At Hailey's Powerhouse Pub & Bike Fit Studio, bikes, food and beer go together so well, it's hard to imagine one without the other. There's certainly a basic connection between a great ride, a good meal and a cold brew. As owner Billy Olson explains with a smile, "The more you ride, the more you can eat and drink." Flashy new and vintage bikes adorn the walls, bike parts glisten in cases and are inlaid in table tops like fine jewelry, international cycling races flash on the big screen and many customers sport telltale bike-short tan lines.
While the scene is undeniably bike-centric, Olson takes his restaurant seriously: along with outfitting his bike shop clients with quality equipment and custom fits, he pairs house-made fare with fresh locally sourced ingredients and carefully selected international beers. He says that he's put his custom bike-building philosophy into his food and that approach has been so successful that Olson now says each side of the Powerhouse, restaurant and shop, drives the other to keep getting better.
Olson first came up with the concept for the Powerhouse when he worked as a bike mechanic in a Ketchum shop. He tells the story of one customer who regularly brought his lunch in to visit with Olson while he worked. There was also a crowd that showed up regularly in the afternoons, carrying beer and ready to hang out. The bike shop seemed to have a natural pull as a gathering place, and Olson realized there might be an even bigger draw if he could sell food and beer. "That's where I got the vision for Powerhouse," he says.
(This hospitality–gear shop model has been successful elsewhere in Idaho: at The HUB Coffee House and Bed and Breakfast in McCall, customers plan adventures over coffee or tea and can outfit themselves for backcountry outings at The HUB's retail and rental store.)
The Powerhouse opened in December 2009 and immediately gained popularity. "I had no idea it would be so successful," Olson says. The pub started out with about 25 seats and capacity has now more than doubled. In summer months there's additional seating outside. And no matter the season, the place is frequently packed and lively.
The menu at the Powerhouse is decidedly ingredient driven. It's kept simple so that supplies turn over daily and are always fresh. "I understand the value of ingredients," Olson says of the basic formula behind his food, and explains that his personal research into health and diet has driven his commitment to organic, quality selections. "Everything is a real ingredient," he says. Just how real? As one example, the rancher who supplies beef to the Powerhouse personally delivers their orders. As well, just about everything on the menu is made in house, including their hot sauce, chili powder and, of course, their popular ketchup, which many professed non-ketchup lovers can't turn down. Other highlights include hand-cut fries, fresh-dipped corn dogs, mahimahi tacos, grass-fed and hand-patted burgers and colorful salads.
Another attraction is the Powerhouse's beer selection, which includes 20 taps and a bottle list of about 160 beers, around 90 percent of which are in stock at any given time. The draft beers rotate, changing with the seasons. "It's a good cross-section of what's being brewed seasonally," Olson explains. The beer list has evolved, moving from an initial focus on European beers to now incorporating more American beers, as the quality of American brewing has, as Olson says, "come a long way in recent years." And domestic beers can be incredibly fresh, which is one area in which European breweries can't compete. Devout fans of beers from across the pond need not worry, though – European selections will always have a place on the Powerhouse menu. Wine drinkers are also remembered on the Powerhouse beverage list, where there's an appealing selection of reds, whites and bubblies. There are also plenty of non-alcoholic selections.
In addition to food and drink, crowds are drawn to the Powerhouse for the community that's grown around the pub and bike shop, bringing Olson's bike shop-restaurant-bar vision full circle. Cycling fans gather to watch televised races and a growing set of bocce ball enthusiasts have tournaments throughout the summer. In the spring of 2013, the Powerhouse introduced daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. But no matter what brings you to this Hailey pub and bike shop, you can count on real fare, a truly adventurous beer selection and a good bike story or two.
THE BEER BOARD – What's on Tap
With as many as 20 beers on tap at one time, some of us need a little direction when choosing a draft at the Powerhouse. Thanks to a giant blackboard on the south-facing wall of the pub, options are clearly listed along with their vitals – including alcohol by volume (ABV), international bittering units (IBU), size and price. It's information that can help both novice and seasoned beer connoisseurs choose a draft they'll enjoy.
Under the heading "On Tap," the right-hand column of the beer board contains draft beer options, which rotate regularly to incorporate new selections and seasonal brews. It's generally an international selection, with a variety of beer styles from lagers to stouts. Prices vary according to size. There is a variety of ABV scores (from around 4.5 to 11 percent), so choose wisely. Experts will also note the IBU listings, which indicates bitterness (lower numbers are less bitter, whereas higher scores are more so).
If you're still struggling with your choice, check out the "Beer of the Week," noted at the top-right corner of the board. Also on tap is the non-alcoholic BuckSnort Root Beer (produced in Boise). And if you're not tempted by a draft, don't forget the extensive bottle list. Wine drinkers are also made welcome at the Powerhouse: the left-hand column of the board lists 20 by-the-glass and bottle selections that include an international assortment of reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines.