AURORA | In 1,000 square feet, Gordon McKennon has proven that tiny can also be delicious.
McKennon owns Peak to Peak Tap room, a low-key bar nestled in the far corner of Treads, an independent bicycle shop on East Iliff Avenue near Buckley Road.
Salted Caramel Prim & Porter from Denver’s Former Future Brewing Company. Check. Jubileum Belgian Peppercorn Ale from Louisville’s Gravity Brewing. Absolutely.
The list reads like a best-of for Front Range breweries, and it’s not unusual to see the tiny space packed on weeknights where customers can sample 20 Colorado craft beers Mckennon keeps on draft and regularly rotates.
“We’ve worked with several breweries to-date that don’t distribute except for at small locations. That’s benefited us,” he says. “We felt like there was a black hole for tap rooms and hard-to-find beers in Aurora.”
McKennon, who said he’s been a homebrewer for about five years and helped his friends open 3 Freaks Brewery in Highlands Ranch last year, has paid meticulous attention to the beer selection.
He’s also done his homework on hard-to-find arcade games that include a brand new 1980s-inspired “Galaga” machine that is parked on a wall near the bar.
“I actually had another one coming, but it is an old 1986 one that had to get totally refurbished,” he said.
Then there’s McKennon’s meticulous attention to design and presentation that includes an impressive copper tap wall he put together that sits suspended from the warehouse ceiling.
“It has a cold air fan that blows air across the back of the taps so beer stays cold all the time,” he said.
Not only that, but each beer on tap is individually regulated in a cooler room behind the wall that looks like a shiny mad scientist’s experiment, with orange tubes leading up to thermostats individualized for dozens of silver kegs.
“I run between 20 and 60 kegs in here at any given time,” he said. “We do nitro and beer gas as well, and we blend our gas in place.”
Gene Hodges, who owns Treads, said he is relieved to see something finally thriving in the space that was originally outfitted as a coffee shop.
“We’ve had a few different versions of coffee shops that haven’t panned out,” he said. “We joke that we tried the pre-ride drink, which is coffee, and now we’re going for the post-ride drink, which is beer. Our customers love it. It’s too early for us to know how much back and forth we’ll get because we’re not in season yet. Probably in the spring or summertime, we’ll have more of a handle on how many people come from there to us and vice versa.”
The bike/beer force is strong with Colorado.
It has been popularized by companies such as New Belgium Brewery, whose founder was inspired by riding a mountain bike with “fat tires” through European villages famous for beer, and now hosts an annual Tour de Fat biking event.
For McKennon, who is an Aurora resident and avid cyclist, the fit was natural.
“Mountain biking is my passion, that and homebrewing,”he said. “It was a dream come true to open a bar attached to a bike shop.”
He said the tap room has already become a regular meeting space for the local groups like Bicycle Aurora. But its appeal also extends beyond cyclists.
Clyde Phillips enjoyed an Eaglerock Pale Ale by Englewood-based Brew On Broadway on a recent Friday afternoon.
“I live down in Parker but I work up in North Aurora,” he said. “This is nice because I can stop on my way home. I’m not a cyclist, but I might have a look around.”
The unique offerings at the tap room also extend to a daily rotating menu prepared by Jason Delp, who grew up working in his family’s deli in Philadelphia. One Thursday night, when the bar also hosted a Geeks Who Drink trivia, Delp served up a mouthwatering Italian Pork Roast sandwich where the pork was roasted for seven hours.
“I like it better than cheesesteak,” he says. “There are few places that really specialize in it.”