By Brian Yaeger
More thaifteen brewing companies are now based in the outdoor playground known as Bend, home to 80,000 people. Deschutes Brewing turned this hamlet on the Deschutes River into a beer town in 1988 and 25 years later, Central Oregon is a veritable flood of fresh beer.
It’s just fortuitous that the angler’s paradise on the Metolius River near the town of Sisters is marked by Bridge 99 and that number is, according to legend, how bottles of beer are on the wall. Though in Bend’s newest brewery’s case, there are zero bottles of Bridge 99 beers such as their IPA, ISA, or Candle Creek American Ale, because you can only find them on draft. And only at Wubba’s BBQ Shack (63055 Layton Ave). This exclusivity makes Wubba’s, a Klamath Falls institution that recently opened a second shack in Bend, something of a de facto brewpub. Which works for Trevor, who’s already eyeing a spot directly across the street to expand his 1.5 barrel brewery into seven or possibly ten barrels and create a smokin’ beer garden.
Oblivion Brewing has a story similar to Bridge 99 since it’s a husband-wife operation, care of Darin and Meghann Butschy, and also a nanobrewery that launched in September with just one account on tap. Then again, that spot is one of Bend’s best known (and best) tap rooms, Broken Top (1740 NW Pence Ln. #1) and they’ve since claimed a few taps beyond. Butschy’s pedigree includes Firestone-Walker in the ‘90s. I tried Oblivion’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale featuring Centennial and Cascade hops grown in Tumalo not ten miles north of Bend and the tasty results carried an essence of nectarines from the freshies.
In the Old Mill District, Rat Hole Brewing (384 SW Upper Terrace Dr., Ste 108) is the pub addition from this nanobrewery that opened back in February. In other words, half a year after going public, Al Toepfer and his wife Susan have expanded. Guess that’s what winning two medals at the 2013 Denver International Beer Competition for their Rotation Red (mild category) and Vanilla Porter (robust porter category) will do for a brewery, though Al’s homebrew competition awards are numerous. At least half a dozen house beers are available at the pub with Southwestern décor and a tapas menu with New Mexican cuisine as is Susan’s passion. Al said he’d love to do a green chili beer, but for now, the Haystack Hazelnut Brown, brewed with filberts added to the mash, is a great choice.
Rat Hole is actually where Old Mill Brew Wërks (803 SW Industrial Way) was originally. Now Old Mill is a few blocks away, and it offers a killer outdoor deck that overlooks the Deschutes River. Ownership-wise, those who built it all get a say. Brewmaster (er, brëwmaster) Mike McMahon knows to conjure up crowd pleasers like Irreverence IPA and an old school amber. Chef Rudy Garcia offers plenty of pub bites that include bleu cheese and roasted red pepper polenta on a bed of tomatoes, white wine sauce, and tasty balsamic. The actual brewery is over on the southeast side of Bend and included in their newer, ten-barrel system is the capacity to bottle beer, which is what they’re starting to do with Rabble-Rouser Imperial Red.
North up by Riverview Park is RiverBend Brewing (2650 NE Division St.). What was Rivals, a sports bar that offered 18 taps of mostly craft beer, is now a sports bar and brewery helmed by 10 Barrel Brewing alum Daniel Olsen. He said he’ll be doing an IPA, of course, but that he’s a dark beer fan and is looking forward to offering a dry Irish stout that’s not too sweet, not to harsh. Is Bend ready for a true sports bear with its own beer program? The owner and Olsen are willing to make that bet, and even a day when patrons will come to watch The Big Game while quaffing, say, a sour Flemish Red ale.
Finally, also in the vein of a craft-centric pub adding its own brewery, down in the resort town of Sunriver is the new Sunriver Brewing (57100 Beaver Dr., Bldg. 4). The pub opened in mid-2012 and started offering contract brewed beers within a year but a new 15-barrel brewery (along with a 3-barrel pilot system) was installed a healthy walk (or bike ride since it’s Sunriver) away where brewer Brett Thomas, formerly of Silver Moon in Bend, will be concocted all manner of food-friendly beers. Which is important since the food here is already top notch. House specialties like the fried avocado (yes, battered slices of fresh avo) and smoked steelhead need a beer like their light-bodied Stargazer Black Ale to clear the palate and make room for more bites.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.