John and Stacy Turk only started pouring beer at Walter's 303 Pizzeria & Publik House last August, but the couple has been pushing craft beer for a quarter-century — and they started in an unlikely place.
"We used to follow the Grateful Dead around," says Stacy. "And we were selling Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Brewing and Sierra Nevada in the parking lots at concerts while everyone else was selling pot."
Funny, but fitting. Today, the couple runs the bar side of Walter's, a pizza place founded in 2010 by Mike Kienast at 1906 Pearl Street in the Uptown neighborhood, who also runs locations in Littleton and Colorado Springs. Originally just a small takeout spot, Walter's more than doubled its space when Kienast teamed up with the Turks last year. They added 22 taps — all of them local craft breweries — a bunch of TVs, a long bar and a plethora of jam-band posters on the walls.
The tap list covers breweries from small and sought-after local breweries.
And their beer list is unusual. "We try to strike a balance between a list for beer geeks and a list for novices," John says. And although the styles range from easy-drinking kolsches, porters and lagers to heftier double IPAs and sour saisons, they come from some of the most obscure and smallest breweries around.
There are also frequent kegs from popular breweries that are too small to sell kegs anywhere else. Recently, for instance, Walter's was pouring selections from Outer Range Brewing in Frisco, a highly celebrated brewery that doesn't get out much; Zuni Street Brewing, which just opened; The Larimer, a little-known brewery-in-planning that currently brews at Crazy Mountain; and the rare Cerealiously series from Black Bottle in Fort Collins.
"We're not trying to do what Falling Rock does, or Freshcraft or Hops & Pie. But they needed something in this part of town. And we're not trying to be snooty. We just want to educate people, to introduce people to new things," John says.
Getting some of those kegs comes a little easier for John, though, because of his history in the industry. A local radio producer and personality for seventeen years, Turk worked with Jay Marvin, David Sirota and numerous other local voices. He joined Gary Valliere in 2011 to co-host the Colorado Craft Beer radio show (Valliere left to start a second beer show on another station), but left radio in 2013 — "Politics drove me out," he says — to take a job as the Denver-area sales manager with Utah-based Epic Brewing, which opened a large production facility in Denver that year. "So, I have a lot of prior relationships in craft beer," he explains.
Walter's slings the pizza while the Turks provide the beer.
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The driving force behind the bar itself, though, is Stacy, who works there full-time in addition to her job in insurance. "This wasn't really a craft-centric neighborhood, but she is turning people on to it one by one," John says, adding that Walter's has been doing better than the Turks projected, sales-wise.
For Walter's one-year anniversary, John and Stacy have arranged several special celebratory beers that were brewed just for the occasion by Platt Park Brewing, Cerebral Brewing, Ratio Beerworks, Black Bottle Brewing and, of course, Epic, which will supply a special firkin. "I have connections there," Stacy says with a laugh.