While Denver’s RiNo neighborhood has dominated beer headlines for the last decade, the Platt Park stretch of South Broadway has certainly been making the most waves over the last two years with a slew of brewery openings and closures.
This frenzied period of transition has included Denver Beer Company’s South Downing location, Ratio Beerworks’ second outpost in the Overland neighborhood, the opening of Public Offering Brewing nearly a year ago, the recent closure of Dos Luces Brewing and subsequent transition into Burns Family Artisan Ales Taphouse, and following the surprising closure of Black Project Brewing just over a year ago, now newcomer, Monolith Brewing, is beginning a new chapter of brewing at 1290 South Broadway.
Monolith is founded by industry veteran, Stephen Monahan, a University of Denver graduate, who previously helped start Greensboro, North Carolina’s Little Brother Brewing and Little City Brewing in Raleigh, before returning to Colorado to help launch the brewing program for Centennial’s Kodiac Brewery this past January. However, when Black Project announced its closure a year ago, Monahan immediately jumped at the opportunity to inquire about the space with hopes of launching his first fully solo project.
Coincidentally, Monahan was a long-time Black Project fan and would buy their sour and wild ales from his local bottle shop while working at Little Brother Brewing in North Carolina. However, despite retaining several of the barrels left behind when Black Project vacated the space, their open vessel coolship, and brewing on the original four-barrel-brew system, Monahan now seeks to blaze his own trail by focusing predominantly on clean beers like Pale Ales, Lagers, an incredibly balanced Chili Beer, and limited specialty styles. Additionally, instead of the rougher, industrial, World War II espionage-inspired feel, Monolith will sport a warmer, brighter, and more polished aesthetic with touches like greenery, carefully curated lighting features, meticulously hand-crafted stave paneling, and an extensive mural wrapping both the exterior and interior walls.
Monahan, who graduated from DU in 2008 majoring in hospitality, brings that uncompromising approach toward service, hospitality, and most importantly, sustainability to Monolith. In addition to being a 100% paperless brewery, opting to use bamboo toilet paper and sugarcane napkins, Monolith also features all upcycled materials in its merch, including t-shirts and hoodies made with upcycled cotton, and also partnered with a nearby design studio, that predominantly hires refugee workers and re-uses second-hand fabrics to help create the furniture and coasters used at the brewery. This greener approach toward operating a business isn’t just virtue signaling, it’s been reinforced throughout Monahan’s life. His mother served on the Nature Conservancy and is also a LEED-certified designer
“It’s not really to show like, look how cool we are, or you know, we’re changing the game,” said Monahan. “It’s really more to demonstrate like, hey, it’s doable. With all the technology tools we have today, and all invoices going digital, when we do have to print something out, we just use bamboo paper. Sometimes it’s kind of a pain in the ass to be 100% paper-free, and yes it’s a tiny bit more expensive, but you just find alternatives.”
This focus on utilizing sustainable alternatives at the brewery is further represented in the Monolith name and logo. Featuring the depiction of a tree sprouting roots within a rock formation, the iconography represents the brewery’s dedication to sustainability as a core value and its immovable approach toward upholding those values.
“There are certain things we don’t compromise on, like hospitality, sustainability, giving back to the community,” said Monahan.
Monahan is no stranger to the practice of giving back as the founder of the Brew Like a Girl non-profit organization. Founded in North Carolina, Brew Like a Girl creates scholarships for women seeking to enter the brewing industry. Instead of working through some middle broker or funneling money to the schools, Brew Like a Girl directly funds recipients to help pay for a semester of brewing science programs, books, boots, etc. Thus far the program has funded six $1000 scholarships in North Carolina and now Monahan has brought the program to Colorado with plans to donate 1% of all revenue generated at Monolith toward scholarships within the Centennial state.
In a saturated craft beer landscape where brewing great beer is the lowest barrier to entry, breweries are quickly discovering that finding authentic ways to connect with their communities is as important as the beer itself. Monahan is keenly aware that the neighborhood has already seen its share of turnover in recent years but still believes that Monolith can break through by sticking true to its core values, taking care of its staff, focusing on its customers, and keeping the little details on the forefront including authentically connecting with its community. Monolith features empanadas from Maria Empanadas, which are made just two doors down and then re-heated in the taproom. Additionally, as a long-time industry worker, Monahan is determined to make Monolith a gathering place for brewing industry members.
“I told my staff that I’m gonna be annoyed if I find out any industry people pay for beer when they come here,” said Monahan. “And it’s one thing to drink five or six pints, but the first couple rounds… that’s on us. If they’re industry, they’re eventually going to take care of your staff back. And you know, taking care of your community and taking care of your employees should come first. Maybe it’s just my own ego, but I think it’s important for my people to want to stay here and feel emotionally invested in the success of the business.”
Monolith already opens with one of the most polished beer lineups for a new brewery in recent years featuring the likes of a Jalapeño Serrano Ale, one of the better Pale Ales in the city, a classic take on a Hefeweizen and traditional Stout, and now also includes inventive entries like a Lychee/Mandarin Berliner collaboration with FlyteCo Brewing, and Coffee Blonde Ale.
Boasting a strong beer foundation and guided by strong virtue-driven principals, Monolith Brewing is already living up to its ambitious moniker and seems primed to help breathe new life into the South Broadway brewery scene.