Black Shirt Brewing Co. has traditionally been known for two things: music and red ales. The music-themed taproom and backyard performance space have hosted dozens of music events, and their unique red base forms the foundation of all their beers, even styles not traditionally associated with being red. Located in RINO, Black Shirt makes a convenient stop on a pub crawl or when venturing in or out of the area, although it is slowly being dwarfed by the massive developments marching through the area.
BEER LINEUP: As mentioned above, all the beers use the same red base which makes for some interesting combinations – red saison anyone? While this would seem limiting, Black Shirt’s in-house beers cover a wide spectrum from a light Kolsch through a saison and some IPAs all the way to a porter. Because everything uses the same red base, all of Black Shirt’s beers have a certain hoppy/grassy flavor in varying levels which can be a love/hate thing depending on how you feel about that flavor profile. If it’s not your thing, they also serve rotating guest beers.
ATMOSPHERE: The taproom has great energy generated by the constant turnover of people stopping in for food and a couple beers on the way to or from other activities. The rather small, industrial-looking space is augmented by a recent expansion into the brewing area along with a small front patio and a large backyard with performance space for warm-weather concerts. Billing themselves as a music-centric brewery, Black Shirt hosts frequent shows and has decorated the taproom with music art and artifacts, plus a big-screen playing concert videos. Black Shirt also has a full kitchen that’s open relatively late (11 p.m. weekends).
SERVICE: The service was very quick, efficient and friendly, and the servers offered helpful information and recommendations on the food and beers. Given the relatively small space it almost seemed like they were overstaffed, which is a true rarity in my brewery experiences.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Tucked into the far edge of RINO near 38th & Walnut, Black Shirt seems to have caught the beginning of the redevelopment trend. The area has grown around the brewery and now hosts perpetual construction of large office buildings and apartments while various art galleries, restaurants, and entertainment venues pop up in many of the remaining old buildings. There’s enough to do in the area that Black Shirt can be part of an afternoon or evening stroll or pub crawl, or a quick stop on the way to or from some entertainment. Although quickly dwindling with the rampant construction, street parking is usually possible within a few blocks and the 38th & Blake A-Line rail stop behind the bar makes public transit a realistic option. Bike lanes also run on nearby streets.
STANDOUT BEER: Common Red Kolsch. The red base adds a bit of complexity and bite to the simplicity and crispness found in a standard kolsch, along with a bit more body and of course the red color.