"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Celebrating Diminishing Maladies at River North Brewery

I may sound like a bitchy, worn-out Facebook status but it’s a fact that being sick sucks.  One aches, wails, and curses their creator for providing an earthly vessel of such insufficient capacity.  Writhing in agony, feverish delusions grip the mind, snot flows forth like a crack in the Hoover Dam, and anemia causes the afflicted to become as feeble as Calista Flockhart on a diet.  But that’s not even the worst of it!  The worst part is that—because of the NyQuil, antibiotics, and general illness—one is prohibited from drinking beer!  As you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with me.  Oh, how I yearned for that sweet, sweet elixir whilst in the throes of malady.  How I hungered for a drop of hoppy bitterness and a dash of malty sweetness.  The temptations were too great and, I must admit, I delayed my recovery as I drank a beer or two before being 100% recuperated.  I regret nothing.     

Intense though an ailment may be, the hop for convalescence keeps one battling.  Eventually, a sunbeam broke through the menacing cloud—my immune system kicked in, ridded my body of illness, and prompted me to celebrate my newfound vigor.  First order of business: attend a birthday party.  Though the invite specified a wine and cheese pairing, I felt a beer and cheese pairing was just as applicable so, with mix-pack in hand (Deviant Dale’s from Oskar Blues, Foreign Style Stout from Upslope, and Solstice from Funkwerks), Nicole and I headed to Wheat Ridge to celebrate the aging of our friend. 

Fun though the party was, I felt that my recovery deserved a bit more in the way of life affirmation.  Thus, amidst the revelry, Nicole and I made plans to attend a new brewery on the following day with our friends Robin and Justin.  Our destination was the newest brewery in town (at the time of this writing): River North Brewery.

Behind a roll-up garage door on the corner of 24th and Blake sits River North Brewery.  As you can ascertain by its name, the brewery is in Denver’s River North neighborhood (near the river, north of Coors Field) otherwise known as RiNo to those prone to wearing tight jeans, thick-rimmed glasses, and ironic facial hair.

We entered the taproom and found it to be cozy and in the clean-lined, modern industrial genre of style elsewhere found in breweries like Renegade and Denver Beer Co.: copper light fixtures, simple slate-colored walls, sturdy but minimal bar stools.  Though the tap room is small, it looks as though there is an abundance of unused space in the brewing area.  Might this tiny brewery be expanding in the future?  They certainly have room to do so. 

I had been sick recently and had I poured a good amount of alcohol down my gullet the night before so I started out small with a taster of Hypothesis (9% ABV, 130 IBU), a Belgian double IPA.  Nicole got a taster of BPR (6.4% ABV, 57 IBU), a Belgian pale red ale, and Robin and Justin got a sampler of everything on tap which, in addition to Nicole and I’s beers, included Hello, Darkness (6.2% ABV, 55 IBU)—a black IPA, River North White (5%ABV, 20 IBU), and J. Marie Saison (7.5% ABV, 23 IBU).

Hypothesis is cloudy and orange.  Based solely on appearance, once might confuse it for Blue Moon.  Actually, based on appearance and aroma one might confuse it for Blue Moon as the nose is packed full of orangey, spicy esters—this Belgian double IPA’s scent puts a lot of emphasis on the Belgian part.  It’s herby and pleasant but it lulls the drinker into a false sense of security because hops are nowhere to be found on the nose but there’s a helluva hop smack in the flavor.  It’s big, it’s piney, it’s full of grapefruit zest, and any Belgian notions are pushed to the side to make way for its brash, American-style hop assertiveness. 

I sniped a few quick sips from Robin and Justin’s sampler (Hello, Darkness = more malt than hop, River North White = crisp and dry, BPR = mildly sweet) and ultimately ordered a full pour of J. Marie.  Quite honestly, I was too caught up in socializing to take any useful notes so I’m afraid I can’t remember much save for the fact that this saison is a bit heavier on malts making for a darker color, a sweeter flavor, and a reduction in the quintessential spiced nature found in traditional saisons.  Despite the high ABV, it’s quite sessionable.

Left to Right: Hello, Darkness; River North; J. Marie; BPR; and Hypothesis

We paid our bill, snagged some free stickers, took a detour to Sweet Action Ice Cream, and headed home.  There are pros and cons to River North Brewery.  The pros are that it is in a hip neighborhood, it has an intimate and welcoming taproom environment, and the beers are, at their worst, a B-.  The cons are that, in such a sunny piece of the world, there’s no outdoor seating.  Yes, they have a roll-up garage door wall but that wall is set back in a 3-foot deep enclave effectively preventing any sunbeams from penetrating into the taproom.  Maybe they’ll be able to cram in some sidewalk seating; it’d be a squeeze but it’d be possible.  Furthermore, there were no stouts, porters, or other beers of a highly malted quality (unless you count Hello, Darkness).  However, I’m reticent in counting that against River North as they are well under a month old and one thinks that, in time, they will indeed be serving up some dark beers.  There were, after all, only five of a possible eight tap handles being used on our visit; those remaining three could be the new homes of upcoming black beers. 

Regardless of any minor faults, River North is a worthy addition to the Denver craft beer scene and Nicole and I are proud to count it as number 76 in our quest to visit every brewery in Colorado. 



The usual gang of idiots

In a beer town like Denver, you’re never far from a brewery; every neighborhood is able to claim a brewery as their own. River North Brewery is a welcome addition to a part of downtown that, just a decade ago, civilized people avoided. After Coors Field was built, RiNo saw new life: a surge of new lofts were built, bars and restaurants opened, and people weren’t scared to walk around the neighborhood after dark.

River North Brewery occupies a huge space on the corner of 24th and Blake. Although the space is huge, the tap room is rather small. As I perused the beer menu, nothing caught my eye; I quickly ruled out the double IPA and the black IPA. I was left with a red and a white (which sounds more like a wine list than a beer list) plus a saison. I settled on the BPR which is not to be confused with PBR. The BPR was tasty but not something I could drink an entire pint of as it was a little too bitter for my taste buds.  Seeing as it is so close to Coors Field, I was hoping for a Rockies or baseball inspired beer name.  Come Rocktober they will, perhaps, provide Rockies fans with a special beer since River North would be a nice place to grab a pint before or after a ballgame.



  1. Hope you feel better soon. I'll definitely have to check out River North in the near future.

  2. Oh, I'm healthy as a mule now. Definitely give it a look at; they're good and they'll probably be great with a little more time.