Danico, Now the Closest Brewery to DIA, Is Off to a Strong Start

The brand new building is bright and attractive.
The brand new building is bright and attractive. Danico Brewing
Nikki Harwood and Dave Lotierzo wanted to open a brewery for a long time. The two would go out after work at Anheuser Busch in Fort Collins, grabbing drinks with other supervisors. “We rotated shifts, so sometimes we’d get off at 7 a.m. and go out for a beer — breakfast and beer,” recalls Harwood. “It was a lot of New Belgium and Odell, but then Equinox opened up. All of us talked about how one day when we made it, we’d all band together and start a brewery ourselves.”

Then Harwood moved to California and became a brewmaster at another Anheuser location, and Lotierzo moved out east with the company and traveled the world, handling logistics. Years later, the two ended up back in Denver: Harwood returned to help integrate the newly purchased Breckenridge Brewery, and Lotierzo got tired of traveling and wanted to move back to Colorado, leaving Anheuser to do so.

In 2017, the two friends began to take the idea of opening their own brewery seriously. The next year, they started a deep dive toward turning the dream into reality. By 2019, planning was underway, and Harwood and Lotierzo brought on the same architect that designed the Breckenridge facility in Littleton.

When the pandemic hit, the two found themselves with a little extra time to plan things out. “We interviewed five builders. BUILT. had experience, they were reasonable from a cost standpoint, they speak our language [as brewers], and they were just really good partners,” says Lotierzo. On December 10, Danico Brewing Company opened at 18490 East 66th Avenue, just two miles west of the Gaylord Rockies Convention Center and about fifteen minutes from the Denver International Airport terminal curb, making it the closest brewery to DIA.
A flight from Danico Brewing.
Danico Brewing
The buildout went so smoothly that Harwood and Lotierzo even named a beer after BUILT. supervisor Tucker McGinnis called Tookah the Tucker. It is a delicious malty Munich dunkel on the toasty and nuttier end of the spectrum, yet it maintains that classic dry dunkel character alongside those rich flavors.

With brewing experience at Anheuser, as well as integrations experience at Breckenridge Brewery, you might think that Harwood would be brewing the beers at Danico, but you’d be wrong. “I have big Anheuser experience, quality and consistency focused,” says Harwood. “But I don’t have the nuances of making the best damn IPA.” For that, the duo hired veteran brewer Chris Kennedy, who had been the first head brewer at Yak & Yeti and had stints at Rock Bottom and Golden City.

Harwood met Kennedy when she was brewing in California. Kennedy had moved there to open up Heretic Brewery with famed beer author Jamil Zainasheff, and that team would bring Harwood beers to test in Anheuser’s state-of-the-art labs. “They’d come in and bring me one beer to test and one beer to drink,” says Harwood. “It was a fun relationship.”

Kennedy and his wife would eventually long for a return to Colorado as well, where he brewed at Sleeping Giant before working for several years as the production brewer at New Image Brewing.

Danico's opening lineup of beers highlights the range of Kennedy and the vision of both Harwood and Lotierzo. Along with Tookah the Tucker Munich dunkel is Hey Pard’ Pils, a pilsner in the German style, clean and crisp with a firm bitterness. At a slightly elevated 5.5 percent ABV, there’s just a hint of sweetness in the beer.
A neat row of fermenters behind the bar at Danico.
Danico Brewing
Both IPAs are solid interpretations of the two major sub-styles. Bodey Bodhi & Associates is an East Coast IPA that has a good juicy hop profile with some light woody hop notes, too. This, along with its moderate body, helps balance the 7.5 percent ABV. The Arsenal IPA, a West Coast-style IPA, has some new-school citrus hop flavors in addition to the classic pine profile. It’s at an approachable level of bitterness for this style, but still very much a West Coast IPA.

Pear Suit of Happiness is a sour ale with pear and vanilla added; those sweet flavor additions and the clean, tart base make for a perfect juxtaposition that will satisfy a key demographic of a typical brewery. And Front Porch Porter may be the best beer of the bunch, smooth and malty with hints of roast and layers of sweet dark chocolates.

Besides those house beers, Danico is serving gluten-free options from Holidaily, root beer from Tommyknocker, and Bud Light. That’s right, Bud Light. The macro beer is an ode to the pair's roots. With that being said, it has so far been outsold by every individual beer brewed on site, so it's clear that patrons prefer the high-quality beer made at the brewery to the popular macro light lager.
There are a number of seating options at Danico.
Danico Brewing
Danico's location near the airport makes for an interesting and diverse set of patrons. The early results have shown a varied group of customers, from track and field groups staying at the hotels nearby, to a handful of stranded travelers from North Dakota (they drank Bud Light, Harwood shares), to a reliable group of locals that live in the area subdivisions. Danico is also opening at 10:30 a.m., hoping to align with travelers that have to check out of hotels at 11 a.m.

Without a kitchen, the focus has been on making sure food trucks are available daily and are varied in cuisine. Harwood says that for the opening day, both food trucks on hand sold out. Future trucks are already booking through May.

Harwood and Lotierzo hope that more breweries open up in the area, with a "rising tide lifts all boats" mentality, they say. But for now, they're sailing solo in northeast metro Denver, and they're off to a strong start.
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Ryan Pachmayer is a beer writer living in Arvada. He has written for publications such as Craft Beer & Brewing, Zymurgy, Porch Drinking, Homebrewing DIY and Punch. He is also the head brewer at Yak & Yeti Brewpub, marketing director at New Image Brewing and a BJCP Certified Judge.

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