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River City shifts gears

River City is closing its downtown taproom at the end of the year to concentrate on distribution and bottling.

"We have had a great time serving our beer and pretzel menu to the Spokane community, but we are ready to focus on the production side of our operation including bottling in the new year," the brewery says in a press release.

"There are lots of places to drink River City beer throughout our region so we feel as if the Tap Room has served its purpose as we introduced our beers, but now it’s time to refocus our attention on making, kegging and bottling beer. We will be changing up our core beers (and) introducing some new limited releases & collaborations, as well as continuing to produce award-winning beer."

Following Saturday's International Marmot Beer Festival, starting Sunday, all pints will be $2,50 and growler fills will be $10 until the taproom closes Dec. 30. River City still plans to host "garage parties" on First Fridays starting in February along with other special events.

The move comes at a time when brewers across the country are feeling competitive pressures as the number of breweries continues to grow, but overall sales are starting to slow down.

Not having food service put River City's taproom at a disadvantage compared to other downtown breweries that do offer food, says Emily Schwartz, the brewery's marketing and sales director who also managed the taproom.

"Moving forward with things like a bottling line, one-offs, a barrel-aging program, it just made sense to put all of our efforts, focus and funds into that aspect of what we're doing," she says.

River City's owners operated a restaurant brewpub with their former Coeur d'Alene Brewing, but said they were not interested in serving food when they opened River City in early 2013. The taproom was added that November.

In another change, Schwartz will be moving to King Beverage to oversee the distributor's craft beer operations. KBI Craft represents River City and fellow locals Orlison and Selkirk Abbey along with other smaller craft breweries from outside the area.

Schwartz says she will focus on building business for those breweries and training other KBI representatives about craft beer.