The Denver Brewery Comedy Scene Is Thriving

Banded Oak has comedy nights on the second Friday of each month.
Banded Oak has comedy nights on the second Friday of each month. Banded Oak Brewing
Tightly packed, dimly lit seating, up close to the well-lit stage. A packed house and flowing beer. These are the key elements to the ideal comedy show, according to local comedian Korey David, who hosts the monthly Late Night Comedy at Banded Oak Brewing. "Certain shows feel like they're in a garage, basically, and have that kind of DIY, grungy feel to them," he says, "which makes it a more intimate, fun show."

David's monthly show at Banded Oak takes place in the back room, a smaller area that used to house the brewhouse before the brewery outgrew that space. Co-owner Will Curtin approached David after the equipment moved and told him that he was looking to host music and other events, and David has now been running the show for a year and a half.

The venue seats about fifty people, which David says is "perfect," adding that the low ceilings, smaller room and ability to "stack people on top of one another" is really appealing. "When you're shoulder to shoulder, barely any legroom with the person in front of you, it just makes it more contagious," he notes. "It's almost like a house party."

Breweries have become a natural setting for comedy because of their focus on being social gathering spaces and places for events. The free-flowing, endless varieties of beer also make for a logical pairing. Breweries tend to have stronger day and evening crowds, so late-evening comedy fills a void as well.
An August 2021 flier for Ratio's weekly show.
Ratio Instagram
Denver also has a handful of independent comedy clubs that really pump money into social media and search engine optimization, allowing those clubs to book the bigger names that come into town. This dynamic leaves an opening for the breweries, places with a lower budget and often a smaller venue. It creates opportunities for patrons to find up-and-coming comedians, as well as to catch some of those visiting comedians who pop by to do an extra show or two, or to test out new material.

"The allure of the [brewery] show," says David, "is that you never know what you're going to see." One week the audience might be treated to a comedy veteran who has been on Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Kimmel's show, and then the next week it could be an upstart local comedian trying to make a name for themselves.

At Late Night Comedy, David brings a range of comics in, with a focus on locals. He's also been touring all over the country (last week he was in New York, this week Houston), and he will make his first international trip to Vietnam in February. "Reddit" is his reply when asked how he found shows to work over there. Like many comedians, he has a day job, and a side job. He does copywriting and videography for a training company most days, but he also books acting gigs several times a year.

While David's typical drink of choice is a pilsner or West Coast-style IPA, he chose to collaborate with Banded Oak on a hard seltzer dubbed Satire Strawberry Seltzer. "Comedians, we're out eating bullshit on the road and drinking a lot of beer," explains David. "One of the favorite beverages of comedians tends to be White Claw. For better or worse, it's one of the few opportunities we have to save calories." Hard seltzer, while not growing by leaps and bounds like it once was, remains popular enough and can appeal to the type of crossover crowd that you might find at a brewery on a popular street like Broadway.

Ready for laughs and brews? Check the comedy at these Denver-area breweries:
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A Rotating Tap Comedy show at Great Divide.
Rotating Tap Comedy Instagram
Late Night Comedy at Banded Oak Brewing - Second Fridays
David hosts his monthly show at Banded Oak on Broadway, featuring some excellent comics. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

The Ratio Brewing Comedy Show - Every Wednesday
Hosting a weekly show is a lot of work, and it's difficult to successfully pull it off. But Ratio Beerworks manages to have one of the most consistent, high-quality shows in the city at its RiNo location. Best of all, the comedy is free.

Odell Brewing Five Points Brewhouse - Last Thursdays
Each month, Odell plays host to a free comedy night from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The event is run by Red Lime Comedy, with hosts Edward Bell and Ben Dailey along with other local talent.

Rotating Tap Comedy - Several dates each month
Rotating Tap Comedy is a successful series that takes place at some of the best brewery venues in and around Denver. Chain Reaction Brewing is a frequent host on second Fridays, and there are other upcoming events at River North Brewery's Blake Street taproom, Great Divide's Barrel Bar, the Empourium Brewing Company, Landlock Ales, SomePlace Else Brewery and Coal Mine Brewing. General admission ranges from free to $10 at some venues, with group tables available at select breweries as well.
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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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