From 1994 to 2008 Flying Dog Brewery was a fixture of the downtown Denver brewery scene. After they relocated their operation to Maryland, it left a large vacancy to fill on 24th and Blake. After 4 long years, a former engineer, Matt Hess and his wife, took their love of brewing to the next level and planted themselves in the old Flying Dog Brewery. However, there are no remnants of the old brewery, as the Belgian style ales no pour to the masses that are there on a daily basis. And what did they call their brewery? Well it is only fitting that a brewery on the outskirts of the ballpark district and in the up and coming River North Art District would be called River North Brewing, a great and fresh brewery.
Opened in February of 2012 River North is one of the newest breweries in Denver, but with a strong local following and the high quality ales they produce you would swear they have been there for years, not months. With a small tap room that has no more than 20 bar stools and only a few tables it is best to get here early, although there is room to stand. The environment is sterile and minimal with a large window that shows the production. Once all is said and done this brewery lets the beer speak for itself and with seven to choose from on a regular basis the question as always is which one to try first.
When you are at a brewery that specializes in Belgian style ales, the first beer you should try is one that is strictly Belgian, the J Marie Saison Farmhouse Ale. This beer can be described in only two words, simplistic and refreshing. Made with the most minimal of ingredients, only two different malts, one style of hop and an exclusively saison yeast, the end result is light, flavorful, and one of the most refreshing beers there is during those summer days. The flavors are all subtle but balance each other out, and the end result is a complex yet simple beer. Definitely one of the first ones you should try, as it will quench your thirst and leave you wondering what the rest of their offerings are like.
When it comes to Belgian style ales there are really none better, except for when a traditional style gets a Belgian twist. Like a very strong Double I.P.A. with the flavors that are reminiscent of all Belgian beers. All the flavors you would expect to find are in this beer, a slight yeast flavor, the subtle citrus note, and the slight hint of spice in addition to the typical cloudy and unfiltered appearance. The end result of this hybrid beer is the Hypothesis Double I.P.A. pouring out of the tap at 9 percent alcohol and approximately 130 IBUs. The hop flavor is extremely prominent but due to the other ingredients in this beer that bitterness is muted and the aftertaste clean. A beer that any hophead will love but even a novice IPA drinker will enjoy it.
So what other beers does River North offer? In addition to the saison they offer their signature River North White, a Belgian white ale that embodies everything that an American style Belgian ale is. Hello Darkness is another IPA they offer, however contrary to the hypothesis this one is a black IPA where there is more of an emphasis of malts to balance out the hops. And what would a Belgian brewery be without offering one of the most traditional styles there is, a quad? Well, there is a black quad always on draught here that is so unique it will take multiple sips to figure out the flavor profile and to enjoy all the complexities it offers.
Whenever a new brewery opens up there is always a gamble on what the risk of success or failure can be. Well at River North the risk paid off and the success has been impressive in the early going. With some of the most unique beers available inspired by a country that produces some of the best beers River North has found the balance between both countries. The popularity early on has not only increased their tap room business, but River North is now also distributing on a limited basis. There are bombers of their Quandary, Hypothesis, and J Marie available out of the tap room and at specialty liquor stores in the Denver area. After 5 months the popularity has gained and the possibilities are endless for River North, so the next time you leave a Rockies game take a walk down Blake St. to 24th and taste for yourselves.