Squeaky Bean introduces a happy hour, with an earlier opening, punch...and shmears

Squeaky Bean won't turn one until later this month, but already the restaurant has given LoDo a couple of presents: an outdoor patio with seating for sixteen, and a new happy hour that starts at 4 p.m. (an hour earlier than the restaurant used to open) and runs until 6 p.m. Owner Johnny Ballen was putting the final touches on the patio yesterday (just in time for the rain), while chef Max MacKissock was creating the pots of "spreads and shmears" that, along with housemade breads and crackers, comprise the happy-hour offerings. The food offerings, that is; there are also drink specials, including a punch crafted daily. See also: - Best Contemporary Cocktail Bar 2013: Squeaky Bean - Max MacKissock's new tasting menu sprouts at Squeaky Bean - Ten favorite cocktails (with recipes!) from ten favorite Denver bartenders The shmear concept was inspired by Ballen's family (and its chicken-liver mousse), but MacKissock improved on that old family recipe, creating such scintillating spreads as a duck liver mousse with strawberry gelee and chervil; deviled egg with fines herb, shallot and cornichon; tonnato with cured tuna, pine nut and green garlic; and pimento cheese with bacon jam. A couple of those will be regulars on the happy-hour menu; others will change to reflect the seasons -- and what's in the Bean's refrigerator. Each spread/shmear is $5, and comes with homemade potato chips, ciabatta, focaccia or papadum.

The concept, says MacKissock, was to create a time when a visit to the Bean is "more approachable." And, of course, to build the bar business; while the dining room continues to draw crowds at night, there's often room at the spacious bar.

But that could soon change when people get a taste of the punch (which changes daily, but is always $5) or other happy-hour drink specials, which include house wine for $6, All Good Amber Ale from the Bull & Bush for $3, or the Squeaky Spritz, with aperol, Voveti prosecco and soda, for $6.

And should you stop in today -- doors open in just two hours -- don't miss the shrine to Jean Stapleton as squeaky-voiced Edith Bunker; the actress passed away this week at the age of ninety.

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