A former hotel, restaurant, flophouse, and party store will undergo a rebirth this weekend when it opens as Denver’s first distillery pub. Set in the 125-year-old Imperial Building at 244 South Broadway, Denver Distillery officially opens today to the public, selling its own spirits as well as other Colorado liquors and beers and Tip Top Savory Pies for snacking.
Ron Tarver, who owns the building and the business, spent six years and around $1 million remodeling two floors — lowering one by two feet — to outfit a bar and distillery. Together with carpenter and head distiller Chad Peters, he has created a tasting room that feels true to the neighborhood. Patrons can drink beside the 150-gallon handmade still towards the back of the bar. In the basement-turned-laboratory, four open-air cypress fermenters work on multi-day rotations.
Peters is an enthusiast who spent time honing his skills at Downslope. Here he starts with locally malted grains and takes them through the entire distillation process. He’ll debut with two rums, a few flavored liqueurs — one 73-proof Kaladi coffee spirit infused with cinnamon, pink peppercorn, chocolate, and honey — and a white “sweet-feed shine” whiskey that adds oats and molasses to the typical grain profile. By 2019, his first buttery-smooth bourbon will be ready.
At the end of a winding road to completion, Tarver and Peters seem to have covered every detail from the spirit-making to the room’s finishes. Relics uncovered during construction make up the bar’s design and dot the walls, old newspaper clippings hang framed in the hallway, and excavated bones and lithium bottles now sit in display cases in the bathrooms. Amid all the old and antique is a newly built water recapturing system that saves about 700 gallons daily, according to Tarver.
Now 70, he is looking into some other new-school additions for his business — rose quartz to add to the distillation column and environmentally friendly packaging for the liquor bottles — all “for the millennials.” He’s lived in this neighborhood since the 1970s, he picketed in front of the former Kitty’s South adult theater (the space two blocks up Broadway will soon open as Archetype Distillery), and now he wants to do something for the changing community. “This is a labor of love,” Tarver says before leaving a crew of seven new employees and taking a smoke break on a bench outside of neighboring Bardo Coffee House. He had initially planned on finding another tenant to fill the coveted Broadway space but instead decided he needed a project: “I was just sitting around, doing nothing, walking my dog, doing my crosswords.”
Status: Denver Distillery opens at 6 p.m. Friday, January 26 at 244 South Broadway. For hours and more information, check the website.