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Review: White Water Taphouse Open Now in Bend

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Bend, despite the sheer number of award-winning and renowned breweries, has yet to see a taphouse that captures the energy behind the craft beer movement in its beer-centric city. While Broken Top Bottle Shop, The Lot, and Platypus Pub all rightly claim beer geeks and Bendites, neither has captured that Bier Stein-like feeling, where consumers go because they know they are getting the most well-crafted taplist available.

With opportunity comes challengers, and there’s a new challenger in the ring.

White Water Taphouse, which opened in June, has been quietly build rapport with the locals as a consistent, relaxed downtown location for a quick beer or three.

Nick pours a taster from one of the 30 taps

Nick pours a taster from one of the 30 taps

Nick Griffin and Kalea Aguon, co-owners of White Water, said this has been a long time coming; Griffin has been building and refining a business plan since college. With Griffin at 29-years-old and Aguon at 27, they figured there was no time like the present and pulled the trigger.

“It’s a lot of work, but basically it’s our baby,” Griffin said. “We’re here every day and right now we do Saturdays as our only day off — we still do all the admin, but we’re not here at the taphouse, which is a nice transition.”

White Water never had a formal grand opening, but rather opened the door and turned on the lights. Because of that, the busienss is slightly hidden in plain sight—creating a haven for locals who want to steer away from the tourist-driven storefronts. The location, formerly “Supervillain Sandwhiches and Deli,” is surrounded by Bend downtown mainstays including Brother Jon’s Alehouse and the original Deschutes Pub. But, Griffin said he saw the location as less of a challenge and more of an opportunity.

“Because Deschutes is a tourist destination, you get people from all over … who want to check out new places,” Griffin said. “We found that early on, a lot of those people saw long waits (at Deschutes) and meander over here and find us.”

The taphouse offers 30 taps, with 6 total reserved for cider and wine. Griffin said his experience in the industry has come from hands-on application—trying beer all over the place. To him, his advantage comes from being the type of person who would be on the other side of his bar. The beer buying philosophy is in-line with most places in the Northwest: rotate the regional guys.

“We don’t really have an allegiance to anybody,” Griffin said. “That’s the nice part—it’s a free-range taphouse. We want to put on some new and interesting beers, but not something that people can get right down the street.”

White Water's relax atmosphere attracts locals for a pint and a game of cards

White Water’s relax atmosphere attracts locals for a pint and a game of cards

The taphouse also looks to offer a couple of unique events to bring people in. While tap takeovers and other brewery-related events will be dominant, White Water will start hosting the culinary side of Bend as well. Chefs will be invited into the taphouse monthly and will create their dishes in the view of all ticket-holding attendees. So far, Griffin said a sushi chef has already been booked.

“We still get people who walk by and say, ‘I didn’t even know you guys were here’,” Griffin said. “And that’s okay—we’re growing and growing at a good rate. As more people find out, we’ll hopefully see more growth and become one of the next spots in Bend.

The opening offers an interesting narrative on the state of Bend’s beer industry. From 2010 to 2013, Bend experienced the birth of 17 breweries (for the record one has closed, one has been dissolved into two breweries), including juggernauts Boneyard, Crux, GoodLife and Worthy. Since then, 6 breweries have opened, but none at the scale of the others. The closest is Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond, which is quickly making a name for itself north of Bend. With slowed growth (both of the breweries that opened in 2015 were the result of Old Mill Brew Werks closing), skeptics take this as the first pinhole in the “bubble” that will inevitably pop.

But, maybe White Water’s opening is an indication that the bubble has simply reached its terminal stretch in one area, and now the air needs to go elsewhere—to retail locations. The beer growth in Bend started with the breweries, and when that started to tilt it ran over to take home options (read: Growler Guys). Once growler fill stations took their turn, merchandise took over in the form of Drink Tanks and Hydroflask’s beer division. The air needed somewhere to go, and with Bend’s lack of beer havens (once again, no disrespect to those already existing—per beer-drinking capita, there aren’t as many solid taphouses as there could be), maybe renowned taphouses are the next boom.

Time will tell.

For more information, visit White Water Taphouse’s website or follow them on Facebook.

White Water Taphouse
1043 NW Bond St.
Bend, OR 97701
(541) 797-2178
www.whitewatertaphouse.com

 

Branden Andersen, AKA The Beer Detective, has been working in the craft beer industry since he turned 21. Starting as a blogger (www.thebeerdetective.wordpress.com) and moving through publications as a featured writer, he now works for Worthy Brewing Company in Bend, OR while freelancing for multiple publications on the side.

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