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Pub Visit - USA/Canada

Denver (River North - RiNo), Colorado:
Black Shirt Brewing Co

Visited on: Saturday 16th June 2018

Bob Thompson

Black Shirt 1Black Shirt Brewing is at the very uppermost portion of the iconic RiNo (River North) district of Denver. To be strictly correct it is in Cole. Less than ten years ago it was in a rough neighbourhood, witnessed by bullet holes in the front of the building.

It opened in 2012 after over ten years of planning and sparked the renaissance of the area. This was continued on 22nd April 2016 when the 38th & Blake station on the RTD line A to Denver International Airport opened. It is the first stop out of Union Station. The pub is around 200 yards walk away.

The building dates from the 1920s and is brick built. It was said to be a furniture store in the 1950s and a disco during the 1960s and 1970s. A lot of hard work with little or no income, toiled for one year and nine months to create the interior. This work was done by bothers Branden and Chad Miller, his wife Carissa and employee and future brewer Aaron Holstad, Clarissa’s brother, ably assisted.

Black Shirt 2By the way, if you should think otherwise, the title of the brewery has nothing to 1930s and 1940s Italian fascists.

It is actual a reference to Johnny Cash, “the man in black” and his penchant for wearing black shirts on stage.

He said this was done to promote himself as something different. The brains behind the brewery thought this was great idea to copy as they wanted to stand out amongst the rest.

Owners Branden and Chad come from Westcliffe in southern Colorado where they worked in their father’s collision repair shop. Westcliffe is in the Sangro de Christo Mountains. The name in Spanish and means “Christ’s Blood” and is a reference to the red mountains in that part of the state. Well, that is one clue to the type of beer that is prominent here, Red Ale. A surprising choice you may think and so did I. There is another clue in the fact that Colorado is an adjective for red in Spanish.

Black Shirt 3Things may have changed though so let’s have a look at the beers on offer that afternoon: Common Red Kölsch (5.5%); Stringbender Saison (7.5%); Timekeeper Rye Pale Ale (6.0%); Bonzo Pistachio and Lavender American Rye Pale Ale (6.0%).

The list continues with Colorado Public Red Ale (7.0%); Turbo Juice IPA (5.3%), a New England style IPA; Frontsman IPA (7.3%); Blood Orange Overdrive Double IPA (8.0%) and Fourback Porter (6.0%),

Then a collaboration with Elevation Brewing of Poncho Springs, CO: Quadratic Rationise (10.0%), a quadrupel ale and finally a guest: Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA) Nitro Merlin Milk Stout (5.5%).

We sampled four of these and this is thoughts on them: Timekeeper is described as a rye pale ale yet there was only a hint of the rye and the main body taste was of a Red Ale. It was fine, though. Four Track Porter was said to be an “American Red Porter”. I didn’t have an overall distinct taste. A slight mention of Red Ale but no porter flavours at all. Colorado Public Red Ale wasn’t bad at all. No Red Ale taste but a strong IPA body. Frontman IPA was a very good IPA with a peppery flavour and a good dry finish.

Black Shirt 4After our visit there was a major change at the brewery. Rather surprisingly Chad and Branden Miller stepped back from the management and brewing in November 2018. Brewer Aaron Holstad has moved to Switzerland. A new Head Brewer David Sakolsky has arrived. He co-founded Deciduous Brewing in New Hampshire during 2014, which specialises in Farmhouse ales and mixed- fermentation beers, especially Gose and Saison.

It won’t be the end for the hoppy red ales though, as they will still brew some. But the brewery will be producing other styles in smaller batches. The brewery has a new logo that reflects the changes.

The pub is well known for its live music which is frequent throughout spring, summer and early autumn. Outside when it’s warm and inside when it isn’t.

It’s almost adjacent to a rail station, has live music and an eclectic range of beers. What’s not to like!

Important Information:

Black Shirt Brewing Company, 3719 Walnut Street, Denver, Colorado 80205. Tel: 303 993 2799

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11.00-22.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-24.00

Probably the best way to get to the pub is to arrive on the RTD A line.
This runs between Union Station and Denver International Airport, every 15 minutes, every day.
The station to alight at is 39th/Blake. Walk back towards the city, cross the lines by the foot crossing.
Out on the street, go straight on along North Downing Street. You will now see the rear patio of Blackshirt. Walk around it by going left. You will now be in Walnut Street and the entrance is on the left.

The 44 bus route is very useful as it travels through the RINO district with its many breweries and brew-pubs. It goes through the city centre on 15th and 17th Streets then goes north till it reaches 44th Avenue.
The 44 runs half hourly on weekdays, hourly from 19.00, and hourly at weekends.

Coming from down town alight at the Marion Street/30th Street stop. The pub is by the stop.
Returning to the city, leave the pub, cross the road to the Walnut Street/38th Street stop.