Three months into its existence, Manitou Brewing Company already feels like a finished product.
A cozy, shaded affair off to the side signifies a killer patio, where a sculpture of a giant hop curls over the brewhouse door, the water comes in Mason jars, and dog water-bowls abound. But before you get there you'll find the front door, which leads to a dining room and bar that together bring the outdoor vibe indoors.
Wooden rounds surround a blackboard full of the house creations and guest taps — Colorado Cider Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and its Aprihop IPA ($6.75) all represent — while some gorgeous, locally made wooden tables bear initials marking them as offspring of either the Waldo Canyon or Black Forest fires.
Now that's community-building, especially in an area currently full of sandbags designed to help stave off the rampaging runoff from the burn scar. Luckily, MBC is out of the floodplain.
But the fun never ends for a new business, something co-owner and sole brewer Dominic Koh, 34, confirmed when he went to purchase hops. As Esquire noted in February, the craft-beer industry represents about 7 percent of beer sold in the U.S., but it's using about 52 percent of the hops available. And since breweries lock up options on the cones years in advance, Koh was forced to make magic with some less popular varieties like Columbus, Summit and Nugget.
Pints from the five-barrel system run from $5 to $6.75, but the brewery uses 19-ounce "pint" glasses, and 13-ounce "half-pint" glasses. (For those not numerically inclined: A real pint contains 16 ounces.) And the brews are quality, if all running a little toward the sweet side, something Koh did on purpose to entice the new craft drinker.
A Belgian blonde (4.7 percent alcohol-by-volume) sips crisp and bright; a Session Red (4.7 ABV), caramel-y with a big malt presence. The American wheat (5.4 ABV) is exceptionally pleasant and balanced, with bread-like undertones; and the IPA (6.7 ABV) comes out throwing grassy punches, before a fruity bitterness that doesn't dry you out, sets in. I didn't dig the California Common (5.2 ABV), a style I wasn't before familiar with, but if you like Fat Tire you'll probably like this.
Rotating seasonals are currently in the mix, with interesting creations, like one styled after a Berliner Weisse, to come. You need not bide your time unaccompanied, however, because the food from 26-year-old chef Duane Webb, a product of Paragon Culinary School, is legit.
"We're really billing ourselves as a craft beer and craft food establishment," Koh says. "So, although the food is somewhat pub-type food, we feel like we're offering an elevated approach to pub food."
The highlight has to be the pork belly tacos ($9), which could rival favorites at Denver's gold standard, Pinche Tacos. Smashed across the tortilla, the buttery meat is kicked up with pickled onions and crème fraîche, plus a smear of bacon jam, proving that only pig can improve pig.
A basket of fried house-pickles ($5.25) are addictively fresh and crunchy, tasting of cucumber instead of stale vinegar, with a snappy horseradish sauce that quickly fills with fried bits. Indulgence finds a home in the eight-ounce Bacon Blue Burger ($12), a fat and fantastically juicy bit of brown and pink, laced with more bacon jam and blue-cheese mayo, that oozes juices all over fantastic misshapen house fries. (You can punch up the latter with additions like truffle oil or queso manchego.) A sweet-and-spicy pepper-flecked Thai sauce, reminiscent of the stuff at The Blue Star, comes off far better over a bowl of meaty hot wings ($7) than on a tender-but-dry cut Pork Trotter ($6), but you'll want to slurp it up either way.
One dish escaped me entirely: a segmented chicken sausage ($10) covered in melted cheddar cheese and pickled onions on a pretzel roll. All of those ingredients had flavors, and none of those flavors seemed to like each other. A bland, droopy Reuben ($9.50) was more simplistically unappetizing — a better option might be the Veggie Quinoa Burger ($10), with its mini-bubbles patty rocking some Southwestern flair.
In its short life, the brewery's already played host to the local Twitterati, the beer-loving Brewers Broads, the Incline Friends and the Manitou Running Club. It's hard to go a day without a picture of its curvy logo showing up on social media somewhere, and at lunch I ran into three people I knew. The word is out, the proof is in: This baby is ready to go.