Grist Brewing Co.’s Lone Tree location got a facelift for Christmas, and the results are mesmerizing. Dubbed Rare by Grist, the new taproom delivers an immersive “brewery experience,” serving upscale cocktails made with high-ABV seltzers and small-batch experimental beers in a completely revamped environs adorned with psychedelic floor-to-ceiling murals and vintage decor. “When you’re in a saturated market, you have to improve your service, ambiance, and product,” says Kaleb Hilton, who co-owns the brewery with four others. “We wanted to create a living, breathing story in the taproom—transport you to a whole new world the moment you walk in.”
Feeling the pressure to stand out in Colorado’s competitive beer market, Grist co-owner and CEO Chuck Norman recruited Hilton and his father Gary—marketing consultants at Analogy—to help the Lone Tree brewery improve its lagging sales about a year ago. The father-and-son team loved the project so much that they became part owners. They also hired Bob Malone (formerly of Liberati Restaurant and Brewery) as head brewer to produce a line of new drinks, including a 13.5% ABV hard seltzer that mimics spirits in Rare by Grist’s beer cocktails. Here’s everything else you need to know:
The cocktails are complex. Don’t expect an average G&T at Rare by Grist; mixologist Sage Swink crafts the taproom’s cocktail recipes with creative substitutes for the spirits that give classics like mai tais and mojitos their distinctive flavors. For example, the Pollyanna—featuring rum-flavored spiced tea; fresh orange, pineapple, and key lime juices; and cherries shaken with Grist hard seltzer and sour ale—looks and tastes delightfully tiki. And the Kaucasian, a mixture of stout, house-made cold brew coffee syrup, and cream garnished with chocolate and coffee beans, is a decadent White Russian-like brew.
Malone’s boozy seltzer is the base for most of the drinks, and he has other varieties in the works, too, including a barley wine aging in rum, whiskey, and bourbon barrels for future “whiskey” drinks. “If somebody would have asked me to make one more IPA that I’ve a million times before, I was going to go insane,” he jokes. “It was fun to do something new.”
You can order a regular beer, too. To satisfy traditionalists, Rare by Grist will continue to serve the IPAs, ales, and other brews the brand is known for. However, the brewery has limited-edition offerings made in extremely small batches for its Rare Beer series. (Currently on tap: Sauvignon Saison, Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Milk Stout, and a Thai Sour Saison made with jasmine rice and Chinese yeast.) “Breweries are all about taking chances and brewing stuff people might not like—and we’re embracing that,” says Kaleb. “These are extremely small-batch beers; when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.”
The ambiance is interactive. Equipped with Kaleb’s storytelling skills and Gary’s experience as a graphic artist, the duo gave the taproom a makeover worthy of a sci-fi movie set. The walls are decorated with a series of custom-designed murals, all of which have a story line that ties back to Grist: the steampunk-garbed “Hop Goddess” who watches over the taproom; a whale hot-air balloon dangling a barrel of beer with Front Range mountains in the distance; an airship sailing over an industrial cityscape in “pursuit of fantastic beer.”
To further disconnect visitors from the outside world, tinted glass blocks natural light from entering the building, and clocks set at different times hang throughout the space. Patrons are encouraged to sit at tables sporting vintage lamps and examine the kitschy knickknacks and old books that line the shelves to discover hidden messages—which may even lead to a free beverage.
There’s more to come from the brand. Rare by Grist will also launch a new food program in the coming weeks, with charcuterie plates and other upscale, shareable dishes. Grist Brewing in Highlands Ranch will continue to serve its same beer menu, but it will also receive a remodel in January—although it won’t be anything quite like the Lone Tree location’s mind-bending charm.
If you go: Rare by Grist is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 4–10 p.m.; Friday 2–11 p.m.; Saturday 12–11 p.m.; and Sunday 12–9 p.m.; 9535 Park Meadows Dr., Unit F, Lone Tree