While River North, LoDo and the Beermuda Triangle may boast the city's thickest concentrations of small craft breweries, the Sunnyside neighborhood in north Denver is slowly building a beer scene of its own -- one that could make it a new destination for craft-beer drinkers over the next year.
Factotum Brewhouse recently revealed that it plans to open later this year or early next year in a former auto-body shop-turned-photography studio at 3845 Lipan Street. The location is just yards away from Diebolt Brewing, which opened thirteen months ago at 3855 Mariposa Street.
That situation made Diebolt owner Jack Diebolt a little nervous at first, but he figures it will be good for the neighborhood in the long run. "I might be able to hit them with a baseball if I tried and I'm not that great of a baseball player," he says of Factotum. "But Sunnyside isn't really on the map, so with both of us, I think it will be a boon to the neighborhood."
Brother-sister owners Chris and Laura Bruns had originally planned to open Factotum at 4735 Lipan Street, but lost that space after a fire-code problem.
"Regarding the proximity, we were initially concerned about stepping on toes with Diebolt, but hoped that the development of the whole 38th Avenue corridor and the fact that Denver Beer Co and Mountain Monk...are moving into Sunnyside would ease that," says Laura Bruns in an e-mail, adding that the location was their dream space in terms of size.
And since Factotum's mission is different from that of most breweries, Bruns says she hopes the two won't overlap. Factotum's goal is to help homebrewers of all skill levels by letting them brew their beers on Factotum's system, and with Chris Bruns's help. In return, the brewery will serve their beers on tap and solicit customer feedback.
"When we saw our current space after months and months of searching, we knew we had to pounce on it," Chris says. "If it were ten miles from the nearest brewery or directly next door, we'd be fools not to take it.
"I've never known proximity to be a deciding factor in a brewery's failure but I have known it to ensure success," he adds. "All those breweries in River North, for example, are making a killing not only on their own merit but on the fact that beer geeks make a day of hitting three or four of them in a row because they are so close to each other. We think it'll be the same for Diebolt and ourselves -- both taprooms will enjoy increased traffic."
A half mile away, Denver Beer Co cranked up its own Sunnyside spot last August. Although the 11,000-square-foot warehouse, at 4455 Jason Street, serves primarily as a production facility and packaging plant, there is a small taproom that keeps regular hours Thursday through Sunday.
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, meanwhile, first opened for business in Denver in an office park at 1441 West 46th Avenue in September 2012. It closed that location, known as the Barrel Cellar, to the public (for the most part) a year later, however, after opening a glitzy new taproom and brewery inside the Source market in RiNo.
Since the brewery's focus is on fermenting wild and sour ales in wooden barrels, owner Chad Yakobson brews his beer elsewhere before transporting the unfermented beer (called wort) to his own facility. Although he'd planned to start brewing his own beer at the Source earlier this year, that hasn't happened yet.
In September, Yakobson said he "has major plans" for the old Barrel Cellar, "which will be announced in the coming months. The changes will allow for more efficiency in production, an increase in experimentation with ingredients and blending of barrels."
Although Yakobson tells Westword he isn't ready yet to comment on the specifics, that could mean an expanded presence for the Barrel Cellar, either in terms of hours or size or brewery operations.
And finally, a fifth brewery, called Mountain Monk, said on its Facebook page in June that it planned to lease a 2,500-square-foot space at 4860 Pecos Street. Mountain Monk hasn't followed up that Facebook post yet, however, and one of the owners didn't return an email seeking comment.
Diebolt believes the new breweries -- and any others in the works -- will help bring some publicity both to his business and to the neighborhood as a whole. As a result, he thinks people will plan to spend the day there.
"Sunnyside deserves it," he says. "It's a beautiful area with amazing architecture and there's a vibrant young professional thing going on, mixed with neighbors who have been here their entire life."
"We hope to be able to work with the other breweries in the area, as well as all of the new restaurants that are popping up to help make Sunnyside a destination neighborhood for an afternoon or evening, much like Tennyson street or South Broadway," Laura Bruns adds. "We've already started building some of those relationships. It is our belief that as a collective whole, we can make each of our businesses better."
When it opens, Factotum will have a seven-barrel brewhouse which homebrewers will be able to use for a fee of $395. There is also a large space outdoors where the Brunses hope to build a beer garden.
To help it get off the ground, Factotum is selling memberships to its Local 303 beer club, which offers benefits like one pint of free beer every day for a year; members-only beercation opportunities; special classes; shwag and other discounts, including on the cost of using the brewing system.
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