Many Bend beer lovers have yet to discover a recent addition to Bend’s Ale Trail. Tucked above the Old Mill on Upper Terrace Drive, Old Mill Brew Werks offers twelve microbrews on tap—including six of its own—and a “pub-fusion” menu to make you thirst for another pint.
The restaurant opened 18 months ago, but changed hands in January, freeing up former owner Dave Love to launch a new brewing endeavor simply called Brew Werks. Love and the new owners of Old Mill Brew Werks pub are working together on that beer venture.
Love and co. currently brew in Redmond at Phatt Matt’s, but the team will soon take over 10 Barrel’s old space off Empire and brew on their own system.
In addition to starting their own beer line, the new owners also brought in chef Rudy Garcia from Portland, who has dramatically upped the pub’s food quality.
I stopped in for lunch on a Tuesday and sat at the bar facing the kitchen, where owner/manager Nate Hardenbrook greeted me with a smile. I scanned the small room, noticing the beer memorabilia on the walls and a ready-to-play guitar hanging accessibly by the front door. Ray Charles and DJ Shadow gave way to The Black Keys on the stereo. By the time I left, Brew Werks had earned my respect not just for their fine taste in music, but also for their attentive service and obvious passion for beer. They sneak it into most menu items, in fact, and even dessert.
Hardenbrook offered me tastes of four of the beers made by their brewmaster, Michael McMahon, who used to run his own small brewery in Washington.
I lined the tiny tasting glasses up to make a rainbow of their brews before sipping. The Eccentric ESB, Rabblerouser Red, and Schizophrenic Stout were better than I expected, but the Neurotic Blonde just reminded me of the cheap swills of my youth. To be fair however, I’ve never met a blonde ale I liked.
When the turkey avocado sandwich arrived, it was just as I hoped, with lightly grilled sourdough, melted swiss cheese and warm turkey with crisp lettuce, tomato and ample avocado. My only suggestion would be to switch out the mayo for an aioli with more of a strike, like garlic or basil, to complement the subtleness of the other ingredients.
On subsequent visits, I enjoyed the reuben, the pulled pork sandwich and the meatloaf. But I am a saucy woman. I wished the reuben had more beer-braised ‘kraut and IPA infused mustard, and wished the pulled pork sando and the meatloaf had more of the tangy IPA infused barbeque sauce.
I only had two real regrets. One was not trying the half-pound burger that went by in all its glory to another table, stacked nearly six inches tall and smothered with bbq sauce, cheddar cheese and shoestring onions. The other was not trying any of Garcia’s specials, which go way beyond mere pub food, such as stuffed duck breast with an apricot rum sauce and a walnut encrusted pork loin with horseradish and green apple whipped cream.
The Scotch egg, which began as a special, has now earned a permanent spot on the menu and is worth a try. It’s a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and rolled in breadcrumbs, then baked and fried before being sliced in half to show off the cross-section, then served on mashed potatoes and drizzled with an IPA-infused mustard.
Priced between $6 and $12, the menu is still evolving, but Brew Werks also offers a variety of appetizers like risotto fritters, home-made stuffed jalapenos and spicy mac’ ‘n’ cheese. Weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., and all night long on Thursdays, everything on the appetizer menu is just $5.
After three separate visits I found the service to be friendly, engaging and consistent—and the food and beer to be better than I expected. With a new chef, a new management team and a line of hand-crafted beers fresh on the market, Old Mill Brew Werks still has its work cut out for it if it wants to be a key player on the all-star team of Bend breweries, but it’s off to a solid start.
Old Mill Brew Werks
384 SW Upper Terrace Dr.
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday
11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Happy Hour: Weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.
Locals Night: Thursdays, $5 apps,
$1 off beers