This is one in an occasional series of 7 Sips interviews, where we sit down for a pint and seven questions with someone active in the local craft beer community. As River City Brewing celebrates its second anniversary today, we catch up with owner Gage Stromberg, who in his spare time also a pension attorney and an avid bicyclist (River City sponsors a cycling team).
Q: What can we expect from River City in the year ahead?
A: I’m really happy with the 2015 Riverkeeper beer – that is going to be released toward the end of February. This is going to be a big departure for us in terms of IPAs. I was happy with the way the Riverkeeper IPA came out last year, but it didn’t have the longevity it should have had. When it was real fresh, it had a really nice aroma, but I think the malt tones became more predominant as it sat in the keg even for a short period of time. We’ve got a whole slew of new hops in this beer, and a new yeast, and it’s kind of the culmination of all those experimental IPAs we’ve been doing over the last four months.
We have a sour in a barrel right now that we’re continuing to monitor, see where it’s going, and we will be getting some more barrels. But I think for us now the barrels are more of, it’s that growth and evolution and learning what works and doesn’t work, as opposed to jumping in and buying a warehouse full of barrels. Kind of like the experimental beers, it’s a way for our brewers to learn and our customers to have some one-offs to enjoy.
We have hired a graphic designer to move ahead with labels (for bottles), so those are underway. That’s later in 2015, but we’ve made contact with the bottlers and manufacturers and are going ahead with label design, so we continue to have every expectation that sometime by Christmas, we’ll have bottles of beer – or maybe I should say New Year’s Day. We continue to do some research on cans and bottles, but I think for us, for right now, it probably makes more sense for us to do 22-ounce bottles, so I expect that will be first. It doesn’t mean it will be only, but that will be first.
Q: Do you have any predictions for the local beer scene in general in 2015?
A: I think the flood of new breweries will start slowing down. I’m hearing about fewer people at the very beginning stage. We still have plenty of people who are at some point in the process and now they’re getting their license or they’re getting their facility built, but I think there’s been such a flood of new breweries – not just in our region, but nationally – that probably the home brewers and the guys who are enjoying beer and thinking about having a brewery are at least going to sit back a bit and watch the market. That said, I think that we’ll continue to see more local consumers and more national consumers drinking more craft beer and fewer people drinking the mass-produced lagers. The demographics continue to move positively for us, younger people are more focused on craft beer, and so as new beer drinkers come along, more and more people are interested in it, and it’s continuing to be a larger percentage of what people are buying and drinking.
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