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Garden Party

Lowry's new beer garden.

When the Lowry Beer Garden opened not long ago, we were stunned to hear it referred to as the first actual “beer garden” in Denver. Turns out, the historical criteria for such a space excludes more than a few self-proclaimed local gardens.

The concept of the beer garden (from the German biergarten) was born after Bavarian breweries planted chestnut trees above their cellars to help the ground—and the beer beneath it—stay cool. Before long, breweries capitalized on these pleasant spaces, pulling in picnic tables and selling comfort food and steins of beer.

Today, the definition of what constitutes a beer garden has been broadened, but the generally agreed-upon requirements include an outdoor location, shade-giving trees, and ample communal seating. This means rooftop “gardens” don’t qualify (they’re patios), nor do indoor spaces (they’re called beer halls, or just bars), nor do concrete slabs with umbrellas instead of trees and four-tops instead of picnic tables (patios again).

So, indeed, it seems as though our craft beer–crazed city has been missing out on by-the-book beer gardens. Although we’re not sure if the Lowry garden technically makes the cut either, we’re willing to contemplate the idea, pint in hand.

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Garden Party

Under Potager's vine-covered pergola, savor the sights and smells of this seasonal-inspired kitchen.

Under Potager‘s vine-covered pergola, savor the sights and smells of this seasonal-inspired kitchen.

When chef-owner Teri Rippeto opened her Capitol Hill restaurant in 1997, she built a garden pergola—a combination of a trellis and an arbor—and planted an assortment of climbing plants around the base. Twelve years later, the vegetation has become so entwined that the midsummer honeysuckle and clematis blooms are inseparable from the strands of silver lace ivy. Under this natural canopy sits a single wooden table, lit delicately by lanterns, where diners can best enjoy Rippeto’s seasonal dishes.

Potager’s constantly changing menu reflects the same whimsical and fresh attitude that Rippeto embraced when she landscaped the garden patio. To wit: An appetizer of Colorado-grown nectarines stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in pancetta tastes just-picked and unscripted. Quiz your server about staff favorites—they’ll know which produce is in peak form and will even make suggestions for dishes that are best enjoyed en plein air.

To ensure your spot under the pergola, arrive early—6 p.m. would be a safe bet—because Potager doesn’t take reservations and the patio is coveted. Fortunately, once you’re seated, the waitstaff lets you settle in for a leisurely paced dinner. Time it right and you can savor the golden hour—that magical 60 minutes of soft light before the sun sets—as the garden begins to resemble a scene from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic The Secret Garden. Nestled in the back corner, savor the apricot undertones of a glass of the Palladino Moscato d’Asti, and take in the bloom-laden view.

1109 Ogden St., 303-832-5788

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2009.
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.