One Stantastic Sippery
Chris Curtis is the kind of guy you want to buy a beer. Or ten. Thousands of Insta foodies follow him @foodingdrinkingcolorado for juicy insight on Denver dining, peppered with beautiful stills of the hottest and hautest cuisine and cocktails. He’s a high school teacher by day, ‘beerista’ at heart, by night.
We rendezvoused at Stanley Beer Hall, inside Stanley Marketplace because Curtis is very intrigued by its self-tap wall. Which, coincidentally, reads like a Colorado brew wall of fame. Folks can sample, by the ounce or ounces, libations from 51 taps including local beers, sours, ciders, wine, cocktails, kombuchas, soft drinks and more. Beers average 70 cents per ounce, wines about a buck fifty and you can either tap dance up and down the wall, trying a little of everything, or settle on an 8-ounce serving of your favorite. Everything is tracked and tallied on a tap-and-go credit card, and the wall taps you out after 2 ½ servings—you can re-up if you so desire.
“I’m really impressed with Stanley’s nitro, IPA and gluten-free options like Holidaily,” said Curtis. “Because you can’t believe they’re celiac-friendly. Kombuchas [eye roll] are not on my list, and some of the hard seltzers taste like you’re licking a rock.”
Jim Wright, Director of Operations, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to pleasing the most discriminating high-brow beer palette. The indoor/outdoor beer hall which seats 500, frequently goes through an incredible 50 kegs a week and has at least 35 beers on tap. He switches out empty kegs with new local brews, sometimes up to 15 times a day, to keep it fresh for the fans. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Coors is one of our core beers, as well as Station 26’s Juicy Banger. And margaritas are always on the menu. A lot of locals of all ages drink here, so we try to cater to a wide variety of tastes. And for the folks who bring their dogs to hang out, we even have a Poochie Pilsner made out of bone broth.”
Since opening in 2016, things had been going doggone well with the self-serve concept, until Covid hit and things got ‘rough rough’. Rough for Stanley Beer Hall and rough for Stanley neighbors in need. Stanley Marketplace Developer and Chief Visionary Officer Mark Shaker felt compelled to pour his heart out to the community.
“Thanks to a little public and a whole lot of private funding, we were able to turn the Stanley Beer Hall kitchen into a massive production facility during Covid. From churches, to mosques, to feeding dozens of charities, to dropping off food around Denver, to catering to neighbors in need who would stand in line for a daily meal, we’re proud to say we donated over 160,000 meals during Covid.”
More than 1,000 meals a day during Covid. And that’s not the extent of Shaker’s generosity.
The Village Farm at Stanley donated a parcel of land, directly behind the beer hall, to the Village Exchange Program (VEC) so they could plant culturally appropriate food,” said Shaker.
The VEC is a non-profit center which provides food, diapers and toilet paper to more than 1,400 immigrants and refugees each week. The Village Farm at Stanley’s main goal is to provide access to fresh, organic and relevant produce to feed the Village Exchange’s food pantry. It is a future goal of Shaker that a portion of the produce that’s grown at the farm could potentially be purveyed at Stanley Beer Hall as well as purchased by the individual restauranteurs who comprise Stanley Marketplace.
Curtis didn’t know quite the extent of Stanley Beer Hall’s Herculean efforts during Covid. But neither did anyone else, really. Shaker moves and shakes quietly. But he has big plans to raise the bar, turning Stanley Marketplace into an ‘after-dark’ experience adding bars and ‘round-the-clock diners to accommodate the scores of residents planning to move into the apartments, currently being erected, adjacent to the marketplace.
And speaking of tasty spuds and suds, General Manager Dina Frontz and Assistant Manager Daniel Wood are the food and beer savants at Stanley Beer Hall. Both highly recommended the double cheeseburger, which won the Denver Burger Battle two years in a row, as well as the warm pretzel bites, buffalo cauliflower and green chili cheddar tots. Curtis was such a fan of the burger, he practically put it up on his Insta, instantly!
Stanley Beer Hall: 2501 Dallas St #100, Aurora.
All Fired Up About Beer
Like a good fireman, Station 26 Brewing’s marketing & events manager Jessica Hummel is here to rescue you. From bad beer.
Extinguishing thirst since 2013, Station 26 does just that. Housed in an old firehouse that saw service in the 1960s, is now seeing service, with a smile, and the new station is only about a mile from the old station. And while there are food trucks instead of fire trucks in the parking lot, it still looks kinda sorta the same.
“It had been abandoned for quite some time, and we really wanted to maintain the architecture as much as possible. We kept the original yellow brick which is so aesthetic 60s, the old fire pole is still above the bar, and we use the original fire hoses as decorations. Even the employees use the original lockers and showers,” said Hummel.
Once you get past one breathtaking firewall of fame—patches and awards from scores of heroic firefighters, first responders and police who’ve drank at the old-new Station 26 from all around the world, you’ll quickly get fired up about the beer. Metropolitan State University (MSU) professor and lecturer Katie Strain sure does.
“Station 26’s Swift Half cold IPA just won Best Session Gold at the World Beer Cup, which is kind of like winning Best Actor at the Oscars,” said Strain.
Yep, she sniffed the beer. Might’ve swilled it too. Evidently beers have come a long way, baby, since the 80s when a budding brewmeister would tinker with a home brew in the basement, hire a couple of buds and try and launch a craft brewing empire. Beer bathtubs, she says, were the precursor to all the wonderful watering holes that now dot our luscious, American landscape—God bless us!
“Beer is getting bougier, more sophisticated. There are literally hundreds of beer styles to choose from and beer drinkers, in turn, are getting more educated. They know good beer,” added Strain.
And, interestingly, students in aviation, theater and business all take Katie’s classes. MSU offers a four-year degree in Brewery Operations, under the school’s hospitality umbrella. As students learn all about the science of beer and beer pairings, the program is also very business-focused, with an emphasis on leadership, cost control, marketing, running a brewery and more. Gone are the days you can work in brewery management without a college degree.
“It all boils down to four things. Malt, the lifeblood of the beer (think color, flavor, and alcohol source.) Hops, which add flavor and bitterness. Then, of course, water and yeast. How you treat it, what you add to it, how long you ferment it. It’s a lot. And, a lot of fun. I’m kind of digging Irish Red Ales now and Gose is trending—a sour wheat beer with salt, which expands the palette.”
Lifesaver that it is, Station 26 luckily brews a little bit of everything. Sixteen beers are running at all times, the majority of which are brewed right here in Colorado, some even on site at Station 26! Highlights include the Tangerine Cream, which they describe as a creamsicle with alcohol. Bang Bang Double IPA, a higher octane beer at 9.2 percent, which consequently offers more booze expression. And Juicy Banger, Station 26’s own, which is the number-one selling IPA in the state of Colorado. While the beer is always served ice cold, sometimes it’s the stories that give Hummel goosebumps.
“A few weeks ago, I was working behind the bar when this retired firefighter dropped in. He actually worked at Station 26 in the 60s, when our bar was a working fire station. What a full circle moment, it was just so special,” said Hummel.
And I think it’s pretty special Station 26 offers free bluegrass on the patio the second Sunday of every month, from noon to 3, with a brunchie food truck in tow. Then again, Strain says their patio in particular is the perfect place to enjoy a golden oldie, any day of the week! After all, Golden, Colorado is the birthplace of Coors, dontcha know.
You can’t do an article on beer without paying homage to Coors. And you should definitely go for its Banquet Beer. It’s clean. It’s an easy-drinking, well-balanced beer with high carbonation. Bubbles are yummy. Bubbles make beer extra fun.
Station 26 Brewing: 7045 38th Ave, Denver
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch