Alex Liberati is one of those people who is always a couple of steps ahead. While you're still thinking about the last thing he said, or did, he's already moved onto the next one — and before you know it, you've missed half the conversation. It's been the same for his career as a globe-spanning restaurateur and brewer. In Rome in 2007, Liberati opened Brasserie 4:20, a stylish pub serving big, bold beers from around the world (even if the people of Rome were way late to the 4:20 joke). In 2009, he founded Revelation Cat Brewing, a roving "gypsy" brewery that specialized in American-style hoppy beers — the kind that jolted European palates and thought processes.
"It was revolutionary at the time for Italy," he says. "And it kick-started the hop movement there."
By 2014, though, Liberati had moved on — and out of Europe, mothballing Revelation Cat and settling in Denver, where he planned his most ambitious project yet, a $3 million Italian restaurant and brewery inside the renovated former Golden Bell Press building in Five Points. And his beers were, once again, far ahead. This time, he chose to make only beer-wine hybrids, which he dubbed oenobeers. For instance, he has brewed a hoppy pale ale made with sauvignon blanc grapes, a Belgian saison made with 35 percent chardonnay grapes, a roasty stout packed with cabernet sauvignon grapes, a kolsch made with chardonnay grapes, a Belgian table beer with riesling grapes, and a Belgian dubbel brewed with 49 percent malbec grapes.
Now, nine months after he opened Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers, Liberati is taking a breath. Instead of moving on to the next thing, he's going to wait for the rest of us to catch up.
Business has been decent, he says, but it needs to be better, and the best way to do that is to let Denver know that his place isn't just for special occasions, and that the lunch crowd can get a good deal there on more traditional food. And that there are beers on tap that will be more familiar to your taste buds.
A few months ago, Liberati changed the name to the more approachable Liberati Restaurant & Brewery, retooled the menu, and cut back on staff, including head brewer Bob Malone (who is now at Grist Brewing). When he got low on beer, though, Liberati began brewing himself. And this time, he decided that in addition to the oenobeers, he would bring back some of his old recipes from Revelation Cat.
On Sunday, August 11, he tapped the first of those beers. HopAddendum, a 6 percent ABV IPA with notes of pine resin, orange and grapefruit, was Revelation Cat's flagship and the first to make its comeback. That will be followed by several other RevCat beers, leading up to the Great American Beer Festival in October, when he will tap several of them.
"I've learned a lot in the past year. Having only beer with grapes is a little too focusing. But having another brand in here is quite good. There is nothing bad about it," Liberati says.
"I could work on [oenobeers] all my life and never get bored," he adds. "But it's also nice to get back together with an old friend. It's a market that has to be hit — and this is a big space."
Over its five-year lifespan, RevCat brewed dozens of beers, most of them heavy on the hops, but also some American-style stouts and barleywines, along with some big Belgian-style beers. While Liberati made most of them as a "gypsy brewer," using the facilities of other breweries around Europe, he did open his own production space near Kent, England, in 2012. He sold that space in 2014.
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In addition to his old flagships, Liberati plans to make some more modern American-style craft beers with some of the ingredients that brewers are using today, like Kviek yeast and experimental hops.
And he'll keep making oenobeers as well. In fact, in addition to HopAddendum, Liberati tapped four brand-new oenobeers last Sunday. They are The Mighty Oyster, a 19.3 percent ABV (yes, 19.3) sweet Belgian-style ale brewed with 150 PEI Pink Moon oysters and sauvignon blanc grapes; Eroica, a lovely 4.5 percent farmhouse beer brewed with 47 percent sauvignon blanc grapes from Oregon; Brianna Stark, an 8 percent surprisingly dry and bitter New England-style IPA made with viognier grapes and ten hop additions; and Larry Docet, a 5.5 percent ABV unfiltered German-style kolsche made with viognier grapes.
With the exception of the Mighty Oyster, Liberati's new brews are mostly bright and spritzy, best enjoyed on the restaurant's expansive patio (complete with a tiled fountain) over games of bocce.
Liberati Restaurant & Brewery is located at 2401 Champa Street and is open from noon to 10 p.m. daily (kicking off an hour earlier on weekends). Call 303-862-5652 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.