Beer Man

Little Machine Will Open by Sports Authority Field, Brew a Wide Variety of Beers

Wheels and axles, levers, pulleys, wedges, screws and inclined plans. These are the “simple machines” that engineers have used to create every complicated mechanical invention for thousands of years. In that same way, brewers have used a set of basic ingredients – water, yeast, malt and hops – to create complex, nuanced beers for just as long.

Combining simple elements to make something complex. That's what the three owners of Little Machine – Brett Williams, Mike Dunkly and Ben Chenard — hope to do when they open their brewery later this year at 2924 West 20th Avenue, right by Sports Authority Field.

They also want to stay little, like the name implies, says Williams, who is leaving his high-profile job as head brewer at Dry Dock's production facility in north Aurora to open Little Machine. “The goal is to be a neighborhood spot and to get back to our roots that way, to make fun beers and talk directly with our customers.... People always ask me if I think there are too many breweries in Denver already. I don't think so. If every neighborhood can support a restaurant, then why not a brewery, too?”

The Jefferson Park neighborhood, where Little Machine is located, is certainly growing and changing. Several new restaurants have opened there in the past year or two, and another brewery is in formation nearby as well.

“It's so accessible,” says Dunkly, who points out that the brewery is located near several bike paths and next to highway on-ramps.

But Little Machine will have another advantage aside from its location at the crossroads of the Jefferson Park, Sloan's Lake, West Colfax and Sun Valley neighborhoods: its prime position on a hill overlooking the stadium. The 3,400-square-foot building – which has had a variety of office and industrial uses over the past fifty years – is just steps away from the sidewalks and parking lots that tens of thousands of people use on Sundays in the fall and winter as they head to and from Denver Broncos games.
And although its locale is special, Williams, Dunkly and Chenard believe the inside will be unique. The centerpiece of Little Machine will be a circular bar that will help facilitate conversation, they say. The bar will be serviced by a draft line that runs straight back along the ceiling to a similarly circular cooler in the back. On one side of the bar will be couches and coffee tables, while the other side will have traditional high-top tables. The tap handles and logo have a robot theme, which plays into the brewery name.

Eventually they'd like to add a small patio on the side and even a rooftop patio down the road – with views of the skyline and the stadium.

The ten-barrel brewhouse, made by Bennett Forgeworks in Ridgway, will be in the back – and it will also have an unusual distinction: although Bennett has made numerous brewhouses over the years, this will be the first time the company has built an entire system, including the fermentation and brite tanks.

Chenard says the distinction is important since the team is trying to source as much of its brewery as possible from Colorado companies.

As for the beers, Little Machine plans to start with eight on tap and grow to twelve or fifteen. They will likely include a pilsner or a helles, an IPA, a field beer and an all-Colorado pale ale, as well as categories of rotating styles. In other words, although the recipes will change, Williams says the brewery will probably always have something dark, like a stout, something strong, like a double IPA, and something Belgian.

Chenard points out that since the brewery will likely get a different crowd on game days, they'll try to have something easy-drinking and approachable. They are also planning to invite food trucks to the brewery, although they may look to some of the traditional loncherias from nearby Federal Boulevard, Williams says, in order to keep some of the local vibe.

The owners are confident about their strategies, something they say comes from their combined backgrounds and experience. Chenard, who works in finance, will oversee that aspect of the company, while Dunkly, who has worked a variety of bars and breweries around town, will handle front-of-the-house operations. Williams, who will leave his job as the head of Dry Dock's huge operation next month, will be the brewer.

“Although we're sad to see Brett leave, we're excited about his opportunity and wish him the best,” says Dry Dock co-founder Kevin DeLange. “He's a fantastic brewer and we're sure he'll be successful in his new venture. Every brewer dreams of having their own place and… given his experience, technical brewing skills and passion, we're sure Brett will be successful.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in May. The owners hope to open as early as September.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes