UPDATE (3:52 p.m.): The Rackhouse received its liquor license today so will open for lunch tomorrow (December 12) at noon.
It has been a year and a half since the Rackhouse Pub closed its original home, on South Kalamath Street next to the Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey distillery. Now owner Chris Rippe is finally ready to throw open the doors to a new incarnation of his beer-centric pub, this time in partnership with a German-style brewery and a cider house — all inside one massive warehouse called the Juicebox, which is part of the larger Bindery on Blake complex from developers Sonia and Barry Danielsen.
Rippe says that he's expecting the final signatures to come from the Department of Excise and Licenses today, in which case he'll be able to open to the public tomorrow, December 12. C Squared Ciders has already been bottling and kegging ciders since July and Bierstadt Lagerhaus will begin brewing in early 2016.
The Rackhouse will serve as the tasting room for both C Squared, owned by former Wynkoop brewer Andy Brown, and Bierstadt, the latest lager project from Bill Eye and Ashleigh Carter, who were previously at Prost Brewing. Because of the intricacies of Colorado's liquor licensing, there will also be separate retail counters for cider and beer where customers will be able to purchase growlers and bottles.
The entrance to the Juicebox opens onto the growler and retail counter, where C Squared is already set up for sales (and where Bierstadt products will soon also be available to-go). A flight of stairs leads to the Rackhouse on the mezzanine level, where tables and booths look out onto the brewery and cider house. Floor-to-ceiling windows face northwest, affording views of north Denver, the Flatirons and the Rocky Mountains beyond. A central bar topped with bowling-alley wood from Elitch Lanes is the focal point of the dining room, but Rippe's flair for repurposing old industrial equipment and other remnants is clear in the glass-topped community table built from an old printing press that used to be located inside the building, light fixtures created from the kitchen's pot rack from the original Rackhouse and vintage signs dangling from the rafters.
Eye and Carter purchased an eighty-year-old brewing system from Bavaria and installed it in the ground floor of the Juicebox; two-story copper kettles poke through the floor of the restaurant to give guests a view of old-world brewing. Until Bierstadt's beers are ready to go, the Rackhouse will have a number of guest beers from local brewers on tap and will also have a collection of bottled beers from craft breweries beyond Colorado borders.
The menu, designed by chef Brandon Muncy, incorporates brewers' ingredients in everything from appetizers to desserts: There's Belgian candi sugar butter on a corn-cob starter, ginger-cider vinaigrette on a crab cake salad, hopped basil mojo on a caprese, for example. Other innovative beer-inspired items include hop-ash succotash, dunkel mushroom gravy and yeasted agave marshmallows on a dessert plate. It's all part of Muncy's goal of taking beer cuisine to the next level. And what became of the Rackhouse's famous mac and cheese? There will be several versions on the new menu, incorporating vegetarian, seafood and meaty options. The kitchen has been going through the paces with friends-and-family dinners this week, so menu items may change.
If the final permitting comes through today, the Rackhouse will be open for dinner hours tomorrow. If not, the crew is aiming for early next week.