BEND, Ore. -

Over the past four years, thousands have raised a pint to the Bend Ale Trail.

"We originally established the program to be a marketing program that would help support the local breweries -- little did we know it would be bringing in beer tourists from around the country," Visit Bend President Doug LaPlaca said Wednesday.

What started as eight, will now be 14. Two new stops: Riverbend Brewing off Division Street in Bend and Rat Hole Brewing in the Old Mill District.

"It certainly means that we are going to be able to have people coming in the door looking specifically for our pub," said Les Keele, manager of Rat Hole Brewing.

"Ultimate excitement is what it means for us. There's not a lot of opportunities for any other industry to get this type of treatment," said Daniel Olsen, brewer at Riverside Brewing.

With more than a dozen breweries in Bend alone, becoming part of the illusive Ale Trail club isn't as simple as drawing out of a hat.

"The only requirements are that they have been in the brewing business for a minimum of one year, and that they have a restaurant or tasting room that's open at least six days out of the week," LaPlaca said.

Becoming a stop on the map is another incentive for brewers to step up their game.

"We're thrilled that all these breweries are here, because they come and want to see, 'How are you different? What's different about you guys?" Keele said.

Visit Bend is printing 80,000 Ale Trail atlases this year. To put that into perspective, the tourism group prints 100,000 visitor guides.

"It's not too far in the future that we will distribute more Ale Trail atlases than we do visitor guides, and I think that's a testament to how popular beer tourism has become in our area," LaPlaca said.

The million dollar question -- will the trail get too long?

Visit Bend says they won't be putting a lid on the barrels anytime soon.

"We have no plans on capping the number of breweries promoted through the Bend Ale Trail. The more the merrier," LaPlaca said.

New this year, Visit Bend officials say you only have to visit 10 of the 14 ale trail breweries to collect your commemorative Silipint. If you manage to visit all 14, you also get a bottle opener.

To learn more: http://www.visitbend.com/Bend_Oregon_Activities_Recreation/Bend-Ale-Trail/