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Craft Beer and College Football 

Bend's newest brewery, RiverBend Brewing Company, fills sports pub niche

These days, to make it in Bend as a new brewery, there needs to be a distinguishing characteristic that sets the joint apart. Not a shtick so much as an angle, attraction or emphasis. The simple truth is, brewing middle-of-the-road beers might not be enough anymore.

Take Colorado's New Belgium Brewing, for instance. The environmentally conscious brewery not only makes award-winning beers, it focuses on a particular style—Belgians. Simple. More regionally, a number of breweries have their own draw. 10 Barrel has its popular outdoor seating, fire pit and airy roll-top garage doors. GoodLife has its grassy lawn, yard games and canned beers. Worthy, which grows its own hops, gave eastside Bend its first brewery. Crux is just gorgeous, and has that certain je ne sais quoi one might expect from a triumvirate of all-star co-owners. Ale Apothecary's wild-yeast, labor-intensive, limited-run brews are the epitome of hand-crafted.

Add to the list RiverBend Brewing Company—Bend's first brewery sports pub.

RiverBend, named for the curve in the river just outside its front doors, is actually the former Rivals Sports Bar, famous for its poker games and gambling machines. Gone, though, are the carpeted floors and Keno machines. Today, the Northeast Division Street pub boasts modern concrete flooring, increased seating, a gas-fired patio table, a revamped menu (complete with made-in-house sauces and local ingredients) and enough TVs to make us comfortable declaring RiverBend a go-to for gameday beer lovers.

After a soft opening last Wednesday, Owners Paul Conroyd and Gary Sobala opened to the public a day later to show off the new look and, of course, the new beers.

We were pleasantly surprised.

Crafted by veteran brewer Dan Olsen, the four available yet-unnamed RiverBend beers are solid and, frankly, exceeded my expectations. They had a coffee-flavored stout (32 IBUs, 4.8%); a crisp, hop-heavy IPA (75 IBUS, 6.5%); an easy-drinking blonde (22 IBUs, 4.2%) and an approachable red (42 IBUs, 5%). Soon, those four will be joined by a festive peppermint stout.

With a 12-barrel brewing capacity across the parking lot, Olsen said he plans to have more beers both in house and on taps throughout Bend. As of now there are no plans to bottle or can. We'll see you at game.

RiverBend Brewing Company

2650 NE Division St.

541-550-7550

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