There's no shortage of craft beer at Denver International Airport. Passengers flying in and out can find outposts of New Belgium Brewing and Boulder Beer in the terminal, and a variety of local selections at bars and restaurants throughout the concourses; there's also a kiosk in the B Concourse selling bottles of local beers that people can take home as souvenirs.
But airport officials, who have shown an increasing awareness of the local craft-beer scene over the past few years, aren't stopping there. Hoping to garner true credibility in a state with more than 300 beer-makers, DIA is looking for a brewery or restaurant group to operate and maintain a real brewery and brewpub inside the attached Westin Hotel, which is scheduled to open next month.
“It's a chance to be unique and do something that someone else hasn't done,” says DIA senior vice president for concessions Neil Maxfield. DIA has set aside 9,500 square feet for the brewpub, which includes space for a kitchen, brewing equipment and 3,000 square feet of outdoor seating that will overlook the light-rail trains, public artwork and have a view of Front Range.
Bids are due at the airport by Thursday, October 8, and the requirements are stringent. Interested parties have to show that they have successfully run both brewery and restaurant operations for at least eight years and that they are doing at least $4 million in gross sales per year. And in addition to operating the brewpub inside the Westin, they will have to operate two burger restaurants in concourses B and C inside the airport; they will also be required to operate a coffee shop in the train station.
The winning bidder must brew at least one regular beer on-site – a beer that will be served in multiple locations throughout the airport. It will be required to serve a total of 25 beers, at least fifteen of which “must represent Colorado-produced craft beers, with five of the fifteen used on a seasonal rotation ... At least two taps must be representative of destinations served to and from Denver International Airport.”
Oddly, the brewery will be located on the fifth floor of the Westin, a difficult situation since breweries have unusual requirements — like drainage, heavy water usage, grain delivery and removal, and structural integrity issues for extra weight — that make them more suitable for ground-floor facilities.
But Maxfield doesn't see a problem. “You can structurally enhance the floor,” he says, adding that he doesn't foresee that the brewery will make a large enough quantity of beer to cause a problem. “We aren't looking for someone to brew enough beer to bottle it or ship it off- airport. We are looking for a microbrewer to make a specific batch just for the airport….The weight and storage requirements can be easily overcome.”
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Although the parameters of the project will weed out the majority of would-be airport breweries in the state, they could result in a brewery and restaurant operator teaming up on a bid. “We have created a concession offering that we hope is enticing to the community,” Maxfield says. “It may be that multiple entities come in and create a joint venture. We don't know how it will come about. Hopefully, we will see some folks come forward who want to blow our socks off.”
Representatives of Oskar Blues, Great Divide, Odell and New Belgium either attended an informational meeting about the brewery or downloaded information from DIA's website. Among those, only Oskar Blues seems to have a serious interest. “We built our brand on being part of the Colorado lifestyle,” says Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis. “An iconic place like DIA is as equally exciting as Coors Field,” where the brewery opened an outlet of its CHUBurger franchise in 2014. “It is authentically Colorado and sounds like an exciting opportunity.”
DIA had put a brewery request out earlier this year, but didn't get any serious contenders. The problem, Maxfield says, was that the revenue stream from the brewpub is a big unknown. That's why the airport added the two hamburger restaurants on the concourses: Airport restaurants have a more predictable revenue stream that bidders could rely on.