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MOUTHING OFF

Something's brewing: Civilization moved south last December, when Columbine Mill Brewery and Pizza opened at 5798 Rapp Street in Littleton. This renovated, century-old former grain mill now turns out five microbrews--a stout, a red, a light, a pale ale and a raspberry wheat--and serves Italian food and pizza. That's a combination easily explained by the ownership, two Italian couples--Patricia and Pasquale Girolama and Leo and Zina Lech--who have done a grand job of remodeling even though they've never before owned a restaurant, much less a microbrewery. The building, now a historic landmark, shut down milling operations about forty years ago and was the site of several earlier restaurant attempts, including Rapp Scallions and Professor Plum's. For the last few years, though, it's just been gathering dust.

Now it's gathering fans from the thirsty suburbs. I stopped in last week for a beer and got a kick out of the Jackass Stout (named for the hill a couple of miles away), a mildly sweet version that wasn't as full-bodied as many stouts. I was more impressed with the atmosphere, which is rustic and comfortable, and with a decor that includes old mill tools strewn about and a fully operational antique grain scale by the bar. If you look up into the eighty-foot tower, you can see an old truck lift hanging from the ceiling--which should give you an idea of how big the place is.

The space needed for the Denver Post LoDo BrewFest is another matter. Forty microbreweries will offer six-ounce tastes for a buck on August 12 and 13--and all of these booths, along with a bunch of food vendors and some bands, will squeeze themselves along Wynkoop Street between 18th and 19th. Admission is $3 in advance and $5 at the event; proceeds go toward saving beer from extinction, oops, preserving LoDo.

Coors will be the beer on hand at the fifth annual Cherry Creek Arts Festival July 1, 2 and 3. Last year I found the eats better than the art--there were some gems, to be sure, but the prices seemed a bit out of proportion to the merchandise. Of course, I wasn't there to judge the art, only the food, which was priced well. Interestingly, I've heard from several restaurateurs that doing fairs like the CCAF is unbelievably profitable--a chef told me he makes at one event what the restaurant pulls in over three months.

One restaurateur with a Midas touch for publicity, if not profits, is Cliff Young, whose much-awaited Napa Cafe is open at 2033 East Colfax Avenue, in what most recently was Messina Ristorante and before that, deVine Cafe. The emphasis here is on--surprise!--an extensive wine list (we're talking 600 by July) and American-style eats. Young's also opening the 300-seat Mama Mia with Bobby "Diamond Cabaret" Rifkin sometime around mid-July in the old Peppermill, off I-25 in Greenwood Village; he promises family-style, rustic Italian food with big platters and small prices... Another guy who's made a go of it in the food business is Jack Hogan, who owns the Grand Slam Sports Cafe at 810 Wadsworth in Lakewood. This eatery serves up grub that's ten times better than any sports bar I've been in before, and it has a great, cheap Sunday brunch buffet. Hogan recently bought the building at 9660 East Arapahoe Road that used to house Cavaleri's; he's gonna call this one the Grand Slam Sports Cafe. Why mess with success?

 
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