When River City Brewing opened a little less than a year ago, co-owner Gage Stromberg wanted to focus only on the beer. During his days at Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, he'd seen how running brewpubs with a full menu becomes a completely different business, and that's not what River City was meant to be.
But as kegs started rolling out to restaurants and bars around town, people kept asking about how to taste the whole lineup. Around the same time, visitors started traveling around town with their Ale Trail maps. So, when a space opened up adjacent to the brewery's space in the Eldridge building at First Avenue and Cedar Street, it was too perfect to pass up.
"I was hesitant, but I am really happy to be open now," Stromberg says. "I think it's done exactly what we wanted it to do, which is help us grow a relationship with people who are interested in beer."
The tap room keeps all the River City standards on tap, including the flagship River City Red and popular Huckleberry Ale and VB Stout from the Coeur d'Alene Brewing days. The brewery is making a seasonal higher-alcohol beer each quarter — the Deep Thaw Winter Warmer just replaced the Midnight Marmot Imperial Stout. (An imperial pilsner is up next, come April.) The tap room also lets the brewery try new ideas in smaller quantities, like a double dry-hopped Experimental IPA. Beer is served as pints ($4), half-pints ($2), tasters ($1), and growlers and kegs.
The tap room offers only pretzels as a snack, but outside food is allowed. So are kids — they can even sit at the bar since the beer taps are on the back wall — and Stromberg believes that's important for a family-owned brewery founded on the idea that craft beer is about quality, not quantity.
"I think part of the tap room experience should be having a family approach to it," he says. "Whether it's your grandparents or your kids, everyone's welcome to sit down."
For kids — and adults who don't feel like beer — River City makes root beer served on tap. ♦
River City Brewing • 121 S. Cedar • Thu-Sat, 3-9 pm; Sun-Wed, 3-8 pm • rivercityred.blogspot.com • 413-2388