Tuesday, October 04, 2016
Visitors to Denver this week will stream into the growing number of beer bars that are awash with special events, each adding something unique to the local scene. But those who want to hoist a pint in a location with a special tie to the recent history of craft beer in Colorado must be sure to stop in at Walter's 303 Pizzeria and Publik House - and to honor the couple that's taken yet another chance in launching it.
Though the pizzeria at 19th and Pearl in the Uptown neighborhood has been going since 2010, the restaurant took on a whole new feel in mid-August when John and Stacy Turk collaborated with owner Mike Kienast to put in a 24-tap bar in the adjacent space, a former ceramics shop. Since then, the now-connected bar and restaurant has been rotating beers nearly as quickly as one is tapped, offering a Colorado-heavy selection that mixes in some national and international favorites from John's career in local brews.
Turk is best known for being a co-founder of the now-retired Colorado Craft Beer Show, the first beer-focused radio program in the state. He continues to work as a sales rep for Epic Brewing, but opening a space where people can enjoy and discuss great beer has always been a dream, he said.
Selections for the taps at the Publik House are evenly divided between John, his wife Stacy and their general manager, but they collectively are meant to represent as many styles as possible. Far from clogging the lines with Epic beer - there are all of two offerings from the brewery on currently - the Turks try to reach out especially to up-and-coming self-distributed beer makers to give patrons a better glimpse at the statewide scene.
"I've been to hundreds of taprooms across the country, so what I've tried to do is pick little things that I love from them," John said. "I do believe I can make this a destination taproom."
That means going beyond the beer selection and filling the bar with beer books and old copies of Zymurgy and Beer Advocate to get people thinking about and delving deeper into the styles that they are trying. Though the Uptown neighborhood is blowing up with different restaurants and bars, there is nothing with this intense a craft-beer focus in the area anymore.
And the tap list the Publik House is featuring before the Great American Beer Festival shows off that approach. Nationally sought breweries such as Russian River, Wicked Weed and 21st Amendment are pouring. So are the Colorado beers visitors might expect, from the likes of Odell and Weldwerks. But those visitors also have a chance to discover a few of the secret-gem libations we Centennial State beer geeks are swooning about, from Comrade's Superpower IPA to TRVE's intriguing Scorn pale wheat ale to the latest surprise from Ratio, which currently happens to be its India black lager.
Yes, there are other tap houses in town with longer draft lists and rarer servings this week. But John Turk has always tried to promote beers in new ways in this state. And to sit inside the casual trappings of the Publik House or at one of its community tables is to salute someone who's trying not just to sling good beer at you but to educate you about it.
"It's the same idea I had when I did the craft beer show - I want to turn people onto craft beer," Turk said. "For me it's not about making a profit. It's about sharing beers with good people."