Thursday, December 6, 2012

History Lesson

Everyone loves a history lesson, right?  Certainly better than a history lesion, eh? (What does that even mean? I have no idea).

Let's start over. 

Here is some history of River City Brewing.  Like many stories, this one starts long ago in a faraway place.  Like around 35 miles away - that dang far.  In July 1999, my family and I took over the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company from Tom Fisher (although not the attached pub until a few years later). It was a great opportunity to take up the work of making, selling and talking about good beer.  There were relatively few bars and restaurants that really made craft beer an integral part of their operation - with a couple of notable standouts at the time being Moontime in Coeur d'Alene and the second operation by the same owners, The Elk, in Spokane.  Certainly there were others, but these two stood out with a rotating beer menu on the table and beer incorporated in some of their menu items.  They really got the idea behind the future of beer culture, but the tribe of us was relatively small in those days.  Mighty but still small.

Around this same period, our family was also involved in the development of Steam Plant Square - my parents' company had been focusing on historic renovations for a couple of decades at that point - and we saw the opportunity to create a great space for a brewpub in the heart of the building.  Since we believed in the brand and the great beers that we had developed, we made the same beers in the Steam Plant Grill in the smaller brewpub system installed there. 

And, then with the Idaho licensing, we had the opportunity to have another location in the state under the same license and a few years later we opened the Moscow Alehouse, again featuring Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company beers.

So, for a few years, we chugged along brewing and selling beer and making complimentary food in all three spots.  It was a good run and we had a lot of great people come through the brewery and the restaurants, both working with us and as customers.  But, as so often is the case, stuff happened and change came along.

First, our landlord in Coeur d'Alene decided that after we had worked so hard and for so many years to make his building a great spot for a restaurant, he decided that he wanted his own restaurant spot there and we had to leave.  The economy was in a free-fall in late 2010 and it made it very difficult to find a spot in which to relocate.  We moved the brewing equipment into storage and kept looking for spots to house a brewery and brewpub again, but without much luck.  Financing, location, accessibility for either the restaurant or brewery portion or something stymied our attempts to relocate.  Next, we had the opportunity to sell the Steam Plant Grill to the landlord and all of a sudden we went from a three-restaurant, two brewery company to a one restaurant outfit with all of the equipment for a brewery.  The economy and financing hadn't grown much yet, but the number of people drinking great local beer was growing, as were the number of restaurants that were formed around an appreciation for great beer.

A couple of quite years passed for us when we found a spot in which we could set up a smaller brewing operation, but get back into production.  We would have a lot less space, and gave up the aging bottling line, but we would be back making beer and at a time that the regional beer scene was growing by leaps and bounds.  That space is in Spokane and so it wasn't authentic to just make beer under the "Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company" name, so we have adopted another name that fits our spot a few blocks from the falls that run through downtown - River City Brewing.  We are, as the blog tells above and below, just on the verge of being able to make beer again.  We will make a couple of Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company favorites - Huckleberry Ale and the increasingly famous Stout, along with some new variations and seasonals under the River City Brewing name.  We couldn't be more excited and look forward to discussing all of this over a pint very soon.

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