2 O’Clock Tasting: River Horse Brewing Company - Brooklyn Brew Shop

2 O’Clock Tasting
River Horse Brewing Company

Updated on March 30, 2016

To say that the owners of River Horse Brewing Co., Chris Walsh and Ben Bernabeo, appreciate a local craft brewery is an understatement. While working finance jobs on Wall St. in 2007, the two then-"suits" with a hankering for craft beer decided to leave their white collars behind and funnel their money into the then-floundering River Horse, a brewery that opened in 1996 in Lambertville, N.J. and was losing its steam 11 years later. After hanging up their jackets and rolling up their sleeves, Walsh and Bernabeo expanded the brewery's catalog dramatically, with additions like the Brewer's Reserve Series (one of which we review below) and partnerships with local businesses like The Chocolate Box and Rojo's Roastery. Revamped and re-imagined, the brewery, now located in nearby Ewing, N.J., has had new life breathed into it—and more beer, too. Seventeen years after its initial launch and eight years after the takeover, River Horse now produces 9,000 barrels per year, distributing throughout New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York City. Lucky for us, the beer is accessible enough to get our hands on five—the Lager, Special Ale, Hop Hazard, Chocolate Porter and Baltic Porter. Take a look at our thoughts on them below, and if you've tried any of our picks or had the pleasure of picking out a few of your own, let us know! Favorites and tasting notes are encouraged to be shared.  
  1. Lager

    5% ABV

    The guys at River Horse attest that unfiltered beer is the way to go. This beer epitomizes the unfiltered factor with a hazy, raw honey color. The pilsner malt was immediately apparent in the nose, along with sweet wheat and a hint of nuttiness. These followed through in the flavor, which finished with a rich, gritty bite.

  2. Special Ale American Amber

    5.5% ABV

    After seeing its foggy amber color, the BBS team agreed this could have been mistaken for a pour of Aunt Jemima’s Syrup at breakfast. Additionally reminiscent of brownies, biscuits and light chocolate, calling the aroma "sweet" would be an understatement: the scents had us bracing ourselves for beer candy. Surprisingly, though, the taste does a 180 on those aromas—upfront peppery and sarsaparilla flavors wake you up, holding their own against a hoppy background. Less surprising is the brewery's decision to call this one "special."

  3. Hop Hazard Pale Ale

    6.5% ABV

    Hop Hazard pours a deep honey blossom color with a buttermilk head. Immediately, an aromatic sweetness evoking oranges and flowers reveals itself, but with an unexpected tinge of cheesiness. That "tinge" becomes more pronounced in the flavor, as the hoppy brew tasted similar to feta cheese-topped pita chips, cut with a hint of lemon and some pine. Given the range of hoppy flavors here, hop heads will love this beer just as they would any IPA, even with its twists and turns.

  4. Chocolate Porter

    6.5% ABV

    There's one thing we all definitely took away from this brew: chocolate. Pouring a raw umber with a tan head, the porter greeted us with the familiar smells and infamous thickness of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup—this, possibly due to the pound of cocoa used per barrel—along with the powdery sweetness of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix. The taste didn't disappoint the chocoholics of the group, with flavors of egg cream and hints of tobacco welcomed by those seeking a balance to the overt sweetness. As one taster wisely proposed, "it needs a scoop of vanilla ice cream"—we'll take ours a la mode.

  5. Brewer's Reserve Baltic Porter

    7% ABV

    Pouring a gasoline-black body with a brown tan head, we knew right away this beer would be a formidable experience. Aromas stuck close to the smoky Rauchbier spectrum, including some bittersweet tobacco notes and even a bit of Jack Link's Beef Jerky. Our conjectures weren't unfounded, as the brew was in-your-face savory: BBQ and some ashy Salisbury onion sauce, as well as a hint of chocolate much subtler than its Chocolate Porter companion. We'd suggest pairing one of these bad boys with your steak or ribs.