Beer Man

A new brewery will pour Denver's Tivoli beer for the first time since 1969

It's not the same recipe, but it's close -- and that's all that mattered to an old beer drinker who tried out a new version of one of Denver's most historic brews: Tivoli. "His face was ear-to-ear smiles. He kept saying, 'This is it, this is it,'" says Corey Marshall, who will pour Tivoli beer today for first time since the original company stopped brewing in 1969.

Over the past year, Marshall and his wife, Debbie, have been acquiring the rights to the biggest beer names and trademarks from Denver's 153-year brewing past. In addition to Tivoli, they own the rights to Zang's, Sigi's, Neef's and Hi En Brau. Their goal is to brew some or all of these beers using close approximations of the original recipes.

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"It's hard to duplicate them because a lot of the ingredients aren't available anymore and because beer recipes do change and evolve," Marshall says. "Nobody's beer is the same today as it was twenty years ago, whether its Miller or Bud or Coors Light or whatever. So what we are going to do is stick to the original characteristics of those beers -- all of them were traditional German beers -- at the time they were originally produced."

The first is Tivoli, a 5.1 percent ABV "helles" that Marshall re-created with the help of Bill Eye, an expert in German-style lagers and the head brewer at Prost Brewing, which opened this month in the Lower Highland neighborhood. Prost also specializes in German lagers; its owners use a massive forty-year-old copper brewing system that they bought from a brewery in Bamberg, Germany and shipped to the U.S. this year.

"I want to bring back something that this culture lost," Marshall says. "And I think people will want to drink it. There are those who know the history or have been in touch with it, either through their own families here in Colorado or because they like the story. And there are those who don't know the history yet but who will find it fascinating."

Continue reading for more information and historical photos.

Tivoli is being contract-brewed by Eye and Prost. It is available on tap there right now.

Marshall, who's worked for Coors for the past seven years, is a second-generation Colorado native whose grandfather used to begin every morning with a Tivoli beer and two raw eggs with salt on top. But his connections go deeper than that.

"Both of my parents were born here, as was I," he says. "On my mother's side, they were Germans who came here in the early 1900s. They were farmers and ranchers who spoke no English and their beer was Tivoli beer because of its German style. It was very close to what they drank in Germany. To the day my grandfather died, that's what he drank."

Marshall himself later worked as a bouncer in the Tivoli building, which housed the Tijuana Yacht Club and Boiler Room bars in the 1980s and '90s before it became the student union for the three colleges that are co-located on the Auraria campus. The building itself was built in 1866 and still contains many old relics of its brewery days.

Marshall plans to start with 25 accounts around town, many of them in bars or restaurants that are located in historic buildings or have an historic connection to Denver. One of the restaurants he hopes to land is Brewery Bar II, whose owner ran the original Brewery Bar inside the Tivoli building from 1954 to 1974 before moving the joint to its current location on Kalamath.

By this time next year, he hope to have 150 accounts and to start brewing the second historic beer on his list, a German bock called Sigi's. After that, he may take on Zang's, which was a Bohemian pilsner.

Both beers take their names from two of Denver's brewing pioneers. The first two brewers in town were German businessmen, Fred Z. Salomon and Charles Tascher, who came here in 1859 during the gold rush. The men started the Rocky Mountain Brewery at the intersection of what was then 11th Street and Larimer, and later sold it to John Good.

Good and, later, his second wife, LoRaine, would own the brewery, which changed its name to Tivoli in 1900, on and off into the 1960s, alternately competing or co-existing with other beer entrepreneurs like Moritz Sigi, Phillip Zang and Max Melshimer. At one point in the early 1950s, Tivoli was one of the biggest breweries in the nation, producing 150,000 barrels a year and distributing it from California to Missouri.

When LoRaine, who was younger than Good, died in 1965, the brewery was sold to brothers Carl and Joseph Occhiato, who also owned a major Pepsi bottling plant in Pueblo. That same year, however, the South Platte River flooded Denver, killing many and destroying much of Tivoli's inventory and records. The next year, an employee strike further hurt the company, which closed for good three years later.

John Occhiato, a former Pueblo city councilman and the son of Joseph Occhiato, was the last brewmaster there; Marshall sought out his help when he was re-designing his recipe.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes