Beer Man

Boulder's BRU Gastropub and Brewery Is Closing After Seven Years

Boulder's BRU Gastropub and Brewery Is Closing After Seven Years (2)
BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats, an unusual brewery and restaurant that opened in Boulder in 2013, will close its doors for good next Friday, July 31, another casualty of COVID-19. Owners Ian and Bryce Clark say the decision to shutter is a "heartbreaking" one, but that the pandemic left them no other choice.

Ian Clark, then the head chef at Centro Mexican Kitchen, started the brewery part of the business in 2011 in his garage, bottling beers with unusual ingredients such as lemon zest, dates and juniper. He left Centro two years later to open the restaurant, at 5290 Arapahoe Avenue, bringing his beer-making equipment with him.

It was — and still is — a unique concept: a gastropub in which in the head chef and owner is also the head brewer, using the same ingredient-driven approach for both his beer and his food.

"He did really set out to change the game when it came to beer and food," says Bryce. "And we sure did get a lot of people seeing that craft beer should be paired with craft food. He’s also pretty proud of starting a restaurant that wasn’t on Pearl Street and building it without a crazy budget, with a lot of hard work and some handy skills."

Ian and Bryce Clark. - BRU
Ian and Bryce Clark.
Those skills included building some of the furniture and doors inside the restaurant, along with the tap handles, which were made from old cooking utensils; growing his own ingredients; and keeping bees for honey.

Construction on Arapahoe Street started to take a toll on business last year, however, Clark says. And the shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic were the final straw.

On Thursday, BRU posted the following note on Facebook.

My dear BRU family,
2009 on a beach in Mexico is when this all began. It's a story you have all heard, and we have told a thousand times, but still a good story nonetheless. Seems like a lifetime ago, knee deep in a home brewing hobby that quickly escalated into an obsession, Bryce and I on the beach, beer in hand, talking about how it was quickly taking over all storage space and free time in our life. "What do you want to do with this? It's costing us a fortune," she asked me. What I said next really sent us down the rabbit hole, "I want to combine my two passions under one roof, food and beer! I want to open a brewpub, but something unique and different, something that doesn't exist currently."

Man, that really caused the conversation to spiral out of control...for like 3 years. All we talked about, dreamed about, and schemed about was opening the brewpub. We worked day and night towards the company we wanted.

Well, fast forward 11 years and here we are. As you know we opened the brewery in our garage in 2012, then moved to the brewpub in 2013. BRU was conceptualized in the worst financial crisis since the depression, and lived through license mishaps, the worst floods in 100 years, an untold number of power outages, other businesses in the complex shutting off our water in the middle of a rocking Friday night, and a crushingly large construction project right next door that lasted 4 years. BRU has given me some of my highest highs (not THE highest, those are occupied by my wedding day and birth of my son), my lowest lows, and everything in between. Which brings me to my final point, and I think you know where I am going with this.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I am writing to let you all know that as of August 1st BRU will close its doors forever. BRU has lived through so much, but unfortunately it could not survive COVID-19.

To all the people I got to work with over the years who gave their all to make BRU a success, thank you, some of you have become our extended family. To all of the regulars who also became like family to us, thank you. To all our friends who have supported us day after day, thank you. And, to all the people who never made it out to East Boulder to check us out, I am sorry we didn't get a chance to show you what we were all about.

Normally I would say we are throwing a huge party and sending this thing off in style...but, ya know...covid. In lieu of the big party, we will be doing $5 growler fills next week (Monday 7/27 through Friday 7/31) from 2:30-5:30 before our license expires. Please come say hi one last time and help us kick as many kegs as we can.
Thank you for 8 great years.

Oh, and one last thing. FU#@ COVID-19, I hate you and think you stink! Be safe, wear masks, and check out our website for ordering and all the details for next week. And we still have Friday pickup this week too - so throw that personal beer tasting before it's too late.
Love and life.

Ian, Bryce, Linda & Don
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes