It could be difficult to imagine for the Bendites (and their dogs) who pack around the bonfire pit every weekend on Galveston Avenue, but 10 Barrel Brewing Company has become a brewery with a national presence, one that even rivals Deschutes in spots. This is thanks to two things: An A-B InBev-affiliated distribution market that takes Joe and Pray for Snow as far as Boston, and a series of brewpub launches in what can only be described as rock star locations.
After opening new taprooms in Boise, Idaho, and Portland, over the past few years, 10 Barrel is poised to expand its real estate presence across the western United States. The grand opening for the Denver location was in late January, and a new spot in the East Village area of San Diego is set to launch any day now, despite some initial opposition from local brewers questioning InBev's brewery/distributor acquisition strategy.
The Denver brewpub is in the middle of the River North neighborhood, one undergoing what can only be described as late-state gentrification. A former derelict warehouse district east of Coors Field, RiNo is now home to luxury apartments, trendy bars and about a dozen craft beer and cider makers. These run the gamut from holes-in-the-wall such as Black Shirt and Beryl's to large production facilities including Great Divide and Epic Brewing. Even Blue Moon, the sort-of-craft label owned by Coors, operates a large tasting room here, with 24 taps of surprisingly fine beer made on-site.
So what can 10 Barrel offer to this neighborhood that nobody else can? A killer location, for one. The 8,000-square-foot building it's in puts the 20-barrel brewing system front and center behind the bar, making visitors feel like they're practically taking their pints right from the tanks. Tables and bar space ring this system, and a stairway snakes up to the rooftop, where (like in the Portland joint) there's a second bar and some excellent views of the city skyline.
The beer is certainly up to snuff, too. Joe and S1NIST0R are available, of course, but locally-made beers—created by Kay Witkiewicz, formerly of Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder—are starting to appear on the menu. Kay's first beer was Secret Sauce, a fine, citrus-y IPA, but he's been rocking the boat with some of his latest stuff, including the Riding Tandem imperial IPA and Riled Oats, a 3.8 percent oatmeal pale ale that tastes great on nitro. (Ben Shirley, a veteran at 10 Barrel's Bend facility, will serve as brewmaster in San Diego.)
Can Kay and the rest of the team wow the locals in one of the few states crazier about beer than Oregon? So far, they seem to be making all the right moves.