“Our [beer] selection isn’t the biggest, but what’s on our list is curated to suit the season’s, space, menu, and our moods, and will continuously evolve. We’re pouring some beers that you can’t find anywhere else, but we’re also pouring a lot of stuff that you know and love,” says Jess Willis, Director of Operations at River Bar, who prefers bypassing the term “beer program” when talking about the stacked suds collection.
While the bar is rigged with just four spigots, it’s outfitted with some of the best local staples—currently Notch Session Pils, Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA, and Mystic Saison—and will change every 4-6 weeks. The fourth tap is dedicated to a rotating Smuttlabs selection from Portsmouth’s Smuttynose, which Willis promises will always be “one fun and really exciting beer.” There’s also a smartly stocked lineup of bottles and cans (count: 30) that highlights local beer (think: Mayflower Porter, Cisco Grey Lady), and excellent Belgian (De La Senne Taras Boulba) and Scandinavian (HaandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood) offerings, which Willis says are both appropriate for drinking by the fire pits outside and along the Mystic River. Many of these are one-offs or limited releases, and will ultimately be swapped with something equally rare and delicious.
Willis calls this her “dream list,” which she put together, by first focusing on her beloveds, then paring it down to minimize redundancy. She notes that it was a must having Pretty Things and Mystic on draft, and Evil Twin Femme Fatale Yuzu in aluminum cans. Willis then organized the menu by style with the goal of including what she thinks are the best interpretations of each variety.
“I think it’s important to have a thoughtful beer selection. Our indoor space is tiny so we are really limited. The list needs to be more focused, so each beer is on the list for a reason,” says Willis. “I don’t think you need to have a ton of beer in order to have a great beer list. You just need to put a lot of thought into what you’re doing,” she says.
River Bar is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 1am, and on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 1am.
RIVER BAR. 661 ASSEMBLY ROW, SOMERVILLE. 617-616-5561.