Beer Man

A Sense of Place: When Beer Means More Than What's in the Glass

A Sense of Place: When Beer Means More Than What's in the Glass
Bull & Bush Pub
The first time I can remember anyone mentioning the idea of drinking beer and “a sense of place” was during a conversation with Erik Peterson, who owns the Bull & Bush Pub & Brewery with his brother Dave. I was asking him — back in 2012 — why the brewpub didn’t bottle some of its classics, like Man Beer and Big Ben Brown Ale, and he told me that it was because bottling would take away from the sense of place that those beers exuded.

It was a concept that I didn’t quite get. Beer is a liquid. It is portable. You either like it or you don’t. And if you can take it with you, all the better, I thought.

But over time, his words began to make more sense.

Many times, a great beer isn’t just a product of what’s in the glass. It has to do with where you drank it, who you drank it with, the experience you were having, the people you were with. Maybe the brewer explained its origins to you, or maybe the beerkeep took the time to run through its flavors with you.

Then there’s the beer you had at a tavern with friends you hadn’t seen in a long time, the one you were drinking in a new spot when you met someone special, the one you had after finally quitting a bad job or after getting a raise you deserved. There’s the beer you drank after finishing a tough project or when a certain song came on.

Weeks later, you might still be thinking about that beer — about the patio you were sitting on or the bar top you were leaning against. You can still picture your friend's smile coming through the front door, or the equally friendly face behind the bar when you ordered a second round, and a third (and maybe even an ill-advised fourth). For Peterson, a Man Beer in your glass meant you were drinking at the Bull & Bush — and nowhere else.

click to enlarge BULL & BUSH BREWERY
Bull & Bush Brewery
I can picture a lot of those moments in my life: where I was, what I was doing, who I was with. Sometimes I remember the beer I was drinking. Sometimes I don't.

In 2013, the Bull & Bush did start bottling its beers — after Erik and Dave Peterson had gone back and forth on the concept for more than fifteen years. And after the first run, Erik took a bottle outside of the brewery and raised a toast to his and Dave's dad, Dale, who passed away in 2009. Dale and his twin brother, Dean, had founded the Bull & Bush in 1971 (the brewery came later), and it's been located on the same little corner of Glendale for all that time — nearly fifty years.

A sense of place. Like every other bar and restaurant in Denver — and in cities all over the world — the Bull & Bush is closed for the next thirty days, or sixty, or ninety...but I remember how it feels to drink a beer there, why a Man Beer tastes that much more special in a chair there. And I remember the same thing about dozens of other breweries and bars and restaurants all over Colorado.

I hope I get the chance to return to all of them. A sense of place means a lot more to me now.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes