Editor’s note: A big thanks to Amy O and Franz Solo for taking on this story. I was supposed to handle the primary interview with Ponderosa, but as some may have seen from my post on Facebook, a close friend passed away last week in Tucson. While I was away, they did a great job heading down to Ponderosa and getting you the lowdown on what you need to know. Enjoy the story, and if you have any questions, just send them our way via social media or the comments below. — Stoutmeister
Franz Solo, my boyfriend Dave (as photographer, so props to him), and I went to meet with the brewer at the soon-to-be-open Ponderosa Brewing Company last week. Here’s the lowdown.
I really need to start by saying that I know Matt, the brewer, has been incredibly, unbelievably busy. He is not only brewing, he is assisting with many aspects of the operational setup. Despite that, he was the most gracious and generous host, and his excitement is quite contagious.
On the beer front, the red ale, pale ale, and IPA are all ready to go. We were able to also taste the Kölsch and the stout, although they are not yet carbonated. They will be ready when Ponderosa opens. He is also working on a Helles that could be complete for the (still projected) early September opening date.
We were able to get the full tour and Matt spent a long time with us. He showed us the entire facility and the equipment in detail, including the electronic control panel for the brewing system and how they have room to add on to the equipment and expand the brewing operation. We “inspected” the hops, and of course, fully inspected the beers. I absolutely loved the Kölsch. For those who are fans of seriously intense stouts (I am), the stout is a whopper (I, Franz Solo, was quite pleased with both the Kölsch and the stout as well, and am very much looking forward to both of these when they are ready to go). There’s not a lot of either beer, so I would recommend watching for their opening date and heading over to try it as soon as possible.
Although Matt (the humble guy that he seems to be) said he is not completely satisfied with this first batch of red, Dave declared it second, locally, to only Marble, which was a surprise since red is not typically Dave’s favorite beer style. It’s not potently hoppy like Marble’s red, but it is complex, and had less of a caramel flavor than some. The single-hop pale ale (an experimental hop with some crazy number/letter combination for a name) was clean, crisp, and extremely refreshing.
The first batch of IPA is less intense than Matt was hoping for, but although it was on the mild side for an IPA, I found it to be extremely aromatic with strong floral notes (Franz Solo: I liken this particular style of IPA to something along the lines of Stone’s Enjoy By series of wonderfully fresh IPAs). I joked that he may have to end up keeping it in rotation and also make another that is geared more toward “hopheads.”
Future beer plans include a rotating stout and lager, and several other German-style beers (Franz Solo: This is quite exciting for us! To have beers that are about as close in composition and taste as what one would find in Germany here in our fair desert city is just wonderful!). Matt said that Alan, the brewmaster in Portland, indicated they will adhere pretty strictly to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) for future German-style brewing at Ponderosa. He jokingly claimed he is the “Jesse” to Alan’s “Walt.” It seems that with all this German beer talk, there has to be a “Heisenberg” reference in there as well.
We also toured the kitchen and spoke with the chef. He is from Texas and lived in New Orleans for a while. As you can imagine, he intends on bringing bold flavors to his menu. Some menu items he plans to offer — many with a “twist” — include burgers, steak (or steak sandwiches), salads, beer-battered fish-and-chips, fish tacos, a homemade pulled pork sandwich, a daily soup, and beer cheese soup. He also plans on locally-inspired cuisine such as enchiladas with borracho beans (also using their beer).
Ponderosa has a fairly large and well-appointed facility, with an area away from the main bar for kids to play and write on a chalkboard wall. A patio sits on the north side with long, sturdy picnic tables and an excellent ambiance. It will be a great place (especially for lucky Sawmill District residents) to hang out. And they may have a really unique outdoor stage area soon for music.
Bring on September! I am ready to try the food and to pair it with more of the delicious beer.
— Amy O