As exhibit designers, one of the places we look for inspiration is in the retail world. Stores and restaurants are often way out in front in terms of adopting and even establishing new aesthetic trends, while creating novel experiences for their clientele. One of the fastest growing industries in the state, and here in the Mile High City, is craft brewing. We thought we would explore some of the local breweries to see what types of architecture, materials, furniture, and graphics they are using to create memorable spaces. It sounded like a great opportunity to inform our design process by understanding the emergence of a unique “Denver Style”, and, well, they have beer.
With over 50 craft breweries within the city limits alone, the task of visiting them all would be staggering (no pun intended). We did our best to visit some of the more popular watering holes, with an eye to innovative and unusual design. But if we left out one of your faves, let us know. We’d be happy to schedule a follow up visit. As they say, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
So what did we find in our journeys? Things seem to fall into three different camps. The first is a sort of Rustic/Modern look. Think reclaimed barnwood, furniture and other objects made of barrels and barrel staves, rich warm heritage colors, chalkboard menus, vintage looking tap handles…you get the picture. We’ve done some work in the beer industry, and most of it has looked like this. A great look, and very Colorado.
The second could best be defined as Edgy. Graffiti murals, found art and objects, vintage (sometimes pretty ratty) furniture, bold, sassy graphics. This group also has a strong industrial component, though that shows up in the others as well. Think concrete floors, exposed brick and metalwork, unfinished drywall and plaster, and of course the giant stainless tanks. The vibe is often enhanced by the merch on sale: graphic tees, trucker caps, hoodies.
The third group is pushing the envelope a little more, moving past what you would expect in a brewery space. Not sure what we’d call them exactly, but maybe the Innovators, because each seems remarkably different and purposely individual from everything else out there. Repurposed industrial equipment mixes with fancy chandeliers in one space. Another features giant concrete tubes that act as seating areas, evoking the shape of a beer barrel but in a modern, abstract way. Others bring bright pops of color to an otherwise stark industrial landscape. And still others have such a clean, modern, almost Scandinavian look that you’d forget they did it mostly with the wood barrels that are the brewer’s stock in trade.
And don’t forget the outdoor spaces. With our legendary 300 days of sun a year, this is a very important part of the Denver brewery experience. Though walls made of pallets and tables made of barrels are pretty common, some of the more innovative spots are including bandstands for live music, fire pits, xeriscaping. Throw in some outdoor canopies and strings of Edison lights, and you’ve almost got a German-beer-garden-meets-Austin vibe going…all right here in downtown Denver!
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