When I travel I am usually on the lookout for two things: coffee and bicycles.
Coffee allows for a chance to explore, an excuse to check out the places the locals love and frequent. A bicycle is a way to get around, no matter where you are, and even if you’re not going to ride where you’re visiting, for me, getting a taste for the local bike culture is as interesting as getting a taste for the local coffee culture. In Denver, I was lucky to find that the two go hand in hand.
I was staying with my friend Brendan while we were working on a project. Brendan is a fellow coffee lover; he even maintains a list of his favorite coffee shops in the western United States, and we also like to make references to this coffee mug. He listed off a handful of cafes within walking distance, and as soon as he said “Denver Bicycle Cafe,” my ears perked up. “There’s a bike cafe?”
I have a thing for bike cafes and the cycling/coffee connection, and I’m not alone. Today you’ll find places around the country (and world) that are dedicated to the two C’s, and not just cafes that put a bike out front for decoration. There are many where both the coffee and the cycling are dialed in and striving for perfection, places like Metier in Seattle and Heritage Bicycles in Chicago.
Denver Bicycle Cafe is another, and here, much like at both Metier and Heritage, beer has been added to the mix. Because after you’ve fueled a cyclist on espresso all morning, you have to switch to beer post-ride.
The cafe was launched in 2011 by two close friends, Peter Roper and Jessica Caouette. After spending years as a transportation program manager of the University of Colorado Boulder, Roper came up with the idea for the cafe and convinced Caouette to join him. “We worked for about a year on the idea that great coffee and fabulous beer should be surrounded by awesome bicycles and community,” says Caouette by email.
The idea is working well. Noticeable from the street is the “Bikes. Beer. Coffee.” sign in the window; chances are a person’s going to be interested in at least one of those. And it certainly feels like you could transition seamlessly from midday coffee to afternoon beer in the space’s relaxed atmosphere. Bicycles are everywhere—parked outside, parked inside, bike art on the walls—but a section of the building is also a dedicated bicycle shop. There are bikes for sale, and if you need to have your own wheels worked on, there was never a better place to sit and pass the time.
For true coffee-loving visitors, the cafe is also fun because it offers a laundry list of local roasters, making it a one-stop shop for learning about the local scene. A rotating few beans are available for drinks, while a handful more are available on sale. “We choose roasters based on location and quality,” writes Caouette. “We want them to be based in the Denver area, or as close as possible, and to roast based on individual bean qualities rather than roast style.” She adds, “We offer so many because Denver is an amazing place for coffee roasters! We couldn’t choose just one, even though Pablo’s is our favorite.” Pablo’s Coffee is responsible for the cafe’s house blend; you can also choose from a “guest” coffee as well, while the cold brew is made with a third different set of beans.
Similarly, the beer is also local, with 15-plus on tap, all hailing from Colorado and near the Denver area. And unlike any coffee shop I have ever been to, when I visited, there were tamales on the menu. The new avocado toast?
The service at Denver Bicycle Cafe is friendly and immediately welcoming, and we easily strike up a conversation with the barista. This is the atmosphere Caouette and Roper want in the shop. “We would rather our customers walk away with something they want to drink rather than, as we have often found in other shops, something the barista has decided they want to make or are refused service because they ordered ‘wrong,’” says Caouette.
I asked why she thought bicycles and coffee go so well together, hoping that she might be able to provide some insight on the cycling/caffeine obsession. “This is the never-answered question,” says Caouette. “They don’t ‘go together’ as much as great service and great product go together. This concept would not have worked without sticking to our vision for making a beautiful, community-oriented space with plenty of smiles for everyone. Some people come here for the beer, some for bike work, some for a place to work and drink coffee. But most of them come because we’ve created a space we are proud of.”
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.