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River Ale - Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.

Not Rated.
River AleRiver Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

121 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 121
Hads: 224
Avg: 3.93
pDev: 9.67%
Wants: 56
Gots: 12 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Berkshire Brewing Company Inc. visit their website
Massachusetts, United States

Style | ABV
American Dark Wheat Ale |  7.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 11-13-2002

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 121 | Hads: 224
Photo of GWaters
4.77/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served on Tap
Mohawk Park in Charlemont, MA

If you love sweet malty ales, this is a must! Truly Exceptional.

Pour: Pours the color of dark gingerbread with a slight head, but ample lacing. Sticks to the glass like a thin liqueur.

Smell: Sweet, sweet buttery malt with lower notes of caramel and moss. Heavenly, and very inviting.

Taste: A sweet roasted malt throughout. Smooth layers of caramel and cashew are mixed in. Hops punch through the buttery sweetness in spots. Darn near perfect for the style.

Mouthfeel: Opens with a soft coating of some sweet nectar to coat the mouth. Thins out quickly and rolls of the tongue seductively to leave a smooth happiness behind.

Drinkability: Rarely do I lose track of the number of beers I have in a pub, but I can't tell you how many I had one night. I can tell you this beer will let yo uknow the next day. It is a very easy to drink beer, and will invite you to another everytime.

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Photo of dbalsock
4.54/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

App: Pours a great dark amber hue with an off white head. There's good head retention, minimal lacing.

Smell: Cramel with bready notes. It's a very malty beer, but everything balances well with no harsh dark malts. There's a low hop aroma.

Taste: Molasses comes out on the tounge with a a subtle hop aftertaste that mixes with the essence of alcohol well. Other flavors are biscuit and caramel.

Mouthfeel: Crisp, sweet and medium bodied. The most important part is the crisp for me. Because it's a very malty beer, the crispness gives an incredible balance to it.

Drinkability: This is the best strong ale I've had yet, largely due to the lack of over powering bittering hops and dark malts.

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Photo of abgba121
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Light brown with about an inch of white head that recedes slowly and leaves a light lacing over the top of the entire brew.

S: wheat and sweet, reminds of toffee

T: A sweet beer, but well balanced with the hop additions, which leave a good crisp finish. Very tasty.

M: Medium body and good carbonation, easy to drink.

O: I was pleasantly surprised by this dark wheat, a great job by BBC and at a great price of 3.99 a bomber. I will surely have more of these.

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Photo of Brad007
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown color with a very, very thin head if any. Aroma is nice and malty upfront. Taste is much of the same except there's a nice raisin/currant taste upfront. A second sip confirms a bold maltiness that dances on the tongue (fancy words but it's true). Aftertaste has a lot of raisin and malt and not a lot of bitterness to be found.

It's definitely strong but not in the sense that I expected. It reminds me of Arrogant Bastard but with the exception that there's a different character to it. The alcohol is never too overwhelming and allows the other flavors to come through.

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Photo of bbeerman
4.47/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A..Nice amber hue on the pour. Decent head.

S..Above average malt notes.

T..Malty. Syrupy caramel flavors. Slight chocolate, though faint. Almost a smoked flavor near the end (but only on some sips I found). Quite tasty.

M..Medium bodied despite the 7% ABV.

O..Very excellent beer overall. Really enjoyed this much more than I was expecting and look forward to getting another round of bombers in the near future.

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Photo of indiapaleale
4.47/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

BBC's River Ale has always sort of confused me as to which style it is but now I see it falls into that rather ambiguos "American Strong Ale" category...

Pours a very nice dark auburn with a nice, tight creamy white head that clings to the glass very well.

Smell is sweet caramel, honey, lots o malt, bread dough and a bit of alcohol. Lots of good smells drawing me in...

Tastes extremely toasty, roasty, biscuity, malty, caramely and delicious! Lots of sweet honey and brown sugar combine well with that hint of alcohol warming. Such a great beer that is very straightforward and simple.

Super smooth and easy drinking, wow I am easily going to polish off this bomber myself...especially since they don't sell this any other way.

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Photo of russpowell
4.45/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Cheers to ppotrias for this one!

Pours a semi-hazed orange/caramel with 3 fingers of cream colored head. Above average head retention & lacing

S: Caramel & biscutty malt

T: Caramel, herbal & lemon hops, plus biscuitty malt up front. Nice fruittyness (plums, figs, cherries & other dark fruit) & intense cakeyness with Christmas pudding notes, plus toffee once warm. Finishes with some vanilla, some dryness, & loads more dark fruit & a touch of leafy hops

MF: Chewy with low, but useful carbonation. Superior balance. with a great malt backbone

Despite the heft, this dangerously drinkable. Don't cross the river if you cant swim the tide! Luckily I'm an alright swimmer, stellar strong ale!

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Photo of davey101
4.45/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber poured into a tall pilsner glass. Never heard of this beer style before, and I was a bit shocked to see that it was the #1 beer under the style. It says its similar to a dunkel weisse, I'm soldl!

A - Deep brownish red. A good sized white head formed that is still sitting high ten minutes later. This beer looks perfect in this glass.

S - Sweet malts and a certain honey/candy quality. There is a bit of faint hops in there as well. Really great aromas.

T - Sweet malts. I hate to copy the aroma, but there is just this great honey sweetness to it. The hops leave a nice little bitterness in the end that balances out the sweetness. Smooth carbonation and medium mouth feel. 7% abv? Ya right!

O - This is my first american dark wheat ale and I'm in love. I was gonna either grab this or the coffee house porter which I've had numerous times. I made the right decision. BBC is a real gem of a brewery. Always amazingly fresh and well crafted beers, and I can find bombers everywhere for under $4. Seek this out!!

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.44/5  rDev +13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bomber into pint glass

Appearance – Pours a slightly hazy brown color with a two finger off white head. The head had great retention, but eventually faded to give a nice level of lacing.

Smell – The aroma is heaviest of a sweet wheat smell. The wheat is of a bready nature with the sweet being of caramel and some dark fruits. Mixed with these aromas are some lighter notes of a roasted malt and a very light citrus nature. Overall quite nice.

Taste – The taste begins sweet and roasty with a nice wheat flavor mixed within. The sweet at the front is of a caramel nature, but as the taste goes on some brown sugar and a very light citrus hop come to the tongue. As the taste advances further a subtle boozy flavor comes to the tongue. It overall creates a very nice slightly warming sweet bready aftertaste on the tongue.

Mouthfeel- The body of the beer is on the medium to just above medium side with the carbonation level being on the average side. The body is very nice for the sweeter bready flavors and really allows the boozy flavors to warm the mouth.

Overall – A great sweeter brew. Wonderful flavors and a great warming feel. Fantastic!!

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Photo of sommersb
4.42/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Tasted On: 01-31-2013
Freshness: Not indicated
Packaging: 22 oz. brown bottle, pry-cap
Glassware: Weizen glass
Purchased: Received in a trade

Reviewing my first in this rare style...

Pours with a huge off-white head, showing excellent lacing and very good head retention. Beer is mostly clear and dark amber in color.

Aromas are very pleasing, with a malty, sweet start, plus typical wheat yeast smells of cloves and bananas. Also has a bready and caramel character from the malts.

The taste is in line with the nose -- sweet and malty with caramel, fruit and spicy flavors. The earthy hops lend a low bitterness. Also has some nutty tastes.

Mouthfeel has a medium body with a moderate amount of carbonation. The finish is smooth, malty and sweet, but in balance.

Overall, this is an exceptional beer that I'm glad I had the opportunity to try. Highly recommended

Thanks to davey101 for this one!

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Photo of Hibernator
4.4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Berkshire Brewing Company River Ale
22 oz brown bottle
The freshness date is not notched on the side label
Served in a 20 oz tulip pint glass

Pours a hazy and murky brown with orange highlights on the bottom of the glass. Decent head on top, but the sticky, webbed lacings are worth noting.

Pleasant aroma of caramel malts and fruity pear notes. Mild hop whiffs with a touch of butter cream.

This is a very tasty brew and better than one might expect. Sweet brown sugar, caramel malts and toasted grain flavor. Slight orange fruitiness on the finish. The mouthfeel is incredibly soft and round. The drinkability level is exceptional. Nicely balanced and the carbonation level is modest. This beer goes down so easy and it's very deceiving at 7.0%. I have yet to be let down by a BBC product.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a mug glass.

A: The beer is a bright reddish brown color with a short off-white head that fades at a decent rate and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is a well-blended combination of creamy chocolate, dark fruit, roasted malt and a good amount of hops.

T: The malty taste starts out with the same creamy chocolate flavor that you get in the smell, but it’s not overdone. Following up are light but complimentary flavors of dark fruit, some spice and a mild hops presence. The after-taste is slightly sweet. Despite being an ale, this one tastes a lot like a Dopplebock.

M: Crisp and very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, slightly sticky finish.

D: Very tasty, goes down quite easily, slightly filling but there’s no trace of the 7.00% ABV. I had wanted to try this beer for a while and then had it at a tasting about a month ago. Even after the tasting, I wasn’t quite sure how much I would like it, but I gave BBC the benefit of the doubt because they haven’t steered me wrong yet. It was a wise decision, because I liked this beer a lot.

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Photo of KelsoSaaz
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into Weizen glass

A: Mud brown to dark translucent copper with a tan 2 finger head. Leaves all around lacing.

S: Sweet and bready malts; chocolate, caramel and nutty aromas.

T: Fantastic malt flavors: toasty grains, fresh bread, sweet malts. Hints of caramel and hints of chocolate. Very subtle hop presence that present earthy and ever so slightly bitter tones. Possibly some dark fruity tones in the finish.

M: Viscous body with mild carbonation.

A: Definitely a brew for a malt aficionado. River Ale is super tasty and fairly unique, certainly worth trying when you can find it. River Ale is a year-round brew for BBC, but I think it is an excellent beer for fall.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.37/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Been a challenge lately to get through anything new, but I decided to let my family have a crack at a few things this weekend and pulled a sample off of each. Part of the " Random BBQ Event" at my in laws on 07/19/2009.
Appearance - Solid brown color here with only the slightest bit of reddish touches around the sides. Very smooth looking head of tan pops up on top and settles down nicely into a fine pillow. Rich side lacing and a good lacing keep up the impression that this was what I was looking for.
Smell - Lots of nuttiness going on here. Caramel, grassy notes, hints of nuts and bready aromas all coming together. Sweet and dark at the same time. Hints of some prunes perhaps, maybe a touch of grass in there as well, definitely had a kitchen sink mentality to it.
Taste - Smooth, soo smooth. Caramel comes across first, rippling and inviting all at the same time. Then it comes knocking at my door with a roasted peanut like flavor that dives with a hint of molasses. Very sweet. A bitter note pops it head up, piney maybe? Interesting, as it fades and leaves behind a nice touch of fruit and a really solid sweet flavor that continues to tug on your taste buds as it floats away.
Feel - Very nice here, creamy medium feel on this one. Carbonation was damn near spot on and the rich Mouthfeel was just what I was looking for. Coating as it allowed the taste to flow nearly perfectly.
Drinkability - It was a touch strong I do have to admit, but it was well hidden behind the copious malts that were laid down in front of it. I could have done the whole bottle by myself, but there was really no need to.
Overall - Again another very solid offering here and a really nice way to cap off the Berkshire session. I am very impressed with what they have to offer and would gladly do this one again.

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Photo of gfreed
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another excellent choice from BCB. This one is about two shades darker than their APA, being somewhat ruby-colored when held up to a light, with a decent tan head. The head lets go a lovely bouquet of malty caramel and even a little alcohol, but also some nice dark tones of toffee and fruit. This is one of those beers I want to smell as much as drink. The malt is front and center with this one, but you'll find that the hops gives a subtle whack as you swallow. The 7.0% ABV gives it some warmth, but the alcohol remains in the background. As with many BCB beers, the carbonation is relatively low so the overall feel is smooth, making the beer highly drinkable. Worth going out of your way to find and, as always, it's extremely affordable. Buy two.

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Photo of BostonHops
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber in a pilsner glass.
served two months from best by date.

pours a translucent, dark amber tone while yielding a finger and a half of a creamy/foamy beige head. decent retention and lacing; overall a beautiful looking beer. nose is appetizing. very wheaty with a big sweet malty presence to it.

taste is exceeds the nose. bold notes of wheat, caramel, brown sugar, and a underlying fruitiness i can quite pin down. pretty damn fantastic. medium bodied mouthfeel with average carbonation.

overall, a real pleasant surprise. did not expect to enjoy this beer as much as i am. ordinarily not a style i seek out, but this is just really flavorful and tasty. hands down my favorite offering to date from berkshire, a somewhat under-the-radar local brewery that continues to impress me.

(originally reviewed: 07-19-2011)

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Photo of perrymarcus
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber served in a pilsner glass.
best by date 10/13/11. (year is a bit smudged, at least i think/hope that's an "11")

pours a translucent, dark amber tone while yielding a finger and a half of a creamy/foamy beige head. decent retention and lacing; overall a beautiful looking beer.

nose is appetizing. very wheaty with a big sweet malty presence to it.

taste is exceeds the nose. bold notes of wheat, caramel, brown sugar, and a underlying fruitiness i can quite pin down. pretty damn fantastic. medium bodied mouthfeel with average carbonation.

overall, a real pleasant surprise. did not expect to enjoy this beer as much as i am. just really flavorful and tasty. hands down my favorite offering to date from berkshire.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.32/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber into a Duvel tulip. The #1-rated American Dark Wheat Ale - one more best-of-style tick down, far too many to go.

A: Clear dark caramel body under two fingers of dense tan foam. Good retention, decent lace. Very good.

S: Breadiness is the first thing I notice, resembling a well-toasted multi-grain bagel. As my nose dips deeper into the glass, I'm met with some major hop notes - lots of earth and spice. Tangy wheat finally shows up on the back end. Quite complex, thoroughly enjoyable, and definitely to style.

T: Follows the nose quite precisely. Nutty, bready malts are up front, spicy wheat and hops show up a bit later, and it ends with a clean, spicy, mildly bitter finish. Slight chalky minerality on the aftertaste. The sweet/spicy/bitter combination of disparate flavors is really pleasant, but the aftertaste is a bit oppressive. Quite good overall, though.

M: Soft, luxurious, creamy medium body. Perfect.

O: Every other beer of this style I've had has been god awful. This is really tasty - it really is like a Weizenbock done with American ale yeast. Great stuff.


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Photo of snowmageddon
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%

Pours a foggy caramel color with a head that recedes quickly. Leaves nice lacing as it goes. On the nose, you can detect honey, biscuit, clove, hay. On my first sip, im hit with honey, toffee, caramel, straw, some banana, clove, raisins. The willamette hops provide a long, earthy hop finish. The mouthfeel is light, with moderate/low carbonation. This is very drinkable with some great notes perfect for a chilly fall day.

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Photo of SeussMD
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

i have liked just about everything BBC has put out. And my brother-in-law spoke highly of this beer. So it already had quite a bit going for it. But you can't write about beer you never drank. Let's open this 22 oz. bomber and address that problem.

Poured into: A Yuengling pint glass. Whatever you might think of the beer, Yuengling's label KICKS ASS. Classy script lettering and a BAMF bald eagle (really, is there any other kind?) with a barrel of beer. Timeless.

Appearance: good 1 1/2-inch head receedes to about a half inch. A lovely golden brown, the color of the crust of a freshly-baked loaf of bread, with a yellowish-creamy offwhite head. Very interesting.

Smell: Wheat. Surprise! And honey and caramel.

Taste: Lovely malt sweetness. Wheat bread, and a slight hint of the Willamette hops. A little touch of biscuit. And yet with a crisp finish. Quite tasty. I don't recall any other beer this sweet tasting this good.

Mouthfeel: fairly well carbonated, nice dryness, both of which offset the sweet malted character.

Overall: It's like drinking a loaf of delicious home-baked bread. And who doesn't love home-baked bread? OK, except for people with gluten issues, who doesn't love home-baked bread? Another winner for the folks at BBC. Big ups to Western Mass!

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Photo of tgbljb
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a hazy deep copper color with massive white foamy head. Good retention and perfect lacing.
Smell is a bit mild with some mild dark fruitiness present.
Taste is superb. There is a strong dark fruit malt presence. At the back end a mild bitterness does a perfect balancing act.
Finish is sweet and very refreshing.
What a surprise when I found out this beer was 7%. So easy to drink it is scary.

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Photo of Celtics76
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up as a pre-dinner drink. Drank it while grilling a whisky-pepper pork tenderloin on the grill.

Pours a nice clear copper with a half inch of bubbly head that reduces quickly. Nice aroma here - sweet caramel. Quite tasty - caramel flavor hits the tongue and eventually gives way to a bready, crisp wheat finish with mild alcohol detection. Lightly carbonated with a good spicy, somewhat herbal kick. Perhaps due to the Willamette hops, as stated on the label. Overall a mild hop profile.

I've had this a few times and I must say it's one of the most unique brews I've had. Flavorful and highly drinkable. The only other American style dark wheat ale I've had was Mayflower's, and that one doesn't touch this.

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Photo of brentk56
4.26/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Arrives at the bar with a cloudy ice tea brown color and a loong-lasting head that provides decent lacing

Smell: Modest caramel and chocolate with a fruity peach element

Taste: Caramel and milk chocolate up front with fruity flavors arriving mid-palate; a really interesting finish with herbal bitterness, banana and chocolate

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with soft carbonation

Drinkability: Rich with deep fruity flavors and a complex finish - excellent

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Photo of thespaceman
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful dark copper, minimal head size but excellent lacing down the glass. Lots of bubbles flowing up the glass.

Smell: Toasty, bread like aromas fill the nose, a caramel and toffee exchange pair nicely through the malt. Very roasting and inviting, hints of vanilla and spiciness slam the palate in the finish.

Taste: Chocolate malt plays a huge roll up front, very milkshake like flavor follows a huge dose of alcohol and dark esters, a bit of espresso bean is faint but dried out from the sweetness of the crystal malts and sugar. Big bodied taste for such a sweet tasting brew.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, rich and robust.. Medium bodied, a bit dry yet balanced on the tongue and sweet to the feel.

Drinkability: C'mon .. At 3.99 a bottle this is such a good beer to be such a good price. This is what a strong ale should be like, malty, nice mouthfeel, big ABV and a good price. Highly recommened!

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Photo of 2014LM2X1
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

Berkshire Brewing was the first craft brewer that I fell in love with. I started out on Steel Rail and went through all of their flavors, including River Ale, in quick succession. That was three years ago; since then, I have been branching out to a number of different breweries.

I revisited Berkshire's Coffeehouse Porter recently, and it was slightly disappointing. Fortunately, I can't say the same for River Ale. I am glad I picked up a bomber on my way home.

The best way I can describe River Ale is this: try it alongside Trappistes Rochefort 10, St. Bernardus 12, and Westy 12. Other than the higher alcohol burn of the latter three, I find the tastes are very similar. I actually don't favor Belgian ales, so I prefer River Ale to the big-name Belgian quads. River Ale doesn't focus on the yeast flavors like the Trappist quads; instead, its more balanced nature allows the sweetness of the malts to shine through.

For $5.00 per bomber, I'd say this is the best value that Berkshire offers. I would highly recommend trying it. And, just for kicks, I would also recommend a blind taste test against some of the more famous Trappist ales - the results might be surprising!

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River Ale from Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.
88 out of 100 based on 121 ratings.