Since it opened on Sept. 12, Cerberus Brewing Company has been slammed nonstop. "Nothing's let up," says head brewer/co-owner Joshua Adamski.
Really, the hype around Cerberus comes as no surprise. Adamski built a reputation for taste as general manager at Brewer's Republic, curating brews for the place our readers voted Best Beer Selection in 2016. Former Brewer's/Underground/Subterranean owners Jerry Morris and Tom Halfast are co-owners at Cerberus too, along with Adamski's mother, office manager Cindy Geiser. It'd almost be fair to consider the outfit a family effort, extending to the wider beer community that has been so supportive since the project was first announced.
Evidence of demand: On all three of our visits, Cerberus' 19-brew printed beer menu was bedecked with "on tap soon" stickers. They've brought in several guest beers and even added sodas to better fill their handles. But even with this early rush Cerberus has faced, they haven't missed a beat. Both beer and food delight. Everything on tap tastes clean and to style, and the craft-beer faithful would rather see a few empty taps than deal with beer that's not ready.
Most pours run $5 or $5.50. We enjoy the fairly conventional No Big Deal kölsch. Like many light beers, it's a great bellwether for good brewing — there's nothing strong about the flavor profile, so there's nowhere to hide flaws in the brew process. NBD bears a complex fruitiness from ale-like top fermenting yeast, finishing with lagered cleanness, as one would want from the style. Fans of brown and amber ales will enjoy the Hathor California common, which bears a sharp hop bitterness before finishing clean. Try also the Stygian Porter, a roasty brew with substantial body.
For an adventure, try the Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em grätzer, a Polish style defined by oak-smoked wheat. It's a bit of a surprise for a light-colored, clean-drinking beer to have a robust smokiness, but this one does, wheat sweetness keeping the smoke from overwhelming.
Hop heads can rejoice, though, knowing that Adamski's brewery serves as a temple to the fragrant flower.
"I wanted to make beers with a lot of hops in them that won't destroy your palate for the next beer," he says. And his hoppy beers do just that, largely. A fresh-hopped Cascade pale ale celebrates the West Coast hop's piney character with a fresh and almost juicy profile, drinkable for hop-heads and the uninitiated alike. The Cumulus Lupulus hoppy wheat drinks darker than expected for a wheat beer and beautifully balanced for it.
Tiny Umbrella Party IPA goes heavy on tropical fruit with its hop profile. My bartender laments that the second batch, which we sample, turned out maltier than the first, muting the aromatic hops. It's not Cerberus' strongest offering, though still good.
Moving on, the service feels unusually attentive for a brewery. While the massive patio reads beer and good times, the "please wait to be seated" sign and chic interior design veer toward fine dining. Cerberus' executive chef Mark LeFebvre graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, honing his craft at higher-end eateries, including a stint as Chef de Cuisine at The Broadmoor.
Hence beyond-bar-food-offerings like a split beef marrow bone. If you've never experienced buttery marrow bliss on grilled bread, set off here with an acidic kick from balsamic shallots, here's your entry point.
More traditional bar-bites get gussied up here, like the Colorado poutine. Huge, crispy potato wedges hold up cheese curds and ale gravy, plus roasted peppers and mild chorizo. We also enjoy the street corn and chips appetizer, bright with pickled peppers and creme fraiche.
The bison carpaccio Caesar salad bears an uncharacteristically mild dressing, allowing the rich meat to shine. A pork belly BLT comes thick and fatty on Old School Bakery sourdough, with the tomato leading the flavor to a surprising degree. Cerberus' butternut squash soup pleases with rosemary and crunchy spent-grain granola, more vegetal than spiced, made rich by a bourbon reduction.
LeFebvre's gnocchi mac & cheese goes full gourmet, boasting roasted tomatoes, snap peas, a spoonful of yellow mustard seed here, a little house bacon there, all surrounded by a sea of chewy little potato-pasta pillows. At $13, it's good but not terribly filling; drop the extra $5 to top it with a beer brat.
Come dessert, a pecan pie bread pudding à la mode eats satisfying if unremarkable, save for the scoop of salted caramel ice cream from Denver's Ice Cream Alchemy. But the hop-infused crème brulée rates sensational, perfectly textured and bearing a candied lemon zest garnish that accentuates its Lemon Drop Hops.
It's gourmet touches like these, built around the strong beer lineup, which distinguishes Cerberus from the rest of the brewery pack. Get in line; the crowds will probably be here to stay.