An Eulogy for a Place

In March Powder Keg Brewing in Niwot, Colorado closed down. A combination of comically high rent, limited foot traffic, and a general inability of the Niwotians to understand the gem sitting in the middle of their back yard let to a financially untenable situation. The bar manager found another job within two weeks; another bar tender moved to a coffee roaster in the area; a third was just working it as a side gig; and a fourth (if rumors are to be believed) works about five part time jobs and lives in a camper trailer in his parents's driveway nearby. Everyone landed on their feet, more or less.

The one thing that didn't make it out was the brewery itself. The space is empty, the Powder Keg sign painted on the side of the building a reminder of what was once there, the tables and chairs left where they were as part of the settlement on breaking the lease with the landlords. The head brewers have their own project going on, Amalgam, which specializes in sours and saisons which is cool and all, but the defining trait of Powder Keg was that they made IPAs and stouts that were very well-balanced, a rarity among American craft brewers that are obsessed with making a beer that hits you across the face.

The reason I loved Powder Keg is, unfortunately, the reason it closed. It was quiet most of the time, a good trait for a bar but a bad trait for a business. It wasn't because the beer wasn't good or that the space was ugly -- the bar was hand made by one of the investors out of wood, as were the tables and chairs, which to my understanding were turned over to the landlords as part of the terms for breaking their lease, which is heartbreaking. It had more to do with being in a location that doesn't value a treasure in their own back yard. In the dying days of the bar, they resorted to keeping wine on the menu because they were asked about it a lot, meaning that most of the people in the area had no interest in good beer.

I have a few keepsakes: a case of bottle-aged sours, some t-shirts, a few branded glasses. But the actual place is irreplaceable, the mellow, low key, low volume vibe, the good beer you could hang out and drink, the bearded software developer named Zach who pretty much lived there. The place was a gift that people did not know they had, killed by the apathy of the neighbors and rents that are so absurd that the space remains empty two months later, despite being located in one of the hottest real estate markets in the world.

Let's pause briefly then and raise a glass to low key places in a world defined by bombast. They are too few, and they are usually too short-lived.