Beer lovers in south suburban Denver already have plenty of reasons to say “‘Cheers!” By mid-2012, they’ll have 136 more.
The Lone Tree Brewing Company, which opened just before Christmas, is dispensing its rotating half-dozen craft brews at a rate already beyond the owners’ highest expectations. This summer, 130 more taps will open in Lone Tree when the Yard House debuts in the Vistas at Park Meadows. With any luck, a Lone Tree Brewing Company paddle will be among them.
Both the brewery and restaurant are riding a long wave of expansion in the Colorado beer market. Lone Tree is among 120 craft breweries in the state, and the south suburban Yard House will be the company’s third in the metro area.
“I truly think Colorado is the Napa Valley of beer,” Yard House marketing manager Aurea Victoria said, echoing a phrase that’s grown common among the state’s beer lovers.
Lone Tree Brewing Company fans say the new business only enhances the state’s reputation.
“The Lone Tree Brewery sampler was the first sampler I tried and liked every single one,” said craft brew enthusiast and Acres Green resident Mike Coleman. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit a variety of microbreweries across the state. Usually, I find a beer or two I don’t like. Not in this case.”
Comments like that never grow old, company partner John Winter said, but he’s getting used to them.
Business partner Jason Wiedmaier “is just making fabulous beers right now,” Winter said. “I think the proof is in the beer. We’ve heard literally no negative comments.”
Little more than six weeks old, Lone Tree Brewing Company already is doing business at a pace its partners projected for the end of their second year.
“It’s just been amazing,” Winter said.
He and Wiedmaier credit patrons like Coleman for their immediate success.
“There were two things we wanted: One was to feel a part of the community and we have realized that,” Winter said. “The support from Lone Tree and Acres Green has been phenomenal. The other was to be known as family friendly. That also has come to fruition.”
That’s because the 5,000-square-foot space in an industrial area of the city on Park Meadows Drive, isn’t designed to feel like the average bar. It’s airy, clean and no-nonsense, with a concrete floor, stainless steel bar and a set of shelves above the bar that hold a neat line of glasses and growlers. Among the barstools and pub tables, a popcorn machine stands beside a cart stacked with Taboo, Trivial Pursuit, checkers and other games.
Beer isn’t the only frothy beverage on tap. The brewery also makes its own root beer and cream soda.
Winter plans a Valentine’s Day keg tapping he says is a perfect example of its community and family friendly philosophy. The chocolate cherry stout served for the first time that day is made with chocolate from the nearby Maroon Bells Chocolate Factory. While adults sample the stout, kids will quaff root beer floats made with brewery root beer and Maroon Bells ice cream.
Aside from such special events, the Lone Tree Brewing Company menu is limited to beer and soda. It doesn’t sell food, but patrons are welcome to bring food in with them or order food from nearby restaurants. That’s already become common practice, Winter said, noting the trash bins often are stacked with empty pizza boxes.
The Yard House, meanwhile, will offer a dizzying array of both beer and food. Matching its beer selection, the menu offers 130 items, including steaks, seafood, burgers, salads, a kid’s menu and items prepared specifically for customers with gluten intolerance. It’s family friendly, too, but drinking a beer at the Yard House will feel completely different from drinking one at the brewery. Big and busy, a Yard House restaurant typically buzzes with conversation and classic rock playing continuously over a state-of-the-art sound system.
“The glass-enclosed keg room is essentially the pulse of the operation, housing as much as 5,000 gallons of beer at a time,” says the Yard House website. “Three to five miles of individual beer lines stretch overhead from the keg room to the island bar maintaining a constant temperature of 34-36 degrees.”
Though Yard House restaurants no longer offer beers in the glass yard container from which it takes its name, they still feature the half yard: About 30 ounces of beer served in a tall, glass cylinder.
Yard House restaurants are scattered across the country today, but the company’s roots are in Colorado. Founder Steele Platt is a University of Denver graduate, who opened several Denver bars before moving to California and opening the first Yard House in 1996. While Platt hit upon a winning combination with beer and classic rock, his timing couldn’t have been better. The craft-beer craze was in full swing, and today shows no sign of slowing.
“Beer drinkers are becoming a lot more sophisticated than they used to be,” Victoria said. “They’re looking for those unique combinations.”
To that end, the Yard House always refers a handful of taps at each of its sites for local brews. One of those, Victoria said, easily could be reserved for the Lone Tree Brewing Company.
While Winter said he’d love to see the company’s beer included there, growth that extends far beyond the brewery’s industrial row site isn’t top of mind right now.
“I can’t say we’ve sat down and said we want to be New Belgium in five years,” he said. “I just want to meet the public demand and keep the focus on the community. We want to grow in concentric circles out from there.”
The Lone Tree Brewing Company is at 8200 Park Meadows Drive, across from Furniture Row. It’s open seven days a week.
The Yard House will take the nearly 12,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Mikuni Sushi. A date isn’t set, but the restaurant will open sometime this summer.