When I recently moved to Boulder from outside of New York City, I made a rule for myself. For every bar, restaurant or brewery that I went on a repeat visit to after my first trip, I had to try three new places to ensure that I continued to learn the area and that I didn’t get stuck in any ruts. After just one visit to the Walnut Brewery, however, I have broken my rule four and five times over already.
One of the first (and most enjoyable) tasks I’ve given to myself whenever I’ve moved to a new city is to find the bar or restaurant that I hope will become my “go to.” The Walnut Brewery, located on Walnut Street between Broadway and 11th Street, was a pleasant change from the often dark and claustrophobic bars that I was used to frequenting in and around New York City. I immediately felt comfortable and welcome in the large open space of Walnut Brewery with its vaulted ceiling, oversized decorations and banners advertising their house brews, decorative kegs around the restaurant and an overall bright atmosphere, attributable both to the lighting and to the friendliness of the staff. The menu consists of amplified versions of some of my favorite bar food, including items like the 2 A.M burger, (who knew that putting a fried egg and hash browns onto a burger would make it infinitely more delicious?) and bison fajitas.
The beer is great as well, and for someone like me who is still very much a novice in beer terminology and who typically asks my server, “What’s the closest thing you have to Bud Light?” there was the option to order the Six-Beer Sampler, a great way to taste the differences between the house brews. The Walnut Brewery makes drinking their beer a sort of interactive game as well. “The Mug Club” is a membership with the brewery where the number of beers you drink is tracked. Beer-drinkers earn prizes at certain milestones, one of which is a plaque once you’ve reached the “1/2 Barrel Club,” and the ultimate prize being the ability to bring in your own personal stein to be placed on the shelving behind the bar for your exclusive use when you visit the brewery.
There is something more to the Walnut Brewery as well, something intangible. I was attracted to brewery on my first visit because of its friendly atmosphere and personality. I went back and plan on continuing to go back because the brewery instantly made me feel like I was a part of the neighborhood, letting me in on a delicious and fun community secret. On the second Thursday of every month, the Walnut Brewery holds a “tapping” during which the brewmaster unveils a new beer, standing up on a platform above the bar to address the patrons, telling them a bit about the beer being debuted and treating everyone in the restaurant to a free pint. Just being in the restaurant during the September tapping made me feel as if I were part of a community tradition, like the brewmaster had invited me into his backyard for a meal and a drink with a room full of his friends. For someone moving to a completely new city, this kind of intimacy was encouraging and comforting, and I felt like I was being welcomed into the neighborhood.
At the September tapping of the Walnut Brewery’s new Oktoberfest, the brewmaster told us that the October tapping, taking place on October 9th at 6:00 PM, would be “the big one,” a new “Sled Dog Red.” He said, “If any of you have been to a Sled Dog Red tapping before, you know what I’m talking about.” I don’t know what’s in store to make this next tapping “the big one,” but I will absolutely be at the Walnut Brewery on October 9th to find out.