Brewery or cantina? Cheluna Brewing Co.’s beer list reads like a craft brewery but the taproom looks like an industrial cantina with steel, Mexican tilework, and Lucha Libre masks. With a beer list that goes far beyond Mexican-style beers and a location in the latest trendy Denver-area entertainment development, Cheluna seems poised to succeed once the buildout is complete. Even though many business are still under construction, the whole Stanley Marketplace complex was busy on a random weeknight. Parking was already becoming scarce, so if you want to check out Cheluna, now’s probably the time before the area becomes unbearably popular.
BEER LINEUP: With more than just the light lagers you’d expect from a Mexican place, Cheluna covers a good chunk of the style spectrum by offering IPAs, a saison, a stout, a porter, and even an adventurous gose. Bottom Line: If you like more robust beers than Mexican lagers you’ll find them.
ATMOSPHERE: Like the Stanley Marketplace where it resides, Cheluna feels busy and vibrant but still trying to find its niche. The diverse crowd of young, old, singles, couples, and families seemed like they were checking out the next new thing and once the initial interest passes many will move on and leave Cheluna with a set of regulars. Cheluna’s space gives off a funky vibe that mixes modern touches with traditional Mexican decor (and some cheesiness). The taproom flows nicely into the larger building and has the obligatory brewery windows, but also features an ample balcony on the second floor. It seemed like one-beer place for most patrons, perhaps before or after dinner at one of the marketplace eateries (though you can bring food in too).
SERVICE: Cheluna is bar service only, and the bartender was reasonably efficient and friendly.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The neighborhood is a study in contrasts. To the west lie new/pretty/expensive Stapleton suburban homes and to the south/east you’ll find old-school Aurora with a mix of smaller, older buildings, by-the-week motels, ethnic neighborhoods, and questionable-looking apartment complexes. Regardless, the marketplace is isolated in a field and not convenient to the surrounding area or transport. I’m betting 99% of the visitors drive or uber in, do their thing, and drive out.
STANDOUT BEER: Ok, not my absolute top taplist choice but seeing as how it’s a Mexican joint I feel the need to mention the very solid Lowrider Mexican Lager. The beer met my normal Mexican lager expectations but also contained a pleasant surprise with a bit of extra maltiness and a fuller body than you normally find – sort of a Mexican lager with a bonus (or maybe just a typical Vienna lager). Overall it’s a very smooth, easy-drinking beer especially on a 90-degree day.