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Lasso the Moon

Silver Moon Brewing's new menu and beer are a tasty upgrade to downtown

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"Same great beer, same sh**ty location," chimes a choir of (partially bleeped) patrons at the end of Silver Moon's new radio ad.

Oh, Silver Moon: You are too hard on yourselves.

With a tap list full of award-winning standards, seasonal selections and even a barrel-aged treat or two, the beer is better than it has ever been.

And, the location? Nah, not what we'd call "sh**ty." Far from. That downtown stretch of Greenwood Avenue—home to M&J Tavern, The Domino Room and several elegant, historic brick buildings—is bursting with potential, and downright begging for more business. Your brewery, Bend's third oldest and now in its 14th year, is also only a few short blocks from Deschutes Brewery Public House, which draws beer lovers the nation over. As far as pub locations are concerned, Silver Moon has it pretty good. So enough with the excuses.

But yes, back to the beer—you're right, it is great—and several new additions have upped the ante. During our visit last week, we greedily drained the well-balanced and deceptively boozy Mo Hop Head Dolly, an 11.5 percent alcohol-by-volume imperial IPA named for Dolly, an enthusiastic Growler Guys employee. This new flavor, along with several others, are courtesy of a new brewmaster, Stuart Long, who was brought in last summer by new owners Matt Barrett and James Watts.

Since taking over, Long admirably has been pushing for more barrel-aged brews and enticing experimental concoctions, like the Conquistador, a fire-roasted jalapeño and cocoa nib brown beer poured at last year's Little Woody event. In recent weeks Long asked for and received two more barrels that will be solely dedicated for beer aging. And, any day now, Silver Moon also will have a new double (8.9 percent) IPA on tap, called Crazy Horse (107 IBUs).

In addition to new flavors, the new ownership also is expanding its reach: already available at area grocery stores and pubs, Silver Moon was recently picked up by 28 Fred Meyer stores.

Yet, in spite of these expansions, the new ownership is equally committed to sticking with the core values—and beers—that have maintained Silver Moon's success for 14 years.

"We're really sticking with the standards," Watts said, referring to the decision to continue award-winning creations like Dark Side Stout, a 2011 great American Beer Festival gold medal winner.

Along with the summertime change in ownership and brewmaster came a change in menu, décor, and marketing. The new look is subtly more modern, although the pub's interior has retained the same familiar low-key vibe. (Unfortunately, it also still has the same dirty tables, empty salt and pepper shakers, and weird low lighting.) A new mural behind the stage, which doubles as a seating area on weeknights, gives a geographically inaccurate, but colorful local's choice depiction of all-things Central Oregon: the Deschutes River (with standup paddle boarder), the Old Mill smoke stacks, the iconic Tower Theatre marquee, the snowy slopes of Mt. Bachelor, and the imposing towers at Smith Rock. Other than the bright mural, painted by innovative local artist Natalie Fletcher, the decorations are sparse. But they do include a few other small paintings, which makes us hope that more will soon follow.

As far as the new menu goes, Silver Moon, you're doing just fine. Much better than the standard nachos-and-fries pub fare of yesteryear, the new offerings are fresh and wholesome with hummus and veggie appetizers ($8), one-third of a pound organic beef burgers ($9 and up), green salads ($5 and up) and pizzas ($10 and up) leading the charge.

The Southwest Fiesta black bean burger ($10) proved flavorful and was topped with a slice of pepper jack cheese melted over a handful of jalapeños. The menu advertised avocado and chipotle mayo, which we tasted little of, resulting in a tasty, but dry, patty. The Asian Chicken Chop salad ($11) was (A) huge, and (B) nicely balanced, with a respectable chicken-and-toppings to greens ratio. Sweet and slightly spicy, we'd happily order this again (with a Legacy Lager). Kudos, too, for the Royal Reuben ($9.50), which came piled high with corned beef and paired well with what's quickly becoming Silver Moon's new flagship beer, Voodoo Dog ISR (a 5.5 percent India Session Red).

Also new are the personalized labels available for Silver Moon's beers, perfect for a gift, event or a goof on a buddy's recent gaff. Watts said we can also expect exciting, hyper-local beer ice cream from new Bend brewery-to-cone handmade ice cream maker, Addy Mac's Creamery.

Thanks, Silver Moon, for upping the ante on yourself and investing in change. And don't sweat the location—Greenwood will soon fill out around you.

Silver Moon Tap Handle Release Party

Drink specials and music by Nicolas Miranda

Friday Jan. 10

6 pm.

Silver Moon Brewing, 24 NW Greenwood Ave.

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