Earlier this year, my husband and I hit RiNo for a brewery crawl. We tasted some great suds that night, but the most memorable part of our evening wasn’t a lager or a red or a stout. It was a table.
At Black Shirt Brewing, while nosing the microbrewery’s hoppy but chuggable India Red Ale for the first time, I noticed the thin planks of dinged, nicked, and grooved wood that sat beneath my glass. I studied the inviting table for quite some time, ruling out a bowling lane, an antique workbench, and a number of other guesses. Finally, our waitress shed some light. Black Shirt’s bar and the tables are made from the flooring of old railcars.
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The brothers behind Black Shirt, Chad and Branden Miller, wanted to use the material when they first began thinking about the brewery in 1999. However, “the only sources we could find for boxcar flooring were out of our budget completely,” Branden, the head brewer, says. (A single table made of railcar planks is listed for $2,200 on Pinterest.) Together with Chad’s wife Carissa, the trio—who built much of the brewery by hand—began crafting tables from rough-cut 2-by-12s instead, when, as if by fate, affordable boxcar planks found them. A gentleman pulled up to the front of the Walnut Street building and asked them what they were doing. Branden told the man they were building a brewery. “So you’re not furniture makers?” the stranger asked. “We are today!” he replied. According to Branden, the man jumped out of his truck and made them a deal on boxcar flooring they couldn’t pass up.
I’ve since spotted the reclaimed flooring from train cars used for a communal table at Lower48 Kitchen, petite four-tops at Green Russell, and bar rails at SloHi Coffee. The handsome choice is not only green, it’s a conversation-starter that speaks to Colorado’s history. I grew up in a house that began its life as a horse barn and have eaten dinner off of many such unconventional tables. But boxcar floors were a first, and now favorite.
—Image courtesy of Black Shirt Brewing Co