Drive by the corner of 5th and Sante Fe and you might notice the graffiti-themed artwork of a large skull yelling at you in a jagged bubble: “Beer. Metal. Pizza.” Open the industrial size, heavy black door and you may notice the sounds of a shredding guitar playing over the speakers. Sit down at a table and you most definitely notice the wall of dark, gothic artwork for sale.
This isn’t your father’s bicycle brew-house, but please sit down, it’ll be alright.
You’d think the metal theme would scare people away, but you’re dead wrong. Ask the man in the purple polka-dot bow-tie and twill suit sitting at the table. Or the family of five with two young children that just walked in to play pinball before dinner. Or the punked out, spiked leather jacket wearing metalhead at the end of the bar drinking a pint. Because these folks know something you don’t: this place is the home of some passionate beer brewing, cold-dough pizza-making, local artwork showcasing, home-town music sponsoring metalheads who couldn’t be more passionate about what they do. And they call their home, Black Sky Brewery.
Welcome to the 10-year brainchild of Harry and Lila Mackey. They opened two years ago on the corner of 5th and Sante Fe when all the pieces fell into place. Their building is the culmination of all the things they wanted: the right kitchen size, high ceilings and room for an organic garden. Harry, their head brewer, was nice enough to sit with us at the bar to discuss all the amazing things he has going on.
I take a sip on my first beer. A rose-colored, lightly carbonated brew with a slightly spicy aroma. It’s called the Petal to the Metal and it’s Black Sky’s signature beer. It was a brew that Harry didn’t think would take off, but has been wildly successful. He described it as the embodiment to what they do at Black Sky, growth through learning.
Harry truly believes in experimentation and the democratic proces. When they try something new, Harry says everyone votes on whether it works or not. They keep what works and scrap what doesn’t.
It’s a fair and amazing process that has helped the brewery grow while keeping its unique, metal vibe. He’s assembled his brewery equipment much in the same way, often reinventing the way things are used to brew his beer.
Harry points at the various pieces and tells me where they are from. As he speaks you can’t help but notice the pride he has in what they’ve created. It’s not shiny, it’s not brand-new and nothing matches, but it works and works well. Proof that his methods are working are evident in the growing crowd at the bar. Moreover, Harry says Black Sky spent ⅓ the cost putting all the equipment together this way.
He calls it “Frankensteining”, and it really is a brilliant way to keep the setup costs low.
Harry says they are actually having a hard time keeping up with demand, and he’s thinking he’ll need to expand with even more gear. Not bad for a brewery that will be starting it’s 100th batch of beer by the time this article is published!
I’m suddenly greeted by two slices of their signature Black Sky pizza; pepperoni, jalapeño, cream cheese and mozzarella. A former resident of New-England, Harry describes the slice as Black Sky’s own twist on Connecticut-style pizza. It’s a thin-crust, New Haven style pizza which is characterized by it’s simplicity. It’s not nearly as greasy as a slice of New York style and the crust is still thin, but fluffier than a NY slice. Harry says they accomplish this by cooking the pizza in a brick oven at 600 degrees as opposed to the usual 900 that a traditional New Haven style is cooked. Also, they prepare most of the pizza cold, including the dough. It was a very clean, simple, tasty piece of pizza. I’m glad I ordered two!
By far one most eclectic breweries I’ve been too in Denver, Black Sky Brewing is doing some amazing things.
My hat’s off to Harry, Lila and the entire staff for breaking the stereotype and providing quality beer, excellent service and a truly unique experience.
Black Sky has taken what we all love to do, eat pizza and drink beer while listening to good music, and turned it into a vibrant brewery that is truly part of the neighborhood. Go check them out and enjoy another impressive gem in Denver’s ever growing craft brewing community. Cheers!
Meet Lila & Harry
Video Courtesy of Christopher Dodge of Canary Black.
Photos Courtesy of Brad Gustafson at Loki Media