Beer Man

The writing is on the wall at the Colorado + brewery, which is taking over the old Valente's

Change is inevitable, but it's not always smooth, which is why Eugene Kahng, co-owner of the soon-to-open Colorado + Liquid Art Works brewery in Wheat Ridge, hit a few bumps when he painted over a mural that had decorated the side of Valente's Italian Restaurant, a community mainstay that closed in 2008 after 44 years in business.

"We bought the building from Ray Valente and his son Mark. Ray still drives by in his old El Camino to check on our progress, and he was pretty bummed when we painted over the Tuscan landscape mural," Kahng says. "But we'll have a nice new mural soon."

See also: - A dozen new breweries on tap for the Denver Metro area by spring 2013 - Brewery Rickoli opens today as Wheat Ridge's only beer maker - Today is the last day at Valente's Italian Restaurant

Not that the old mural was actually that old. It was painted in 1995 by a teacher at Wheat Ridge Middle School and her students, along with artist Ed Slack, after Valente's got a façade-improvement grant from the city. It depicted the rolling countryside in Tuscany, complete with cypress trees, a stone wall and a classic-looking farmhouse.

But, as Kahng discovered, it meant a lot to the locals, and he addressed the issue in a conciliatory Facebook post: "Apologize to all who have been offended by the new look as we understand the mural was more than just about what was in the painting but it was more importantly about the community and those artistically talented and special kids who helped in the effort. We will have a new mural on the wall soon enough and hopefully we can offer something special for this city as Ray has for so many years."

Kahng and business partner Jesse Duplessis haven't decided who will paint the mural or what it will depict, but Kahng is partial to the idea of the moon partially eclipsing the sun, which would create an image that looks like the letter "C," as in Colorado.

This state is, after all, the theme of his place. When it opens, possibly as soon as March, Colorado + will have 56 Colorado beers on tap, including several of its own, which will be made in a small, one-barrel on-site brewhouse by Yak & Yeti brewer Adam Draeger, who will remain at the Yak. ("Bigger, Belgian and buggier styles," Kahng says.) The taproom will be decorated in Colorado style as well, with cut logs for the bar.

Kahng got into craft beer by hosting tastings at the nearby Vern's Liquors, which he owned for six years, and was able to meet brewers and other employees of many local beer makers, including Great Divide, Upslope, Golden City and Yak & Yeti.

"Wheat Ridge has a very vibrant craft beer community. There are lot of homebrewers...and the tastings always went well," he says.

Colorado + will also have a very small food menu that will include hot dogs, pierogies and wraps, but Kahng hopes to expand that in a year or so after he's able to renovate the former Valente's kitchen. The spot will be Wheat Ridge's second beer maker: Brewery Rickoli opened in the town in November.

And there's a lot of excitement because of that, Kahng says, adding that a lot of people in town have said they are looking forward to both the brewery and a new mural.

In fact, even Ray Valente's son, Mark Valente, a commercial real estate broker, says the change makes sense: "He has a brewpub, so if he does something that fits the brewpub theme, that is great. It gets the community involved."

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes