Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Denver's Beer Restaurant Scene is Going Through an Evolution

Denver has its breweries and it has its beer bars, as the world knows while it descends upon the Great American Beer Festival this week. But an under-appreciated part of the scene the Mile High City is developing is its beer-themed restaurants - and few represent it as well as Former Saint.

Former Saint Craft Kitchen and Taps is located on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, not exactly a place where you might think beer culture might flourish. But the restaurant - named not for its latent soul but for its being the site of St. Mary's Academy, the first all-girls school in Colorado - was developed over a number of years with the theme of Colorado being front and center the entire time.

That's evident in the menu, heavy on state-produced meats and vegetables, from its bison burger to its buffalo steak. And it's evident in the 16-tap, all-Colorado beer list, which Dane Fiscella, the hotel's assistant food and beverage manager, works closely with his beverage guru to for the largely conventioneers' crowd that stays there.

Here you will find a range from local lagers to Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout. More importantly, you will find beers ranging from those produced by the state's largest craft brewer, New Belgium Brewing, to only-distributed-in-Denver artisans like Goldspot Brewing.

Fiscella, a veteran of the venerable Philadelphia beer scene, goes out on scouting trips often for local beers, and he thinks not of what will appeal to the masses but what will genuinely provoke customers' interests. The biggest seller the space has seen is not a light lager but Station 26 Brewing Juicy Banger, which Coloradans know as one of the best IPAs made in the Centennial State.

And when the beer isn't flowing through the copper pipes from the glass-walled taproom (pictured above) that draw so many questions, it is taking a supporting role on the menu. The restaurant's popular quail and waffles (pictured below) is slathered with a syrup made from Denver Beer Co's Graham Cracker Porter.

Certainly, there are places around downtown Denver that serve a larger and riskier portfolio of Colorado craft beers than Former Saint. But the eatery - which is hosting a Sierra Nevada pairing dinner on Wednesday and a number of tap takeovers throughout this week - is a prime example of how the Denver beer scene is starting to imbue itself in places well beyond the beer-geek haunts of yore, and it is well worth a stop on the way into or out of the Colorado Convention Center to see how craft beer and fine food have become allies rather than opposites , even in a corporate hotel setting.

"Our Colorado themed hyper-focus, it sets us apart from our competitors," Fiscella said recently. "When you're staying at a hotel, you're going on a trip. "If we can give you that sense in downtown Denver of adventure and of out-of-the-ordinary, that's what we want to do."

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