New to the brew

By Devan Schwartz June 29, 2012 09:02 am

By Devan Schwartz

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The Bull Ridge Brewpub has become the second local brewery in Baker City.

The business opened last Labor Day at 1934 Broadway St. with a full menu and a lengthy list of others’ brews.

But paperwork and logistical snags sapped Bull Ridge’s momentum for producing its own beers.

Now that’s a distant memory, and co-owner Julie Blank will drink to that.

In search of a brewmaster, she put an ad on the website, Careersinbeer.com. 

Responses poured in, but Walter Bourque most impressed Blank with his degree in microbiology from Texas A&M and obvious networking skills.

Bourque had never been to Oregon before he drove from Texas.

He skulks between the main floor and the basement, where brewing equipment lives like something out of a mad scientist movie.

Low light illuminates four carboys of beer — rye pale ale, strawberry blonde ale, rye IPA and a dry-hopped IPA.

Upstairs, a room is plumbed and wired for Bull Ridge’s eventual larger setup, which will put out 300 gallons per batch and 365 barrels per year. 

Their seven barrel fermenters will come from a local manufacturer, Natural Structures.

“We like to support our friends and neighbors because they’ll support us,” Blank said. “The tourist season is short around here.”

For a space which formerly  housed a furniture store and a Montgomery Ward, the current decor is a departure.

Brick adorns the walls and the furniture is lacquered wood. A drum set stands in the corner where local bands perform, beneath a flatscreen TV and a bull elk mount.

With black hair, tan face and a proud, proprietary air, Blank mentions a set menu for Thursdays.

Bull Ridge will offer a four-course “Farm to Fork” selection, with vegetables, breads and sauces from the Baker City Farmers Market.

“I moved here nearly 20 years ago,” Blank said, “and I always wanted to bring some more culture, offer another place to relax and enjoy a good beer.” 

Before the larger brewing equipment goes online in September, Bull Ridge’s beer will only be available until the batch runs out.

You can also taste it in their portabella fries, cooked in tempura beer batter.

Bourque, meanwhile, not only is honing his brewing skills, he has passed the first of three steps toward a beer-judging certificate.

On a recent trip to Seattle, he blind-tasted beers and was asked to describe them with the esoteric vocabulary of professional judges.

Seated on the main floor of Bull Ridge earlier this week, he gazed into two small glasses containing his latest creations — a hefeweizen and an IPA.

“The hefeweizen has the banana and clove smell I was going for,” he said. “But it could use more carbonation.”

There’s an opaque look to the yeasty hefeweizen, though the hops in the IPA act as a clarifying agent, Bourque said.

“I like to play with different hops. This one has the hops still in the keg,” he said of the IPA. “It’s bitter and has a fleshy fruit flavor.”

A recent Portland Monthly Magazine article dinged Bull Ridge for not offering an IPA. 

“We know we have lots of IPA fans,” Blank said, “and so we’ll continue to experiment with our offerings.”

The Bull Ridge Brewpub currently has eight guest beers on tap and two of their own.