When south Eugene natives Tristan Cooley and Josh Cosci opened Gratitude Brewing in December 2019, they did so with a vision. They aimed to add upscale, sit-down digs and unique, people-pleasing flavors to the budding Eugene brewpub scene.
They envisioned diverse taps, with everything from West Coast IPAs and Kolsches to stouts and porters, and a family-friendly gourmet food menu.
The two say they tasted success almost immediately, with great revenue in their first month of business. The dreary winter weather and post-holiday restaurant lull didn’t seem to touch Gratitude, much to Cooley and Cosci’s surprise.
“We had a great opening,” Cooley says. “Really great revenue in January of 2020, which is unusual for a restaurant, especially in Eugene.” But like many others in the restaurant industry that year, the months to come were the beginning of a long COVID-19 haul.
“In March, things really started to fall off of a cliff, probably late February as well, when people started getting a little bit worried about the news,” Cooley says.
Gratitude had to change its business model throughout the lengthy pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. For the young company, this meant temporarily abandoning its goals, and scraping together any way possible to remain above water.
The young brewery leaned on canning and crowlers as primary revenue streams during the dark days of COVID. Canning and distribution provided small profits, but that move allowed them to get their flagship beers out into the community. Roadside, aka takeout, crowler sales were more lucrative, but were still, more or less, “a band-aid,” according to Cooley.
This spring has already been kind to Gratitude, and finally on the other side of the lockdowns, the company is looking ahead to a successful summer. “We continue to see that as the weather is getting better, the revenue is going up, so we’re expecting to be in a profitable situation here relatively soon,” Cooley says.
This summer is expected to be a busy one not just for the restaurant business, but for Eugene in its entirety. From a slew of concerts to the World Athletics Championships, the season should make for prime business for the Eugene brewery scene.
Given its proximity to campus and downtown, Gratitude is well situated for the anticipated business boom. Cooley and Cosci look to take full advantage, adding a variety of so-called “curve balls” to the tap list.
“From my perspective as a brewer: variety, variety, variety,” Cosci says. “When looking at the market, consumers want to have sort of a fresh outlook, and don’t want to be stuck, or pigeonholed into having the same beers over and over again. They want to be creative and they want to get their hands on the fresh, new beer.”
While Gratitude’s flagships, such as the award-winning I’m A Farmer American pale wheat beer, have proven commercially viable, Cosci still favors diversification and creativity in the business model.
This summer, Gratitude will release several new beers, starting with the Roadside Profit Juicy IPA later this month. Its name pays homage to the company’s early months, selling crowlers as a means of breaking even.
They’ll use Centennial, Citra and El Dorado hops, as well as grapefruit to deliver an ideal summertime hazy IPA. The beer will taste citrusy and grapefruit forward, while retaining a strong floral Centennial flavor.
You can also find cans of the brewery’s latest, the Elusive Stout starting in mid-May. The Elusive is an American style stout, comparable to a dry Irish in taste. It’s unmalted, and uses American Centennial and Columbus hops. You can expect a dry, low-moderate alcohol percentage with roast and chocolate character in this light summer stout.
“It’s one for the summer, very drinkable,” Cosci says. “It’s your typical summer drinking stout. It doesn’t have any adjuncts.”
Gratitude also has a few smoothie beers in the works for the hotter summer months.
The company has a number of events planned through the summer in and around Eugene. The brewery will celebrate Eugene Beer Week with a tasting at the Bier Stein on June 9, and another event the following night at Beergarden.
Gratitude Brewing is at 540 E. 8th Avenue. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday, but open 2 pm to 9 pm on Wednesday and noon to 9 pm Thursday through Sunday. The brewery offers indoor and outdoor seating, and live music every Friday in June.