Etched deep in our DNA there is an unquenchable thirst for discovery, a desire to find what’s next, to see what is over that high hill. We do not shy from the hidden, we seek it out with reckless abandon.
The knowledge of something obscured from plain view tugs at our inner Indiana Jones or Lady Hester Stanhope. It becomes an itch that we can only scratch by strapping on our boots and finding the damn thing. This is especially true when it comes to something we already love — which helps explain why, when I heard about De Steeg, Denver’s “hidden” brewery, I couldn’t put on my whip and fedora fast enough.
You don’t need a treasure map to find the place. There’s no secret knock you have to execute once you approach the door, no password or odd handshake. Really, De Steeg isn’t so much hidden as it is oddly placed — tucked away in a back alley of the Sunnyside/Berkeley/Highlands neighborhood of Denver, just off the popular Tennyson street drag.
But the extra effort needed, however small it may be, makes finding the place a more rewarding experience. It’s not a four-mile trek through the farmlands of Belgium, but there is a sense of discovery and accomplishment that comes over you the first time you spot the joint.
The “hidden” aspect of De Steeg was never an intention, just a product of circumstance. Owner Craig Rothgery wanted a location that was in Denver proper, and this space allows him to be in one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods for much less than a traditional building.
“People think it’s kind of fun, but it’s also kept my rent down,” Rothgery tells me. “They love that it’s kind of difficult to find; it’s a secret.”
De Steeg’s beers are fitting of a brewery that’s off the beaten path. Rothgery’s love of Belgian-style beers and his fascination with Belgian yeast strains are apparent, as is his desire to make beers that aren’t your typical nondescript IPAs, pale ales, and stouts. There are oak-aged tripels and quadrupels and saisons. His multiple experiments with wine grapes have produced, to name a few, the wonderful Sangiovese Pale Ale, a petite syrah quadrupel, and a Gewurtzaminer ale — classified as a “specialty grain beer.”
“I’m always surprised by how many places open up and they have pales, ambers, browns, stouts and IPAs and the stuff that everyone else is doing,” Rothgery says. “It’s good, and I’m not knocking other styles, but I’d think people would want more variety. That’s what I try to make here.”
Discovery breeds a sense of ownership. Even though anyone can find De Steeg, you get the feeling that it’s your place. You took the time to walk down the alley and search for the chalice logo protruding from the wall. You gave into your sense of adventure, and so you were rewarded accordingly.