From Park & Co. to P17 to Ace Eat Serve, a lot of my happy-hour adventures have taken place on East 17th Avenue. Coincidence? Conspiracy? Take a drive through Uptown and you'll see for yourself the many bustling patios and dining rooms, all filled with happy hours and their fans. And Beast + Bottle's version achieves the rare prize of being a vital addition to the restaurant's already lauded menu, one that might even teach you something new.
Local foods, curated wines, craft cocktails — the selling points of Beast + Bottle are nothing new. But after three years of operation, B+B doesn't have to sell itself with trends and buzzwords. Siblings Aileen and Paul Reilly have carved out a niche that attracts those in the know, and their happy hour is suitably impressive. The restaurant boasts that the menu, served Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m., changes daily depending on local producers' availability and the quirks of the kitchen — and that made me eager to see what goodies the kitchen was cooking up with September's harvest.
To get a taste for yourself, you have to arrive for the precious sixty minutes when the happy-hour menu is served, and then sit on the patio. You're exchanging the coziness of the dining room for the traffic of 17th, but you're gaining the fresh-printed happy-hour menu, which always includes a $4 draft, a $6 cocktail and wines and a few appetizers, always under $8. With what the bar calls Your Own Pear-sonal Jesus, you get a glass filled with pear liqueur, pear bitters, Wilderness vodka and lime juice; Crème de Violette gives the drink a milky shade of mauve. Raising a coupe glass to the tempting figure of Hamburger Mary's across the street, I sipped this electrifying cocktail and chewed on the violet blossom on top for a burst of field flavor.
The menu also promised "Calzone: ham, ricotta, red onion. $8," and that's exactly what I got. Each ingredient was distinguished in its own way, from the farm-fresh onion to the mild ham, and they were nestled in a tasty, blistered crust. For its next number, Beast + Bottle dove straight into brain-straining charcuterie with a fried headcheese plate ($5). Usually when I'm served offal, I expect to grimace and grunt a little, like I deserve a medal for swallowing something more challenging than a chicken tender. Not so here — the kitchen butchers its meat in-house, and these skull scrapings were breaded and fried so effectively, I was almost fooled, and immediately hooked once I cracked the heavily seasoned crust and got to the deliciously malformed goods inside.
The hour was over soon, too soon, but I couldn't stop there. (See below.) Yes, this place is stingy with how it doles out happy hour, but generous in sharing Paul Reilly's work. (It also shares the work of others; I spotted many of B+B's favorite menus posted in the bathroom, from The Spotted Pig to Vesta Dipping Grill.) Here's to a happy hour with barely a drop of pretension, one that wears its influences on its chef whites. Give it a medal.
Perfect for: A well-rounded meal. Although entrees prices are reasonable, you and a few mates can create a fine dinner with happy hour and something from Andrea Wight's dessert bar. I received a beautiful trio of mini desserts ($9, or $3 each), all tied together with pretzels: buttery pretzel "dumplings," strawberry ice cream with a fruit gelée, and thick créme fraîche fudge with a pretzel crunch. All well constructed, all joyful. And to the culinary trend gods who introduced us to tiny desserts: Keep 'em coming. I'll forgive you for sliders.
Don't Miss: If you keep up with our Culinary Calendar, you know that the Beast throws some of the best dining events in the business. You just missed a Rolling Stones-themed dinner with dishes like the "Salt of the Earth" with salt-roasted beets and guanciale, and previous events have covered The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Paul, call me when you do a Steely Dan menu.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.