When River North Brewery opened its doors at 24th and Blake Street four years ago, its North Denver locale was a very different place.
“There was nothing going on in the neighborhood,” says co-founder Matt Hess. “When I signed a lease at that location, I could probably stand out the front door of the brewery and point to the vacant lots that are now six- and seven-story condos.”
River North was an out-of-the-way craft beer startup tucked into an industrial neighborhood with scant foot traffic. Hess and his wife, Jessica, had founded the brewery with the idea of being a production-focused operation. “I’ve always liked breweries where the taproom feels like a part of the brewing operation,” Hess says. And at that goal, River North succeeded: Its bombers and four-packs quickly became liquor store favorites for Colorado beer aficionados, and off-premises sales accounted for about 80 percent of the business. The brewery crafted a quality product that earned a loyal following. As RiNo became a nightlife destination, the taproom grew to become more than a quiet pour house attached to a production facility—it was a neighborhood watering hole.
That is, until it closed down in October. Hess says the brewery was forced out when their landlord sold the entire city block for an apartment development. “If we could have stayed, we would have paid pretty much any rent rate to do it, but it just wasn’t an option,” Hess says. So they started looking for another place to call home. Unsurprisingly, warehouse space in the white-hot RiNo real estate market was limited and pricey. Five months later, the brewery landed farther north on 58th Street, on the edge of Denver’s city limits. But Hess doesn’t seem worried about the hike. “It’s going to be a destination spot on the weekends where people will drive in and stay for a couple hours,” he says.
River North has made the most of the misfortune by amping up its production capacity, investing in a host of shiny new equipment (including a four vessel, 15-barrel brewhouse, four 60-barrel fermenters, and a 60-barrel bright tank). It’s also invested in a canning line, so fans of the brewery can expect to see six-packs and 12-ounce glass bottles in stores soon. But we’re most excited about one of River North’s smaller purchases: eight new 15-barrel fermenters. The small-batch equipment, which there wasn’t enough space for at the RiNo location, will allow the team to play around with new brews for the 16-tap bar. We hear Hess and vice president Patrick Annesty have lagers on their minds, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Draw straws for DD and check out the new space this weekend. River North is celebrating its grand reopening on Saturday, and there’s sure to be some exciting new brews on tap (as well as favorites like the Barrel-Aged Avarice, White Belgian wit, and FarmHouse session saison).
Visit: River North Brewery’s grand reopening takes place Saturday, April 2, noon–10 p.m.; 6021 Washington St.