Jefferson Park is a curious place. From the northwest Denver neighborhood, you can catch glimpses of Mile High Stadium, Elitch's and the Denver cityscape, yet you’re removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown (I-25 snakes its way between the two ’hoods). Briar Common Brewery + Eatery is situated on the corner of 23rd and Clay, facing the neighborhood’s namesake park, and as long as you aren’t searching for a table on Broncos game days, the place makes a lot of sense for a chill happy hour stopover. Luckily for me, the place also has ample seating — downstairs, upstairs and on the sweet seasonal rooftop patio, giving even a late happy hour arrival an opportunity to grab a quick bite.
Although the menu gives no indication, BC’s happy hour runs every day from 3 to 6 p.m. and includes $2 off cocktails and wine, $1 off all beers and five "Start Here" menu items. The kitchen also offers a rad 12-ounce beer-and-burger deal for ten bucks.
In my mind, $1 off starters isn't a great happy hour deal, but I suppose it depends on the original price, so I was willing to give the place a chance (especially since I planned on getting in on that genuine burger-and-beer deal). I headed upstairs, passing by both bars and snagging a corner seat on a bench along the wall. The place has done an interesting job splitting spaces into bar and restaurant areas, using planters and table orientation to make the dining room feel a bit less brewery-esque, a bit more RiNo chic.
My partner and I elected to order everything on the happy hour menu except the chips + dip, leaving us with rosemary fries ($6), Buffalo cauliflower ($10), crispy Brussels sprouts ($8) and the double cheeseburger.
Our extroverted server happily allowed us to taste several beers before we made a decision. My companion puckered as he swallowed a barrel-aged beer — a stout that we thought, after nine months in whiskey barrels, would have been less sour and more round. Did the brewery's various other sour beers infect this batch, we wondered? Ultimately, he settled on Forty Pound, a relatively light-tasting 7 percent American IPA. I opted for a dark beer called Bramble, a 9 percent blackberry stout with a rich hue and a balanced fruit-to-malt palate. However, I was devastated that Briar Common decided for some reason (possibly fear of alienating customers) to describe its Sour Seoul beer as a “sour chile” ale rather than the “sour kimchi” ale I later noticed on the brewpub's website. The change in a single word made me skim right past it, but I'll have to go back and try it now that I know.
Two sets of fries and another item that we didn’t order, roasted mushrooms with cauliflower purée (on the shared-plates menu), arrived first to our table. We mentioned this to the server, and he kindly offered the mushroom mistake for free, noting that he'd gotten his wires crossed with the veggie dishes. The second set of fries headed back to the kitchen — a good thing, because I couldn’t imagine eating half of the hefty plate of slender frites, let alone an entire one. I was happy to find Denver-made Elevation ketchup as the house choice to counterbalance the ramekin of truffle aioli that came with the fries. The mushrooms were meaty-juicy, though I can’t say I got much flavor from the herb vinaigrette or purée. Still, I was pleased that Briar Common serves a variety of vegetarian options (even if a real mushroom lover might contest).
The Buffalo cauliflower arrived battered and bright on a long plate. These were par-cooked but firm and with only a thin, crisp shell barely clinging to the cauliflower’s ample crevices. Aside from that, the flavor was equivalent to all Buffalo-sauced appetizers: tangy and weird, yet completely normal for lovers of all things Buffaloed. After a few toothsome cauliflower pieces, I was ready to move on. Just in time, the crispy Brussels sprouts and burger arrived, filling up our small table. The sprouts appeared perfectly cooked, with paper-thin outer leaves like crunchy petals buried beneath a hefty garnish of diced scallions. We dove in, and as the pile disappeared, the veggies became glossier and glossier, until the black sesame and white soy vinaigrette fully saturated the last few at the bottom of the bowl.
After the sprouts, we turned our attention toward the burger: two greasy patties on a generic bun, with (what looked like) housemade pickles, red onions and deliciously droopy yellow cheese beckoning us forth. After one bite, it was immediately clear that this was the true happy hour score. I sank my teeth in, but soon realized I was full and would be taking the rest home. Briar Common’s ample portions are impressive, but when it comes to price versus flavor, this gastro-brewery might be better suited for dinner; I'm already craving a taste of fried chicken and other colorful full dinner options — as well as that kimchi beer.
Briar Common Brewery + Eatery is located at 2298 Clay Street. Call 720-512-3894 or visit briarcommon.com for more details.
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