We first heard about potential new Bend brewery Rat Hole Brewing way back in September 2011—and then almost nothing since. (I blogged about it, after the Bend Bulletin ran an article.) I was wondering if it was fated to be one of those announced-but-never-got-off-the-ground businesses, particularly for a small rural brewery off the sewer grid. (Though this is Bend—and that didn’t stop the Ale Apothecary.)
But guess what—Rat Hole is not only alive and well, they are officially selling beer!
These bottles themselves may not in fact be official—they were special samples given to The Growler Guys (which incidentally filtered their way over to me), and these particular ones have the labels taped on, which further makes me think they are merely samples (i.e., not representative of what if any bottled offerings will be forthcoming)—but apparently The Growler Guys have already purchased the first few kegs from Rat Hole and they will be pouring the beer soon.
Based on those bottles, it’s clear the first two beers they are launching with are Harvester Red Ale and Fence Post Porter, though I don’t have much else in the way of information on them. Here are some closer pictures I snapped of the labels, including their descriptive blurb on the side:
As for more behind Rat Hole itself, here’s a refresher from the original article:
Another Central Oregon brewery is under construction, but this time the owners have chosen to open outside city limits, steering clear of sewer capacity problems in the region’s downtown areas.
Rat Hole Brewing will be housed in a small outbuilding on 10 acres of rural land southeast of Bend, a short walk from the brewery owners’ house.
Al Toepfer and his fiancee, Susan McIntosh, with whom he owns the business, are working on installing a walk-in cooler to store kegs and bottles of beer. Toepfer’s one-barrel brew system is sitting in the outbuilding waiting for commercial use.
But first, the couple needs to install a septic system and receive approval from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission before brewing beer for sale, which could be six months to a year away, Toepfer said.
What’s amazing to me is how under the radar this has been, and continues to be: there isn’t even a website yet, the Facebook “place” page is extremely minimal, and other than an occasional reference to “new breweries” planned for Central Oregon for 2013 there hasn’t been any mention in the local media (beer or otherwise) about Rat Hole either.
However, I did recently look at a list of current OLCC-licensed businesses for Central Oregon, and noted that Rat Hole did in fact apply for (and received) their liquor license back in October (2012).
Rat Hole Brewing practices natural production process with natural aging and bottle conditioning (not using artifical methods for carbonation) Their signature beer is Chocolate Oatmeal Stout winner of several blue ribbons and grand prizes
I expect there’s going to be quite a bit more written about Rat Hole—Central Oregon’s 20th(!) brewing enterprise—in the weeks to come. I’ll be interested to try more beers, and for now, it would seem The Growler Guys on Bend’s east side is where you’ll be able to find these first beers.
As for those beers: yes, I sampled them, and it’s probably no more fair to judge a brewery’s very first commercial beers than it is to judge a restaurant’s quality the first few weeks it is open. Suffice to say, they are a little “green” yet and I don’t know how well represented these bottled samples are of the beer in general. Of the two I liked the porter a bit more (sweet coffee is the takeaway) and I thought the red ale could use more hops, and I think both were under-attenuated (making them excessively sweet). But, I’m reserving judgment until I can taste more.