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On Tap: Downtown breweries celebrate anniversaries on Saturday

River City Brewing is hosting its third annual Christmas in July on Saturday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
River City Brewing is hosting its third annual Christmas in July on Saturday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Rick Bonino

Two breweries on opposite ends of downtown Spokane celebrate anniversaries Saturday.

To the west, River City (121 S. Cedar St.) marks its fourth year of operation from 3 to 10 p.m., while Black Label (19 W. Main Ave.) has its second birthday party from 4 to 10 p.m.

For its festivities, River City is tapping a dozen specialty beers that span the past three years. The oldest is a 2014 Deep Thaw winter warmer, the last time that was brewed; the newest is a big Baltic porter, pushing 10 percent alcohol by volume, which makes its debut.

There also will be both cocoa- and coffee-infused variations on the Baltic porter, a lager style that balances the sweeter fruitiness of River City’s Congratulator Doppelbock – its anniversary beer the previous two years – with the chocolaty roastiness of its Midnight Marmot imperial stout.

The largely rotating lineup also includes both the 2015 and 2016 Congratulator, the past three vintages of Marmot – along with its Curry Spice, blended Grand Cru and chocolate/oak-aged Oako Coco Nitro versions – and a coffee-infused Riverkeeper IPA.

Also look for River City’s standard offerings, including root beer for the kids. Beer tickets will be $2.50 (8 ounces for one ticket, a full pint for two). One Night Stand BBQ will provide the food, with live music by Haley Young and by L.O.S. (Left Over Soul).

It all caps a year that saw production reach almost 2,000 barrels, a 16 percent increase over 2015. A fourth 25-barrel fermenter has been added for further expansion.

“With the number of breweries growing, it feels really good to be in that position,” said brewery president Gage Stromberg.

Next up on the beer agenda is this year’s crisper, more aromatic version of Riverkeeper – which benefits the Spokane Riverkeeper water protection program – to be released in early March.

A bigger change comes this summer when the former seasonal Clocktower imperial IPA gives way to an update dubbed Kung Fu Death Monkey. “We want to maintain the alcohol but lighten up the body a bit and make it more hop-forward,” Stromberg said.

River City’s first sour, the tart wheat Gose-Way developed jointly last summer with Moscow Alehouse, will be back. There also will be a new, upcoming collaboration with the Lantern Tap House.

And, Stromberg pledged, “After saying it the past two years in a row, the third year is the charm: We will be in 22-ounce bottles this year.”

Those will include Huckleberry Ale – which was the most popular bottled offering by River City’s previous incarnation, Coeur d’Alene Brewing – along with one or two other regular beers plus seasonals.

Black Label’s celebration begins with $3 pints of the dozen-odd beers on its board. There also will be live music by singer/songwriter Andy Rumsey and merchandise raffles for $2 a ticket (honoring the second anniversary).

Partners Dan Dvorak, Steve Wells and Josh Fox had hoped to have their Monstrosity IPA back on tap for the event, but the beast is taking more time than expected to ferment. It should return soon bigger than ever, at upwards of 11 percent ABV.

Also in the pipeline is their first doppelbock – “It smelled like a candy bar when we were brewing it,” Wells said – followed by a reprise of last year’s relatively lighter Maibock.

The big hit continues to be their fruity Tropical Thunder IPA, which was introduced for the first anniversary. “We haven’t been able to take that beer off the menu,” Dvorak said.

Black Label produced some 220 barrels in 2016, up from around 180 the year before. Its four-barrel brewing system is crammed into the compact space behind the taproom in the Saranac Commons building on Main just east of Division.

The primary goal for 2017 is increasing outside distribution beyond the current dozen-plus accounts to build name recognition. Regular customers include Jeremy Hansen’s Butcher Bar (adjoining his Santé restaurant) and new Hogwash Whiskey Den, along with the downtown Tomato Street and both Onions.

“That’s the next step,” Dvorak said, “getting more and more of our beer out there, and getting more and more people in here. Once we get people in this place, they like it.”

While the brewing operation may move to a larger location in the next few years, Black Label is keen to keep its taproom in the airy, repurposed space it shares with several other small businesses including Hansen’s Common Crumb bakery and the Mediterrano restaurant and Caffe Affogato coffee shop.

“We’ve got (workers) over at the bakery, Mediterrano, (neighboring) Saranac (Public House) wearing Black Label hats, hoodies and shirts. They’re excited to have us around,” said Wells.

Still, he said, “The coolest part is walking down the street and seeing somebody in a Black Label shirt.”

Freshly tapped

Waddell’s Brewpub is pouring a pair of barrel-aged specialties: an Opus One version of its Blackberry Sour aged in French oak barrels (5.5 percent alcohol by volume, 10 International Bitterness Units) and its Imperial Alligator Oatmeal Stout blended from both Dry Fly bourbon and wheat whiskey barrels and finished with cocoa nibs (10, 46).

Iron Goat has tapped two big Belgian-style ales, a fruity, dry-finishing Dubbel (8.1, 18) and a dry-hopped Imperial Saison (8.7, 30).

The latest releases at Bennidito’s Brewpub are a well-balanced Bennidito’s IPA (7, 85) with CTZ, Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra hops and a lightly sweet Beacon Brown (6.8, 15).

Badass Backyard has introduced both a strong Powder Run IPA (8.2, 99) hopped with Citra, Simcoe and Columbus and a sessionable Half Hitch Irish Stout (4, 44).

No-Li’s Puddle Stomper brown (5.1, 25) is rich and toasty with salted caramel notes.

Cheney’s New Boundary is serving a Maltivator Doppelbock (7.5, 30).

Young Buck’s Lite-Speed Session Pale (3.9, 40) is dry-hopped with Tahoma.

On Friday, the Steam Plant taps a Berliner Weisse-style Cranberry Sour (4.8, 6) conditioned with organic berries.

Save the date

Sierra Nevada’s barrel-aged Trip in the Woods series will pour in a tasting today from 5 to 7 at the Coeur d’Alene Growler Guys.

Coeur d’Alene’s Filling Station on 5th hosts a release party for Boise’s Woodland Empire Ale Craft, new to North Idaho, Friday from 6 to 9.

Bellwether celebrates International Gruit Day on Wednesday – honoring the ancient hopless, herbed beer style – with a release party for its collaboration with Young Buck, Whistle Punk and Republic Brewing, plus other offerings from Iron Goat and Big Barn.

Downdraft’s Valentine-themed First Friday party Feb. 3 will include two small-batch releases – Blood Orange IPA and Heartbreaker Habanero Raspberry Stout – plus live music and sweets.

Black Label showcases its coffee beers – a new Coffee Cream Ale plus the Coffee Amber and Indaba stouts – in a release party Feb. 4.

Perry Street Brewing presents its second annual Super Bowl party Feb. 5; for $35, you get a 20-ounce commemorative glass and your first fill plus a smorgasbord (reservations required).

A community pint night Feb. 7 at River City benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Northwest.

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