Don’t call Renegade just another tap room

John Leyba/The Denver Post

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Does Denver really need another tap room?

Renegade Brewing Company, which opened in the heart of the Santa Fe Arts District last summer, answers that tired question with a definitive “yes.”

Everything about Renegade is definitive. And it’s exactly that gusto that separates the brewery from some of the city’s more traditional, comfortable venues for high (rather than mass) alcohol consumption.

This still-wet-behind-the-ears brand got its start in founder Brian O’Connell’s backyard — a testament to the casual atmosphere within the tap room. On a Tuesday a few months ago, a table of still-in-scrubs nurses from nearby Denver Health, a crew of snowboarders and a pair of after-work businessmen all sat within a few feet of each other. The snake-like wooden bar vaguely resembles the hardwood of a high school basketball gym and is dotted with 20- and-30-somethings most evenings. It’s a hard place to feel out of place.

The public portion of the brewery is at once small and large — small floor space, huge arched ceilings, tons of natural light flooding in from glass garage doors. Perhaps the room’s most striking feature is its exposed barn-like roof beams, which were sand-blasted during renovations without loss of character. When coupled with the exposed brick, the space exudes a classic Old West feel. And when the front garage doors roll up on nice days, you can see the mountains from the patio/sidewalk area.

Renegade makes and serves its beer inside a former Dr. Pepper plant on West Ninth Avenue between Kalamath Street and Santa Fe Drive that sat vacant for several years. Many of the original fixtures remain, and the extra-high ceilings prove a perfect fit for the fermentation tanks.

Fermentation, of course, is at the core of Renegade’s in-your-face menu. The tap room usually offers around seven rotating beers, ranging from $1-$10 depending on size and rarity. Growlers are available in the $10-$30 range, and pints are a dollar off for anyone who saddles up to the bar after dismounting a bicycle.

The 5 O’Clock blonde ale and the Ryetous Rye IPA are about as “normal” as Renegade gets. After that, it’s a full-on taste-bud assault with selections like Hammer & Sickle (a Russian imperial stout), Bedwetter (an American-style barley wine), Banana Split (an imperial chocolate hefeweizen brewed with real cocoa) and the Elevation triple IPA (a daunting 11.2 percent ABV). The latter smells like B.O. but, thankfully, just tastes like a citrus-y, hoppy beer with a sharp finish.

Like the neighborhood’s galleries , Renegade has a post-industrial feel. The floor is concrete, the menu is scribbled on a chalkboard, indie-rock hums in the background and presumption, of any sort, is left at the door.

It’s a place for beer appreciation and beer drinking. Because the focus, of course, is what’s in the glass. Everything else is but a cog in the machine.