The most unique place my wife and I sojourned on our April ’11 Susquehanna Valley journey was across a bridge from Bucknell University next to the banks of the Susquehanna in a portico villa backing up to a farm. To say Milton-based RIVER HOUSE BREWPUB is a veritable godsend is an understatement. Beautiful Italian statues bedeck the outside perimeter of the multi-sectional green-trimmed gray stucco building. Operating since March 2010, owner Larry Mancini’s excellent Italian cuisine complemented prime handcrafted beers by Bart Rieppel (formerly of Abbey Wright).
Formerly the Italian Terrace, River Houses’ flowered open patio, water fountain, banquet rooms, and fireplace dining are exquisite. We got seated at the rear section’s rectangular bar (with multi-TV’s and glass ceiling) and indulged in delightful antipasto and risotto pescatore (marinara-sauced seafood with tomato-rice). Brew tanks to the far right served a diverse cornucopia.
Starting with dry banana-cloved Highwater Hefeweizen, astringent honeycomb-sugared Street Light Wheat and caramelized gourd-like Suzy’s ESB (with fig-candied sugar plum wisp), I stepped it up a notch with crystal-malted, caramel-centered, fungi-bottomed Irish Red Ale, Buggy Town Red.
But these were merely appetizers to whet my thirst for dry blueberry-fronted, raspberry-soured, blackberry-ripened, cranberry-limed Blueberry Wheat as well as soft-focus Black Velvet Oatmeal Stout, an offbeat peculiarity placing black cherry, blackberry, and black licorice before expectant mocha malting (and ashen cigarette-charcoal bittering).
While Raging River India Black Ale efficiently blended dark chocolate into IPA-like hop-charred cherry-berry nuances, the creamier Alpha Deuce IPA lacquered cotton-candied apricot, pineapple, and mango to iodine-addled orange peel bittering perfectly.
Luckily, I was able to salvage the last drops of a superb Belgian-styled ale in a growler for the ride home. A robustly malt-creamed alcohol-smitten fruit snack, Hat Trick Tripel scored high with its candi-sugared banana liqueur sweetness, cotton-candied tropical fruiting, and sinewy Scotch whir.
Finally got to revisit capacious chateau once more during Sunday night dinner stopover in May ’13.
Alongside pub clams (topped with cannellini beans, pancetta, leeks and ham), enjoyed soft-toned Pumpkin Love, a gourd-dried moderation gathering tingly coriander-cinnamon spicing and perfumed hop sedation.
Shared excellent cheese ravioli (with lemon-juiced green pea cilantro-saucing and sun-dried tomato) with wife before moving on to two dessert beers.
Though lacking expectant Belgian candi-sugared spicing, medium-bodied Cherry Dubbel worked tart cherry puree into its honeyed wheat spine, picking up cranberry, raspberry and rhubarb undertones.
Tonight’s best bet, elegant Black Knight Bourbonov N2, a full-bodied slow-sipping Imperial Stout, brought torrential brown chocolate and vanilla swells to sweet cherry-backed bourbon whiskey warmth.