Tucked away in a commercial section of Bend's east side, natural-colored juniper siding frames an otherwise bland commercial building, and hints at a keen craftsmanship that spills (yes, pun intended) over into the beer and characters of Bridge 99 Brewery.
A little more than a year ago, co-owners Trever Hawman and Rob Kramer, who work as professional contractors by day, decided to take their passion for brewing beer to the next level, and opened Bridge 99. Kramer serves as the head brewer, and the brewery's name was picked by Hawman's father while they were crossing Bridge 99 over the Metolius River, a prime fishing spot out toward Sisters. Their beer names flow (yes, sorry, another pun) somewhat naturally from there: Bull Trout Stout, Wizard Falls IPA, and Green Ridge Lager.
Over the past year, their beers have had limited distribution, showing up at Wubba's BBQ and Platypus Pub, but in that limited universe have steadily received favorable responses, especially their Wizard's Fall IPA, a distinctly hoppy offering, but not so much that it terrorizes the palate into bitter submission. (My favorite is actually their Bull Trout Stout, which definitely hits the dark side, but is nothing to be afraid of; it has a wonderfully cooling effect on the palate and is balanced with rich notes of brown sugar and dark chocolate coffee.) Overall, their beers reflect the founders' personalities—friendly and approachable, and anemic in the bitter and sour.
And now, in response to their warm reception over the past year, the two are taking the next step and opening a tasting room on Bend's east side. Unlike, say, Worthy Brewery that sprung fully formed in a massive facility (also on the east side), Bridge 99 is a more modest step forward—and is done in a grassroots manner.
"We want to involve others and give people a reason to not just drink our beer but to be a part of the process," said Hawman.
That community involvement means not just providing a space for showcasing their beers, but also growing their own hops, with up to 100 plants along their neighbor's fence, and inviting people to help harvest it at the end of the season. (Keep an eye out for an invitation to Bridge 99's end of August "Hop Party," as Kramer jokingly calls it.)
They are also focused on creating a space that welcomes various people from various backgrounds. "A fun space with friendly beers," Hawman says, hinting at plans for poker nights and open-invitation "home brew" evenings.
For now they are geared towards keeping things "small and simple." Their most pressing plans are to "green" up the space, add outdoor seating for the warm summer nights that are soon to come and support their local community.
From donating their waste water and spent grains to local farmers, to their 800-year-old handcrafted redwood counter made from a fallen tree, they are upholding Bend's "buy local" philosophy with unpretentious ease.
Open 3-6 pm, Wednesday-Saturday,
and by appointment for larger groups.