Redmond’s new Initiative Brewing wasn’t conceived as a big-market distribution brewery. It was designed to be a one-stop neighborhood brewpub. And in three months since the N. Fifth Street pub opened its doors, that approach is proving highly successful.
What’s more, Initiative is proof positive that Beavers and Ducks can succeed in business together.
Four years ago, brewmaster Chris Brumley, a fermentation-science graduate of Oregon State University, was making beer at Redmond’s Cascade Lakes Brewery when he was introduced to Ryan Churchill, a recent University of Oregon business school graduate.
“We’d both been homebrewing for years,” recalled Churchill, now Initiative’s chief operating officer. “We saw that Redmond was in the same sort of growth phase where Bend had been 10 to 15 years earlier. Just focusing in-house, and looking at potential customers per capita, we decided we could make it work.” The company was incorporated in 2017; the space, formerly the Juniper Bank, was leased a year later.
Part of the initial success can be credited to head chef Matt Anderson, whom Churchill had met during his college years: Anderson headed culinary operations at the Holiday Inn in Springfield, where Churchill also worked.
A twist on tradition
It takes but a single glance at the menu to see that this is not a run-of-the-mill brewpub.
“We built this menu based upon foods that Matt, Chris and I all love,” Churchill said.
“We always want to be using high-quality local foods, but to start, we are being careful to cross-utilize our ingredients in our core menu,” he added, giving a conscious nod to economic reality.
“Once fall comes, we’d definitely like to start adding daily specials, as well as a weekend breakfast. We have a meatloaf gyro with lamb that is killer.”
For now, Initiative’s menu features appetizers, salads, bowls, burgers and other sandwiches — but with a twist. There’s a decidedly international essence to many of the items.
My dining companion and I tested the waters with an appetizer called “waffle puppies” ($9). They turned out to be our only real disappointment at Initiative. Although they were made from a blend of cornmeal with cream cheese and jalapeño peppers, the cheese manifested only as an occasional burst of flavor.
It would have been better if cream cheese had been baked into the center of each piece of waffle, thereby balancing the two accompanying dipping sauces — a maple Sriracha aioli and a beer cheese. The aioli was a curious mix of mayonnaise and chili sauce with just a hint of maple. As our taste buds were looking for something a little sweeter, we were more satisfied with unblended maple syrup the pub normally serves with its waffle dessert.
Burgers and banh mi
The sandwich menu features a Cubano (with pork, ham and Swiss cheese), an Indian tikka masala taco, a Hawaiian burger (with teriyaki ham and pineapple jam) and a Korean burger (with caramelized kimchi). I kept it simple and opted for a basic cheeseburger with bacon ($14).
The Painted Hills beef was cooked medium-rare and juicy, dressed with just the right balance of mayo, onion, lettuce and tomato, with Tillamook cheddar on a brioche bun from Big Ed’s artisan bakery in Bend. The bacon was perfectly cooked, just shy of crispy.
However, the accompanying hand-cut fries were disappointing. Cut too thin, they were overcooked and hard. My server apologized, explaining that the kitchen hasn’t yet settled on the right level of deep-frying. A thicker cut would help.
My companion selected a chicken banh mi sandwich ($14.50) with a side of Asian slaw. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that evolved during the country’s French colonial era. It’s traditionally served on a baguette with a crunchy exterior. Big Ed’s roll wasn’t quite so typical, but its soft interior (spread with ginger sesame aioli) was perfect for the ingredients — chicken with pickled and slivered vegetables (carrot, daikon radish, cucumber, white onion, jalapeño and cilantro). It would have been easier to eat if the chicken had been left in larger individual slices rather than diced, but it made a tasty meal.
The creamy “Asian slaw,” however, seemed no different than any other coleslaw, with cabbage and carrot. Heavy on mayonnaise, it might have been improved with a hint more vinegar for tartness.
Service and decor
On a subsequent solo visit, I chose a gluten-free option, a brown rice-and-black bean bowl with added pulled pork and cheese ($12.50). The ingredients were separately distributed around the bowl, and included diced tomatoes, chimichurri sauce and cilantro. The beans were nicely seasoned, the rice perfectly cooked, the pork moist and tasty. My server let me know that I could request extra sauce if I wanted, but I found the meal excellent as it was.
Overall, service was excellent. Friendly and attentive on each of my visits, it struck the perfect balance between checking back after delivering the food, and leaving us be to enjoy conversation during our meal.
If a diner didn’t know that Initiative had been a bank, they never would have guessed. The indoors, which seats 78, features a modern-rustic combination of heavy wood furnishings, a trio of TVs, and sheet-metal panels and trim. Outside, a broad patio with fire pits promises to be a popular place for Redmond party lovers.
All it took was a little initiative.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached email@example.com