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.

Brewery Snapshot: Brewability Lab

Even with the great diversity in the Denver 20170808_182550_HDRbrewing scene Brewability Lab stands out for its unique mission and concept. Designed to provide job opportunities and work experience for special needs individuals, Brewability also strives to create an inclusive environment for everyone, particularly special-needs patrons. While the location is a bit of a stretch for many, it is well worth checking out both for the tasty beer as well as the super-chill atmosphere and friendly patrons and employees.

BEER LINEUP: Brewability’s supply was a little low when we were there, with only five beers on tap, but normally they feature eight or more. The beers cover the spectrum from a light strawberry wheat to a dark coffee porter and are pleasant and solid examples of their styles – nothing too experimental.

ATMOSPHERE: Brewability is open relative short hours – evenings and weekends – and the evening we were there the taproom filled early with local workers then 20170808_182035_HDRbroadened into a more diverse mix. The small café-like taproom opens to the parking lot and includes all sorts of games, toys, and accessibility features. Tiffany, the owner, goes out of her way to create a welcoming and open space and there was a lot of mixing and friendly chatting amongst random strangers. She also schedules lots of special events like Batchelor-watching nights, fundraisers, and parties so the crowd – and energy level – changes along with the event.

SERVICE: Fast and friendly. Brewability’s unique color-coded ordering system (order green for IPA, purple for Porter) helps the bartenders keep the beer flowing fast. Tiffany constantly circulates throughout the taproom keeping patrons engaged and having fun by suggesting games, bringing out science kits (below), and explaining the brewery’s unique goals and operation.

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Tiffany Brings Out Goggles In Case Something Goes Awry

NEIGHBORHOOD: Brewability replaced Caution Brewing in a hard-to-find storefront in an anonymous industrial park just off I70 and Peoria. While they’ve added signage to make it easier to find, you still have to pay attention. Parking is ample, although food is in short supply since the area is just one industrial building after the other. If you’re hungry, Brewability has snacks or you can BYO. Unless you work up there, there’s nothing going on for miles around!

STANDOUT BEER: The Science Kit, because it can be any beer you concoct. In my opinion this is such a fun and cool idea. Brewability has trays that outfit you with beer samplers and flavor-modifiers like peach and woodruff so you can experiment and create your own favorite flavor profile. Our group had loads of fun and put together some great – and some kinda awful – combinations by mixing beers and additives.

Brewery Snapshot: Cheluna Brewing Co.

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 20170719_195209_HDRstudy 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.

Brewery Snapshot: Station 26 Brewing Co.

Station 26 Brewing Co. occupies an old fire station (#26 actually) in an under-breweried part of northeast Denver at the edge of Stapleton. It has awesome outdoor spaces and a very energetic crowd, combined with a good-sized taplist . It might not be convenient to all parts of Denver but is worth a destination-trip for an afternoon of patio sipping.

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BEER LINEUP: A diverse spread of beers ranges from ultra-light cream ales to high-gravity, syrupy quads. They cover most traditional styles so you will likely find your comfort zone. They also have a few non-traditional beers like Tangerine Cream, which is their Colorado Cream ale aged with tangerine zest.

ATMOSPHERE: The fire station has a funky mid-century institutional feel, starting with the colored, glazed cinderblock that should be familiar from old school buildings. It draws a younger, vibrant crowd and hits its stride on warm days, due to the huge fire-engine-sized garage doors and dual patios with games. I imagine that indoors gets pretty packed in bad weather. They regularly have food trucks and score extra points for having a barrel of pretzels for snacking (back corner,  left of bar).

SERVICE: Not particularly attentive on a busy Friday but if you get their attention the servers are very passionate about their beers and will give loads of information.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  Transitional, perhaps? It’s sandwiched between the quiet, older Park Hill neighborhood and the old Stapleton airport hotels. The immediate area of the brewery is residential, with plenty of street parking. The location also puts it right across Quebec from the pretty new Stepford neighborhoods of Stapleton..

STANDOUT BEER: People rave about the Tangerine Cream so I’ll mention it. My take is that is smells like a creamsicle but the taste picks up bitter elements of the tangerines (rind, maybe?). I found the Foreign Extra Stout compelling, with a solid body and notes of coffee and smoke, finishing with some coffee/roast bitterness.

Beer Of The Week: Little Machine Sully Irish Red

20161210_134710_hdrOn a recent visit to the Stapleton Tap House the bartender recommended the Little Machine Sully Irish Red as a good medium-bodied beer and upon delivery it came across as a solidly-crafted brew. Stapleton Tap serves the Sully on nitro, giving it and exceptionally smooth and creamy body, with light malt and caramel flavors. Aside from these the beer contains no strong flavors or hoppiness, which makes it pleasant and quite sessionable, if unchallenging. Adding to the sessionability is the low (5%) alchohol content