IPA (India Pale Ale) they had was. They brought it out to me … and I come to find out it wasn’t theirs … and so they were promoting all of the other breweries in town … trying to get more of a community together of local craft brewers.”
The taproom model helped Shades (or SOB, as it is known to locals) not only develop relationships and even friendships with local breweries, but it also added to the fun, supportive atmosphere Cruse had seen in other healthy beer communities.
“The community is amazing,” Cruse said of SOB’s partnerships with other breweries. “And it’s not just the brewers and the breweries, but the taphouse owners as well. I think it has to do a little bit with us not being in direct competition with them down in their area, but we’re friends with all of the taphouse owners and they come in from time to time to hang out as well.”
Cruse also credits the community vibe and the identity SOB has established to its first loyal patrons and the community members in the taproom’s backyard, whom Cruse says didn’t have great options for food or beer before SOB opened its doors at 4743 Lancaster Drive.
“When we opened our doors, it seemed that people were very emotional,” Cruse said. “It’s an older community back here and they never had a place to go, and not even a really good place to eat. So, after we opened up, they came in and expressed that to us. … Now they come in all the time. It’s been phenomenal.”
Shades of Brew further ingratiated itself with locals as business began to slow down during its first winter by beginning to host events, including comedy nights, trivia, tap takeovers, cornhole tournaments, and live music.
“We’ll take on anything that’s fun and [where] people are going to be happy, seeing smiling faces, and all of that,” Cruse said. “As long as that’s going on, we’ll keep having different types of events in here.”
Providing a venue for community events and local musicians — such as Chamber member Manny Martinez — has also led to more connections and partnerships in Salem, including within the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. Since joining the Chamber, Shades of Brew has been very active, hosting several Greeters meetings and Chamber events, such as the Salem Emerging Leaders After Hours.
“It’s been huge for us,” Cruse said about being a part of the Chamber. “One of the big things is actually hosting, getting everybody driving in here … looking around, seeing the facility and everything. That’s been a huge, huge bonus for us.”
“This has been literally the best marketing we could have ever done,” added Cruse, who said that marketing the business himself has been one of the biggest challenges in growing SOB. “Doing the Chamber has been amazing for us.”
For a business built by beer lovers for beer lovers, naturally, the next step in SOB’s evolution has been to brew its own original craft beers. In December, SOB made the exciting announcement of the opening of the Shades of Brew Brewery at 2027 25th Street in south Salem in partnership with Bine Valley Brewing.
The collaboration — which began early in SOB’s business life with the creation of its first original beers last summer — has now yielded an entire roster of new beers exclusive to SOB, including “The Big SOB Lager,” “The All American” (American Pale Ale), and the “Thunder Struck IPA.”
As his business continues to expand and grow, Cruse sees an opportunity for the entire Salem beer community to grow too, and says it’s just a matter of time before Salem is known throughout the state as Oregon’s next big beer town.
“It’s gonna happen. We just need everybody to hold on the way up and enjoy the ride and hopefully stay in business, and we can all help each other out,” Cruse said.
To learn more about Shades of Brew’s two locations (taproom and brewery) and to see what’s on tap (beers and events), visit shadesofbrew.com.