The first thing you likely notice when you walk into River City Brewing’s new taproom is the 4-by-5-foot River City Red logo on the back wall.
Turn left, and there’s a large wooden sign that used to hang outside Coeur d’Alene Brewing, which River City’s owners formerly operated.
The taproom honors the downtown Spokane brewery’s past, while putting a public face on its future. Since opening in February, River City has built a following through bars and restaurants but hasn’t had a focal point for its efforts.
“People want to be able to come where you are, to see it, feel it, taste it,” said co-owner Gage Stromberg.
The taproom has plenty of personality. The round tables are encased in bicycle rims and tires, a nod to Stromberg’s passion for cycling. A series of 172 framed quotes – about life, not beer – lines one wall.
The fir bar top was made by hand out of structural timbers cut 100 years ago from old-growth trees. Behind is a row of 10 taps to accommodate a range of River City offerings.
In addition to the five regulars – Red, IPA, Girlfriend Golden and two beers still brewed under the Coeur d’Alene name, Huckleberry and VB Stout (short for vanilla bourbon) – four seasonals were pouring when the taproom opened this week.
The latest, a roasty, dry and quite drinkable Midnight Marmot Imperial Stout, was joined by the last of summer’s Clocktower Imperial IPA, a pumpkin ale, and Riverkeeper Red, done in conjunction with the Spokane Riverkeeper environmental protection program. Just brewed for January is a winter warmer that promises caramel notes.
Having a tasting room will allow River City to try out recipes before putting them into larger production. “We’re going to use it as a little bit of an experimentation site,” Stromberg said.
All the beers are served as 4-ounce tasters (cheekily labeled “child’s portion”), 8-ounce pours or full pints, with growlers and kegs to go.
Pretzels are the only edible accompaniment. “We’re definitely pushing people back into the community, to the local restaurants that have been supporting us,” said Emily Schwartz, River City’s marketing and sales director.
• Trickster’s celebrates its first anniversary Saturday in Coeur d’Alene with $2 pints all day, including the newly released Winter Porter. Owner/brewer Matt Morrow bumped up this year’s recipe to provide more color and roasty, chocolate notes.
Morrow also just signed a lease on space neighboring the brewery, which will provide for a larger taproom, more cold storage to serve the Spokane market, and future brewhouse expansion.
• Budge Brothers’ Thirteenth Reindeer eggnog stout returns with a release party Dec. 7 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Spokane brewery. Look for beer specials, giveaways, magic and more.
The Budges, by the way, recently completed an equipment upgrade which allows them to make beer more efficiently and with more consistent quality. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t for a while, or even if you have.
• Trickster’s, Slate Creek, Mad Bomber and Selkirk Abbey will serve samples of their beer at the grand opening of the Two Knights Homebrew supply store, Dec. 7 from 5 to 9 p.m. at 3920 W. Fifth Ave. in Post Falls (off Exit 2 north of Interstate 90).
There also will be live music by, appropriately enough, Strange Brew. For more info, call (208) 777-2739.
• Rounding out the Dec. 7 calendar is an annual holiday tradition: the 12 Ales of Christmas at Capone’s Pub & Grill in Coeur d’Alene.
For $45, you get a T-shirt, buffet food, a chance at prizes, entry into the ugly sweater contest (if you’re so inclined) and samples of a dozen seasonal brews – along with, word has it, a surprise 13th offering.
It all starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Capone’s in Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and Post Falls; for information, call (208) 667-4843.