21 and Over Club: Inland Empire Brewing Company

Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER
Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER

The craft beer industry expansion in Riverside has created an excellent selection of craft breweries for both the drinking novice and the drinking expert. The Inland Empire Brewing Co. has been serving quality beer to the Riverside community for the past five years. And in that time, Inland Empire Brewing Co. has been expanding both in reach and scale. Inland Empire Brewing Co. is one of the older breweries in the Riverside community, located off the 215 freeway on the corner of Cadena Drive and Palmyrita Avenue in a simple industrial business complex.

Upon entering the location, the bar itself is simple, with beer memorabilia on the walls and two chalk boards to select the brews from. One is used to show the year-round beers available on tap with the other reserved for seasonal selections as well as upcoming events or beers. The brew master, Paul Murphy, graciously offered to show me around the facilities and explain their brewing process. The whole interior includes the bar, a small seating area, the beer production room and a games and storage room. The limited seating available places people around massive barrels, all of which at one time or another actually contained beer — it is possible that the beer in the glasses had once aged in those empty barrels. There are even more barrels in the game and storage room — the various beers there just waiting to be opened and quench the thirst of patrons as they play darts, beer pong and foosball. The brewing room is filled with five massive 15 BBL fermenters, which have the capacity to pump out over 2,300 gallons of beer, or roughly 155 full-sized kegs.

Inland Empire Brewing Co. keeps six beers on tap year-round as well as a small rotation of seasonal brews that normally rotate every few months. The year-round beers are the Habsburg Hefeweizen, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Pepin “The Short” Porter, IPA and lastly, Victoria (American Strong Ale). The Hefeweizen, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter and IPA are fairly standard — not much different from most beers in those categories. The Victoria would be the most distinct selection, sitting in at a hefty 11 percent ABV. The brew is a deep murky orange brown color, with subtle hints of citrus in the aroma. The alcohol is very noticeable at these levels and thus the taste is quite intense. The bitterness is also higher than expected but the subtle notes of orange help balance it out, creating a very good beer overall.

The more distinctive beers from Inland Empire Brewing Co. come from its seasonal selection board, which currently features the Berliner Weisse and the Double IPA. The Berliner Weisse (5.2 percent) is essentially the Habsburg Hefeweizen but with an interesting twist: It is a sour beer. Sour beers are made using a combination of different bacteria that end up creating the unique taste that is similar to eating tart fruit (sour beers are pretty rare to find; I highly recommend trying one of them at least once.) The beer itself has a very light, pale yellow color that is somewhat reminiscent of champagne. It has a distinct and delicate sour taste that refreshes rather than overwhelm.

The Double IPA was also another great beer from Inland Empire Brewing Co., striking an excellent balance between bitterness and sweetness. A Double IPA is essentially what it sounds like: taking an IPA and doubling it, which usually means more hops and a higher ABV. In the case of the Inland Empire Double IPA, which sits at 10 percent ABV (average for beers of this kind), those extra hops really come through. The Double has a light amber color but is slightly darker than a conventional IPA.

Inland Empire Brewing Co. also has plenty of new brews and events already on the calendar. The first Saturday of the month is Beer and Bands, an event with local bands playing and Inland Empire Brewing Co. supplying the beer. For Cinco de Mayo they will be releasing two themed beers to celebrate the day: a mole imperial stout and a limeweizen (a hefeweizen made with lime). And soon another sour beer will also be added to the selection of beers, but this one, named the Headsplitter, is meant to be much more intense than the current offerings.

Inland Empire Brewing Co. is an excellent brewery with a fantastic selection of beers for both casual drinkers and for those looking for something different. The seasonal rotation of beers is the best reason to keep visiting and see what is new on tap. The beer, upcoming events and the friendly staff are all excellent and compelling reasons to go check out Inland Empire Brewing Co. and keep going back. It makes an exceptional addition to the Riverside craft brew industry and I can’t wait to go back and see what they will have on tap next.

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