Visitors to Casa Bonita may be predisposed to purchase a margarita to pair with their Mexican food, but beer lovers also have plenty of local craft options, including a locally-made house beer available exclusively at the Lakewood landmark.
The cleverly named Casa Beer, created by Denver’s own Ratio Beerworks, is a Mexican-style lager brewed with lime, balancing sweetness from corn in the mash bill with a pop of citrus. The 4.8% ABV brew is served on draft at bars throughout the restaurant, which reopened in a limited capacity at the end of June.
Ratio spokesperson Marika Evanger Clark said the brewery previously worked with chef Dana “Loca” Rodriguez, who leads the Casa Bonita kitchen, so “this was a no-brainer for us to partner with [the restaurant] when the opportunity presented itself.”
Though a Mexican lager seems like the obvious choice for a Mexican restaurant, Ratio hosted Casa Bonita’s food and beverage team — without owners and “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker — for a tasting where they sampled a variety of styles to decide on the perfect fit. Ratio’s addition of lime in the brew aims to satisfy lager drinkers who traditionally receive their Modelo or Corona with a slice of lime.
“It breaks away from being that sweeter, corn-based beer into this really refreshing, crisp, lime [beer] you want to pound on your patio or in Black Bart’s cave with a sopapilla,” Evanger Clark said.
Evanger Clark declined to specify just how much beer Ratio is making for Casa Bonita, but said the pink palace “will quickly jump to our No. 1 account if we maintain the volume that’s expected as Casa Bonita continues to open.”
Though other local brewers did not create unique recipes for the restaurant, the ones that are on tap there fit its theme. Cerveceria Colorado’s Mi Vida, for example, is a new-ish India pale ale made with hops from Washington’s Loza Farms, one of the only Hispanic-owned hop farms in the U.S. The Fresa Loca — Spanish for “crazy strawberry” — cream ale from Los Dos Potrillos restaurant and brewery features an abundance of strawberry puree and cucumber juice.
Raíces Brewing Co.’s Valle de Sol pays tribute to its namesake Denver neighborhood, Sun Valley, with a 4.5% ABV golden ale billed as crisp and refreshing. The brewery’s CEO, José Beteta, said Casa Bonita solicited its beer after hearing about its cultural heritage and connection to the local Latino community.
“It’s really cool what they’re doing over there, especially with the new focus not just being an amusement park or restaurant, but having a focus on community,” Beteta said, noting the recent decision to nix tips and pay staff an hourly wage. “Their owners alone can carry fame and make them successful, but I think going above and beyond and becoming more of a place that’s connected to their community is commendable.”
Chris Gilmore, head brewer at Los Dos Potrillos, said Rodriguez first tried Fresa Loca at a tradeshow because of the name. The chef earned the nickname “Loca” throughout her years working in kitchens and even leveraged the moniker for her original mezcal brand, Doña Loca.
Gilmore, a Baltimore native, said it was surreal to have the opportunity to serve — and drink — his beer at Casa Bonita. When he found out Stone and Parker had sampled the beer menu, it was something of a “fanboy moment” for the longtime “South Park” fan, even though he had never visited the eatertainment venue before a soft opening this summer.
“I didn’t know it was on my bucket list,” Gilmore said. “In my beer career, it definitely got ticked off the bucket list.”
Other local options include Telluride Brewing Co.’s Face Down Brown Ale and WestFax Brewing Co.’s Urban Lumberjack hazy IPA. (Fun fact: Casa Bonita paid to renovate WestFax’s patio, located next door to the pink palace, which is one of the best people-watching spots for the reopening shenanigans.)
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