Beer Man

De Steeg Brewing will open on North Tennyson Street after changing its name

"I can't tell you how hard it was to find a new name. Everything I thought of was already taken," says Craig Rothgery, who plans to open De Steeg Brewing in January in the alleyway across the street from the Oriental Theater, at 4342 North Tennyson Street.

But De Steeg seems to fit: it translates from Dutch to "the alley," and since Rothgery is inspired by the Belgian brewing tradition, he went with it. "I spent a lot of time researching it online to make sure it wasn't taken," Rothgery says.

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A home brewer and mechanical engineer in Aurora, Rothgery worked a Nestle Foods in Denver before being laid off in April. He'd been thinking about opening his own brewery for about two years, though, and decided that the time was right.

Since his passion is brewing high-alcohol, high-gravity beers -- in the 8 to 14 percent range -- he named his concept High Gravity Brewing. And then he found out through the grapevine about a place in Louisville called Gravity Brewing that was getting set to open.

Two local breweries, 16.1 miles apart, with essentially the same name. It just wasn't going to work. So Rothgery and Gravity co-owner John Frazee sat down and talked things over. "He was apologetic and compassionate because he had just been through the process of opening," Rothgery says. "It was nice to not get lawyers involved and not to have somebody be aggressive about it. He was great, and in the end, it made sense for me to change my name."

Earlier this month, Rothgery began the demolition and renovation process in his 1,650-square-foot space, in which he plans to open a forty-seat taproom in late January. The entrance will be in the alley, but he doesn't see that as a problem.

"I'm a one-man show, so I needed a place that was small and had low rent but that was still in an awesome neighborhood," he says. Rothgery is building his 1.25-barrel brewing system himself since he has experience doing similar things and plans to use it for big bolder beers with lots of malty flavors. "I'm not making whites," he says about an wine analogy he likes to use. "I'm making full-bodied reds."

If things go well, he plans to expand into a seven-barrel brewing system.

The exiting craft beer-centered pizza restaurant, Hops & Pie, plans to open its own brewery in the fall of 2013 just four blocks away, but Rothgery thinks there will be room for both of them, as well as the nearby Hogshead and Crooked Stave breweries.

"This area is going to have a great craft beer scene," he says.

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