Five minutes into my visit to Our Mutual Friend, the bartender takes the needle off the record and switches the stereo input to his Mac laptop. The first hi-hat clicks and falsetto wails of “A Life of Possibilities” come out, and I love this bar.
And when that song ends and the next track on Emergency & I — a landmark album by indie band Dismemberment Plan that I have listened to roughly 300,000 times — starts, I wonder if I will ever leave.
I’m not a natural smiler, particularly not when I’m by myself at a brewery. At this point, the weekly brewery stop feels more and more like a job, and I’m in the “power through” mindset.
But when Caleb the bartender puts on one of the all-time best albums ever created — if you ask me — I’m dancing in my chair and singing along, gleefully trading lines with Caleb.
This is my new happy place.
Our Mutual Friend in Five Points is the kind of bar I’m always looking for. The taps are set into a bookshelf — travel books, growlers, records on the shelves. Mason jars for water. There’s a typewriter over here, a record player over there. Mondays are yoga and beer night, Thursdays are DJ sets. On a quiet Sunday night, a woman sits at the bar with short essays written by her students — seventh grade, maybe? — and Caleb starts a game of Monopoly on the bartop with a friend.
“I’m not a capitalist at all,” the girl next to me says to the guy she’s with. They’re discussing the Proletariat Session Ale, I think, unless the beer was a jumping-off point for an actual debate about economic structures.
So, it’s a hipster bar, you say. If you say so. Have fun at Applebee’s, pal.
OMF has eight beers going, including a delicious raspberry saison, tart and sweet with no apparent yeasty taste. As I’m diving into the darker beers, a brown and a dry coffee stout, I get some expert help: Patrick and Kim, friends who both work at Denver’s River North Brewery, happen to come in. As I convince Caleb to skip the slow, haunting, decidedly anti-bar tune “The Jitters,” Patrick explains exactly what I like so much about OMF’s brown ale, a very roasty, dark affair: OMF roasts its own malts in-house before using them in beer. Its full name is Our Mutual Friend Malt & Brew, after all. Over the best-written song ever, “The City,” Patrick points out how the roasty elements of the malt come through on the brown, the stout and even the Proletariat, which gets its honey-like flavor from the malt. The Larimer Street Lager, meanwhile, is nothing like most light lagers, as the malt brings in a definite smokiness.
The last insane notes of “Back and Forth” die out. New players have arrived, so Caleb resets the Monopoly board. Patrick and Kim tell me about the insanity of Denver’s beer scene next year: the Craft Brewers Conference in March, the World Beer Cup in April and the GABF in October, all in Denver in 2014.
Forget all that. The highlight of Denver beer in my book will be getting back to my happy place.