Stanley Beer Hall

Although it’s been open for a couple of years, I only just got around to trying the Stanley Beer Hall at Stanley Marketplace adjacent to the Stapleton neighborhood. It’s a relatively unique concept for the Denver market and for me at least, a mixed bag of cool ideas and mild annoyance.

How it Works: When you arrive you have to check 20170719_195209_hdr-e1501000049807.jpgin at the front desk to get a card that allows you to pour your own beer and keeps a running tab. A row of taps with electronic flow monitoring sits at the back of the restaurant. When you want a drink you wave your card in front of the monitor and then dispense as much beer as you want. Beers are priced per ounce and the system tracks of how much you’ve purchased via your card.

First, the Pro’s:

  • The flexible pour-yourself concept lets you try a greater variety of different beers by having partial glasses or enjoy smaller pours of high-gravity beers.
  • They have a relatively wide selection of craft beers and ciders (plus one lonely Coors Light)  including seasonals and unique beers from Front-Range breweries
  • The taps also offer a few wines and cocktails for non-beer-drinkers
  • Each time you pour, the LCD screen shows how many total ounces you have consumed so you can monitor how much you’ve had
  • You can load your card for a pre-set amount if you have a drinking budget or leave it open-ended and pay at the end.
  • They serve food. This part is done by servers, which makes the self-service beer part a little confusing as employees are already making the rounds of the place.

Now the Cons:

  • You do all the work, constantly leaving your seat to trek across20180331_151504_HDRthe restaurant to the taps. This is particularly annoying if you are eating as well as drinking.
  • Beer info is only provided on the screens at the taps and even that is rather limited. As a result, things jam up while everyone tries to read the various tiny screens to make their choices.
  • Much of the beer is relatively expensive if you convert ounces to pints ($7-$9 per pint). While the LCDs show your volume they do not show your total, which makes it a little hard to tell how much you are spending. The price issue particularly annoyed me since I was doing the work of waiter/bartender.
  • You have to wait in line to get the card and wait while the hostess sets up the account
  • You have to wait in line to close out the card if you haven’t pre-paid

Overall I think the place has a cool concept, a nice location, and a comfortable vibe. However the whole process of cards, taps, etc. could be executed a little better to have less wait time and hassle so the focus could be on the fun aspects like sampling the well-curated  beer selection.

Congress Park Taproom

In addition to hundreds of great breweries, the Denver area is also home to a number of taphouses including Congress Park Taphouse at 8th and Colorado. The taphouse serves an under-breweried part of town with a menu of beers from the Front Range, plus a few other Colorado and out-of-state brewers. Many of the beers aren’t particularly unique – standard brews from Colorado Beer Company, O’Dells, Left Hand, etc. but there’s also a fair collection of beers from smaller breweries like Resolute and Diebolt. The taproom serves wine as well.

The utilitarian space has bar seating, hightops, and regular tables, plus darts and a collection of board games. It also offers numerous tv’s and a popcorn machine. Additionally, a small front patio faces Colorado Boulevard and the CU Medical Campus pile of rubble. The taproom is part of a group of small neighborhood business that include several food places if you want to eat more than popcorn while you drink.
Patio With CU Medical Pile

The servers were generally friendly and have a great knowledge of the beers they serve. On a couple of occasions they recommended tasting certain unusual beers before ordering a full pint to insure that we would enjoy the full experience.

Overall I don’t think that this qualifies as a destination-bar, but for those who live in or visit the neighborhood it offers a convenient place to sample a variety of craft beers.