Back in December 2012, we broke the news that Dave Query, the mastermind behind Big Red F, the Boulder-based restaurant group that operates numerous restaurants throughout the state, including Lola, Jax and Zolo Grill, was opening a brewery and chicken joint in Lafayette. And on Thursday, Query, along with a veteran team of pros, including beer master Bryan Selders (the former lead brewer of Dogfish Head), Big Red F culinary director Jamey Fader and chef-partner Brett Smith, formerly of Zolo Grill, will unleash POST Brewing Co., an homage to cluck and craft beer, in the old VWF hall in Lafayette.
"This concept has been noodling around in our heads for a long time," admits Fader. "Every time Dave and I were driving around, traveling or just clearing our heads, we kept saying that it would be great to do a fried-chicken place -- you know, kind of like it would be great to have a Winnebago -- and Dave was always throwing around the idea of doing a chicken concept around beer, because, well, hot chicken and cold beer is obviously an awesome combination," clucks Fader.
The two were in Charleston, South Carolina, "fly fishing and eating good vittles," says Fader, when the idea began to really take hold. Fried chicken, he recalls, was everywhere, and when he and Query returned to Denver, the concept was cemented. Soon thereafter, so was a brewer and partner -- namely, Selders, who had spent the last nine years catapulting Dogfish Head, which is based in Delaware, to national acclaim. And tapping Selders, insists Fader, was more than just bragging rights. "Fuck, man, it's like bringing your kids to their swimming lessons and finding out that Michael Phelps is their coach," he says. Even better, "It's like having an ad for a garage band and Jon Bon Jovi calls," quips Query. "We have this world-class brewmaster who wanted to come to Lafayette to play with us, and it's awesome."
Selders, who started home-brewing in college and later apprenticed at a small brewery in Philadelphia before joining Dogfish, moved to Colorado in July last year, and for the past several months, he's been meticulously building the brewery. "I'm brewing beers that taste good with chicken -- beers that are really intriguing, super-fun to drink, and beers that you want to put in your mouth repeatedly," promises Selders, whose self-contained, fifteen-barrel brewhouse has the capacity to yield 1,600 barrels of beer a year.
The POST's draft system will include anywhere from four to seven of Selders's own beers, along with several guest beers. "We've got our own Top Rope lager, which is somewhat of a Mexican-style lager; our American-style bitter, called Lil' Buddy, that's brewed with a blend of American and British malts and hopped with an entirely new hop called azacca; a robust, yet-to-be-named porter, and an extremely well-balanced IPA," notes Selders, whose guest taps will initially include the Firestone Walker "Pivo" pilsner, Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale, the "Fearless Youth" dunkel lager from Loveland's Grimm Brothers, "Eric the Red," an imperial red ale from Odd 13, and Avery's 4point2 IPA and "New World" porter.
And they're all beers that are brewed to pair with chicken -- chicken that can be ordered fried or rotisseried, in chicken noodle soup and in chicken enchiladas, as crispy chicken wings and hot chicken drumsticks, and in tamales and chicken pot pie. "Brett did a ton of research to figure out how to do the best fried chicken, and we're using humanely raised, all-natural birds that are brined for 24 hours, take a few laps in buttermilk and are then dredged in seasoned, gluten-free flour before being cooked to perfection," explains Fader, noting that the fried chicken "rests for a few minutes to let the flavors meld." And it's seasoned, he adds, with "our spicy-goodness shaker." I tried the fried chicken, and it's easily some of the best bird I've had -- and the skin, fried golden in state-of-the-art industrial pressure fryers that keep the oil at a consistent temperature, adheres to the meat, which is a must. "We figured out how to brew damn good beer, and Brett, who immersed himself in fried chicken for the last year, nailed it. He knows that the crust can't come off when you eat it," says Fader.
Smith's menu also ballyhoos nightly blue-plate specials, including Monday burger night, butcher's cut Thursday, fish fry Friday and chicken-fried steak Saturday. "One night a week, we're the best fucking burger in town, or the best fish fry in town," says Query. "We're giving people what they want, and each of the blueplate specials is meant to remind people that they gotta get in for that one specific dish," he adds.
In addition to main dishes of fin, beef and fowl, Smith's board is stamped with a slew of noteworthy sides: mashed potatoes and gravy; collard greens smoky with shards of slow-cooked pork shoulder; buttermilk waffles glistening with maple-pumpkin seed butter; green-chile macaroni and cheese festooned with crisped breadcrumbs; and fantastic citrus-marinated black-eyed peas.
"We're not trying to be lofty," says Fader. "Our goal is to do American comfort food that exceeds people's expectations -- food that's great, simple and soulful. We want to do common food uncommonly well."
And it's clear, too, that POST isn't just a henhouse in which to flip the bird, but also a place to kick up your heels and have fun. A pool table, Pac-Man game and Big Buck Hunter arcade game outfit the space, which is bedecked with elevated booths that peer out the wall of windows, decades-old barn wood, a timbered trapeze ceiling and dangling, hollowed-out logs, the bottoms of which have puck lights that illuminate the space. Walls striped with different paint colors, black-and-green tiled floors and an open kitchen round out the quarters, which also lay claim to a huge backyard and patio. "The plan is to eventually have an outside/inside bar," says Query, adding that the outdoor area will also include a fire pit, two ping-pong tables and a basketball hoop for those who have an affinity for games like HORSE and PIG. And a chicken coop might pop up, too.
When POST Brewing Co. opens on Thursday, it'll offer a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. as well as dinner nightly. And lunch, says Query, will be added in April and run seasonally through October. In the meantime, brunch will begin on January 25.
Back to beer: Home brewers will have the chance to participate in seasonal home-brewing contests, reveals Query. Beginning in March and seasonally from then on, beer enthusiasts can bring in their own home brew, and Selders, along with a panel of judges, will choose the best home brew of that season, and the winning beer will be on tap for a month. In addition, a portion of the sales from that beer will go a charity of the winner's choice.
I had the opportunity to hang out at POST over the weekend, and in between rounds of feasting on hot chicken, I toured the space and the brewery. Here's a first look at what I ate and what I saw.
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