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Go west young man—that’s where the good beer is.

Craft breweries are expanding westward and settling into Wheat Ridge.

With one brewery – Rickoli’s – open in Wheat Ridge and another –Colorado Plus Liquid Art Works Inc. (CPL) – on its way, it seems thewheat in the city’s name is developing an association with anothergrain, barley, one of the main ingredients in beer.

Wheat Ridge is right in step with the rest of the state. One of thestrongest growth industries nationwide and especially in Colorado hasbeen and continues to be craft breweries, once called microbreweries. Colorado has more than 161 licensed craft breweries (97 brewpubs, 64manufacturer breweries) and more than 60 breweries in planning,according to the Colorado Brewer’s Guild Fact Sheet from August 2012.These numbers all continue to rise. Craft beer is defined as small, annual production of 6 millionbarrels of beer or less, independent and traditional, per the BrewersAssociation.

Rick Abitbol, co-owner and master brewer of Rickoli’son Wadsworth, pours a glass of his award-winning cream ale fresh fromthe tap. Rickoli’s opened their doors for business in November, makinghistory as the first-ever brewery in Wheat Ridge. PHOTO BY CYNDY BEAL.

Brewery Rickoli’s

Rickoli’s is the first brewery known to have a Wheat Ridge locale.They opened their doors in November at 4335 Wadsworth Blvd., just southof 44th and Wadsworth, on the west side of the street. From the leasesigning, it took about six months to open for customers.

Rickoli’s has three co-owners: Rick Abitbol, his wife, Jaqua, and Deb Zanker. Rick is Rickoli’s brewmaster. His beers have won many awards,as evidenced by the ribbons on the wall in Rickoli’s. He won his firstaward with his cream ale, M.E.H., for “most excellent homebrew,” whichwon first place in its category at the Colorado State Fair in 2001 andnearly won first place overall.

“It’s not rocket science unless you want it to be,” said Abitbol ofcraft brewing. Abitbol brews one, 15-gallon keg at a time, using thesame brewing system for five years. The process, from start to finish,takes two to three weeks for a ready-to-serve beer.

Abitbol started brewing his own beer about 15 years-ago. A musician,his interest in brewing beer began when he was performing at the oldWalnut Brewery, now known as Rock Bottom Brewery, on the 16th StreetMall. This interest, he said, quickly became an obsession. He purchased a home-brewing kit and the book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

Abitbol and his wife smiled about his first homebrews. He called it“nasty stuff” that he subsequently poured out.

However, he continued to cultivate his brewing skills, and the endproducts improved. He lost interest in the Computer Rental Company heowned. For two years, he drove to Pueblo every weekend, learning thecraft at Shamrock Brewing. His first paying job as a brewer was atGolden City Brewery in Golden. Abitbol has worked at some of thebest-known local small breweries in the Denver area, such as the DenverChophouse, Rock Bottom Brewery for close to eight years in Park Meadows, and briefly at Renegade Brewing.

Rickoli’s has eight house beers on tap, with rotations of other beers that bring the total to around a dozen. All beers are gluten reduced,except wheat beers. The beers are all ales and range from 4.3 percent to nearly 10 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). There are two house-madesodas, root beer and black cherry.

Rickoli’s is open seven days a week. They don’t have a full kitchen,but offer snacks such as pretzels by Baker Street. Rickoli’s co-ownerZanker makes mustards for the pretzels. Customers also may bring theirown food in with them or have food delivered. Rickoli’s has agreementswith ipie and Salsa’s (Salsa’s only in the morning for breakfastburritos). Well-behaved dogs are welcome. Glass 64-ounce “growlers” areavailable for purchase, to fill with beer or soda to take home and bring back to refill.

Abitbol wants Rickoli’s to become a “brewers brewery,” a place wherecraft and home brewers gather.  Abitbol’s future plans include starting a West Side beer tour and a beer festival this summer or fall.

A FOAM-SOME FOURSOME: of craft brewer enthusiasts pose together at Right Coast Pizza (left to right): Doug Sattem, Adam Draeger, Eugene Kahngand Jesse Duplessis. The four co-own Colorado Plus Liquid Art Works,Inc., a brewpub, brewery and restaurant scheduled to open in the oldValente’s building on 38th Avenue before the end of March. PHOTO BYCYNDY BEAL.

Colorado PlusLiquid Art Works, Inc.

A second Wheat Ridge brewpub, expected to open in March, is ColoradoPlus Liquid Art Works.

Like many craft brewers and breweries, the owners of Rickoli’s andCPL know and support one another. Craft breweries often buy or tradebarley, hops and yeast with one another.

“It’s more of a brotherhood than competition,” said CPL co-ownerJesse Duplessis, regarding the mindset of craft brewers and breweries.

CPL is expected to open by the end of March in the old Valente’sbuilding at 6995 W. 38th Ave., on the north side of the street. Thereare four co-owners: Eugene Kahng, Duplessis, Adam Draeger and DougSattem.

The owners’ backgrounds and experience are as diverse as the Colorado beer they will serve. Kahng is the former owner of Vern’s Liquors at44th and Wadsworth. Duplessis’ experience is in heating and plumbing.Draeger is the head brewer at Yak and Yeti in Arvada. Sattem’sexperience is in restaurants and accounting. Kahng and Duplessis haveknown one another since attending Lakewood High School together.

“We want to educate people about Colorado craft beer,” Kahng said ofCPL’s main missions and goals.

CPL will offer 56 Colorado beers on tap, four house-brewed beers, afull bar and a full menu. They will be open seven days a week, initially using only the ground floor of the building. Entrees won’t exceed$15.00. The food will have a farm-to-table emphasis, in keeping withCPL’s local focus. Innovation and creativity are two of the mainstays in craftbreweries.

“There’s no reason to make a Fat Tire clone,” said Draeger, CPL’shead brewer, regarding the types of beer that will be available at CPL. CPL bought the 7,500-square-foot 1940s building in October. Theconstruction process has had its surprises and unexpected costs, whichinclude a new roof, new electrical and new mechanical, as well asaesthetic and design changes inside and out.

CPL recently submitted an application to the city of Wheat Ridge forthe city’s Enhanced Sales Tax Incentive Program (ESTIP), a rebateprogram that allows for 50 percent of future sales taxes for businessesto be returned to the business, up to a set amount of money or time,whichever comes first. In the case of CPL, Wheat Ridge City Councilapproved their application for a period of five years or $76,000. Thefunds must be used for additional building or property improvements.

For additional information:
Beer Drinkers Guide to Colorado: