When I read that there was a new brewery in town, my first reaction was a mixture of cynicism and weariness. The amount of brewpubs here in Bend is bordering on satire. Within 30 seconds of walking in the door of GoodLife, I knew that my initial reaction was premature.
First off, the entire feel of the place is different from the typical Bend brewery. When GoodLife was getting ready to open last year, the plan was to be a production brewery only, with the idea of a dining area coming at the last moment, so the simple and Spartan design of the Bier Hall - so named because of GoodLife's Northwest German influences - might feel cold at first.
If you've come to GoodLife looking for a cozy place to watch a football or basketball game, then you're at the wrong pub because there's not a single television on the premises. Owners Ty Barnett and Pratt Rather, along with Head Brewer Curt Plants and In-House Activity Director Steve Denio have left the Bier Hall unadorned for a specific reason: they want people to enjoy time together around the giant communal table in the center of the main dining room without all of life's distractions.
I experienced the camaraderie first hand at a trivia competition on Sunday night awhile back when at least 100 people shared tables with friends and strangers on the cavernous brewery floor located off the main pub room. It's an interesting set-up with couches and a pool table opposite the giant brewing equipment.
Having decided that the atmosphere was something I could get into, I took up the heavy lifting trying the beers. I was pleased.
The Mountain Rescue Pale Ale looks as dark as an amber, but that's where the comparison stops. It starts hoppy, but not overly so, and then finishes like an IPA. The balance of hop and malt made for a damn refreshing beverage.
The Pass Stout surprised me, as it was smoother and lighter in character than its midnight color would suggest. The stout is so crisp and malty that it instantly tastes like you received a pour off of nitro, and it pairs well with GoodLife's desserts.
GoodLife brews its Descender IPA and The Rescue Pale with a "hopbursting" process that allows for the hop flavor to be delicately sprinkled throughout the boil, extracting bitterness. I can state unequivocally that this was the best IPA I've ever tasted and, judging by Goodlife's 2011 people's choice award at Brewfest, some of you agree with me.
Finally, there was 29'er India Brown Ale, which assaulted me with its tangy, nutty malt before melting into a chocolate/coffee finish that left me content and ready for a nap.
Now, on to the food! The menu features staples like nachos covered in mouth watering pulled pork and a wide variety of panini's, but there's some special stuff, too. The Bacon Squared came with some hype, and it didn't disappoint. I mean, it's roasted jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and Primal Cuts bacon and then topped with more bacon! No downside.
After savoring one of the most unique reubens I've ever had, I tried a German potato salad that was so incredible, I actually had a dream about it. We wrapped up the meal with a homemade red velvet cupcake that melted in our mouths.
GoodLife Brewing made me feel content in a way that seemed effortless on their part, and that's a rare thing to find in a town where all the breweries seem to be trying too hard to distinguish themselves. Definitely recommend.
GoodLife Brewing Company
Tues-Sun 11am to 10pm
70 Southwest Century Drive
in the Brightwood Mill buiding