Sunday, November 26, 2017

An End to Wit’s First Chapter

It was, at best, a place you never thought you’d find yourself drinking beer, located in an out-of-the-way strip of industrial warehouse space in a part of south Denver not known for its business atmosphere. I once invited four couples there for a happy hour, and three got lost.

But the now-former home of Wit’s End Brewing had a subtle charm as well, a we-brew-unpretentious-beer-and-hang-out-wherever-we-can aura. And it infected the offerings that sprang from Scott Witsoe’s taps – beer that almost never met a Brewers Association style guideline but made you stop and ponder every new creation all the same, admiring the complexities and unusual flavors that sprang from them.

The final day for that quirky location came Saturday, six days before Wit’s End will become the first brewery in the state to cohabitate with another and move into the space that Strange Craft Beer has occupied south of Mile High Stadium since 2010. And it came with a packed house, made up mainly of hard-core regulars and industry professionals.

“It should have been like this more often,” said Tim Myers, co-owner of Strange (shown at right with Wits), which will share operations and taproom space with Wit’s End going forward, even as the two craft breweries will remain independently owned.

Wit’s End is a brewery that could throw anything into a recipe — a trait honored in the name of its Kitchen Sink Porter, as in “we threw everything in the kitchen sink into the mash.” It added Indian jaggery sugar to an ESB to create its Mick Jaggery, quite possibly its most unique recipe. And every time you thought it was going classically Belgian or classically hoppy, Witsoe would add ingredients to make the beer a hybrid that was unique and tastier.

Witsoe, the immaculately bearded former home brewer who will step back from the day-to-day running of the brewery under the new partnership, said amidst the large crowd Saturday that it was a bittersweet day – the end to a six-year road that saw him capture Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medals and end up once on the cover of the New York Times.

Yet, even as he said that he’ll miss the old place at 2nd and Bryant, he acknowledged that the partnership with Strange is likely to expand his opportunities, both from the distribution standpoint and the ability to get his beers in front of the wider audience that they deserve. Burns Family Artisan Ales, a new brewery helmed by former Jagged Mountain founding brewer Wayne Burns, will move in Dec. 1 and focus on high-alcohol beers.

Here’s hoping the folks who never made it into the original Wit’s End location discover it at its new home and savor it for what it is — a one-of-its-kind brewery that continues to stand out in a Denver beer scene where doing so is becoming a harder task.

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