LOCKLAND, Ohio -- Call it Rivertown 1.5 -- the Lockland-based brewery has finished a major taproom expansion amid plans for a larger brewery overhaul.
Founder and owner Jason Roeper first announced the expansion in June 2015.
Since then, taproom manager Chris Goodin and other employees have been hard at work expanding and making improvements to the taproom and other aspects of the brewery.
“What this has really been all about is addressing what Rivertown has been lacking,” Roeper said. “If you remember, when Rivertown opened, taprooms were illegal.”
Roeper and his partner at the time weren’t considering curb appeal or a taproom space when they first opened in 2009.
Other brewers such as Rhinegeist and MadTree were fortuitously able to take advantage of the law change when they opened and sectioned off space for a taproom. Roeper said in Rivertown’s case, they had to just push equipment back and make do.
“We weren’t able to give it the facelift we wanted until about 2014,” Roeper said.
The founder said the original dimensions for the taproom when they opened it was just shy of 200 square feet.
Now the taproom makes up 2,500 square feet of the brewery’s campus. That should allow for about 225 people to quaff their beers in comfort.
“With the arcade room expansion, we’ll have seating for about 40 people and more than enough space for people to stand and play games,” Goodin said. “Plus it’s air conditioned now.”
That new arcade space will be available for private parties or other events and can be rented out. It also has 12 dedicated arcade and pinball machines and more than 100 games. There is also a foosball table in the main bar area.
“There has always been a vision in my mind of a place where I can take my kids,” Roeper said. “Lets face facts; many craft beer drinkers these days are parents. We see it happen all the time -- dad stops in with his 5-year-old and the kid wants to go but dad wants to try a couple beers.”
The brewers said they realized they were missing out on an opportunity by not have a space that could accommodate families. Roeper said they wanted to give adults a space where they could enjoy some craft beer, but also keep the whole family happy.
The arcade games are free and also come with drink holders for all those pints. The brewers said all they ask is that people keep the drinks off the games and play respectfully.
“Those arcade consoles can be expensive to repair and we want to keep those games free for everyone,” Roeper said.
The brewers also added four more taps -- now 16 in total -- so they can provide more one-offs, sours and specialty beers as production allows.
“The variety and the specialty things that you can’t get anywhere else -- that’s going to increase dramatically,” Goodin said.
The brewery now has a dedicated food vendor as well. Rivertown is partnering with Cleo’s Barbecue and providing him a designated food prep area.
Cleo also has his own point of sale window in the arcade room. The barbecue cook will also be in charge of most of Rivertown’s Sunday brunch events as Goodin says, “the man makes a mean Southern brunch.”
Currently, Cleo will be making BBQ every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the brewery. Goodin said Cleo will be available as needed depending on other events and demand.
“He’s the food face of Rivertown at this point,” Goodin said with a chuckle.
Back on the brewery side of things, construction caused some busy months for the team as they had to flip-flop much of their equipment to accommodate the taproom and warehouse expansion.
In addition to the larger taproom, Rivertown also made more space for the barrel program and sour program. That includes adding a new fermentation tank that will be exclusively for making brettanomyces (wild yeast) fermented beers.
“We’ll have brett IPAs and everything fermented with wild yeast...We wanted to continue to expand that side of production and make more one-off beers,” Roeper said.
The brewers are still trying to determine what nights they’ll be designating as “specialty night” or “cask night.” Those events include items such as their new “Liquid Ingenuity Series.” The latest in that series is their “Sage On” saison. They are also tapping their “Oro Agrio” collaboration with Embrace the Funk on Sunday, Nov. 1.
The brewery also plans to hold more events with its nearby neighbors such as FabFerments -- a kombucha maker -- and La Terza coffee.
The Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House is currently open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (Sunday hours may be extended depending on Cincinnati Bengals games.)