Central Oregon has more than 30 craft breweries. Oregon—and Bend in particular—have been honored with countless awards and national publicity touting the progressive beer culture found here. The competition is keen, and the varieties and styles seem endless. Bend's Rat Hole Brew Pub in the Old Mill District, and now also in Sunriver's Business Park, is one of many examples of this evolution in our beer culture.
The Rat Hole Brew Pub opened in Bend in 2013 and immediately became popular because of its unique small batch brews and Southwestern style food. It all started in 2007, when Susan Toepfer bought her husband a home brew kit for Christmas. At the time, Al was a technician at a Chevy dealership, and he says he had no idea he would eventually become a brewer and restaurant owner.
Soon their Seattle home smelled of fermenting brew as small carboys topped with air-tight fermentation locks burped the gaseous conversion of sugars into alcohol and finally beer. A brewer was born, and there was no turning back.
In the meantime, Susan's brother Les was living in Bend. As he tells the story, after much persuasion (and a few beers), Al and Susan decided to move to Bend, too. An old shack located on a small farm southeast of Bend, fondly called the "Rat Hole," was renovated, and—after two and a half years of working through the permit and inspection process—licensed to become a small brewery. The Bend pub opened on July 16, 2013, and the first Rat Hole beer was served.
The risk in opening a restaurant/pub is significant, but quality small batch beers, great food, location, timing, and perseverance were on Rat Hole's side. Les assumed ownership of the Old Mill brew pub while Al and Susan took over the former RBJ's restaurant in the Business Park at Sunriver and opened Rat Hole Brewing in Sunriver on October 6.
With more space, Toepfer will soon have his two-and-a-half-barrel brewing system operating at the new location the with ability to serve both the Bend and Sunriver restaurants. Expansion plans are in the works for a five-barrel system, but Toepfer says he has no plans to grow large.
"Small batch beer is where I'm at," he explains. "I enjoy doing my own thing, and I'm not looking at distribution. I like to experiment and try new things, and that's more difficult to do if you're distributing."
When Al's not brewing, he is often found alongside his wife at the new brewpub location in Sunriver. Recently, they began serving breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings from 7 am to 2 pm. (Dungeness crab cake benedict accompanied by a fresh-squeezed orange juice mimosa? Mmmmm, good.)
Al gladly shows curious customers where the new brewing system will be located alongside the pool tables. The restaurant features high quality foods with a Southwestern flair using the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients paired to complement the batch beers.
Longtime Sunriver resident David Cohen is the restaurant's chef. Large plate entrees include a carnitas burrito, huevos rancheros, and roasted chicken (served with southwestern cole slaw, white truffle fries, and Hatch chili honey mustard sauce), to mention a few. In the mood for soup? Try the popular New Mexico rib-eye chili.
There's live entertainment on the weekends at the Sunriver Rat Hole. Friday nights it's karaoke, and Saturday nights feature live, local bands from 8 to11 pm. The Sunriver location also offers a full bar and a complimentary small plate appetizer with any two hand-crafted signature drinks. (Rat-rita, anyone?)
Local brewing has come a long way since prohibition. Al and Susan Toepfer remain true to the art of brewing small batches, providing quality food, and greeting customers as friends at their new location in Sunriver's Business Park at 56880 Venture Lane.
Rat Hole Brewing
56880 Venture Ln
Mon-Thurs 11am - close