Peak to Peak Tap & Brew’s new brewery adds to city’s gaggle of craft beer makers

Originally opened as a niche taproom beside Treadz Bicycle Outfitters on East Iliff Avenue in November 2014, the watering hole — heretofore known as Peak to Peak Taproom — started pouring beer made in-house April 21. They rang in their recently overhauled food and drink space with a launch party May 20

20170526-Peak to Peak-Aurora, Colorado

Gordon Pencis, head brewer, left, and Gordon McKennon, owner of Peak to Peak Tap and Brew pose in the brewery on Friday May 26, 2017 at Peak to Peak Tap and Brew. The former taproom only is now brewing their own beers. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170526-Peak to Peak-Aurora, Colorado

Gordon Pencis, head brewer, brings a flight of beer to a customer on Friday May 26, 2017 at Peak to Peak Tap and Brew. The former taproom only is now brewing their own beers. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Aurora’s growing gaggle of beer purveyors mushroomed this April with the addition of a new brewery at Peak to Peak Tap & Brew.

Originally opened as a niche taproom beside Treadz Bicycle Outfitters on East Iliff Avenue in November 2014, the watering hole — heretofore known as Peak to Peak Taproom — started pouring beer made in-house April 21. They rang in their recently overhauled food and drink space with a launch party May 20.

Aurora’s brewery has tapped nearly a dozen different types of suds so far this spring and has eight of them on tap. The artisanal nineteenth hole will aim to keep about 10 of its own beers on tap at any given time, while maintaining about 20 other draft brews from various craft beer vendors.

Adding a brewing system to the Peak to Peak facility was always in the long-term business plan, according to Gordon McKennon, who co-owns the spot with his wife, Joy. The decision to tack on a brewery this spring got the green light after the McKennons reached an expansion agreement with the owners of the neighboring bike shop, according to Gordon. He said the renovation adds about 1,000 square feet of space to the Peak to Peak pad, including additional bar seating and a new wall.

McKennon enlisted the brewing abilities of Gordon Pencis, a former brewer at the now-defunct Denver brewpub Del Norte Brewing Co. and later at Copper Kettle Brewing Company in the same city, to steer his three-barrel operation at 16701 E. Iliff Ave.

A former home brewer himself, McKennon said he and Pencis consult with one another on the direction of each new brew. Many of the spot’s new oat sodas feature fresh fruit — Peak to Peak just tapped a new cucumber saison last week.

Peak to Peak now also employees a devoted chef charged with whipping up assorted pub fare for patrons. The food menu at the shop was previously contracted out to a food truck operator, although McKennon said just about everything — from bacon wantons to southwest chicken egg rolls — is now made in-house.

McKennon — who was also an early investor in 3 Freaks Brewery in Highlands Ranch — said the total renovation of the pub has tallied about $200,000. But the investment — the bulk of which was thrown into a customized, automated brewing system — was necessary to compete in the region’s packed galaxy of brewpubs.

“We put a lot of money into the brewery knowing that the product had to be of the highest quality,” he said. “We’re competing in a market where there’s a lot of great breweries, so we had to make a superior product.”

Indeed, the number of craft breweries continues to annually swell in the state. There were 334 craft breweries in Colorado at the end of last year, the second-most of any state in the country, according to the Brewers Association, an industry group for beer makers. That total number is more than double what it was just five years ago and accounts for 8.4 breweries per 100,000 Coloradans over the age of 21, according to the group.

But McKennon said residents of the surrounding Kingsborough neighborhood have buoyed the alehouse since it opened about two-and-a-half years ago, and he has faith that many regular patrons will support the cost and effort tied to the new expansion.

“Iliff is almost smack-dab in the middle of east Aurora, and we had to make sure we were a good fit for the neighborhood because the rooftops around you support your business, not the entirety of metro Denver,” he said. “And the neighborhood has been great. They’re our most important customers — the returning, local customer that comes back multiple times a week.”

McKennon added that those same devoted imbibers have been eager to try his original beverages — Peak to Peak’s original brews have already started out-selling the outside beers on tap.

“We’ve always served rare and hard-to-find beers, and our clientele appreciate that and they know that,” he said. “So when they come in and see we have our own beer, they gravity toward that — it’s an easy transition.”