By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
While breweries are opening left and right, this one has been hanging in wait for the past year.
And finally, it’s time.
Bridge 99 Brewery, which had its “grand soft opening” Jan. 22-23, has finally moved into its building in northeast Bend at 63063 Layton Ave. The space has been there and marked for the past year, but sat empty.
Named after a bridge over the Metolius River, Bridge 99 Brewery was started by contractors Rod Kremer and Trevor Hawman in 2013. They spent the first year brewing professionally on a 1.5-barrel system, which is destined to become Bridge 99’s pilot system after a planned expansion to a 10-barrel system.
“It’s our next goal,” Hawman said. “We’re not sure how far it is out, but it’s the next move.”
Kremer and Hawman started like many of the new-school brewers — homebrewing in a garage. Hawman said both he and Kremer were obsessive about homebrewing, both never too proud to dump out a batch if it didn’t turn out well. They brewed every weekend, tasting and tweaking recipes, adding depth and experience to their beer education.
“We were determined to make something perfect,” Hawman said. “We put a lot of research into it to make what we thought beer should be.”
Since the beginning, the beers have had a steady flow through taps at neighboring restaurant, Wubba’s BBQ Shack. Bridge 99 purchased and installed six taps at the restaurant to serve their beer while they finished building the tasting room.
Considering the owners are both contractors, they spared no expense or effort when building the new taproom. Outside, hops will grow on a hill adjacent to the patio, where tables and a fire pit will invite summer imbibers. Inside, with an 800-year-old redwood bar and hand-cut, raw juniper paneling, the owners clearly put their heads together to create a one-of-a-kind feel in the small tasting area.
Nine taps line the wall, with everything from the Green Ridge Lager to the Bull Trout Stout. But the brewery doesn’t stop there — they’re also barrel-aging here and there with Oregon Spirit Distillers barrels, releasing a barrel-aged red on their opening date.
Besides the barrel-aging with local barrels, the brewery has shown a large local focus. Bridge 99 has already started giving their spent grain to local farmers and working on water recycling, along with sourcing some of their hops from Tumalo Hop Farm, located between Bend and Sisters.
Ultimately, Hawman and Kremer are looking to take this on full time. While still working their construction jobs, they are able to keep brewing on their small system and distribute to local restaurants and growler fill stations. But as they work toward more distribution, they are going to look to make it full time.
“I don’t think I can work construction forever, you know?” Hawman said.
They are entering the ever-competitive Central Oregon market — 19 breweries in Bend’s city limits alone. Hawman said they know they are taking on a large challenge, but they can’t worry about competing.
“We make easy, drinkable beers. We’re trying to stay away from adding too many extra things,” he said. “But, were not going to compare to others. Bend has a lot of variety, and we’re very excited to be a part of it.”
Bridge 99 Brewery
[a] 63063 Layton Ave., Bend
Hours: Wed–Sat 3-6 p.m.*
*Other visits by appointment
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.