An unusual liquor store in the Platt Park neighborhood has come up with an even more unusual way to open a beer garden where visitors can drink the beers for sale inside.
Craft Alley, which opened two years ago at 1455 South Pearl Street, only sells — and delivers — freshly filled Crowlers from local breweries. Crowlers are 32-ounce aluminum cans that many breweries fill on site for taproom customers to take home, but which they can also distribute to liquor stores.
Since liquor stores aren't allowed to sell beer, wine or spirits for consumption on site, however, Craft Alley has created a beer garden that nonprofit organizations can lease to host special events. To do so, the organization must acquire special event licensing and furnish the alcohol themselves.
"The nonprofit can buy and, in turn, sell anything that Craft Alley carries," says Craft Alley co-owner Bryce Forester. "We recommend that they sell everything we carry, but we will sell anything...that they choose to buy from us."
For the month of June, Running Rivers, a nonprofit that promotes conservation through recreation and helps connect people to freshwater ecosystems, will operate the space from 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays (during the South Pearl Street Farmers’ Market). Run by Colorado beer enthusiast Andrew Todd, Running Rivers already has a beer focus with projects like Rare Fish Rare Beer, which teams up with conservation-minded breweries like Denver's Baere Brewing and Del Norte's Three Barrel Brewing to develop limited-release beers that focus on educating people about native fish species.
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In addition, Craft Alley will be teaming up with breweries on a series of collaborations that will be served at events. On Friday, when the beer garden opens, that beer will be the Notorious Juicy New England-Style IPA, which Spangalang Brewing created using Mosaic, Zythos and Galaxy hops.
The summer-only beer garden can hold 250 people, though Forester says it can more comfortably provide seating for about 125 at tables and picnic benches. "We wanted to focus on providing a backyard atmosphere where you can have an easy conversation...over a beer or two, rather than try to pack people in."
"Customers check binders organized by style and ABV or the menu board, and then place their order once they decide on a beer they’d like to try," he explains. "The order is then assembled [and] cans cracked open or drafts poured and served within a minute or two."
Craft Alley has sold more than 1,000 different beers in two years and currently works with 22 breweries, many of them small and without much distribution, including Spangalang, Bruz Beers, Mockery Brewing, New Terrain Brewing, Fiction Beer Company, Launch Pad Brewery, Resolute Brewing, Woods Boss Brewing, Hogshead Brewery, Something Brewery, Baere Brewing, 105 West Brewing, WestFax Brewing, Comrade Brewing, 4 Noses Brewing, Horse and Dragon Brewing, New Image Brewing, Uhls Brewing, Wibby Brewing, Eddyline Brewery, Ursula Brewery and the Larimer Beer Company.