Joseph Pitruzzelli and Tyler Wilson have been in the sausage business for the past seven years, serving a wide variety of classic, gourmet and exotic sausages in their modern take on a German beer hall. With locations in downtown Los Angeles and Venice Beach, the business partners are expanding their reach, bringing Wurstkuche to Denver starting Monday, February 23. The newest Wurstkuche features two dozen German and Belgian beers on tap with another two dozen in bottles, Belgian-style fries with ten different dipping sauces, and a wide open dining room with long community tables designed to capture the camaraderie of German beer hall classics.
Wurstkuche's wedge-shaped building at the corner of Broadway and Stout Street makes for some unique architectural details. "The building is almost identical to our downtown LA location, which is weird, since it's such an odd shape," explains Pitruzzelli. But the similarity allowed him to carry many of the design themes from the original spot to the Denver beer hall. Pitruzzelli was a designer in Los Angeles before he and Wilson got into the restaurant game, so he's responsible for many of Wurstkuche's style elements: coffin-shaped cafe tables with hexagonal stools, a blond-wood bar that stretches the length of the entire dining area and a clean, modern vibe that contrasts with the brick-and-beam warehouse setting.
On the reason the two chose Colorado for the first Wurstkuche outside the L.A. area, Wilson says "It was a snowball fight." Wilson and Pitruzzelli had come to Colorado to ski and were checking out Denver's nightlife when they got into a snowball fight in the parking lot across the street from the building that now houses Wurstkuche. When they noticed the building, they realized it was perfect for their concept.
Once they returned to Denver in warmer weather, Pitruzzelli liked the growth and exictement he was seeing in Denver's restaurant scene. "I saw a pack of girls on cruiser bikes with baskets and six-packs of beer in each basket," he recalls. "And I thought 'this is going to be awesome.'"
Since then, the two have been building out Wurstkuche and checking out the city's bar and restaurant scene. They feel like their concept is something new to Denver — a true beer hall that honors German and Belgian heritage beer brands. "Beer and sausage aren't something new to the world," says Wilson, "but we're doing it in a unique way."
To begin with, Wurstkuche offers a variety of their own sausages, about 50 percent of the menu, made with pork from Berkshire hogs. For the more exotic offerings (rabbit, duck and pheasant, for example) , the other 50 percent, they've teamed with what Wilson says are "other grinders we think are spectacular." Buns are made by Aspen Baking Company based on Wurstkuche's recipe.
Beers range from standard European pilsners and wheat beers like Bitburger and Franziskaner to rarer offerings like Zwick'l Kellerbier, Vitus Weizenbock and Caracole Saxo — and those are just the draft options. Wine and German and Austrian schnapps will also be available.
With room for 200 inside and another 200 on the outside decks and patios, expect Wurstkuche to be lively. And with live DJs and late-night hours (with food available until last call), the beer hall should be a big draw for the young crowds from the Ballpark and RiNo neighborhoods.
The entrance to Wurstkuche doesn't give much of a hint as to the overall size of the place. The order counter and first beer bar are in a tight, narrow space that doesn't feel much different than standard fast-casual lunch joints. But once you place your order and grab your first drink, a walk down a long hallway eventually deposits customers in the main beer hall. It's quite a transition, which Pitruzzelli says is meant to build a sense of anticipation. Food is delivered based on numbers handed out at the order counter and additional drinks can be ordered at the interior bar.
Also in the works is a downstairs cocktail bar that will have a separate name, entrance and identity from Wurstkuche. Pitruzzelli and Wilson have not selected a name yet, but expect to have the more intimate 50-seater open within the next three or four months.