By Alison Mahnken / For the Courier
It began as a joke between a mother and daughter.
Vanessa Menke, the daughter, and her mom, Jayne Barth, are the proud operators of Jake’s Brew Bar and Cafe in downtown Littleton.
Just around the corner stands their first baby, Kate’s Wine Bar, at 5671 S. Nevada St.
“Kate’s has been open for four years, and we were joking one day that it’d be great to have two spots, Kate’s on one side, Jake’s on the other,” Menke says.
Serendipity stepped in. “And one day the renter of this building came to us and said, ‘I’m moving, we should look at this space.’ We looked at it, and everything felt right; we jumped on it. It felt meant to be, and so we took it and we signed the contract, I think, the next day.”
That was March 15. Renovations were completed, and Jake’s opened its doors on the day of the Littleton block party, June 9.
So, who are Kate and Jake?
“Kate’s my grandmother; Jake’s my grandfather. When we were opening Kate’s Wine Bar, we were sitting around trying to figure out a great name … and of course we’re racking our brains on all these unique wine names and grapes and looking back on the Greek gods,” Menke says with a laugh.
“Then we went, ‘Grandma! She’s the core of the family. We’ll name it after her!’ ” Grandma Kate, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., has been to her business namesake twice. “She’s so proud and loves it so much.”
Hence, when the time arrived four years later to name the cafe, the choice was obvious: Jake’s.
Part of the inspiration for Jake’s came when Menke noticed something missing in the area. “There’s no craft beer around here, very little,” she said. “They’re all Bud Lights, Coors Lights, which are great for their own right, but they’re not craft beer.”
And while scheming to fill that niche, Menke spotted another: coffee.
“There’s no amazing coffee outside of downtown or north of downtown,” she said. “And I love a good cup of coffee! A lot of people do. It got a little exhausting driving downtown or around trying to find that.”
So coffee was incorporated into the original concept of a craft-beer bar. “We’re aiming to be the best coffee in the Denver area, and I fully believe we’re the best in the south Denver area.”
At Jake’s, Menke said, “you can have coffee in the morning, craft beer at night; for some people, craft beer in the morning, coffee at night!”
It’s a concept that has found some success elsewhere.
“It turns out that there’s quite a few businesses that mirror this design on the East and West coasts, and it hasn’t come to Denver. A lot of people who come in say, ‘I’ve seen these all over California; I’m so glad one’s come to Colorado.’ ”
First, the coffee: Committed to supporting local products, Menke paired with Corvus Coffee — “a young, very energetic, really excited roaster.” A varied selection of java creations are on tap.
Second, the beer: There area 24 on tap and 15 in the bottle. “They’re all craft — no mainstream,” says Menke.
The brews are sourced from breweries local and little, as well as nationwide and overseas. The craft-beer lover will be intrigued by the names and salivate over the selection. A sampler from rotating taps: Steamworks Kolsch, Renegade Sunday Morning, Avery White Rascal (Colorado), Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Missouri), Marble Imperial Red (New Mexico), Stone IPA (California), Fullers London Pride (England) and Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock (Germany).
Can’t decide? No worries. The pourers know their beers — coffees, too — and can assist. Still too many temptations? Try a sampler: a 4-ounce pour for $2. Jake’s serves up spirits, too. Its “303 happy hour” runs Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., when Colorado pints cost $3.
While Jake’s has no kitchen, customers won’t go hungry. Mornings bring fresh pastries from the local French bakery Trompeau and fresh-fruit parfaits that incorporate ingredients from local suppliers. Breakfast burritos and sandwiches are part of a planned expansion.
“In the afternoons and evenings we do fresh pico de gallo, housemade queso, bratwurst, bacon popcorn — everybody loves bacon! — and smaller munchies,” Menke said. Additions of nightly specials like pork sliders, sloppy joes and tacos are in the works.
Menke closes with a funny story about how Jake’s older business sibling, Kate’s Wine Bar, came into being.
“My mom was working corporate America, as was I. The company went under. Mom and I joked about having a little wine bar. This was about five years ago; there was really nothing in Littleton then. And so we joked about it and joked about it.
“One day I was offered that I could either stay (with the company) and move to South Dakota or I could take a package, and I said, ‘I’ll take a package, thank you.’ And I called my mom and said, ‘Would you like to open that wine bar that we talked about, because I don’t want to go back to corporate America?”
Thus came Kate’s. Then from Kate’s sprang partner Jake’s. Her grandfather, Menke is certain, would be proud.
Jake’s Brew Bar
Jake’s Brew Bar and Café, at 2540 W. Main St., has wi-fi. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and till midnight on Friday; Saturday 8 a.m. to midnight; closed Sundays. Phone: 303-996-1006; e-mail: email@example.com.