As we reported last week, the historic El Rancho restaurant and conference center, which closed in 2012, is set to reopen later this year under new ownership as a brewpub; the iconic log-cabin building, which sits just off of I-70 at the exit for Evergreen, has a storied history. The original log-cabin eatery was built in 1947, long before the interstate came through. In 1953, it was purchased by Ray and Mildred Zipprich, who added a banquet business, gift shop and U.S. Post Office station. Five years later, their daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Paul McEnroe, took over. The family sold it in 1988, and the building has had a succession of owners since then.
In March, the Vincent family — three brothers and their wives — bought it for $1.2 million; they plan a major renovation that will include a beer garden and brewery, led by former Dad & Dude’s Breweria brewer Bard Nielsen. Architect Tim Trapp, of Trapp Associates, is designing the overhaul; Trapp has worked on several other breweries, including the Walnut Brewery in Boulder, various Rock Bottom locations and the Denver ChopHouse.
But El Rancho isn’t the only brewpub slated to start pouring beers in Evergreen this year. Anders and Debbie Ruikka, who bought the Evergreen Conference Center two years ago, are adding their own brewery and restaurant to the facility by fall. Originally called Fireweed Brewing, the business recently had to change its name to Lariat Lodge Brewing in order to avoid a trademark battle with a similarly named whiskey brand from a Montana distillery.
But that hasn’t slowed things down, says Anders, who just began demolition and plans to open the brewpub in September. Eric Rode, formerly of Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, is a co-owner and will run the five-barrel brewing system. “Together, we have been working on this concept for two years,” Anders notes. “We have had a lot of good response already. It’s amazing.”
Will it be too much beer for Evergreen? Probably not, says Anders, who is excited about the El Rancho news: “I think that is going to be awesome.” He also points out that El Rancho is eight miles away from the Evergreen Conference Center and is often more associated with Golden than with Evergreen. Besides, he adds, “beer is always a good thing.”
The Ruikkas told Jefferson County that they plan to spend $300,000 to remodel the space, which will have seating for about 100 people.