By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Several of Central Oregon’s newer breweries are opening tasting rooms to showcase their beer.
The most recent one to start serving the public is The Vault Taphouse and Kobold Tasting Room, which began operating in downtown Redmond in July. Steve Anderson, founder and head brewer, designed the renovation of a decades-old building and adjacent open space into a pub and beer garden.
“In the 1930s and 1940s, all these old buildings had their own vaults,” said Anderson, “because people didn’t trust banks.” The vault in the taproom is now a walk-in cooler.
Anderson will continue to brew at his home in Bend on his original 2-barrel system, licensed in 2015. The Vault Taphouse will feature eight Kobold beers and 14 taps for other local offerings, including a cider and a couple nitro beers. The counters, tabletops and bar in the taproom were made from restored pine slabs from a cabin on Lake Cavanaugh in Washington that belonged to his wife’s grandfather. Acid-washed steel used as wainscoting adds to the rustic look. Inside and out, the business seats about 100. Westside Taco Co., an award-winning food cart founded in Los Angeles, has opened another in the beer garden space.
Chronologically, the next newest taproom is The Ale Apothecary in Bend, which opened in May. The unique, small-batch brewery — with its wild-fermented lagers aged in oak barrels — was launched in 2011 by former Deschutes brewer Paul Arney.
While the brewery itself is still on Paul and Staci Arney’s wooded property about 10 miles west of town, the need for more storage prompted they move into a small warehouse space in town near GoodLife Brewing. Even while creating room for barrels and bottled inventory, there was enough space left for a tasting room that’s run by Nora Smith and Kirsten Schopen. Both of their spouses, Jared Smith and Connor Currie, are involved in the brewing. “The idea for a tasting room was in the ether,” said Schopen.
Four vertical sections of the old bay doors, now replaced with an efficient roll-up garage-style opening, separate the tasting and inventory areas. They added handcrafted wooden tables, barrel stave stools and beer barrel hanging lights. There’s also plenty of room for Arney to display his family pharmacy relics — three generations of pharmacists’ collections — which also inspired the name of his brewery.
The popular vintage beers are aged up to 18 months in barrels and a year in 750-milliliter bottles. Usually, the tasting menu includes three or four different samples at $6 a 4-ounce glass. Or, tasters can purchase a bottle to sample and take out. “About eight out of 10 customers buy a bottle,” Schopen said.
“We have one of the flagship beers for tasting — the Sahalie or La Tache — and we might have a new bottle release with a couple others. We like to mix it up for the locals,” she said. “Still, many of the people who come here and know about Ale Apothecary are visiting from someplace else.”
The Ale Apothecary is one of those breweries that becomes a destination worth seeking out due to word-of-mouth, whether that’s in person at a bottle share or via a podcast. There was little-to-no pre-marketing for the tasting room, just a sign on the door that faces an alleyway saying it was coming.
The Bridge 99 Brewery tasting room opened two-and-a-half years ago when founder Trever Hawman moved the brewery out of his house to the current industrial location in northeast Bend. Amazingly, all of the 18 beers on tap are Bridge 99 brews. Amazing because brewers Hawman, partner Rod Kramer and Richard Anthony still work on the original 2-barrel system. That will change early next year when a new 15-barrel brewhouse is installed.
“With that system, we will have the capability to do 8-barrel, 15-barrel and double batches,” said Hawman. The major expansion will double the total space from 3,500 square feet to 7,500 with additional storage and a bigger seating area in the tasting room.
Hawman and others make a wide variety of beers. “We don’t really have a flagship, but the IPAs are bestsellers,” he said. Also popular are the barrel-aged red and porter, both resting in Bendistillery Rye Whiskey barrel for three months. One of the more unique brews Bridge 99 offers is an Irish ale made from a 100-year-old family recipe that one of Hawman’s former carpentry clients brewed with his father. The beer calls for buckwheat honey from Ireland, a dark, nutty honey the Irish made when Britain cut them off from sugar. Hawman wanted to recreate the recipe as close to the original as possible and also uses European malt and Irish ale yeast.
Hawman handles all sales and distribution to 40 or so accounts. “Our growth has been organic and steady. Word-of-mouth is our primary marketing,” he said. “We’re looking to expand into Portland and maybe Washington.”
And in case you were wondering, the brewery is named after a Forest Service bridge over the Metolius River.
The Vault Taphouse/Kobold Tasting Room
245 SW Sixth St., Redmond
The Ale Apothecary
30 SW Century Drive, Bend
Bridge 99 Brewery
63063 Layton Ave., Bend
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.