Denver Sidebar – A Fistful of Oenobeer
by Warren Monteiro
Alex Liberati, who opened Rome’s best craft bar Brasserie 4:20 ten years ago with an IPA named Revelation Cat, got tired of paying exorbitant taxes there. In a sea change, he moved to Denver. And last year, right after GABF, he opened Liberati Osteria in the new brewery-booming 5 points area east of the 16th Street Mall. The name evokes special beverages accompanied by small Italian food plates.
What makes the Osteria so special is that it’s devoted entirely to oenobeer (enno-beer), a hybrid style currently being explored but relatively ignored around the country. He’s the only person in the United States whose every beer is developed and brewed with wine grapes. The names are all Latin or Italian.
Each oenobeer is its own concoction. They really do have to be tasted like wine. And the style variations are enormous. So far, there are 15 on the tap menu, in all strengths and hues. A couple are local collaborations. One is a 13% Oeno-NEIIPA partnered with Fiction Brewing. Here are some samples.
Germanicus IPA (6.6% abv) uses Riesling grapes from Oregon. A massive load of German hops bear out its name. Oximonstrum (17.5%) with Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes, is oxygenated down to a taste I found close to a vintage port. I had two. Small ones.
Vino veritas (“Truth in Wine” at 10%) started out as a quad, then added 29% cabernet sauvignon grapes and finished with a mystery “killer yeast” discovered in Italy, which just takes things over. The tannic character comes from Spanish cedarwood.
Alex isn’t bottling yet – you have to show up and decide where to sit. The place is vast. Kick back and find out how far we’ve come from grape grand-dad CantillonVigneronne.