There might be a gecko inside Dos Luces Brewery.
There was at some point definitely a gecko inside Dos Luces. He’s brown and his name is Inti, co-owner Judd Belstock told me, and he was last seen in the lush garden surrounding a cinnamon tree at the front of the brewery. Inti’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
But that’s not really the point here. The point here is that in addition to a cinnamon tree and possibly a live gecko, Dos Luces has beer you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Denver.
This isn’t the Mexican beer you bought in a 24-pack for your beach day, or even at all like the Mexican craft beer you can now get next door to Denver Beer Co. at Cerveceria Colorado. In fact, “Mexican” isn’t quite right here. Dos Luces is serving drinks that originated in pre-Colombian North and South American culture: chicha and pulque.
“Nobody else is doing what I’m doing,” Belstock said. “Avery has done a chicha. It’s a little different because what they’re trying to do is emulate a specific historical recipe. … It’s different from mine. Mine is imagining what a modern chicha would taste like. Dogfish Head does theirs annually. It actually ends up being very similar to mine. … A couple other breweries have done it. Usually, they combine it with barley because it’s really, really hard on brewing equipment to brew with corn. So I’m definitely the only one doing exactly what I’m doing.”
Chicha and pulque are corn-based and gluten-free. Let’s hand it over to the experts for the explanation:
An Incan staple still enjoyed throughout the Andes, Chicha is a beer brewed from corn. Various corns can be used to craft a great Chicha. Traditionally, corn was made fermentable by either chewing on it, or by germination, much like barley, into jora, a sun-dried corn malt. Dos Luces brews with malted blue corn, and we mix with whole kernels of Peruvian purple corn to give our Chicha its distinctive color and flavor. Our Chichas are nicknamed “Inti” after the Incan god of the sun, because it offers the consistency and radiance that makes everyone smile.
The cups of the Aztecs give us Pulque, traditionally made from the spontaneously fermented aguamiel, the sap of the maguey plant. Pulque is experiencing a revival across Mexico, with these fresh, vibrant brews are being enjoyed late into the night. At Dos Luces, we take inspiration from aguamiel and regional corn, and blending maguey nectar with our malted blue corn, applying our own approach to this timeless tradition. Touched with cinnamon and mixed with fruits the spicy, sweet, and sour flavors, take what might be heavy metal soundtrack and turning it into a symphony on your tongue. Nicknamed “Meztli” for the Aztec god of the moon, our Pulque just might lead to some lunacy if you’re not careful.
On Thursday evening, brewery consultant Jason Wiedmaier was at the newly opened Dos Luces with his wife, and with nothing but good things to say.
“I tell pretty much everybody, don’t open here (in Denver),” he said. “But this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We’ve had them all except for the non-alcoholic, and this is a completely new market. Literally, I know probably half the owners of breweries in town, I never heard anybody say anything about any of this stuff. And this is just completely refreshing. The location, totally unique stuff that’s really well made — this is fantastic. ”
Belstock’s father served in the Peace Corps in Peru in the 1960s, so Belstock heard a lot about chichas when he was a kid. When he met co-founder Sam Alcaine 13 years ago, they started talking generally about brewing something that wasn’t a traditional grain fermentation, then about chichas and pulques in particular.
“He actually found some pulque a couple years later, about 10 years ago, in a can, and it was pretty terrible, but we really liked the idea because we kind of wanted to bring these native, pre-Colombian beverages that the European-centric beer world was ignoring. We ended up losing track of that and each going our own separate ways.”
But two years ago, Belstock left his job at Boulder Beer and asked Alcaine if he wanted to really take a stab at their old plan. It took those two years to perfect the recipes, including one spent sourcing ingredients. Now, here they are with a brewery at 1236 South Broadway. (Yes, that’s the same block as Maria Empanada and Adelitas.)
Hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursdays, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
If you find the Inti the gecko please notify me with photographic evidence on Twitter dot com: @AshleyDean.