Imagine, if you can, a better idea for a new restaurant-brewery in Denver than Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers, which features scratch-made Italian food and unique craft beers. I mean, Denverites have impeccable taste in suds, as we all know, and we’re practically drowning in marinara with all the fantastic Italian restaurants we have in the Mile High City. And while Liberati does things a bit differently, owner Alex Liberati’s vision makes perfect sense in this town.
He brought Liberati’s marvelous mash-up to Denver after a life spent in Rome, Italy, because he was fed up with that country’s overbearing regulations and debilitating taxes. Plus, he fell in love with the people he met in Colorado on a visit in 2015. “Denver was never on my short list,” he says, “but when I was scouting places to relocate, I was driving from San Diego to Columbus, Ohio, and stopped on my route. Paul [Vismara, Liberati’s creative director and author of a book on Italian craft beer] showed me the true colors of Colorado, and it all added up quickly.”
Since then, Alex has transformed the massive Golden Bell Press building on Champa Street in Curtis Park into an elegant, airy, bright space where you can explore Liberati’s killer beer program (more on that in a moment) and sup on Italian fare made from historical recipes. Executive chef Marta Biasotti and Alex have worked together for a decade, which means Biasotti knows exactly how to develop a food menu to complement Liberati’s beers.
Biasotti and her team make everything from scratch in an expansive kitchen filled with modern Italian cooking equipment. The pastas are extruded through a bronze die for superior sauce-cling capabilities. There’s a dedicated charcuterie refrigerator to hold the salumi crafted in-house. A cheese-making machine with custom kneading arms turns out mozzarella, Burrata, and stracciatella that’s impossibly fresh. And the imported gelato machine, which Biasotti was trained to use by a Roman gelato master, churns some of the best in Denver; she even brought Colorado milk to Italy to practice with so she could tweak her recipe as needed. As if all that isn’t enough, Alex brought his master bread baker over, too; Federica Ansani is making traditional loaves with water that she’s adapted to match the mineral content of that on the Boot.
And the beers: Not one to go the route of trendy pancake-and-bacon porters, Alex instead experiments on Liberati’s 27-tank system, run by head brewer Bob Malone (formerly of Great Divide Brewing and Flying Dog Brewery, among others), by adding grapes to his grain mash. Alex calls them “oenobeers” (“oeno” rhymes with (Jay) Leno) because “Italian grape ales,” as others have dubbed them, is too limiting—Liberati offers far more than just ales. Its 42 taps pour beers with added complexity, tannins, and, well, flavor, thanks to those grapes, and once tasted, Liberati’s oenobeers tend to turn even the most devout beer geeks. Even Malone. “Bob was a pure grain brewer whom I’ve brought over to the dark side,” Alex says. The dark side is mighty delicious then, with Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and other aromatic wine grapes in the mix.
In the glass, that can taste like a traditional hoppy IPA with a longer-than-usual finish and notes of bell pepper (from 15 percent Sauvignon Blanc juice; the brew is called Facta Non Verba, or Doing, Not Talking) or an Imperial saison redolent of jasmine (from 44 percent Chardonnay grapes; look for Ipse Dixit, or This, He Said). The options will rotate as new combinations come out of the tanks, including collaboration brews with some of the best in the business, such as famed Italian craft brewer Bruno Carilli. There are also Colorado brews, amari-forward draught cocktails, and a concise wine list to choose from.
In other words, Liberati has brought something new to Denver, and it’s delicious on all counts.
Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11 a.m. to midnight on weekends. 2403 Champa St., 303-862-5652