For the past year,I've been eating my way up and down Havana Street in Aurora. With that mission accomplished, I'm moving on to more suburban surroundings; I'll be tackling the diverse eats and drinks of Arapahoe Road from Parker Road to Broadway. Here's my first stop in what promises to be a long but tasty adventure.
In 2010, Mason Hembree, co-owner of Dad & Dudes Breweria, closed his successful Internet business to pursue his passion for brewing beer on a professional level. Mason and his father, Tom, envisioned sharing their unique recipes for brews and food in Centennial, where they’ve spent the majority of their time as a family.
“I wanted to make more of an impact in the world,” says the son. And according to the brewpub's website, Tom and Mason wanted to “put our own stamp on our stomping grounds and [put] our roots down before the developers and chain stores wiped it out.” So Mason assembled a team of close friends and family members to begin his quest of building a brick-and-mortar business — putting his father at the forefront of it all.
While Mason initially wanted to open a brewery only, Tom's passion for food (pizza, in particular) inspired him to co-create what is now Dad & Dudes. “Once we decided this was going to be a restaurant and not just a brewery, we spent ten months in our own kitchens, creating and testing the recipes that you see on the menu today,” Mason explains. With more than forty years of experience in the food industry, Tom continues to generate new entrees each week by offering a “Dad’s Special” that he serves to patrons every Thursday.
“I’ve always dreamed of sharing my pizza, and now I get to do it alongside my son and his crazy beers,” Tom notes on the website. While making his crazy beers, Mason discovered that the spent grains from his brews could be used in the pizza dough to help the yeast ferment, resulting in a light, airy pizza crust — a fun and unique way to entwine his and his father’s passions. That spent-grain dough is now used in several menu items, including breadsticks, calzones and sandwiches.
While Tom oversees the kitchen, Mason (the "Dude" in the equation) runs the brewery side of the business. He and his band of former home brewers (one of which Mason found on Craigslist) work to create unique recipes, such as a recent batch of Honey Nut Cheerios Kolsh. “You can literally try a new beer here every week,” he points out.
Dad & Dudes keeps five regular beers on tap, including Dank IPA, the first cannabidiol-infused beer in the U.S., and original concoctions like Leaves of Lemongrass, Something Light, Toffee Porter and Hoparazzi. Customers can keep track of specials and new beers on the chalkboard above the bar, table tents and the brewery's Facebook page.
On top of the variety of spent-grain pizzas, Dad & Dudes offers a large selection of upgraded pub fare, such as the popular Dude’s Fries appetizer ($9) that you might see in the middle of nearly every table in the place. Thick, hand-cut rosemary-imbued fries are drizzled in basil aioli and served in a skillet underneath a mound of melty white cheddar, meaty pieces of bacon and slivers of jalapeño. Satisfying and hearty, it’s easy to see why this appetizer is a favorite. The housemade Italian sausage appetizer ($10) is a sweet and spicy link bursting with the flavors of fennel and paprika. Served with it are oregano-speckled veggies and a sweet, creamy whole-grain mustard. The dish packs a spicy punch, but the portion size and overall flavor left me happy.
The Dad’s Bacon Jam Burger ($13) was on the dry side, perhaps because on my visit the burger was missing its bacon jam, with only a thin, translucent layer of basil aioli. Once the server brought a side of the smoky-sweet concoction of caramelized onions and bits of a bourbon-tasting bacon, it upgraded the bland beef patty from meh to marvelous. The spent-grain dough on the Shibby calzone ($11) was as light and flaky as Mason described, and the melty ricotta/mozzarella mixture was generously packed around pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers and olives. Both entrees paired well with the rich and malty Hoparazzi, which the brewery sells by the six-pack from a cooler next to the host stand, if you want to get your food and beer to go.
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Two “Hoppy” hours are offered Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close. Daily specials change often, so call or stop in to find out what’s available. Since Father’s Day (this Sunday, June 17) is a particularly celebratory day for a dad and his dude, specials will include bottomless man-mosas for $12, made with the lemongrass beer and orange juice and served during brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You also can stop in to fill your growler with any beer on tap, or stay and share a pitcher with your dad or your dude for $8 all day.
Mason and Tom can often be found out on the floor mingling with customers, enjoying the community they've helped build together over the past eight years. Passion and community are obvious cornerstones of the Breweria, and the feeling is palpable from the minute you walk in to the last slug of beer. Visitors looking to escape the jungle of uninspired chain restaurants surrounding the pint-sized brewpub will find refuge in the creative, ever-changing beer and food menus offered by the father/son team.
Dad & Dudes Breweria is located at 6730 South Cornerstar Way, Aurora (the southwest corner of Parker and Arapahoe roads is part of an isolated island of Aurora surrounded by Centennial). The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The eatery does not take reservations, but you can call ahead to 303-400-5699 if you're coming with a large party.