I was unfamiliar with Rivertown Brewery and Barrel House in Monroe when we stopped in for dinner recently.
With no prior expectations, I sauntered in to the 4,000-square-foot dining room with sweeping views into the brewing area. It was clear immediately that this was a place that was serious about its beer. The $6 million facility that opened in early 2017 is spacious, open, industrial and pays proper respect to the beer it makes.
Happily, we found out that this is a place that is just as serious about its food.
Not only does Rivertown Brewery and Barrel House have a great menu highlighting the hickory slow-smoked BBQ it prides itself on, but it has a nice selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly items as well as gluten-free dishes that don’t feel like an afterthought. They have a great big patio to enjoy when the weather is choosing to cooperate.
You can have a BrewCity sausage or a BrewCity vegan sausage ($9 at lunch) made with one of a rotating selection of Rivertown beers topped with sauerkraut.
They have dishes severed up in cast-iron skillets — you can have one with all the meats like the death-injected bull ($12) featuring two over-easy eggs served on a heap of brisket on top of potatoes, greens, house-crafted beer gravy and smoky Gouda. Or you can have the hot veg ($11), a gardener’s delight featuring fire-roasted peppers, green peppers, onion, broccoli and tomatoes sautéed together with fresh garlic on top of crisp potatoes and topped with housemade beer cheese.
They have a vegan-friendly smoke BBQ jackfruit ($14) or a pick-your-own-meat plate (two meats for $17 or three for $20). The brisket and the turkey breast were savory, succulent and fork tender.
It’s mostly bar food — burgers, fish and chips, street tacos, flatbreads, salads, and all that BBQ, but the quality and execution are better than the norm. Even the sides aimed to please. A smoked mac and cheese ($5) was deeply satisfying, the Italian Greens simmered and sautéed with chopped garlic and red peppers ($5) were zingy and packed a little heat, the cheesy grits ($4) were a hit and the sweet apple slaw ($4) was a nice crisp twist on an old standard.
They feature 30 taps with 10 reserved for creations from other breweries. In addition to the award-winning craft beers Rivertown Brewery and Barrel House serves, they also offer wine as well as cocktails with spirits from StillWrights Distillery in Fairborn and Watershed Distillery in Columbus.
In addition to a full selection of sodas, the housemade root beer ($3) is worth trying.
Rivertown Brewery creations are currently distributed in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia. Consider a flight of beers to learn more about what they offer.
Here’s what they have to say about themselves on their website: “Rivertown is part brewery, part lab exBEERiment, part gathering place, and part smokehouse, where research, innovation, quality and customer exBEERience are at the top of our priorities. We enjoy perfecting the science behind calculated fermentations and slow-smoked BBQ while also getting our funk on with unique BBQ applications and fermentations of the spontaneous and wild kind. We especially love the opportunity to wow our customers, guests, wholesalers and retailers with an exceptional exBEERience at every interaction, whether it be conversation, sip or bite.”
I’m glad to have happened on this place. It’s an interesting spot that’s not too far away — an exBEERience, indeed.
How to go
What: Rivertown Brewery and Barrel House
Where: 6550 Hamilton Lebanon Road, Monroe
Hours: The Barrel House offer a special lunch menu in addition to the full menu 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays (the kitchen closes at 11 p.m.) and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.
More information: rivertownbrewery.com or 513-402-7135
To-go orders: 513-360-7839
Tours: Tours of the brewery can be booked online and usually last 30-45 minutes.
Arcade games: It's "free play all day" on the old-school arcade consoles, so if you are waiting on a table, grab a beer and get to playing.
Weekly specials: Each day of the week has specials, Mondays are chimichangas, Tuesdays are tacos, Wednesdays are split wings, Thursdays are flatbread, Fridays are French dips, there are wontons of the week and happy hour runs 2-6 p.m. Sunday through Thursdays.
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