One sweltering day last August, I decided to join my then-boyfriend on a business call in Evergreen. We ended the excursion with beers and bites at the Lariat Lodge Brewing Company, and, while I’m not suggesting that three-year-old Lariat is the reason we’re now engaged to be married, our repeat visits to this homey hangout have played a big part in our courtship.
The three-story lodge, which clings to the side of a hill, was originally constructed in the 1920s as a dormitory and dining room for the music camp that occupied its site. In warm months, diners can sit on the expansive deck and take in views of the surrounding scenery and the “Bark Garten,” a covered, outdoor, dog-friendly, wood-chipped yard with picnic tables for family-style seating. Inside, the Lariat’s cozy main floor houses a full bar, several community tables, and a large, open dining room.
Owners Anders and Debbie Ruikka are Minnesota transplants (Anders by way of Sweden). While searching for a home in Evergreen in 2013, they became interested in the old Evergreen property. Although neither had a restaurant background—he was a mechanical engineer; she a former real estate agent— they thought that opening an eatery and brewpub would be an interesting way to preserve the building. They left much of the original structure exposed, transformed flooring into tables and wainscoting, and used an old beam as the bar top, giving the space an industrial hipster brewpub meets Old West lodge vibe.
Brewmaster Eric Rode (who previously spent 17 years at Tommyknocker Brewery and Pub in Idaho Springs and years before that at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins) produces four house beers on Lariat’s five-barrel brewing system: Angry Elk Amber, Bear Creek Blond, Golden Goliath, and Lariat Lodge IPA. The Belgian-style Golden Goliath, a favorite on a recent visit, is smooth, full bodied, and flavorful with a healthy 9.9 ABV. He also stocks Lariat’s eight rotating taps with seasonal IPAs, ales, pilsners, porters, and stouts.
For a brewpub, the Lariat serves unexpectedly excellent food. The menu spans everything from salads to burgers to tacos and lasagna, and there are multiple vegetarian and gluten-free choices. The Famous Firecrackers ($12), the Lariat’s take on jalapeño poppers, come wrapped in crisp bacon with a dollop of sweet barbecue sauce to balance out the heat. You won’t be disappointed with the Taco Platter ($14), in which three crispy nuggets of beer-battered cod are served piping hot inside corn tortillas with fresh slaw and pico de gallo; tacos are also available made with smoked pork or black beans and corn. But the Swedish Meatballs ($17), which came with mashed potatoes, lingonberry gravy, and perfectly cooked veggies, are made from Anders’ grandmother’s recipe. She lived in Sweden until she passed away at 102, a year after the Lariat opened, and her meatballs are a paragon.
We’re always happy to drive to Evergreen for a meal and a pint at the Lariat Lodge—and we do, often—but soon enough, city dwellers won’t have to: The Ruikkas have broken ground on their second location, at 12684 W. Indore Pl. in Littleton, which is set to open in early summer. Plans are to ramp up production in the new, larger location and start bottling the Lariat’s brews commercially.
If you go: The Lariat Lodge is open daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; 2768 Fireweed Dr., Evergreen