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Patio of the Week: Drinks in the Gutter at Local 46

After a five-mile run around Sloan's Lake, all I wanted was a beer, so my friend and I explored the Berkeley neighborhood, an area that we, as Whittier and Five Points residents, respectively, don't get to very often. Searching for beer, we found something much more: my current favorite patio in Denver. As we drove around Tennyson Street, we stumbled upon Local 46, drawn in by its vintage corner bar sign and dive-bar look. And lo and behold, it was a dive bar, nestled amid the sometimes too-perfect (dare I say -- yuppie?) bars that dot Berkeley and Highland.

See also: Denver's ten best new bars of 2012

But Local 46 is different -- by design.

"People were afraid of us becoming another yuppie bar, but we didn't want that," says owner Niya Diehl, who opened the bar two years ago with boyfriend Grant Gingerich, owner of El Camino in the nearby Highlands Square shopping district.

Local 46 replaced the famously divey Music Bar, which closed in 2012 after 75 years in business. Deihl and Gingerich wanted to retain the dive-bar feel with what she calls a "clean, classier, dressed-up" look: still dark, still divey, with music almost every night, but without the grime.

And they succeeded. The original bar still stands, as does the maroon tufted bar back, which local Gall "Bernie" Bern said he made for Music Bar in 1972.

But the divey feel stops once you hit the door to the patio. Local 46's patio, or rather biergarten, has been open for over a year, but its treasures haven't been explored by droves of Denver patio lovers. Yet.

When Diehl and Gingerich opened Local 46, they intended to transform the adjacent, trash-filled dirt lot into a beirgarten, which they did last year after a six-week trip to Eastern Europe to check out a number of old-world classics.

Like every good patio, Local 46's has games; there's a bocce ball court, cornhole and a ping-pong table (as well as a pool table inside). All are free for customers, but the games aren't what earn this secluded spot Patio of the Week honors. Instead, it's the sizable patio's winning atmosphere.

The 2900 square-foot, non-smoking patio evokes a city escape, without having to tackle I-70's construction traffic jams. Its tall fence cuts off car-heavy Tennyson Street and 46th Avenue, and the picnic tables, three fire pits, unique woody nooks, and gravel crunching underfoot make you feel like you're at a campground with a bar on the side.

Read more about Local 46's biergarten.

"We wanted to make it feel like going to a friend's back yard," says Diehl.

The highlight of my second visit to Local 46, and the patio's most unique feature, hides in the center of each community-seating picnic table. "The Gutter," a metal, gravel-filled trough, gets filled with ice and beverages when you order the Gutter Special -- a bottle of chilled wine ($15-20) or five cans of beer ($10). Noticing that they serve Imperial beer from Costa Rica, I was immediately transported to the brown beach of a Costa Rican cove where I had vacationed in March. I have been looking for a bar that serves Imperial since I returned to Denver.

The only downside is that the patio closes early -- 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, a compromise with some of the nearby neighbors who were concerned about noise when the patio opened.

Last month Local 46 also fired up its outdoor grill (operating Wednesday through Sunday) and snack bar serving up bratwursts, burgers, and more, including shake-and-serve mason jar salads.

And staying close to Denver' s heart, Local 46 lives up to its name, with locally sourced food on the menu and recycled wood decorating the patio.

The Best Deal:The Gutter Special, a rotating selection of chilled wine for $15-20 or $10 for 5 cans of PBR, Imperial, or Olympia.

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The Best Feature: The campground atmosphere. We'll be selecting a Patio of the Week to highlight all summer. Have a suggestion? Post it in the commends section below.

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