21 and Over Club: Packinghouse Brewing Co.

Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER
Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER

The craft beer industry is alive and well in the Inland Empire! Over the last couple of years new microbreweries have been popping up all over the place. One of the more recent breweries is Packinghouse Brewing Company, located off of Central Avenue next to the Riverside Municipal Airport.

Packinghouse originally started back in 2009 brewing their original beers: the Heritage Pale Ale and the Riley’s Irish Red. Since then they have significantly scaled up their production from small 30-gallon batches. The main area is very small, with just enough seating for 16-18 people. In the center is a chalkboard calendar filled with local events, enticing customers to return for Hump Day specials ($1.00 off pints on Wednesdays) or local beer tastings in the area. The main reason for the lack of seating is to accommodate the massive tanks in the back storage area, which houses two 300-gallon and two 450-gallon tanks.

Due to the small size of the brewery, Packinghouse is not capable of producing a vast number of beers on a constant basis. They instead focus on a small number of simple beers they can make year-round with the occasional experimental beer or beer series. The whiteboard behind the main counter lists all the available beers on tap along with the prices for tasters, pints and growler fills. (There was even one for water, coming in at 0.0 ABV.)

I had gotten a flight of the five available beers, all lined up on a paddle ranging from the lightest in color to the darkest. This is usually the best and easiest arrangement to approach a beer flight, as you can clearly see which beer is which. The first beer was the Bell Tower Blonde; a very light-yellow brew that clocked in at 5.3 ABV. It had a very light feel to it and was very clean and crisp, and overall quite refreshing. The Heritage Pale Ale was slightly stronger at 5.6 ABV, and had more of a golden hue. There were clear hop notes in the aroma but nothing overwhelming; the beer had a light, slightly dry hoppy taste. Next was the Riley’s Irish Red, which had a deep amber color and also came in at a 5.3 ABV. The red ale gave off a sweet malty smell that followed through on the taste as well. However, the beer seemed a bit flat, lacking in carbonation. My favorite beer of the bunch was definitely the Black Beauty Cream Stout, at 5.1 ABV. Like all stouts, it was reminiscent of coffee both in color and in its aroma. It had a rich and full body but was not too heavy, leaving just a slight bitter taste in the mouth. Lastly, the Ol’ Smudge Pot, a barley wine, was unquestionably the strongest of the bunch, coming in at 8.1 ABV. It had a light amber color with a slightly sweet aroma to it. However, it had a light feel for a stronger beer and had sweet fruity notes, similar to most barley wines. There is normally an IPA also available on tap, but at the time of my visit, it had not been kegged yet.

The selection of beers available on tap is varied enough to appeal to the average beer drinker, as well as to someone who considers themselves more of a connoisseur. The more original beers, such as the cream stout and barley wine, seem to be the better choices for microbreweries such as Packinghouse. In the future they will be releasing their IPA as well as new additions to their Greek series — an experimental IPA series, the most recent of which being the Pi IPA. Packinghouse Brewing Company is an excellent addition to the Riverside craft brewery scene and is brimming with potential. It will be interesting to see where Packinghouse goes and what will pop up next in Riverside.

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