April 4, 2012

River North Brewery

Signs of spring seem to be popping up everywhere. From the crocus blooming, new ant piles dotting the sidewalk, and the first shoots of our hop plants appearing, Mother Nature seems to have awakened from her slumber and is busy at work. Things in the local brewing scene are no different. A plethora of nearby breweries are set to open in the upcoming months (Prost, Hogshead, and Black Shirt), and leading the way is River North Brewery, which just opened their downtown doors. It is indeed a great time to be a beer lover in North Denver.

So lest I get distracted with this impending excitement, I wanted to be sure to give River North my full attention. Located on Blake Street about three blocks north from Coors Field, the brewery is in the same building that once housed part of Flying Dog brewery, which I found to be a positive progression of events.

The tap room is bright and airy with high ceilings and expansive windows. A large front door rolls up allowing an open air feel that was welcome this warm spring. Customers are greeted by a large, wrapping bar surrounded by several hightop tables. The space isn’t large, probably seating around 30 people and I could see it becoming packed before and after Rockies games.

Their tap list is quite short at only five beers, but runs the gambit of styles, ensuring there is something for everyone. I opted for the taster flight that includes a 4-oz pour of each beer and rings in at $8. Considering that only comes out to an English pint (20 oz) worth of beer, this isn’t the best deal, but I went for it anyway in order to try each brew. Otherwise, beers were $5 a piece with the stronger ones being limited to 10-oz pours. The flight served up was: the black IPA, Belgian wit, saison, Belgian-style double IPA, and what they called their BPR (Belgian pale red ale).

Hello Darkness (6.2% ABV), is their take on what seems to be the trendiest beer out there right now, the black IPA. Black IPAs have the biting hop bitterness, fragrant hop aroma, and rich maltiness one would expect from an IPA, but dark malts are added to give another layer of complexity. Hello Darkness fits the bill quite well, especially once it warmed up a bit and allowed the roasted, coffee-ish flavors to shine through.

I momentarily skipped over the Belgian wit to give their saison, J. Marie, a whirl. Weighing in at a hefty 7.5% ABV, I expected a boozy beer, though found it to be anything but. The nose was awash in fruit; apricot, peach, and apple with hints of spicy clove in the background. The alcohol only came across as a bit creamy, not hot and boozy. The grains were soft and light and the beer had a pleasant, dry finish. An excellent version of one of my favorite styles of beer.

The River North White, a Belgian wit, was up next. A cloudy wheat ale, the beer offered notes of clove and pear from the Belgian yeast, which complemented the bready malt flavor. However, the body was a bit thin and watery, not something I look for in a Belgian wit. That being said, this could very well be their attempt to cater to the “light beer” crowd, which I suppose is understandable, especially given their location.

The last two beers were their hoppy ales, the BPR (6.4% ABV) and their Belgian-style double IPA, Hypothesis (9% ABV). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect given the BPR’s lengthy description of a Belgian-style pale red ale, but found it to essentially be a hoppy Red ale. There were light notes of Belgian yeast perhaps, but nothing too noticeable. However, it was enjoyable and fans of hoppy pale ales and IPAs should definitely give this one a try.

I finished my flight quite blown away by the Hypothesis. For those that don’t know, a double IPA is essentially just that. Brewer’s put their IPA recipe on steroids; greatly increasing the amount of malts and hops to create a more intense, strong IPA. River North’s was fantastic, as it burst with copious, fruity hop flavors of grapefruit and pineapple backed with tons of sweet caramel malts. On top of all that was a subtle Belgian yeastiness that took it to another level. A complex balance of flavors, Hypothesis is for any beer fan, not just hopheads.

All in all, people should be very excited to have River North as part of their rapidly growing local brewery scene. They say choice is good and we’ve got that in spades. Be sure to get out there and take advantage. Prost!

River North Brewery
2401 Blake St | (303)296-2617

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