It’s been more than a year since Bull Ridge Brew Pub opened in downtown Baker City.
Soon the restaurant at 1934 Broadway will conduct larger-scale brewing after months of creating tiny batches in what co-owner Julie Blank calls a “nano-system.”
Blank, who owns the business with her husband, Micah, said the beer should be flowing from a seven-barrel (about 220 gallons) brewing system later this month.
The fermenting tanks arrived on Wednesday. Natural Structures of Baker City designed the devices that turn grains and other ingredients into a flavorful adult beverage.
It took about a year for the fermenters to be made but, “they are really beautiful,” Blank said of the gleaming stainless steel tanks.
The rest of the hot, direct-fire brewing system arrived a little earlier. It was constructed by Marks Design and Metal Works in Vancouver, Wash., a manufacturer of brewing equipment.
Brewing equipment takes time to custom build, place and operate properly so patience is necessary among people in the brewing business. Everyone at Bull Ridge also is excited.
“It’s a huge step,” said Walter Bourque, head brewer at Bull Ridge, about the larger-capacity equipment finally arriving.
Mano-a-nano proved beneficial
The nano-system has been operating in the basement of the restaurant. The bottles used visually resemble those sticking out of office water coolers, but they’re common containers for small brewing operations. They’re called “carboys” and customarily holds 5 to 10 gallons of liquid.
And the final products derived from those containers disappear fast. Some local favorites would be chugged down by thirsty customers in just a day and a half, Bourque explained.
“Now staples will be on tap all of the time,” he said. “People won’t have to guess anymore whether their favorite is available.”
Small batches allowed Bourque to hone recipes and produce several popular varieties, including Not So Pale Ale, Reddy McTeddy, Breakfast Brown, Oatmeal Stout and Angry Chipmunk Brown Ale.
Bourque has been with the Blanks since before the Bull Ridge opened for business in September 2011. He worked with the original chef to match the initial food and “guest” beer offerings before he started small-batch brewing.
The Blanks wanted to hire Bourque, a graduate of the microbiology program at Texas A&M, after recruiting him through an online employment ad. He relocated for the job and has been adding to his knowledge base ever since.
The floor design for Bull Ridge included a large brewing section. It was part of the plan from the beginning.
Opening a brewing operation isn’t one of the easiest businesses to start-up. The Blanks remained steadfast and patient as problems surfaced and were remedied.
Their previous goal was to begin higher-quantity brewing last fall.
Bull Ridge finally received a brewing license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission this past spring. The first offerings Bourque created for public consumption were to mark last year’s Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.
The unique brews served during the June 2012 event were named “Hells Canyon Road Rash Ale” and “Hells Canyon Chrome.”
Focus to remain homey, local
Using fresh ingredients with nearby origins, whenever possible, has been a priority in preparing the food and beer served at Bull Ridge.
That includes obtaining some of the brewing grain coming from Joseph and creating special dishes when unique local items become available.
Four-course farm-to-fork meals using ingredients available at the Baker City Farmer’s Market will return when the market commences later this year, Blank said.
In turn, excess spent grain from brewing will continue going to local farmers for animal feed and fertilizer.
Blank expects 2013 to be a great year for Bull Ridge as it expands beer production. Don McClure became the eatery’s general manager in January. Michael Blount is the sous chef.
The menu continues to be refined. New and special offerings are routinely created. Live entertainment has been offered more frequently, as well. And Tuesday is Girls’ Night Out.
Both Blanks are longtime Baker City residents. They set out to make Bull Ridge a place for locals to casually enjoy as well as a spot for visitors to savor a good meal, a good beer and take in some rustic, Eastern Oregon color.
The first visible example of local color: Hamilton the taxidermied elk. He stands at the entrance in a specially-designed “habitat” area and greets everyone who enters Bull Ridge.