"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Friday, November 14, 2014

River North's newest additions: Mockery and Beryl's

I didn’t grow up on the mean streets of East St. Louis or in the ghettos of Compton but my hometown wasn’t exactly The Hamptons, either.  A burg of nearly 30,000 people in north-central Indiana, one might not imagine Marion as a bastion of criminal activity.  Indeed, it’s home to a private Christian university and it’s an island in a sea of cornfields—two things not associated with the thug life. 

I think Mockery's facade is pretty rad

At the same time, it’s a factory graveyard.  Poverty rates are high and with them the crime rates.  Marion’s a stopping-off point for drug runners en route to Chicago and Detroit.  Murders and shootings aren’t everyday but neither are they uncommon.  Gang activity is ever-present.  There’re more dangerous places in America than Marion but significantly more places are safer. 

I bring this up to elucidate a point—Denver’s not that treacherous.  Bigger, yes (604,626 more people than Marion, in fact), and not without its fair share of shady characters but, all told, there’s not a neighborhood in Denver I’d deem too sketchy.  The worst of Denver is Marion’s average.  It’s all a matter of perspective, though.

That said, some parts of Denver are still—shall we say—“rougher” than other parts.  The neighborhood colloquially referred to as River North (there is no official “River North”; it’s comprised of pieces from Five Points, Cole, Globeville, and perhaps a touch of Elyria-Swansea) being one such neighborhood.  A gritty, industrial area that seems like a nice place to conduct a mob hit or receive a shipment of primo Colombian coke. 
Change is not on the horizon for River North, either.  That’s because the metamorphosis is already happening.  What was once no-man’s land is currently transforming into the hippest hangout in the metro.  Denver can thank local artists for getting the ball rolling, for taking loading docks and turning them into studios, for converting factories into galleries, and for lifting the neighborhood from skid row status to a haven of creative types.  Yes, the artists certainly got the ball rolling.  But, it’s the breweries that are accelerating that ball, rolling it at supersonic speeds.  Two of the newest establishments helping to thrust River North upward: Mockery Brewing and Beryl’s Beer Co.

You can tell from the outside the business of Mockery 
To the uninitiated, the walk up to Mockery seems a harrowing experience, especially at night.  Industrial lots of rusted equipment, chain link fences with barb-wire tops, and the absence of streetlights imparts a sense of foreboding; one expects a hooded assailant to appear at any moment.  But the attacker never comes.  The trained eye notices an underlying benignity.  That creepy looking garage across the street?  That’s actually where the police service their vehicles.  The two buildings adjacent to Mockery?  A doggy daycare and what looks to be a small but expensive condo unit.  Perhaps the shadiest business on the block is Mockery itself, those moonshinin’ ne’er-do-wells!

Inside Mockery
It was Mockery’s opening night when Nicole and I (along with cohorts Robin and Justin) visited and, like our last brewery grand opening, patrons were pressed together like Terrance Knighton and Chris Katechis in a Smart car.  Despite the sardine-like conditions, we plowed our way to the bar where I noticed a sight most pleasing: a full tap menu of solid and innovative beers.  Usually, a grand opening is epitomized by two or three beers (because the brewers haven’t had time to make more) that, while probably tasty, are pretty basic e.g. an IPA or a stout or some other prosaic style.  One doesn’t typically see a salted Scotch ale, a sessionable red IPA, a rye saison, a peach blonde ale, or a vanilla Bourbon porter until at least a few weeks into operation but Mockery put forth these astounding beers right from the start.  For that, I tip my proverbial hat.

Mockery's beer garden
Fortunately for us, the beer garden featured several space heaters; the taproom constrictiveness would have crushed us like Garbage Compactor 3263827.  For such a traditionally unappealing neighborhood, the outdoor seating at Mockery is actually quite posh.  It’s sunken in among three buildings which provide privacy and big, bulbous festival lights strung overhead offer a welcoming ambiance, an oasis of hospitality in an otherwise utilitarian locale.

Justin toasts to America and Mockery's game room
Speaking of the three buildings enclosing the beer garden, the taproom is one, the neighboring condo is another, and the “Game Room” is the third.  I guess sticking a shuffleboard table against the wall is enough to constitute a game room but it’s more accurately described as “The Homebrewers Clubhouse” because this garage—with an American flag draped on one wall, an around-the-room collection of growlers, and bottle cap art—is the space a group of homebrewers would hang out in as they wait for wort to boil.  It’s a stark, functional room save for the few splashes of incongruent decorations and I really liked it; it suggests a suburban, neighborly charm in the heart of the city.

Mockery was tout-worthy but I needed to escape the hordes.  So, we gave the crowd the slip and headed for a place not hosting a grand opening and River North’s second-youngest brewery—Beryl’s.

I’m usually pretty quick on the uptake but I can admit when I’m confused; I didn’t immediately get the name “Beryl’s.”  I assumed it was a cutesy way of phonetically spelling “barrels” since they specialize in barrel-aged beers.  I was at least half right in that assumption.  Then there was the matter of their logo, this thing that looks like jagged mountains of bluish green.  It’s cool but, until Nicole explained it to me, I didn’t realize the secondary (primary?) meaning.  Apparently, beryl (or beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate) is a mineral, oftentimes teal, found in Colorado (most notably Mt. Antero) and that’s the depiction in the logo.  I hope this wasn’t obvious to everybody except me.

Barrels at Beryl's
Beryl’s, like many River North breweries, sits on an unadorned, no-frills plot of land.  There’s a fenced-in lot in front that serves as outdoor seating with the brewery itself lying within a nondescript, metal-sheeted building.  The interior, however, is a bit cozier with repurposed, antique tables and chairs around which guests can congregate, vertical log stumps where one may sit their glass or their butt, interpretations of the state flag in the medium of rustic wood, and the barrels themselves all lend to the make-yourself-at-home atmosphere.

The design of the taproom is nice but the beers at Beryl’s are certainly worth mentioning as well.  Riga Doms, a Baltic porter aged in brandy barrels?  Elsie Mae, a saison aged in white wine barrels?  Man, their aint nothing’ wrong with that!  It’s a general rule of mine but it’s held up thus far: a good beer is made great through barrel-aging.  Beryl’s got the message and delivered expertly. 

Inside Beryl's
If you haven’t been to River North, you haven’t experienced the Denver beer scene.  This statement’s all the more true after the addition of Mockery and Beryl’s and, truly, the neighborhood’s become so much more than it’s intimidating façade.  It’s a place of creativity, of imbibing, and of socializing and quite frankly, as crowded as the beer market may be in River North, I’d welcome, say, five or six more.  Because the beer geeks will keep a-comin’.



Bar at Beryl's
Barrels upon barrels at Beryl's
The whole gang (besides me) at Beryl's

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