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On Tap: River City celebrates new owner, new tasting area

Brewers Todd Grove, Christopher Anderson and Tanner McKinlay of River City Brewing show off the Bloomsday Blonde, Riverkeeper IPA and Midnight Marmot respectively in River City Brewing's new permanent taproom on April 29, 2019. The taproom is located at 121 S. Cedar in Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Brewers Todd Grove, Christopher Anderson and Tanner McKinlay of River City Brewing show off the Bloomsday Blonde, Riverkeeper IPA and Midnight Marmot respectively in River City Brewing's new permanent taproom on April 29, 2019. The taproom is located at 121 S. Cedar in Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Under new ownership, River City Brewing is bringing back an old fixture.

A tasting area has been added inside the downtown brewery, which closed its previous taproom at the end of 2017. The space will be open Thursday through Saturday, and make its debut for today’s monthly First Friday party.

“We’ve just been blitzing trying to get the room ready,” head brewer Todd Grove said, in the three weeks since Spokane restaurant/bar owner Jeremy Tangen officially took over the brewery.

Since the closure of the former taproom across a hallway in the Eldridge Building (now occupied by Steady Flow Growler House), River City has only poured pints once each month from five portable taps at its popular First Friday events.

A permanent, L-shaped bar, fashioned from century-old barn wood, now occupies one corner off the brewery entrance. The shiny new tap tower behind it will serve 11 house beers plus a guest cider, with seating for about 30 people.

Hours will run Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m. and likely start an hour or two earlier on Fridays and Saturdays, depending on brewing operations. “We can’t open too early since we’re still a production brewery,” Grove said.

There will be no food service, but food can be brought in from Steady Flow or elsewhere.

Today’s taplist will include the spring seasonal Kung Fu Death Monkey double IPA. It’s brewed with white wheat malt and flaked oats and fermented with New England yeast for a hazy, juicy character, but still a considerable West Coast-style bitterness – “sort of a fusion beer,” said Grove.

A revised, regular Riverkeeper IPA gets more of a dank, herbaceous character from Eureka hops, while the latest in the Experience Pale series has almost all of its hops added in the final, dry-hopping stage for flavor and aroma without bitterness.

Among the other offerings today are the seasonal Bloomsday Blonde, the Double Red brewed for the brewery’s fifth anniversary in January and Crushin’ at Midnight, a blend of Colonel Crusher barleywine and Midnight Marmot imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels.

And there’s a brand-new, year-round beer: Odelay, a light Mexican lager brewed with flaked organic corn. (Look for the bull-horn tap handle.)

In addition to the new taproom, River City will continue to offer beer to go weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through growler fills and prefilled 32-ounce cans. Over time, that will move toward 12-ounce cans for regular beers and 16-ounce for specialties.

Cans eventually could be distributed to stores as well, with 22-ounce bottles of Red and Riverkeeper IPA remaining in place for now. And a small, pilot brewing system may be added for experimental and specialty recipes.

It’s all part of an injection of new energy and resources for River City, Spokane’s third-largest brewery behind No-Li and Iron Goat.

“We’re really feeling the phoenix vibe around here, tearing things down and building them back up again,” Grove said. “Working with Jeremy’s crew has been making us get out of our habits and re-examine them.”

And after the previous five years, he said, “We feel good about taking the lessons learned, all of that beer wisdom, and turning it into the best possible restart for us.”

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