Can you imagine a tiny little beer haven where they play Alt-J through the speakers, have beautiful bartenders, and a surprisingly large barrel aging program? This sounds kind of like a beer dream doesn’t it? Well, its real and its called River North Brewery. Tucked away in a small building near Coors Field in Downtown Denver is this somewhat small Belgian inspired brew palace. Although it is slight in size, it pumps out beers with big flavors. Maybe you’ve heard of some of them like Hoppenberg Uncertainty Principle or J. Marie. If you haven’t, you should try to get your hands on some of them. If you’re in town, visit their intimate taproom (which is no larger than my living room and kitchen combined) and grab a seat at the bar. You won’t be disappointed. We tried every beer on tap that night. When we left we were slightly tipsy and very happy with our overall experience.
Here’s the lineup:
Hello, Darkness is a Belgian Black IPA that has strong aromas/tastes of coffee and malts with a kick of hops in the end. Personally, I love Black IPA’s and I hate when I get a bad one. Luckily, I wasn’t let down. I liked this one so much that I ordered it twice. New or inexperienced beer drinkers usually associate dark colored beers with being overpowering. That’s what I used to think until I started drinking Black IPAs. They are amazing and usually very smooth. Hello Darkness was exactly that. It was also unique to me because it had flavors I would’ve expected in a stout. I liked this concept and I approve.
The next brew was River North White. It reminded me of something I would drink before a baseball game. It was super light and crisp but there wasn’t a whole lot of flavor with this witbier. I was expecting a bit more out of it and I would’ve liked some more citrus. Nonetheless, I would definitely slurp down River North White with a burger in hand while pre-gaming before seeing the Cardinals destroy the Rockies. (I am a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan…hometown pride).
J. Marie Saison surprised me. If you read my tomato panzanella post, you’ve seen this one before, except it was different this time. I’m not sure if it just tasted different on tap or if they switched up the recipe but it was not the same as when I had it in a bomber. This time there was much less floral and citrus and more of some other flavor. Being somewhat new to the beer scene, I’ve been trying to figure out what people mean by saying a Saison has a lot of “barnyard funk” flavor. What in the hell does that even mean? I finally figured it out with this J. Marie. There is no other way to describe it and for all of you new beer drinkers out there, I’m sorry I can’t put it into any other words. Just very funky up front, a bit bitter in the end, and supremely delicious.
Ever since my visit to Black Shirt Brewing, I’ve been a bit leery of reds. I just want to say “Thank you River North,” for curing me of this. BPR is a Belgian Pale Red, if you didn’t already guess that from the name. The first thing that came to my mind when drinking it was orange peel, floral and yeast. BPR is a special one. I’ve never tasted anything exactly like this and it was one of my favorites of the night.
Hoppenberg Uncertainty Principle is a classic from River North and we were extremely privileged to be drinking a brand-spankin-new batch. As the name suggests, it’s full of hops. It is also fruity and somewhat sweet. The chart on the table boasts ‘100-ish IBU’ but it’s still very drinkable. Hop fans, pick up Hoppenberg ASAP.
The friends I came with liked Quandary the best. They also had a great description, “It smells like a banana runt!” It was definitely fruity but tasted too metallic to me. It wasn’t my favorite.
After we worked our way through some of the lighter beers, we got to Avarice, the Belgian Imperial Stout. It had humongous taste. It was very bitter but in a good way. To me, it tasted mainly like coffee and chocolate malts. A good stout overall.
The grand finale was a barrel aged beer. Remember that J. Marie from a few sentences ago? Well they took that and threw it into a High West Scotch barrel for about 4 weeks and it turned into the Scotch Barrel J. Marie. What I was expecting and what I got was completely different. This year was full of drinking lots of barrel aged beers it has lead me to believe most of them will taste like a shot of whiskey. Not this one. It was light in color and smelled like scotch. There was some scotch flavors but it was mainly rich, full of oak, and smoky. The brew was also very easy to drink for being so robust with flavors. I was very pleased overall with this one and felt lucky that I got the chance to try it before the beer drinkers of Denver made it disappear.
While we were sipping on our favorites, we got a mini-tour of the brewery. My mind was blown when I saw how many barrels they had in the back. There must have been over 30. They only have a fermenting tank that holds 30 barrels. This means, if you decided to sneak in the back, they would have the same amount fermenting as they do aging. That’s pretty incredible and its awesome for people in the area because River North is constantly releasing new, interesting aged beers.
River North Brewery was an absolute delight. I plan on spending a bunch of my free time there in the future. I’m excited to see what the future brings in terms of beer and growth for the brewery. It is surprising that such a new and small place could be pumping out such great beer. They say on their site “We focus on brewing Belgian-style ales and American style ales with a Belgian twist, but the truth of it is that we just brew the kind of beer we like to drink!” I can attest to that statement and also say that they like to brew beer everyone likes to drink.