BY ALETHEA SMARTT LAROWE
Situated on a large piece of property on the north side of Bend just off Hwy 97 and across the street from the Deschutes River, the RiverBend brewpub has gone through many incarnations. Built in 1992 and opened a year later as the Italian Cottage, the building was later leased out as the Country Cottage. It most recently was known as Rivals Sports Bar, featuring poker tables and karaoke.
Owners Gary and Linda Sobala reinvented the space again last year, wanting to make it more welcoming. The first thing to go was the poker, although there is still a small Video Lottery room tucked away in a back corner. They added a large
outdoor seating area with a gas-powered firepit and cornhole. The interior space still has a sports-bar vibe with lots of big TVs and sports paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. However, minors are now welcome at all hours.
Opened on November 6th, 2013, RiverBend Brewing & Sports Pub also has a new emphasis on food, which Gary refers to as “98 percent from scratch.” With typical pub favorites like sandwiches, burgers and pizza, the menu also features seasonal salads, sliders, mac and cheese, wings and dips, all made from fresh, local ingredients. Food pairs very well with the made-in-house beers.
The “if you brew it, they will come” vision is at the forefront of the new business’s identity. Adding the brewery across the parking lot was just another way to attract more customers. Lifelong beer lovers, Gary and Linda were at the Deschutes Brewery opening in downtown Bend in 1988. He remembers seeing an employee polishing the brewery’s front door and thinking “Just let us in so we can drink the beer!”
The new head brewer, Daniel Olsen, has been brewing since he was a 17-year-old in Colorado. He apprenticed at Silver Plume in Clear Creek County then moved to Bend to work at Deschutes as a pub brewer for nine years. He later became head brewer at Wildfire Brewing Co., now known as 10 Barrel.
Daniel is excited to “explore the concepts, materials and methods that have been on my drawing board for some time, including a line of soft drinks for our new guests.” After making more traditional beer styles first, he is now experimenting with herbs, fruits and spices. Recent choices at the pub include a variety of hoppy ales as well as a saison, nut brown, Irish stout and wintermint stout. When Gary purchased a rye whiskey barrel to make into taster trays, Daniel filled it with Imperial IPA before the saw blade made the first cut. He plans to age the as yet unnamed beer for two to three months.
Gary has spared no expense on the new brewery. All equipment was made by Marks Design and Metalworks in Vancouver, Wash. RiverBend opened with a 12-barrel system—1,800 barrels per year capacity—and have been brewing roughly 20 barrels per week. They are already in the process of adding two fermenters and three brite tanks, bringing their capacity to 3,500+ barrels per year.
Starting in May, RiverBend is now featured on the expanded Bend Ale Trail. They currently have 10 of their beers on tap at the pub plus eight others including a cider. You can also find their beer on tap at a few other Bend locations. With a focus on great beer, food and sports, all in a family-friendly atmosphere, RiverBend Brewing Co. has scored the winning run.
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