Why Rivertown Brewing Frustrates Me So Much

This piece is written by me and reflects my own opinions and not that of Queen City Drinks as a whole or its other authors. – J

I’m going to just go ahead and get this out. Rivertown Brewing is so frustratingly inconsistent with their offerings and it’s strange to me that there has been no pushback whatsoever from the beer community. I’m going to air some grievances and give a little of my own pushback and then explain why these issues are so darn frustrating to me outside of the issues themselves.

1. Pestilence: The bottled version of this beer should never have been released to the shelves for sale. When reviews attribute olfactory qualities such as “candied walnut, blue cheese, and vomit”, “stinky cheese and fatty yogurt”, and “funk [that] is stomach-churning”, there is something seriously, seriously wrong with the finished product. I opened one of these bottles (of the four I bought) a couple months months ago, hoping my bottle would be different, and it went down the drain. The taste isn’t bad, but I’m not of the school that I should have to plug my nose while drinking a beer. I’ve heard from many people who had this on draft that it did not exhibit these problematic features. Since they’re people whose palates I generally trust, there obviously was a bottling issue. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my other three bottles, but I’m not looking forward to drinking them.

2. Sour Cherry Porter: This beer I was very much looking forward to. Coming hot off of 2010 (stellar) and 2011 (good) Rivertown Lambics, I was ready for more of their sours. I picked up a bottle from The Party Source, where it is, to my knowledge, exclusively sold. Got it home, cracked it open and poured a completely uncarbonated beer into my glass. I tasted a sip just to confirm and though quite tasty, there was not a speck of carbonation. Danny Gold was gracious enough to swap out my bottle which I opened yesterday and, to my sadness, poured another completely uncarbonated glass of beer. I’m sure I’ll be able to swap this out for  another bottle, but at this point I’d frankly just like to stop wasting my time and get a refund on the not-insubstantial $13 I paid for a single, flat bottle of beer.

3. Uncommunicative-ness: One of my favorite things I enjoy about local businesses is being able to interact with their owners and managers. That goes double for local breweries. Mt. Carmel, Blank Slate, and Listermann/Triple Digit (not so much Moerlein) do a great job of interacting with their customers, answering questions and the like.  Rivertown seems to use social media (Twitter/Facebook is what I’m speaking of here), when they actually use it, as a one-way tool. I’m not sure who is running their accounts, but I have a much, much better success rate in getting a response when contacting Jason Roeper directly than when contacting the Rivertown accounts. Social media, for successful businesses, is not just a platform for free advertising, but a way to engage your current and potential customers.

Now, why did I even take the time to write this post? Frustration over wasting money? Yes, partially, but only very, very partially. $20 isn’t a lot to waste in the grand scheme of things. I’m writing this because Rivertown has the potential to do a lot better than this. They have made some amazing stuff (there’s a reason Beer Advocate rated their Lambic a perfect 100 score) and their normal lineup while not amazing, is solid (outside of the weird fake vanilla-tasting Roebling bottles). They have one of the most creative and talented head brewers in the Cincinnati-area and they are one of the few local breweries who are doing really, really fun, out there stuff. While their highs are high, there lows, as can be seen above, are still quite low.

Maybe this is just a new brewery thing, and it will all blow over in time. I hope so. As silly as it sounds after all my complaining, I’m going to continue buying their releases because they are a local outlet of “beer geek” (sour, barrel aged, etc.) beers. I’ll continue to reward creativity, but at some point being creative is trumped by the quality of what you are producing. The execution is every bit as important as the idea is. It’s the whole “fool me once… fool me twice” bit.