It's been a while since Ron Tarver first announced plans to open Denver Distillery (244 South Broadway), but after nearly six years, the time has finally come.
"This is all my design from out of my head from over five years ago," says Tarver as he shows off the finished space. The reason that it took so long, he explains, is mainly because of zoning (he got it changed), overhauling the space (he did it all himself with a small team), and getting all the licenses in order (he claims he is the first to obtain Denver's new distillery pub license, which first became available in 2016).
"It's been a labor of love," Tarver states.
From the moment you step inside, you can see the creativity and originality that Tarver has put into his pub, which is housed in the 125-year-old Imperial Building on South Broadway — where the Imperial Hotel once did business. The owner stripped down the facade to its original wood and spruced up the framework with copper paint. A barrel touting the name of the distillery hangs over the entrance — a feat, says Tarver, that also took plenty of time and paperwork to pull off, since the city frowns on using objects as signage.
Inside, Tarver exposed the original brick, and when he removed the tin ceiling, he found that the beams were falling apart, so he had to reinforce the structure before adding beautiful Virginia pine paneling. The bar top was built from the original support beams from the ceiling, and over the counter you'll see a thick wooden joist that was also part of the building and now acts as a mount for hanging bar lights.
Overall, the Denver Distillery brings to mind a modern saloon with vintage touches; metal tractor seats act as bar stools along the front of the bar, while corner tables were made from wine-barrel tops. Booth seating comes in the form of repurposed pews from a nearby church, while paintings by artist Suzan Wick add color to the brick walls. Beyond that, guests can view two copper stills, one purchased and the other built by head distiller Chad Peters, nestled behind a half-wall,
On Friday, January 26, Denver Distillery will open the friendly space to the public, so you can try a variety of housemade spirits, including a silver and a dark rum, a strawberry-kiwi liqueur and a pumpkin-infused liqueur. There's also one called Lemon-Lime Sweet Feed Shine, a moonshine-style white whiskey made with a sweet feed (a mixture of grains you'd typically find in livestock feed) mash. Soon there will be more, says Peters, who is currently working on a bourbon and coffee liqueur. The idea, adds Tarver, is to make spirits using whatever tasty and local ingredients they can get their hands on. For example, the pumpkin liqueur was created after the team scored 100 pounds of whole pumpkins from Cooksey Farms in Roggen. All of these (as well as future products) are made in Peters's bespoke still, after the various mashes are fermented in four open-air cypress fermentation tanks.
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Aside from the distillery's own spirits, guests can also sample craft cocktails, one of four local beers on tap, cider from the Colorado Cider Company, and liquor from other local purveyors such as Leopold Bros., Golden Moon and Woody Creek. Food is provided by Tip Top Savory Pies, a Boulder company specializing in New Zealand-style pies. Flavors such as cauliflower tikka masala, mushroom ale, bacon-and-egg brekkie (aka breakfast) and sweet potato with chorizo are delivered frozen and ready to be zapped in the venue's state-of-the-art warmer. They will also serve an array of galettes from Tip Top for dessert.
Denver Distillery will hold its opening party beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 26, and will be open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., every day after that. See the company's Facebook page for more information.