River North Brewery returns to River North: Take two!
It was roughly fourteen months ago that brewery co-founder Matthew Hess revealed that he planned to open a second taproom in the River North Arts District, at 3400 Blake Street. The company had been forced to flee its first space, the former home of Flying Dog Brewery at 2401 Blake, when the building owner decided to scrape the structure in favor of a luxury apartment complex — giving River North Brewery six months to get out.
River North moved to a large production and packaging facility at 6021 Washington Street, where it operates a small taproom. When the new RiNo taproom was announced last year, Hess said he hoped to open it in late 2017. But that was before a host of complicated permitting problems put the entire thing on hold.
“We weren’t anticipating that our project would trigger mandatory upgrades to the public sidewalk, alleyway and curbs,” Hess says. “That turned out to be five or six months extra” — and a 20 percent increase in costs.
But last week, the city finally signed off on the brewery’s permit. Construction should start this month and be finished by late October or early November. “We’ll be the oldest brewery in River North and the newest at the same time,” jokes the brewery’s Patrick Annesty (River North Brewery was founded in March 2012).
When it is ready, the new taproom will have space for 100 people inside and seventy in the southwest-facing beer garden. There will also be a large area for private events and parties.
River North Brewery will also include a seven-barrel brewing system that will turn out a wide variety of beers, from hazy IPAs to classic styles to imperial Belgian stouts — and maybe even a lager or two. “We will have a lot of fun with it,” Annesty says. "We’ll be able to change up batches and brew things that we haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do at the Washington Street facility," where there is a fifteen-barrel system.
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River North Brewery will be rejoining a very different RiNo than the one it left in 2015. In addition to the never-ending development of retail, restaurant, office and housing projects, there have also been several changes to the brewery scene. Zephyr Brewing and Beryl’s Beer Company have both left, while 14er Brewing has joined the fray, first opening a taproom and then taking over the former Beryl’s space. Odell Brewing, out of Fort Collins, has also opened a two-story taproom, next to the city’s first Shake Shack.
And although the brewery’s new location is only ten blocks from the old one, it’s in a totally different part of the district — but one that has seen some significant upgrades.
There is now a light-rail station at 38th and Blake streets, and a brand-new pedestrian bridge at 35th and Blake that crosses the railroad tracks, connecting the two halves of RiNo. In fact, River North Brewery will provide the missing link for brewery crawlers who want a stop between spots like Ratio Beerworks, Our Mutual Friend and Bierstadt Lagerhaus on the south end and Epic Brewing and Black Shirt Brewing at 37th and Walnut streets, and even with Great Divide, Crooked Stave and Mockery Brewing, which are on the other side of the tracks on Brighton Boulevard.
“We used to be a gateway to RiNo from the south,” Hess points out. “Now we’ll be a gateway from the north.”