The world of craft beer is filled with passion, grounded in a fascination for creation, flavors and the feeling one gets from sipping a cold, foamy beverage in companionship with others — it’s a love story in itself. The craving to create something noteworthy is the norm for Denver brewers. Still, Luki Brewery stands out with its bonded pair of owners — two people connected in love for each other, their family and the community. But the beer is what keeps customers coming back for more.
Jeff and Cammy Smith debuted Luki Brewery in July of 2020, built from the bones of an old Quiznos lot. But their love story started well before that. Let’s go back to the fall season of 1993. It was Jeff’s junior year at CU Boulder, and he sat sidelined from the university’s Golden Buffalo marching band with a knee injury. “Everyone kind of jokes about marching band and what that is. But for college band, it’s grueling. It’s 12-hour days of rehearsals,” Jeff remembered. Cammy, also benched with a knee injury, was joined by Jeff after he limped the length of Folsom Field. It was just the two of them, united by a dedication to music. Their conversation began, and the rest is history.
“The director at one point was like, ‘look around, and you may find your future spouse here.’ It was the worst thing to hear. Looking around at these losers,” Jeff laughed. Little did the couple know that their director was predicting their future. The two were married in 1998 and went on to have two daughters. Not only is their brewery named after their daughters — “Lu” and “Ki” are the girl’s childhood nicknames — but “Ki” now plays trumpet in the Golden Buffalo marching band, a true full-circle moment.
After participating primarily in the professional world, the idea of opening a brewery was a slow burn. Growing up in the mid-nineties, the couple frequented craft beer spots and participated in home brewing. Brewing soon became an obsession, and the two shifted from simply creating what they could consume to what they preferred. Friends and family wanted more of a taste, as well.
“We started to formulate this idea over many years. It took a while,” Jeff reflected. “And then, when we had that proof of concept, we started writing a business plan and made a huge Excel spreadsheet. We began to say, ‘what would it take?’ We established that we were not going to do distribution, just support the taproom, and wondered if we could get enough people in here to make ends meet. Those slow decisions were great because we weren’t under any time crunch”.
Luki Brewery finally opened in 2020 on the corner of 64th and Indiana in Arvada. This location filled the gap for a much-needed taproom in an apparent beer desert, and the people of Arvada were gifted a community gathering place. Its subtle but unique circus theme is rooted in the family culture and passion for creating entertainment.
The extended family was a part of the Ringling Brothers traveling circus. Jeff’s great-grandmother, Mademoiselle Chloe, was an elephant rider and snake charmer, and his great-grandfather, Richard Sr., was an advanced ticket seller. The couple that started it all toured for over 20 years and involved two generations of soon-to-be Smiths.
Although a circus theme can quickly become cheesy and childish, Luki pulls it off in a tasteful and classy manner. Accurate black and white photographs from the family photo books line the walls, along with donations from the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Funhouse mirrors follow the hallway to the bathroom, adding a whimsical and amusing feel to your unescapable drinking intermission. “What I loved about it is the performance of the circus back in the day really was that big event, that ‘Super Bowl,’” Jeff said.
“It was a family affair,” Cammy said. Everyone was welcome. That was the theme we wanted to bring here, that it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re welcome.”
Luki’s continuous return of regulars and exciting ambiance is proof of its open-door covenant. Its beers are delectable and ever-changing. Try the Calliope Kolsch, a classic dry light ale with hints of fruit; it’s everyone’s favorite. With a menu selection focused on hop-forward brews, its IPAs are a highlight. The Hop Juggling Hazy is a juicy choice featuring notes of grapefruit, nectarine, lemon and lime, cutting an IPA’s traditional bitter bite. There’s always a sour on the menu, and Cinna’s Sour: Prickly Pear is the current selection, named in honor of the brewery’s mascot, Cinna the Brewdog. Rotating food trucks are always on-site, adding some grub to soak up its high ABVs.
This choice brewery is grounded on the pattern of love, dating back to the Roaring 20s. The sequence continues as Luki welcomes old and new faces, corralling all with the excitement of its loving family history, complemented with some damn good beers.
Luki Brewery is located at 14715 W 64th Ave., Units A&B, Arvada. It is open Monday – Thursday 3 to 9 p.m., Friday – Saturday 12 to 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 8 p.m.