Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 07:56 am.
Whenever I’m exploring a town in Missouri, I always make a point to look up any craft breweries that are nearby. So, during a recent trip to St. Joseph to visit the Pony Express National Museum and Jesse James Home Museum, I was excited to visit the biggest St. Joseph brewery; River Bluff.
St. Joseph is one of the most popular destinations in Missouri for history buffs; there are many great historic spots as well as new places to visit in town. One of the locations in St. Joseph you shouldn’t miss is River Bluff Brewing.
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River Bluff Brewing Review
About 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City you will find the unique and memorable River Bluff Brewery in the quaint town of Saint Joseph.
St. Joseph is home to some great beer, as well as some interesting local history. This city has an abundance of Americana stories and a dark side as well.
St. Joseph is where the famous outlaw Jesse James was murdered in 1882 by Bob Ford, where Pony Express riders left from in 1860 and the hometown of Walter Cronkite (to name just a few things that make St. Joseph worth a visit).
Pour yourself a beer and let me tell you more.
winning awards and setting the bar
River Bluff Brewing is winning awards and gaining momentum in the Missouri beer world. Proud holders of a 2019 Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal, River Bluff is a craft brewery that’s setting new standards for beer making.
Old style beers made by modern gold rush tradesmen is how they describe their attitude towards beer making at River Bluff.
Mixing the highest quality hops and malt, they are passionate beer brewing explorers. They are on a quest to make and create Missouri’s liquid gold; just one of the things that make River bluff unique.
During my visit to River Bluff Brewing, we met with co-founder Eddie Deer. He had lots to share about the history of their St Joseph brewery location and their beer-making process. Along with his partners, they have built the town’s favorite brewery hangout.
River Bluff Brewing Location & History
The history of River Bluff Brewing is almost as interesting as their roster of beers. The building is on the national register of historic places and is the previous home of two pre-prohibition breweries.
Eddie shared that in 1851 one of the previous brewery building owners was murdered. To be clear, it wasn’t at the building location, but it’s still a bit sinister! It’s clear that during the 1800’s, this town saw its share of bad guys and hardships.
In 2018, Eddie, along with co-founder Chris Lanman, began renovating the 1800’s pre-prohibition building which had been abandoned for 19 years.
Because of the buildings brewing history, it was a perfect location to resurrect a new brewery. With the help of family, friends, and other local businesses, a dream of creating the best beer and brewery in town was in motion.
Today, the brewery is a modern yet nostalgic space.
River Bluff prides itself on the fact that they are the first craft brewery with a taproom in current times in St Joseph.
River Bluff Brewing
Conveniently located in the middle of town, the tasting room is a local favorite and offers beer, wine, cider, and a few gluten-reduced beers.
Eddie spent an hour showing us the space; the main beer hall, production area, refrigeration space, outdoor patio, and upstairs event space. It was a lot of square footage to cover and it made me thirsty.
The entrance leads to the main beer hall with a bar and plenty of tables and areas to hang out with your friends.
From the time you walk in, it’s very evident there is a cool local vibe and a real homey feel to the brewery. It’s pretty evident this is a fun place to hang out.
From the main beer hall, there is a second large space filled with pinball machines and more tables for drinking and games.
They also have a nice but small back patio area, if you want to be outside.
River Bluff has an upstairs private space you can rent. It’s spacious and has separate rooms if you need them. This area is great for small parties and events.
The layout of the brewery is open and spacious, and they make full use of all the square footage.
Starting a Legacy of Beer and Friendships
Everywhere you go in the tasting room, you’ll see a piece of old-style architecture, art, or artifacts. They really try to repurpose everything here. From driftwood found floating down the river made into tap handles to photos and local memorabilia decorating the walls. There is a uniqueness about the space and layout.
Chris, Eddie and Joel; the owners did most of the design themselves. They even used reclaimed wood from the local bread company and used their wooden pallets to make the tables in the pinball area.
The doorway near the entrance is from the old Pioneer Theater in town. Every vintage picture on the wall has a story that helps tell the story and share the history of the town.
A building with history and stories
Eddie took us on a private tour of the basement and cellars as well. In the basement, there is a maze of hallways that date back to the 1800s.
Eddie explained that the building sits on pre-prohibition 1800s cellars that have many stories to tell.
The final wall we reached in the cellar, leads to a dark space that is underneath the building. This is obviously where they let off steam and have their staff meetings. haha!
eddie and his team
Chris and Eddie started River Bluff to create craft beer that would put this fine city of St Joseph on the beer-making map.
Co-founder, Chris Lanman was a homebrewer and rafting guide turned business developer before joining the team at this St Joseph brewery.
Other key members of the River Bluff brewing team are brewer extraordinaire Joel Cummings who is the sales manager at River Bluff and lead brewer Morgan Fetters who was previously at McCoy’s Public House & Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri.
Morgan holds a gold medal for his efforts from the Great American Beer Fest. Assisting Morgan with brewing is Jerry Porter who is a direct descendent of M.K. Goetz (who founded M. K. Goetz Brewing Co), so brewing is clearly in his blood.
Production & Beer and Making River Bluff Brewery
Adjacent to the space with the pinball machines is the production facility, which is open and viewable.
See their Double Barrel System in motion.
Approximately 10 tanks produce 12 different varieties of Missouri’s golden bliss. At River bluff, the bottling is all done by hand as well as other aspects that might be automated in a different facility of the same size.
The Beer Bluff is No Joke
Eddie says his beer is about patience and is a labor of love.
“The nuances and differences between beers as well as the consistencies can vary. The beer here is always drinkable and that’s the main thing that we strive for. We have a lot of fun but we’re serious about our beer-making” Eddie told me.
Top 4 Favorite River Bluff Beers
I like to rank my top few beers when I do brewery reviews. For River Bluff Brewing it was:
#1 SPEEDLINER IPA
This is an American IPA that is clean and drinkable. Unfiltered, with a reddish color; the taste is mostly citrus with not too much after taste. Lots of hop flavor but clean and crisp. According to Eddie, Speedliner is fast becoming the most popular beer at River Bluff.
COLOR: Darker Gold
CHARACTERISTICS: Lighter in color, fresh, golden, full body citrus
NOTES: Flavorful and fresh
#2 Sandy Dunes Belgian Ale
Sandy Dunes Belgian Ale is a light, bright and crisp thirst quencher. This beer is unique and has peppery, fruity, flavors and aromas. This is an unfiltered Belgian style ale that is rich and full bodied with a good bite to it.
STYLE: Pale ale Belgian
COLOR: Med dark. reddish
BODY: Full body
CHARACTERISTICS: robust, med dark color
NOTES: Bright and crisp
#3 AVENUE APA
The Avenue APA is a hoppy American Pale Ale you can enjoy all day. It’s called an APA because it’s an American Pale ale. With a lower alcohol content, this is a good drinking beer for a summer afternoon.
STYLE: Pale Ale
COLOR: Medium pale
CHARACTERISTICS: Slightly bigger bite than a normal IPA
NOTES: Good every day beer a regular favorite
The Beers on Tap
With 13 beers on tap plus cider, you have more than enough choices for one sitting or a weekly visit. A few of the most popular beers on tap are Sandy Dunes, Arrowhead Red and White Knuckle. Check out current selection of beers on tap.
GROWLER MONDAY: If you want to be part of the Club at River Bluff, Monday is the Growler specials day. Growler club members receive $5.00 off of any 64oz growler, new or refilled.
Tours are self-guided at River Bluff. Choose your favorite beer on tap and wander over to the brewing area. You can see the entire workings of the operation and check out their high standard of beer production.
Ask the locals at River Bluff about the brewery, they love to sit and talk about the history and the community.
River Bluff has reclaimed St. Joseph’s spot on the Missouri craft beer map. If you haven’t been to St. Joseph, make time and save the last stop for the best beer in town.
Beer Co Info
River Bluff does not serve food, but you can bring food to the brewery. They also have food trucks on occasion.
1224 Frederick Ave, St Joseph, MO 64501
Closes 10 PM
Phone: (816) 259-5339
Beyond the St. Joe location, River Bluff has a new location in River Market (in the Kansas City downtown area). This is a second location for Missouri beer lovers to explore.
Love beer? Check out the Rare Beer Club featuring hand-crafted, limited-release, artisanal beers from the world’s best brewers.