Like many of his fellow brewers, Steve Anderson started brewing beer for fun and drinking pleasure. Soon, he was hooked on the craft and opened his own two-barrel nanobrewery.
Following his retirement from the FAA after 27 years as an air traffic controller, Anderson and his wife moved from Colorado to Bend in 2011 following his retirement. Not even 50 years old, Anderson was too young for do-nothing leisure. Possessed of a restless, creative nature, he was eager to try something new.
“I started brewing nonstop with mentors from the Bend homebrew club and with my neighbor,” Anderson said. It wasn’t long before he outgrew the home aspect of homebrewing, completely rebuilding his garage as a nanobrewery, officially opening for sales in 2015. He named his project Kobold Brewery — the name stems from German myth and folklore tales of goblin-like creatures who help humans finish tasks and are especially fond of beer cellars.
Anderson — who holds a degree in architecture and has designed and built 10 homes — also designed and built his garage brewery. “I sold to about 20 different locations in Bend and Redmond,” he said. From the beginning, one of Kobold’s most popular brews was Crooked Fate IPA, Anderson’s own recipe. Made with five different hops and specialty malts, Crooked Fate is known for its balanced, toasty flavor.
Even though craft breweries seem to be popping up all over Bend, sales of Kobold were good enough for Anderson to start thinking ahead. Once his transition from home to professional brewer was complete, Anderson began looking around for a taphouse location, a gathering place to showcase both his beers and other local brews. He found the perfect spot in the heart of downtown Redmond on SW Sixth Street. “I definitely wanted to be in a downtown core where you’re really a part of the community,” said Anderson. “Our section of Sixth Street is perfect — all the parades, festivals and special events center around it.”
Anderson also needed an outside patio and he wanted to buy, not rent. Erected in 1944, the building he purchased was the only structure featuring an adjacent lot. Anderson built an outside patio, complete with fire pits for the winter and sunshades for the summer. He named his taphouse The Vault because of its massive walk-in safe — now a walk-in cooler — a feature not uncommon for post-Great-Depression-era buildings when mistrust of banks remained commonplace.
The space The Vault occupies has been totally redone. “I tried to keep a super clean look,” said Anderson. The intimate rectangular area seats about 40 with predominant materials of steel and wood. Tables and wood trim were crafted from a giant fir tree harvested from Anderson’s wife’s grandfather’s property on Lake Cavanaugh in Washington. “We saved the bottom 24 feet and had it milled and cut,” said Anderson. A long community table sits in the center of the room — it was built in place because the plank tabletop weighs 1,000 pounds. Sheet steel, etched with muriatic acid, is attached to the walls at chair-rail height.
Outside, a roomy space with seating for 60 and plenty of standing room hosts the award-winning Westside Taco food truck. When Chef Amber Amos was in the Redmond city offices applying for a permit to move her truck from Los Angeles to a spot in Redmond, Anderson just happened to be there. The coincidence resulted in a happy match for both of them.
“We’re cooking every day,” said Aaron Notarianni, Westside Taco assistant chef. “All our food is fresh and as handmade as possible.” The handmade corn tortillas are thick, pliable and delicious.
Beer writers aren‘t immune from culinary delight! While researching this story, I sampled the root beer carnitas taco and the blueberry chipotle barbecue brisket with Kobold’s Crooked Fate IPA, the 3rd Street Cred Red, the Hazy K IIPA and the Milk Stout. The first two beers paired especially well with the tacos and I left feeling like I’d eaten a five-course dinner.
Opened in July of 2017, the taphouse immediately “ate all the beer I had,” said Anderson. “There was no way my small system would keep up with the demand.” So Anderson started looking for a full-scale brewing space. In the meantime, he contract-brewed with Silver Moon. Working closely with Silver Moon staff, he made sure his recipes were followed exactly, particularly the Crooked Fate IPA. “Their brewers really saved me and helped keep The Vault in beer,” Anderson said.
Then karma struck again. Anderson discovered a Redmond space inside an industrial “condo,” originally built out by another brewery in 2014. Never used, the space already boasted a walk-in cooler, drains, sinks, a sewer inspection manhole and more.
“I was at a beer judging competition when I got the call that the brewery space was for sale,” said Anderson. “It was perfect.” He went to work getting the brewhouse up and running. Once Bend Brewing bought North Rim, they sold Anderson North Rim’s old 10-barrel system. Naturally, Anderson made numerous additions and improvements, including new pumps, a brew deck and variable speed controllers. He also added a whirlpool vessel, cutting his double batching time by more than half. “I built the grain handling system for one-third of what it was bid for,” he said.
In addition to his original two-barrel system used for one-offs, pub-only beers and recipe experimentation, Anderson’s system includes four 20-barrel fermenters and one 20-barrel brite tank.
Once all the equipment was in place and tested, Anderson brewed his first batch in November 2018.
Anderson likes to make all varieties of beer. For drinking in the tasting room, he prefers the Oathbreaker Baltic Porter in the winter. “It is full of great flavor and is warming at 8.8 ABV,” he said. Currently, 14 Kobold beers are on tap with nine different beers kegged in Bourbon barrels.
“Our capacity in 2018 was 200 barrels and we produced 107. The capacity of our new brewhouse is 2,000 barrels. That’s based on double batching into our 20-barrel fermenters,” said Anderson. “For now we’re sticking to single batched. I would estimate we will come in around 800 barrels this year.”
Future plans include bottling some of the barrel aged beers and canning the most popular ones. Now that Anderson has hired help with sales and brewing, Kobold’s beers will be available again throughout Central Oregon. •