Wings and beer is one of the most perfect combinations in edible history. But what about wings and craft beer? Do big, bold flavors help or hurt Buffalo's spicy gift to the world?
The Wing Hut in Aurora is going to try to answer that question -- along with another difficult query. Is Aurora ready for craft beer or will it remain a Coors town?
Earlier this month, the family-owned spot at 15473 East Hampden Avenue was awarded a liquor license and has since loaded up with fifteen different bottled microbrews.
"We don't have domestics, and I don't want to bend on that. I don't want to give up," says Jared Riggs, whose mother, Donna Garcia, bought the place eight years ago. "I was expecting some resistance from Coors because I had to get a few things, like Oskar Blues and New Belgium beers, through their distribution arm. But the rep was really nice. The rep didn't know much about craft beer but was really open to it."
Riggs knows plenty about Colorado's explosive craft brewing scene, however. A fifteen-year veteran of the service industry, he was a manager at Euclid Hall until recently. The trendy downtown Denver spot has a well-developed beer menu and following.
"It's fun to be a part of it," Riggs says. "Craft brewers are really gaining ground and taking over the market that has been dominated by the big guys for a long time."
Although Riggs would like to get a draft system, it's cost prohibitive right now, and since 80 to 90 percent of the Wing Hut's business is take-out, it could also be a bad business move until customers realize they can sit down, stay and enjoy a beer there. The Wing Hut recently added a patio with hops growing up a trellis, along with a beer garden.
The Wing Hut joins a craft beer scene in Aurora that is just beginning to tap in. Dry Dock Brewing, which opened in 2005, is at the center of that scene, along with the attached Brew Hut, a homebrew shop. In addition, there is the Royal Hilltop, which recently converted its taps and theme from that of an English Pub to one focusing on craft and Belgian beers. The restaurant is owned by James and Tina Pachorek, who also own the Cheeky Monk in Denver, Westminster and Winter Park. Then there's the Copper Kettle, a new brewery that just opened on the Denver/Aurora border, and the chains Old Chicago and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, which also serve craft beer.
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"There are a lot of beer-savvy people in Aurora," Riggs insists.
The Wing Hut is located very close to Dry Dock, and since the brewery doesn't serve food, Riggs says his place delivers to customers there. In fact, it's the only place they deliver right now. But the Wing Hut also has two Dry Dock beers in the cooler, the Hefewiezen and the Apricot Blonde.
Along with those, it serves brews from Avery, Odell, Ska, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Bristol, Great Divide and Left Hand. Riggs also offers three Belgian beers, including Monk's Café, which is very popular, along with Fat Tire. And since the Wing Hut has forty different kinds of sauces, not all of which are spicy, Riggs says there is a beer that can be paired with all of them. "Hoppy beers and sour beers actually make the hot wings hotter," Riggs says. "So, for people who like really spicy wings, I give them a sour or a happy beer, and their wings get even spicier."