Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Best Place to See Beaver: A not-quite-undercover tale from the Best of Denver

Some of our favorite Westword stories -- including ones connected to our annual Best of Denver issue -- are not the ones we've published.

I spilled a few of the juicier ones when I sat down with the Denver Post's Bill Husted for his Bar & Grilled interview earlier this month. Not surprisingly, many of them did not make the cut, including the infamous 'beaver" tale.

Here's a legendary story the Post didn't dare tell:

The Best of Denver, which hits newsstands (and this website) today, is a massive effort, one that leaves the staff slap-happy by the time it's done. But still, you want to let everyone know the issue is out there, so when restaurateur and radio host Pierre Wolfe asked us to come on his show to talk about that year's Food & Drink picks (this was probably eighteen years ago, because it predates our Best of Denver online archives), I bribed then-restaurant critic John Kessler with the promise of adult beverages, picked him up and then drove to Wolfe's Denver Tech Center studio.

We were about fifteen minutes into the interview (and a thermos of Bloody Marys) when Wolfe, browsing through the issue, suddenly stopped and read aloud one category heading: "Best Place to See Beaver."

No good was going to come of this. That award had been inspired by our regular view of patrons sitting at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, right across from the then-Westword office. When it first opened in late 1988, the Wynkoop had a bar rail that ran right across the big front windows. Women would sit at this rail and look out the window, never realizing they were offering their own view to passersby. We'd already heard from an owner of the Wynkoop -- one John Hickenlooper -- that the brewpub really didn't appreciate this honor. (That's another story -- and not long after, the bar set-up was changed.)

And now, here was Pierre Wolfe, talking about the Best Place to See Beaver in his French accent (which you'll just have to imagine, but it made this scene much more surreal). "The Best Place to See Beaver is the Wynkoop? I would have thought the Fort... The Wynkoop? Why did you choose the Wynkoop?"

We couldn't answer. Kessler, who has the most infectious giggle imaginable, had started laughing at the first mention of "beaver," and I was laughing just as uncontrollably. So Wolfe, the affable radio host, just proceeded to read the accompanying blurb about the beaver at the Wynkoop, in that French accent, which had us laughing even harder.

It was probably a good ten minutes before Kessler and I were capable of speech.

We retired the Best Place to Watch Beaver category after that year, but I've been assured by restaurateurs around town that they now are very careful not to put bar rails in front of low windows.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun