Exclusive: Ian Clark, chef of Jax Boulder, is leaving to open BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats
After a decade with Big Red F, Dave Query's burgeoning restaurant group, which includes Lola, three outposts of Jax Fish House (a fourth will open this spring in Glendale), Centro Latin Kitchen, West End Tavern, Zolo Grill and the Bitter Bar, chef and brewmaster Ian Clark, currently the chef at Jax Boulder, is departing that kitchen to open his own restaurant and alehouse at 5290 Arapahoe Street, in the former Rock and Soul Cafe, also in Boulder.
The 2,700-square-foot space, called BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats, is slated to unlock its doors in mid-April, and construction is scheduled to begin within the next few weeks.
"I've been with Big Red F for ten years, and I've certainly learned a lot -- there's no way I could be doing this without the level of knowledge that I've learned from being a part of this group -- but I'm ready to start doing my own thing," says Clark, who has spent the majority of his career commanding the burners at Centro, Query's Latin-influenced restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall, the kitchen of which is now overseen by Enrique Socarras, the former chef/co-owner of Cuba Cuba.
And for Clark, cooking and brewing go hand-and-hand. Just last year, he launched BRU, a commercial nanobrewery operation that he started in his home garage. But Clark has been brewing beers since 2003, a passion that started in high school, when he and his friends would sneak off to the apple orchards in Maine, where Clark grew up, and ferment their own cider. A few years later, he bought a home brewing kit for his father-in-law, but Clark was the one who benefited from the purchase. "He didn't want it, so he gave it to me, and I started making my own batches of beer, and I've pretty much been brewing nonstop ever since then," he says.
And he'll continue to do so at his restaurant and brewery, moving his garage operation to a much, much larger space that will give him the opportunity to initially brew -- and pour -- a dozen beers, all of which will be his own. "We'll start with twelve tap handles and have varying styles," including, he reveals, a brown ale, a few IPA's, Belgian strong ales, a pale ale, a wheat heavy and a first anniversary Belgian quad.
All of his beers, like his food, will be what Clark calls "hand-built" -- and that, he says, will extend to the 42-seat space. "Everything -- our cheeses, our breads, our sodas, our charcuterie, the beers and the furniture and bar will be built by us," with the exception, he notes, of the 2,200-pound, domed wood-fired oven (that's from Forno Bravo), from which the majority of the dishes on his menu will emerge.
"We'll do salads, pizzas, entrees, a few sandwiches, and just about everything will come out of the wood-fired oven," he says. The menu is still a work in progress, but Clark cites a few examples: oven-roasted shishito peppers with sea salt; green bean and gold potatoes with black figs, prosciutto and walnuts; and chicken sausage, caramelized fennel and spinach wood-oven fired pizza.
And that oven will be on display in an exhibition show kitchen, while the brewhouse, walled with glass and accessed by a barn door, will take up a significant amount of square footage on the other side, and a bar will occupy another section in the rectangular space. "It's going to be a killer little brewpub, with lots of funky takes on beer and great food," says Clark, noting that he'll be doing double duty as chef and brew nerd, at least in the beginning. "I'll be doing both to start, but I'm bringing a few guys with me -- former sous chefs of mine -- and they're a really talented group of guys."
"We want this to be rustic, approachable cuisine, and I love using a wood-fired oven because you get the best and most amount of flavor from wood," Clark tells me. "It's all about doing things the right way, focusing on quality and coaxing out the best flavors."
BRU will be open for lunch and dinner daily.
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