First Look: BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats opens today in Boulder
All photos by Lori Midson.
It's Saturday afternoon, and the kitchen magicians at BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats are on the patio, running through their checklist; an hour later, Ian Clark's new alehouse in Boulder is pulsating -- with music, energy and a swell of bodies, all of whom have been invited to be the first to check out the project that Clark has been working on for the last several months: a joint brewery and restaurant that, in some ways, is an extension of the brewing operation that Clark started in his home garage a few years ago.
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"We've got five fermenters, two of which are from my garage at home, and a bright tank that's from my garage, too, that will be used for aging purposes," says Clark, who left his post as executive chef of Centro Latin Kitchen in February to concentrate solely on BRU, the kitchen of which is tag-teamed by Josh Monopoli, former chef de cuisine at Black Cat and Jason Brown, who was Clark's sidekick at Centro, and before that, Jax Boulder.
The brewing operation, separated from the dining room by a wall of glassed windows and a sliding beetle-kill pine rail door built by Clark (he built just about everything in the restaurant with his own two hands), translates into a dozen beers, all of which are brewed on site, naturally carbonated and never filtered; two wine taps, a cider handle and housemade soda handle also reside behind the concrete-slabbed bar, and the handles, hand-welded by Clark, are spectacularly unique: Each one is constructed from antique kitchen tools -- ice cream scoops, meat forks, rolling pins, potato mashers, hand-cranked whisks, a spice grinder -- or waffle irons, with a wrench thrown in for good measure. Many of the kitchen tools were given to Clark by his mother-in-law, her grandmother or great grandmother, and they alone are worth the price of admission.
Clark, who describes his new joint as a "gastro brewpub with urban American food," is also pouring several beer cocktails, an idea, he says, that goes "hand-and-hand" with his food. "Food is beer, and beer is food, and we wanted to so some fun and funky stuff -- like beer cocktails -- and meld everything together," he says, adding that he'll also have a rotating tap exclusive to a Boulder County brewer.
But there's far more to BRU than just beer, although you can bet that hopheads from Boulder, Denver and beyond will make this their alehouse of choice -- this, despite the fact that BRU is far removed from Boulder's heavily saturated Pearl Street Mall. "I didn't want to be in downtown Boulder," admits Clark. "We want to focus on quality, and to do that, we don't want to be doing hundreds of covers every night. We don't want to sacrifice anything for the sake of location."