It's a time of highly-anticipated debuts in Central Oregon's craft scene. The new version of the Ale Trail Atlas (and App) is out. Atlas Cider Company's new and quite large taproom and production facility in the Old Mill will have its grand-opening party on Friday night (see page 45). White Water Taphouse, a 30-line taproom currently under construction in the old Supervillain Sandwiches location downtown, will see an opening of its own before we go too far into summer. And last—but, fortunately, no longer least—Craft Kitchen & Brewery opened its doors last weekend.
Craft, in its previous incarnation, was called Old Mill Brew Werks, which opened in the first floor of an office building (where Rat Hole is now) then moved to posher digs that overlook the river and the Les Schwab Amphitheater beyond. Brew Werks closed in January as the restaurant acquired a different group of owners that wanted to "rebrand and strive for a fresh start and a new outlook," as co-owner Courtney Stevens told The New School beer blog.
That was certainly the right move, at least drinks-wise—at the risk of sounding rude, it's doubtful that you'll find many in Bend who claim to miss any of Brew Werks's beer. But the improvements to Craft go well beyond the tapwall. Take the atmosphere, for one. Craft still has its long outdoor deck, boasting an unbeatable bird's-eye view of the Deschutes as stand-up paddleboarders stream up and down it. But the indoors are fully redone, too—gone are Brew Werks's steakhouse-style booths, replaced by tall chairs, airy communal tables, and a dedicated counter taking orders from the brand-new tapas menu—five bucks a plate from 2:30 to 5:30 pm.
It's all quite nice, as is the beer, made by Michael McMahon on a new 3.5-barrel system. Six selections were on tap for the opening, from the approachable and roasty Pappy's Smokehouse porter to the much more potent Log Rider red lager, and the plan is to eventually offer nine house beers, three seasonals, and a handful of guest taps. All in all, a good start—and just the first in 2015's next wave of local craft launches.