With more than 300 breweries making some of the most well-regarded, well-known beers in the United States, Colorado is frequently referred to as the Napa Valley of Craft Beer. But Colorado is home to some of the country's best sour and wild beer brewers as well. So, are we also the Belgium of the New World?
John Fayman thinks so. “It is what we do best in Colorado. If you put our breweries here that make those beers – and the amount of knowledge that the people making them have – against any other market in the country, and maybe in the world, we would come out ahead,” says Fayman, who owns Backcountry Pizza and Taphouse in Boulder and Backcountry Pizza in Nederland. “People realize it to a certain degree, but in the next ten years, they will really understand it. And I just want to showcase that.”
That's why Fayman plans to open Goed Zuur, an eatery and taproom pouring only wild and sour beers from Colorado, the United States and around the world, paired with small plates, charcuterie and cheeses.
Five years ago, a taproom serving only sour and wild beers probably wouldn't have worked, both because this style of beer – and its higher price point – might have turned people off. “But beer education has come a long way on the Front Range,” Fayman says.
Located at 2801 Welton Street in Five Points, Goed Zuur, which means “good acid” or “good sour” in Dutch, will have twenty taps at all times. But the real gem will be the dirt-floored bottle cellar, which will begin with 150 different bottles and could eventually reach 500. “Some of these are made is such small amounts that it is easier to get them in bottles than draft,” Fayman explains.
The 1,200-square-foot basement cellar stays at a cool 49 degrees even on the hottest days in Denver, he adds, and that feature was a big part of why he chose to lease the space.
“All of my friends' spots in Belgium – cellaring lambic and gueuze is a big part of what they do. So we built this with that in mind,” Fayman says. The building had been home to a variety of bars, restaurants and markets over the decades, most recently BJ's Port, which closed in 2007. But the basement hadn't been used in a long time; Fayman says there was still a wooden cooler down there and beer kegs dating back to the 1940s or '50s.
The lambic and gueuze styles are both examples of sour beers, which are made using a variety of bacterias and wild yeast strains. Wild beers are made with Brettanomyces yeast that lends them numerous funky flavors. These beers are typically associated with Belgian breweries, but are also made in other European counties, and in the U.S.
In Colorado, New Belgium, Odell, Avery, Crooked Stave and Trinity Brewing are all known for their well-regarded sour and wild ales, but other small and medium-sized breweries in Colorado have also developed strong sour and wild programs, including TRVE Brewing, Casey Brewing and Blending, Epic Brewing, Former Future's Black Project and Dry Dock. Even the tiny Our Mutual Friend got on the map last fall when it won a silver medal for a sour beer at the Great American Beer Festival.
“Everyone is jumping on this, and it is all good. We have so much of it around here,” Fayman says. “So I really think that having a place for people to drink only sour beer in a high-end environment is important to the scene here. As the brewery scene progresses, it needs to get more specialties. I think there should be IPA bars or barrel-aged bars, too.”
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Fayman came to Colorado from Kansas and bought Backcountry Pizza in Nederland in 2006, immediately changing over many of the handles to craft beer. After noticing how few bars in Boulder focused on craft beer, he opened Backcountry Pizza & Taphouse in that town in 2011. The spot now boasts 68 taps full of craft specialties and is often one of the first or only bars to land very rare and sought-after kegs.
The building in Five Points, which was built around 1895, is being completely renovated and restored by its new owner, Star Mesa Properties. The company, which will put offices upstairs, is also restoring two old murals – known as ghost signs – that were discovered on the side of the building's brick after a stucco coating was removed.
Star Mesa principal Bob Cardwell says the Welton Street corridor, which is developing quickly, has “a fabulous future” and that Goed Zuur will attract people not just from the surrounding area but from all over Denver and elsewhere, because of the ever-increasing popularity of sour beers. “This is the kind of thing we were looking for,” he adds.
Fayman will take possession of his space in April and hopes to be open in time for the Great American Beer Fest in October.