You can get just about anything at the drive-thru these days, from tacos, burgers and shakes to hot dogs, custard, coffee and panini. So why not craft beer, made on site?
In January, a Boulder County family plans to open Uturn BBQ, a brewery and barbecue joint that will serve up six-packs of its beers — and dinner, too — from a drive-thru window. Located in a former Burger King at 599 Crossing Drive in Lafayette, Uturn will also have indoor and outdoor seating, but the target market is busy commuters who don’t want to get out of their cars.
“The biggest things for us is the convenience factor. Everyone is busy all the time, whether it’s work or outdoor activities and that Colorado lifestyle,” says Weston Trapp, whose family owns Trapp Associates, a restaurant-design firm in Boulder. “What’s really cool about barbecue is that it travels really well. It can go wherever you want to go. So a drive-thru was key for this.”
But so was beer. “We wanted to offer the whole package with one stop,” Trapp explains. Originally, Trapp’s father wanted to sell six-packs of a light, easy-drinking beer like Pabst Blue Ribbon through the window. State liquor laws, however, don’t allow restaurants to sell beer to go unless they brew it themselves. So the family added the brewery and a canning machine to their concept.
To do it, the Trapp’s hired award-winning former Upslope head brewer Alex Violette, an old friend of Weston’s, to design two beers, an American-style stout and a German-style kolsch; for the second beer, Violette obtained a special kolsch yeast strain from Cologne, Germany. Violette, who just returned to the United States from Vietnam, where he helped open a craft brewery in Ho Chi Minh City, will also install the seven-barrel brewing system and train Uturn’s staff on it.
Two beers isn’t much compared to most local breweries, but Trapp says the goal isn’t to compete with other breweries in Boulder County. “We just want to keep it simple: cold beer and really great barbecue." They will can the beer on site with a hand-canning machine.
On the food side, the Trapps have hired Bill Heckler, the former head chef at Craftworks (which owns the Rock Bottom, Old Chicago and Gordon Biersch chains), to take regional barbecue traditions from around the country and put his own spin on them. So, for instance, Uturn may offer Kansas City-style ribs, Texas-style brisket and Southern-style chicken wings.
The Trapps, including Weston’s brother Shem and their father, Tim, know Heckler because their restaurant-design firm works with Craftworks to build Rock Bottom locations around the country. Trapp Associates has designed more than 350 restaurants/breweries over the past 35 years, including Jim ‘N Nicks BBQs, Fresh Thymes, and the Walnut Brewery in Boulder.
“My father and brother and I travel around the country, and wherever we go, we always get barbecue,” Weston says. So when the family decided they wanted to get into the restaurant business themselves, barbecue was the natural choice. “It just made sense,” he says.
Although the Trapps originally thought that 70 percent of their business would come from the drive-thru, they are now designing the “fast-casual-plus” space with an atmosphere that they hope will lure local residents as well, so it could be fifty-fifty. And in addition to their own beer, they plan to offer two wines on tap, along with a few bottles and cans from other breweries, Trapp says.
If things work out at the spot in Lafayette, Trapp believes the concept would make sense in multiple locations — possibly starting in Denver.
But first they’ve got to get people used to the idea of ordering beer from the drive-thru — something that Trapp says the City of Lafayette had no problem with.
“They were amazing. We were blown away,” he says. “The biggest thing was they asked how we were going to be responsible since we are going to be giving people beer directly into their cars — which isn’t any different than a drive-thru liquor store. But we really want to be responsible.”
As a result, Uturn will probably print messages on their cans asking people not to drink and drive. They will also have an electronic machine to verify driver’s licenses, and possibly a two-way camera where people give their orders, to help with both security and customer service.