Riverbend Brewing Company, located a bit north of downtown along the parkway, made its first batch of beer back in September 2013. By Bend standards, that means it's been around practically forever. And now, thanks to one of Central Oregon's most expansive pale-ale and IPA programs, the brewery's sports pub is now far more than just another stamp on the Bend Ale Trail.
Those who haven't stopped by Riverbend's pub on NE Division for a while might be surprised to see how much it's changed over the years. Little to nothing remains from the location's years as Rivals, a fairly generic sports bar and poker room. "Sports bar" is still the best way to describe the space, but it feels much more wide open and less bro-like than it used to be, especially with the revamp Riverbend did to the space (and its logo) not long ago.
This in itself means it's worth a visit for Bendites who still mainly remember the site as a dark man-cave of a bar. Over the past few years, Riverbend has done a lot to make its selection stand out from the local pack. Just take a look at the beer menu, which includes a surprisingly massive selection of hazy IPAs—a dedication to the style, or trend, that's only matched locally by Sunriver Brewing.
In one of the more enticing sampler-flight packages around town, Riverbend lets visitors enjoy seven generous pours of in-house beer for $10. That's the price point for 10 Barrel's own sampler (10 beers in one visit to the pub, as their menu puts it), but that's for 10 rather small pours and it's non-customizable. No such restrictions are in place at Riverbend, which makes it perfectly possible to try out seven different New England-style hazy ales at once—the kind of luxury that would be hard to find even in New England itself.
Four of these are so-called "milkshake IPAs," usually brewed with lactose for a fuller body and fruit or vanilla to define its flavor. The term was first coined by Swedish brewery Omnipollo, and Riverbend has fully committed to the sub-genre, producing four different varieties that are canned and available in stores across Oregon. There's something for almost every palate in the lineup, but Hawaiian Crunk (with passionfruit, orange and guava) and Berry the Hopetition (featuring a mixture of berries) are both standouts, offering creamy, fruity packages without excessive bitterness getting in the way.
The rest of the haze lineup is also worth more than a glance. Dream Team is on the simpler side, with Citra and Mosaic hops intermingling very pleasantly, while No Biggie is a 10-percenter with a massive amount of tropical flavor. It's a lineup packed with variety, and it makes Riverbend more than worth visiting for those seeking new taste innovations in their beer.
Riverbend Brewing Sports Pub
2650 NE Division St., Bend