Twenty-Something for Twenty-Somethings: Pizza and Beer That Won't Break the Bank

There are lots of prime seats at Black Shirt Brewing.
There are lots of prime seats at Black Shirt Brewing. Kelsey Colt
With so many great restaurants to choose from, cash-strapped Denver newcomers — challenged with rising rents and skinny paychecks — are finding it hard to have a fun night out without blowing the bank. Twenty- Something for Twenty-somethings will help you find hot destinations where you can enjoy cutting-edge cuisine in a stylish setting — all within a  twenty-something budget ($29 or less per person). And you don't need to be under thirty to take these recommendations; just be ready for a great eating adventure.

With Father’s Day just a few days away, you're probably looking for ways to stretch your gift dollars. I might just have a solution to your problem: an affordable meal and quality beer with Dad. You're welcome.

The red door that opens into the Black Shirt Brewing taproom is strategic. It's not just a foreshadowing of all the other touches of red you'll find throughout the brewery, but also an entry point — both literal and symbolic — to what Black Shirt Brewing is all about: red ales. The Red Ale Project is what Chad, Branden and Carissa Miller built the brewery around when they opened in 2012. It was the first brewery in this part of River North; now it's one of thirteen pouring in the area. Black Shirt has put its mark on Denver and has been featured in national media outlets such as Men’s Journal and Food & Wine; simply put, the beer is great. The recent addition of a kitchen and menu makes BSB a one-stop shop where you don’t have to get your buzz on and leave to find sustenance — but it also means you'll have to balance expenses between pizza (and other beer-friendly food) and beer.

click to enlarge The refreshing Cymballic Session Pale Ale is delicious this time of year. - KELSEY COLT
The refreshing Cymballic Session Pale Ale is delicious this time of year.
Kelsey Colt
The brewery offers several different seating areas for you and Dad (or whoever else you choose for company). Options include front and rear patios when the weather is right — the front sports an indoor/outdoor bar rail facing Walnut Street — or seats at the bar or high-top tables inside. As you ponder the menu at any of the above, you'll find yourself running your fingers down the grain and imperfections of the reclaimed wood with which brewer Aaron Holstad built the furnishings. Also take a moment to admire the art by Point Blank Art & Design (some of which is for sale) that decorates the walls.

Start with beers, working your way from light to heavy so that you can taste them properly. First up: the newly released Cymballic Session Pale Ale. One dollar from each sale of this brew will be donated to Stand for Children — Colorado. A huge tropical bouquet of mango, orange, citrus and floral notes gives way to a subtle hint of grain to round out the nose, leading to more depth on the tongue. Sip on this summer drinking beer with its lower ABV of 4.7% while you peruse the menu.

click to enlarge The colorful Folsom salad is a filling option. - BLACK SHIRT BREWING
The colorful Folsom salad is a filling option.
Black Shirt Brewing
Everything on the food menu is made in-house, and most items incorporate beer, which is apparent in the first few menu descriptions. In the appetizer section, the olives are marinated in Stringbender Saison, while an order of bacon is candied in Time Keeper Rye Pale Ale. Many of the menu items are named in honor of Johnny Cash, an inspiration for the owners.

From the salad section, the Folsom salad seems built for Father’s Day in the sense that it's big enough to share with Dad, with plenty of chicken and Tender Belly bacon; you won’t go hungry with this Cobb-style mix, which also includes avocado and hard-boiled eggs.

From the Cymballic ale, move on to the stronger, hoppier Blood Orange Double IPA as your second beverage.

For pizza, the Johnny and the Carter are each great options (none of the pies are over $14). On first bite, you'll notice that Black Shirt uses salt instead of the more typical cornmeal on the crust, lending it a unique, crunchy, salty character — almost like a cracker. On the Carter, creamy mozzarella gets a punch of flavor from juicy Roma tomatoes on top; the whole thing goes great with the hop-heavy, juicy double IPA.

click to enlarge The sausage on the Johnny is packed with flavor. - KELSEY COLT
The sausage on the Johnny is packed with flavor.
Kelsey Colt
The Johnny is fresh, sweet and light, and has a bit more going on, with sliced fennel on the pizza and fennel seed in the housemade red ale sausage. Roasted garlic and oregano surprise your tastebuds every couple of bites.

Salad, pizza and two deliciously refreshing beers to combat the Denver summer heat make for a satisfying meal. You might want another drink, but you're on a budget. Maybe the next one is on Dad?

The damage tops out at $26.50 each, whether you share a salad and slices or keep your own pizza to yourself. Here’s how it breaks down:

Option one: Share a salad and pizza for $53
Two Cymballic Session Pale Ales: $6 each
Two Blood Orange Double IPAs:  $8 each
The Folsom salad: $12
The Johnny Pizza: $13

Option two: Two pizzas for $52
Two Cymballic Session Pale Ales: $6 each
Two Blood Orange Double IPAs:  $8 each
The Carter pizza: $11
The Johnny Pizza: $13

click to enlarge The simple, delicious Carter is budget-friendly at $11. - KELSEY COLT
The simple, delicious Carter is budget-friendly at $11.
Kelsey Colt

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