The Congress Park Taproom doesn't take up a lot of space along Colorado Boulevard, but that doesn't mean it should be overlooked. When a friend and I popped in on a Monday night, we were pleasantly surprised by the large and spacious bar, relaxed vibe and plethora of cute dogs to pet.
The Congress Park Taproom is a relative newcomer to the area — the spot will be celebrating three years in business this October — but it's been a draw for Congress Park neighbors from the start. Owner Mark Thompson lives in the area and opened the bar after getting laid off from his job as an engineer. He renovated the interior of the space, adding shiny copper bar tops, various booths and tables for seating, and light-colored paint that, along with the large front windows, gives the place a spacious feel despite the small square footage.
Before Thompson took over, the long, thin storefront was actually be two separate addresses that housed businesses such as a futon store, a Heidi's Deli and, most recently, a short-lived boozy ice cream establishment called Twisted Cream. So three years feels pretty stable after all the changes, and the bar has taken root, thanks in part to Thompson's Mug Club, whose members can purchase a twenty-ounce mug and have it filled with their favorite beer for the price of a regular pint, and also enjoy $1 off special beers on Tuesdays and Sundays.
This is a taproom, so the emphasis is on beer, with a list of thirty primarily Colorado brews. But wine, whiskey and mixed drinks are also poured for those not in the mood for barley and hops. There's even kombucha and sparkling water on tap, but our bartender tells us that's not the case on our visit. Apparently, a big wedding party took over the place the weekend before and kicked the kegs of non-alcoholic beverages, plus several of the beers.
We opted for some summery beers instead, and filled up a cardboard tray of popcorn from the popcorn machine, where you'll also find ranch, chili and cheese powdered flavorings. This and a few microwave pizzas are the only food sold, so furry friends are allowed, and there were a bunch of fluffy dogs sitting with their owners, occasionally getting treats in the form of popcorn tossed their way. Hungry customers, including the owners of said dogs, generally order takeout from nearby restaurants such as Swing Thai, Falafel King and Dae Gee Korean Barbecue, all on the same block.
The TVs were playing early college football games and the place was full of neighborhood folks, mostly on the younger side, chatting, eating, drinking and smoking on the patio out front. Despite being right on Colorado Boulevard, the patio here is actually quite nice, with string lights and hop vines creating an ambience that, while not exactly secluded and private, still provides a peaceful environment.
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Inside, entertainment options include shuffleboard and darts, as well as a shelf stacked with board games. My friend and I enjoyed the calm crowd and chatted with Thompson, who talked about his anticipation of the new movie theater and restaurants coming to the 9th & Colorado development going in across the street. The new development is slated to be completed within a year and should bring a lot more foot traffic (and more cars, too, if we're being realistic) to this stretch of Colorado Boulevard. The new apartment buildings nearby are already bringing new customers to the taproom.
Thompson holds occasional charity fundraisers at his bar, including one for St. Jude Children's Hospital. And teachers and nurses always get 20 percent off their tab on Thursdays. Other specials and draws include bottomless mimosas, Irish coffees and a Bloody Mary bar on Sunday during football season, trivia on Wednesday nights, and happy hour all day every Sunday. Thompson is a New Mexico State University alum and has decorated the bar with memorabilia from his alma mater, but he says he caters to his customers who are also sports fans, turning the TVs to whichever games they want to watch.
I'm looking forward to another visit to the taproom for the selection of good beers, popcorn and the opportunity to bring my dog next time.
The Congress Park Taproom is located at 833 South Colorado Boulevard and is open daily. Visit the bar's website or call 303-997-7469 for hours and details.