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River North Brewery plans to open in the old Flying Dog tap room in early 2012

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While 2011 may have been the year of the small brewery in metro Denver -- which has so far toasted the arrival of six new ones -- 2012 may be even bigger.

Black Shirt Brewing, 3719 Walnut Street, and Prost Brewing, 2540 19th Street, have both announced plans to open their doors in the first quarter of the year, and now the owner of River North Brewery is also laying the groundwork for a new tap room in late January or early February. Located in a portion of the old building once occupied by Flying Dog Brewing, which left Denver for Maryland in 2008, River North, 2401 Blake Street, will focus on Belgian-style beers, something that owner Matthew Hess is familiar with.

"I have had good luck and a good time brewing those styles of beers," says Hess, who's originally from Kansas but moved to Denver three years ago with his wife. An engineer, Hess quit his job nearly a year ago to follow his dream of opening a brewery.

And he believes that there's plenty of room in Denver for more breweries despite the recent -- and continued -- influx of them; River North will be located just blocks from Great Divide, Wynkoop Brewing and the Denver Beer Company, not to mention Blue Moon Brewing @ the Sandlot inside Coors Field, and one of Breckenridge's pubs.

"First of all, it's a very friendly industry, and we are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the big breweries," Hess says.

River North will include a brand-new fifteen-barrel brewhouse when it opens and four to six beers in the taproom. Hess also plans to distribute kegs and bomber bottles.

To keep up with the progress, follow the River North Brewery blog on its Facebook page.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan
and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan.

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