Beer

Louisville's Rocky Mountain Tap & Garden Is Back With a New Owner and Kitchen Team

Craft Kitchen Concepts
Garret Nicodemus first visited Rocky Mountain Tap & Garden at 1071 Courtesy Road in Louisville in March, after a basketball game with his son. "I found it as we were coming back into town," says Nicodemus. "We stopped for a burger, and it was the first time I had seen this kind of concept. I thought it was neat to be able to try a bunch of beers from a bunch of breweries."

Then he tried to come back a few weeks later. A note on the door said that because of an unfortunate death in the family, the business was closed. For most people, that would've been the end of the story. But for Nicodemus, it was just the beginning. A couple months later, he bought the place.

"My wife sent me a Facebook link saying that it was up for sale," Nicodemus recalls. "I sent it over to some engineering friends of mine who always wanted to get into breweries and tap houses. They said if I run this, they will invest. I told my wife, this town could use more options for gathering places with food and drink, and the concept of getting involved in the community sounded intriguing, so after a month of due diligence, we signed a lease."

Nicodemus and his partnership group then decided to join forces with Craft Kitchen Concepts, the team behind Rooted Craft Kitchen in Avanti Boulder and Del Mar by Rooted in Avanti Denver. Craft Kitchen Concepts is helmed by chef Nicholas Kayser, whose résumé includes restaurants everywhere from Hong Kong to Las Vegas. He was also the executive chef at Vesta when it closed in 2020 and has worked under renowned chefs such as Richard Sandoval.
Rocky Mountain Tap & Garden has reopened.
Craft Kitchen Concepts
"We did a lot of research to see what people want in this area," says Kayser. "We wanted to have an identity at Rocky Mountain Tap & Garden. We don't like to confuse our guests. We like to do simple, really straightforward food that there aren't a lot of questions about." The menu reflects this, with items such as a Nashville hot chicken sandwich, fish and chips, mac and cheese, and a barbecue plate. "It's slow food done fast," Kayser notes.

The chef says he's noticed a large shift in consumer knowledge since the start of the pandemic. "A lot of people got the opportunity to educate themselves about the culinary scene," Kayser explains. "And I think the appreciation is there. Colorado in general, between the beers we're serving and the food we're making, is very forward-minded and -focused."

While the food may be easy to grasp, there are specific details that set it apart. "We have burgers on the menu, but we're using 100 percent wagyu product from Snake River Farms," says Kayser. "And I think people go into these menus now and they're not like, 'What is way-goo?' They understand what it is and the quality behind it, and we're happy to serve it."
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The Nashville chicken sandwich.
Craft Kitchen Concepts
Meanwhile, since the grand reopening in July, Nicodemus has been settling into his role in running the front of the house, despite not having any prior restaurant or bar experience. "Day one, it felt like everything was on my shoulders," he says. "But today I look around and we have experts in every area, from marketing to cooking to front-of-house. It allows everyone to focus on the areas that they are good in rather than things being on one single person. Fortunately, I've had some background in dealing with people and problems and startups, so some of those skills have helped me move quicker through some of the [early challenges]. It hasn't been easy, but it could've been a lot harder."

One area where the two teams have collaborated closely is the gluten-free focus of the menu, which includes gluten-free fish and chips, mac and cheese, sausage and peppers, salads and more. "My wife is celiac, and one of the other owners has gluten intolerance," Nicodemus notes. "Whenever we go out in this area, it's not simple, or it's not attractive. I always feel bad when my wife tells us to eat and that she'll wait. So it was important to us to have that. We have the space to have a gluten-free area; let's do it right and make sure that people understand we're taking this seriously."

Nicodemus is also looking to expand into the large beer garden that borders the parking lot. The team has applied for a temporary permit as a prelude to a permanent one. The move would roughly double the capacity to around 250 patrons and allow for many more outdoor events, like a Christmas market inspired by the one in Denver. Until then, there are special events planned for the upcoming World Cup, as well as Oktoberfest, and a slew of typical entertainment events such as trivia nights.
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This is the only self-pour tap house in Louisville.
Craft Kitchen Concepts
With thirty self-serve taps flowing, there is a wide variety of beer, from local standouts like Call to Arms Brewing and Westbound & Down Brewing to national stalwarts like Firestone Walker Brewing Company. Plans include gluten-free and non-alcoholic options, as well as draft root beer for the children (the root beer not being self-serve).

The venue also has a small arcade. Like the Christmas market idea, Nicodemus isn't trying to copy or compete with similar concepts in the area, like the Tilt Arcade in downtown Louisville. "We're not looking to take away from downtown Louisville; we're looking to do things that support it," he says, adding that the arcade fits with Tap & Garden's goal of being a family-friendly place.

Nicodemus certainly understands that the space has to be multi-faceted in order to be successful. "The beer wall is something that draws people in," he says. "It allows us to support local breweries. We have to be more than that, though. We're building out the beer garden, focusing on great food, and trying to be supportive for families."

Rocky Mountain Tap & Garden is located at 1071 Courtesy Road in Louisville and is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit rockymountaintap.com.
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Ryan Pachmayer is a beer writer living in Arvada. He has written for publications such as Craft Beer & Brewing, Zymurgy, Porch Drinking, Homebrewing DIY and Punch. He is also the head brewer at Yak & Yeti Brewpub, marketing director at New Image Brewing and a BJCP Certified Judge.