The rapid-fire opening of small brewery tap rooms may have slowed down in Denver, but don't tell that to Will Curtin and Chris Kirk, who have leased a tiny, former auto-body shop on Broadway where they will open a brewery dedicated to barrel-aged beers.
Located just a block from Baere Brewing and two blocks from TRVE Brewing, Banded Oak Brewing will total less than 2,000 square feet that will hold its tap room, its wooden barrels (and possibly a foeder) and its ten-barrel brewing system – which means the owners are going to have to be creative with the space. One way they're planning to do that is by placing their fermenters outside. Another is by building a large patio that will wrap around two sides of the brewery and include an indoor-outdoor serving window.
“We know it's small, but we wanted to keep overhead as low as possible,” says Curtin, who worked at Great Divide Brewing for five years, most recently as the tap room manager. He's also very aware of how many breweries have opened in Denver in the past five years. “You have these restless nights where you feel like you might be a little late to the party. But then, we've been working on this for three years, and this is what we want to do.”
Banded Oak could benefit from its location, however: It's in the same complex as the soon-to-open Dae Gee Korean BBQ and across Broadway from the newly moved Wizard's Chest, near the Baker neighborhood where Curtin says he hopes to build up a regular clientele of locals in the same way that English pubs rely on nearby residents.
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The brewery could also benefit from its niche focus on beers that have been aged in wooden barrels or on wood chips. “At any given time, we'd like to have 50 to 75 percent of our projects have something to do with wood,” says Kirk, who has spent time brewing professionally in Sweden, Brazil and Colorado, most recently at Moffat Station in Winter Park. “We'll do big styles, little styles, classic styles and wild styles.”
Kirk plans to start off with an imperial red oak-aged saison, an imperial pilsner and a Belgian quadrupel, but he is working on numerous recipes; he plans to let the public have a say about what the brewery serves based on what customers are drinking. Many of the barrels will come directly from California wineries, where Curtin has some connections, but Kirk says they will also source barrels from South America.
Banded Oak has its equipment and some of its licensing, but is waiting on construction and more licenses and permits. Curtin says they hope to open in April or May with five taps running; eventually they will build up to all ten taps.