Any old thing
When Ole Bridge Pub opened in 2009, it was among a rare breed of drinking establishments—pouring an array of craft beers, some esoteric and otherwise elusive. Add in the charming location on the river, ground level of a fancy new condo tower, and Ole Bridge practically epitomized a budding downtown renaissance.
Reno in 2017 is a different place. Local breweries and craft beer bars abound—and, perhaps symbolically, the actual old bridge has been razed. (I just can’t spell it “ole.” It should have been ol’ or olde or just old, but “ole” makes me want to say it with Spanish flair, like I’m watching a bullfight.) In the new Reno, the Ole Bridge Pub’s place seems a little less clear.
I’d planned to meet a friend after work, but a last-minute cancellation meant I was on my own, but there are worse ways to spend some time alone than contemplative drinking. The hours and list of beers on the bar’s website and Facebook page were outdated, but I hoped for the best. After a challenging hunt for parking, located blocks away thanks to special event street closures, I scuttled past Campo patio diners and into Ole Bridge.
During a recent remodel, the shuffleboard along the wall was replaced with padded seating and tables, but, after examining the digital tap list and chalkboard cocktail menu, I opted for a barstool. I could have gone outside, but occupying a whole picnic table overlooking the Truckee as a solo drinker would have felt gauche.
My first beverage choice—a new tart watermelon beer I’d been wanting to try—was a bust. The bartender said it had run out, but he hadn’t removed it from the tap list yet. A different sour, raspberry instead, sufficed. The 16 drafts represented a nice cross-section of styles, including a couple of locals. If that wasn’t enough, three cooler doors displayed the complete spectrum of bottles and cans, from recent IPAs to vintage barleywines. Uniquely, packaged beers are available to go at 20 percent off the onsite price (although looking at the menu, beer prices are absent, so ask first). Crowlers are an option for draft to go as well.
So craft beer is the focus, as the sign on Sierra Street promised. The house cocktails also spoke to me—drinks distinct enough to need description, but that wouldn’t stand out at a specialty cocktail bar. Neither beer geeks nor cocktail fanciers would be disappointed nor dazzled, although some top-shelf spirits are available beyond the grocery store brands. The curious twist now is the focus on soccer. The website identifies Ole Bridge as the official pub of American Outlaws’ Reno chapter, passionate football supporters who gather here to support Team USA, and now Reno 1868 FC.
A somewhat slow but steady flow of random customers trickled in as I enjoyed my puckering beer and subsequent gin-and-ginger. I was pleasantly surprised how many craft beer drinkers there were, nobody looking for “anything light.” The bartender didn’t seem bothered to interrupt sports chat with a friend to serve them, but I imagined the traditional wiping down of the bar might have been a better use of his time, as I had to peeled the menu from it.
Perhaps Ole Bridge, like the old bridge, had to be symbolically torn down to be partially reborn. Still craft beer focused but in this larger marketplace, it’s now also for soccer fans, cocktail drinkers and various downtown passersby.