River City is closing its taproom at year’s end to concentrate on distribution and bottling.
In the meantime, all pints are $2.50 and growler fills are $10. The downtown Spokane brewery still plans to host “garage parties” on First Fridays starting in February along with other special events.
“A variety of factors made it seem like the right decision, and it does free up staff time and resources to focus on production,” co-owner Gage Stromberg said.
With the garage parties, he said, “We can keep serving the people who like coming to the brewery and have some fun with it, but not devote the day-to-day resources to being open seven days a week.”
Taproom business was down this year compared to 2016, though it remained profitable, Stromberg said.
Since River City launched in 2013, four other brewery taprooms – Iron Goat, the Steel Barrel, Orlison and Whistle Punk –have opened on the west side of downtown. The first two serve food, which has become increasingly important for attracting and retaining customers.
River City has skipped food service to avoid competing with bars and restaurants that buy its beer, Stromberg said. “So when we hit the fork in the road and needed to add more services to be competitive, we felt like that was not the right call,” he said.
Another factor is the upcoming departure of Emily Schwartz, the brewery’s marketing and sales director who also managed the taproom. She will oversee craft beer operations for King Beverage, River City’s distributor.
Stromberg said he encouraged the move for her personal growth, but that with her leaving, “It was a good time for us to look at our operations overall.”
Moving forward, River City will revamp some of its core lineup along with introducing new limited releases.
“In the beer business at this point, there is very much a ‘move or die’ feel because customers and restaurants are always interested in something new,” Stromberg said.
“I think we have more of a focus on our core than some of our colleagues, but we also want to be thoughtful about where we are in the market and be responsive to customers. We also like experimenting and trying new things ourselves, so this is an opportunity to keep growing as a brewery.”
River City also plans to start packaging some of its beers in 22-ounce bottles. It has received federal label approval for nine beers, but hasn’t yet decided which will hit the market first, Stromberg said.
New Boundary bids adieu
Cheney’s New Boundary Brewing will close Dec. 23 following two and a half years of operation.
Sales fell short of projections, owner/brewer Shane Noblin said. A barrel-aged barleywine release party will proceed as planned Friday.
Bombastic eyes barrels
Bombastic has launched a membership program to fund a barrel-aged beer series.
Signups are being taken at bombasticbrewing.com for the Bombastic Benefactors. For $150, members will receive eight exclusive bottles of barrel-aged beers later next year, along with other assorted perks – assuming enough people join by Dec. 31 to pay for production.
“It’s the stuff we love to drink, but they’re expensive to make,” said Bombastic’s Phil Hottenstein.
The small Hayden-based brewery, which has poured at special events and released limited bottlings since opening in June, also has started distributing to accounts including Crafted Tap House/Victory Sports Hall, Paddy’s Sports Bar and Bulldog Pipe and Cigar in Coeur d’Alene and Enoteca in Post Falls.
Perry Street’s Juicy IPA (7 percent alcohol by volume, 50 International Bitterness Units) uses a New England-style yeast strain for a slight haze, with pineapple and peach notes from Vic Secret and Denali hops.
The New England Haze (5.3, 20) at Waddell’s Brewpub is an unfiltered IPA hopped with plenty of late-addition Comet and Cascade.
Daft Badger’s new Righteous Dude IPA (7.6, 60) is hopped with Chinook, Cascade and Citra.
The well-balanced Winter IPA (6.8, 65) at Bennidito’s Brewpub was brewed with the first pellets from this year’s Centennial hop crop.
Black Label’s rich, malty Gingerbread Winter Warmer (9, 25) is accented with powdered ginger.
Big Barn’s White Out Stout (8, 85) is brewed with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and orange zest.
Young Buck has a big Event Horizon imperial stout (10, 99).
Bellwether’s Hearthstone Barleywine (10.3) was cellared for nine months.
English Setter releases its Puppy For Christmas orange chocolate porter Dec. 22.
Save the date
Manito Tap House has launched its annual 12 Beers of Christmas, with a different specialty keg tapped each day through Dec. 23.
Eight barrel-aged beers by Twelve String will pour at Pints Alehouse on Thursday from 5 to 10.
Steady Flow Growler House hosts a Barrel Aged Cornucopia on Saturday from 4 to 8.
Hopped Up’s ugly sweater party Saturday from 6 to 9 will include prizes, games and snacks.
Beerocracy’s Barrel-Palooza on Monday will feature beers from Crux, Deschutes, Firestone Walker, Fremont and more.
Whistle Punk’s Christmas party Dec. 21 will include six small-batch holiday beers plus a special cask ale.
For a full rundown of local beer events and news see www.spokane7.com/blog/ontap.