I moved to Denver for two things: the Rocky Mountains and the awesome beer scene. Eventually, I plan on visiting every brewery in Denver, and for those of us who enjoy a well-crafted adult beverage, that’s like trying to say you’re going to eat all the finest candy in a candy store. It’s perfectly feasible, but the discipline to actually do it is tough when you find something you like.
River North Brewery is located on the northern side of town in what is known as the RiNo district. It’s a close walk to Coors field and right down the street from the old Flying Dog Brewery I tried to visit so many years ago. They focus on Belgian style ales, or at least imparting a Belgian twist to common American ales (Almost a direct quote from their website).
It took me a while to actually check them out, but after I got off my ass and paid them a visit, I quickly became a fan of their work. Along with their regular offerings, they produce weekly small batches based on their staple beers with a little something extra. Sometimes they incorporate additional aging in barrels or fruit. With eight standard brews, it’s a brilliant way to have constant variety for regular visitors. The most recent small batch creation was two different dry hopped versions of their oaked imperial wit, Unified Theory.
The first version utilized CTZ hops and it punched me right in the mouth. I like my beers to rough me up a little, so that was just what the doctor ordered. Unified Theory is a solid wit to begin with and was the perfect answer to the bike ride there. After a few more swigs I knew I could just fucking drain it. It was refreshing, crisp, smooth and the immense west coast hops flavor was explode-in-your-pants good, but at 8.5% abv I decided against chugging for the sake of self preservation.
The second version with Willamette wasn’t nearly as potent in the hop department. Still incredibly refreshing, but the CTZ hops just had such a wicked flavor that the milder Willamette hops couldn’t hold a torch to it. It also might have been the fact that I had two or three of the CTV versions and my palate was obliterated all to shit. You can have only so many mouthgasms before you’re blowing dust.
I ended up chatting with a brewer about the hops and any other recipe variations from the standard Unified Theory. He gave me the scoop on how these wayward brews are done versus their base beers. In this case, the original is supposed to be oak aged, but the dry hopped version is pulled from the tanks a few days early. The oak flavor is diminished, but would be overtaken by hops anyway. Then they just shove hops down the beer’s throat and let it sit for a few days to give it that awesome hop profile.
Beer’s aside, a brewery needs to have the right atmosphere to be a place that draws people in for repeat visits, and River North has that in spades. The taproom is small and can fill up quick on a busy day, but outdoor seating provides well for the overflow and gives patrons a view of whatever exquisite food truck is hanging out for the night. I think the bar itself is gorgeous and the wooden tables and seats are wood. I don’t know how to describe that shit. I’m not an interior decorator, I just know I like it. For some reason I really appreciate the lack of automation in the bathrooms. You have to flush, turn on the sink, pump the soap and pull the paper towel. Goddamit, I feel empowered to do all those things for myself! Finally, we can’t forget the Scientology building across the street. Every time I visit, I secretly hope Tom Cruise pops out to try and recruit people to come get their brain scanned or whatever the fuck it is they do there.
Great beers, people and atmosphere is a recipe for success and River North has the equation locked down. Luckily I have plenty of time to check out other breweries around town, because I’m guessing I’ll be back trying plenty of their beers as long as they keep letting me drink them.
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.