From the sky, every small Denver brewery looks the same. A rooftop with some venting, maybe an outdoor tank or two, a patio with tables made from beetle-kill pine. The owners of FlyteCo Brewing, which will open its doors later this month, know that all too well. Two are pilots, and all three are aware of just how many breweries there are in Denver now.
“We see the market and how competitive it is,” says Eric Serani, who caught the bug for flying from his grandfather. “So you need to have something that people will remember.”
FlyteCo will certainly be that. Located in the former Merkl’s garage at 4499 West 38th Avenue, the brewery is embracing an aviation theme — but that means more than just pictures on the wall. When customers walk in, they’ll be greeted by a salvaged plane wing at the entrance and runway striping on the floor; the bar is made from Marston Mat, steel planking that was used to quickly lay down runways during past wars.
And then there’s the show-stopping design element built to look like the fuselage of a small plane, complete with jump seats and small airplane windows. It’s stunning — and Serani says that’s the point: “Your natural first reaction is to take a picture of it. It’s something that sticks out, that will make you want to come back.”
Serani, an aerospace engineer, met Jason Slingsby at the University of Colorado, where they bonded over a love for flight and for planes (Slingsby, who also has other pilots in his family, soloed for the first time at age seventeen). The two later met Morgan O’Sullivan, the third owner, who will run the front of the house.
“Pilots like to get together and tell stories. You can’t shut a pilot up. They're very passionate,” Slingsby says. “That's a lot like craft brewing. Beer people, they're passionate as well, and they also love to tell stories.”
Slingsby, who home-brewed in college, is the head brewer, and he plans to make a wide variety of beers, including a guava pale ale (that will also be the house beer for Barbed Wire Reef, the food truck-turned-restaurant that just opened next door), a hazy IPA, a weisenbock, an amber, a porter and a ginger blonde.
He’s been practicing at Woods Boss Brewing, which has the exact same fifteen-barrel brewhouse that FlyteCo will use. In fact, Slingsby has already made seven different beers at Woods Boss, which he will serve when FlyteCo opens.
FlyteCo and Barbed Wire Reef share the building, which dates back to the late 1800s, when it was an electric plant for west Denver’s streetcar system. It sits on 38th Avenue between Utica Street and the busy Tennyson Street business and restaurant corridor.
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It’s also the fourth brewery to open in that corridor (a fifth is planned for this summer), something FlyteCo’s owners are cognizant of. “This is a destination street, and we are all walking distance from one another,” Serani says, adding that breweries often thrive when they are grouped into a cluster because beer drinkers want to visit them all. “I hope we're reaching a kind of saturation that is beneficial rather than detrimental.”
DeSteeg Brewing and the Grateful Gnome are both near 44th Avenue, while Call to Arms Brewing is near 46th. The Empourium will open at Tennyson and 42nd.
FlyteCo plans to hold several soft openings this month to work out its tap lines, staff and point-of-sale system. Then the brewers will hold their grand opening on March 9.