Two brewmasters with the Colorado-based Rock Bottom chain will strike out on their own this fall by opening a full-scale brewpub and pizzeria in a high-profile spot between Capitol Hill and the Golden Triangle neighborhoods.
Unlike most of the tap rooms that have opened recently around Denver, Lowdown Brewery and Pizzeria, at 800 Lincoln Street, will make its own beer and its own food, including Connecticut-style pizza, panini, soups and salads.
See also: - Fort Collins and Funkwerks step up in a down year for Colorado GABF medals - Longtime Breckenridge brewer Harry Smith will open Black Sky Brewery a block away - The Rock Bottom brewery chain plans to standardize and bottle some of its beers
"We want it to be more than just a pizza place; we want to make thoughtful food," says co-owner Philip Phifer, who is the brewmaster at the Rock Bottom in Park Meadows. "We're not going to have fryers, we're not going to make onion rings.... We're going to have a lot of salads. Salads are almost always the same wherever you go, but ours are going to be unusual, hearty, filling and nutritious."
As for the beer, it will run the gamut, adds Scott O'Hearn, an award-winning Rock Bottom brewer for twenty years and the brewmaster at the Westminster location.
"You name, we'll have it," he says. The two plan to brew a few core beers, including a pilsner and a couple of IPAs, and to have eight to ten of their own creations on tap at all times. They will also have four guest taps for mostly out-of-state beers.
Phifer and O'Hearn have ordered a custom eight-barrel brewing system from Hellfire Fabrication in Dacono, which just recently began making brewing equipment.
They've also locked in contracts for some popular hops varieties that have become harder to find, and say their experience in the business will help them create a tightly run professional brewpub that will stand out in the increasingly crowded brewery scene.
The two met in 2008, when Phifer moved to Denver from Portland and got a job at Rock Bottom, where he apprenticed under O'Hearn, who has helped train many of the company's brewmasters around the country over the years. He's also won numerous awards for his beers, including gold medals in 2007 and 2008 at the Great American Beer Festival for Red Rocks Red, an Irish-style red; a bronze in 2012 for Molly's Titanic Brown Ale; and a silver last year for his Milk Stout.
Phifer and O'Hearn hope to open Lowdown by September, before the Great American Beer Festival, but they have a lot of work ahead of them -- including building a kitchen from the ground up; the building doesn't currently have one.
Coincidentally, longtime Breckenridge brewer Harry Smith is also opening a brewpub and pizzeria serving Connecticut-style pies not far away, at 490 Santa Fe Drive; Smith hopes to open the doors to Black Sky Brewery by June.
Lowdown will occupy the corner space in the 14,000-square-foot building on Lincoln, which was home to Mapsco for many years (it shares the buikding with the fitness studio now there). Lowdown will have a large patio on the side, along with 26 parking spaces and bike parking.
Attorney Ed Aro, who bought the building with business partner Jesse Moreale in 2010, says the brewery will be a good addition to the neighborhood.
"It's an important building on two major streets and serves as a sort of gateway to the Golden Triangle neighborhood," Aro says. "It has been sort of an eyesore for a while, but we are dressing it up."
Phifer says it will have a real neighborhood feel. "You should know the brewer at your neighborhood brewery, and this is going to be a neighborhood place," he explains, adding that Lowdown takes its name from the idea of being honest.
"We're going to give you the lowdown, the straight scoop, and let people know where their food is coming from and where the beer is coming from."
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