Walking into Après Handcrafted Libations, in Breckenridge, patrons might spot slices of Fatty’s Pizza at one table, crepes from the cart at the bar or even tacos and burgers from other downtown eateries.
The new bar, which opened Jan. 4, allows customers to order food from other places or bring food in with them. Co-founder Donna Laboy said because Après, which has 30 beers on tap, doesn’t have a kitchen, she wanted to create a relaxed, inviting atmosphere for people who wanted more than bar snacks.
Laboy opened Après with her husband and her son and daughter-in-law. She wanted to focus on the craft-drink movement, including beer and whiskey. The 30 taps will rotate with beers from all over — local Colorado brews, beers from California or Germany, as well as different spirits.
“It feels like we’re old pioneers, who gave up everything to start a new life,” Laboy said. “Our friends think we’re either crazy or brave. It’s that pioneering spirit; my husband and I are starting a new life for ourselves.”
Laboy remembers the flashing neon signs outside her bedroom window, living above her parents’ restaurant as a child. She moved to Colorado after graduating college, settling in Denver to work in television and media. After being laid off twice in the last three years, she decided to pursue her dream and open a bar in Breckenridge.
There are no televisions in Après, an intentional decision on Laboy’s part. She wanted to encourage conversation and get people talking about the different kinds of beer. The 30 taps have blackboard handles, making it easy to wipe away the name of an old brew.
“The focus is definitely on beer,” Laboy said. “We want to talk to everyone about it, to educate them. Beer has come a long way. It’s been around for thousands of years, and now we’re seeing this revival for craft creations.”
The bar also has five nitro beers on tap — brews in which the typical carbon dioxide has been replaced by nitrogen, giving the beer a creamier taste. Laboy opened Après with her own money, choosing Breckenridge because she often came up to the High Country to ski during her 27 years in Denver.
“There’s no other town we would have picked,” she said. “Of course, it’s a huge leap of faith, but we’re trying on our own as a family. We did some work ourselves, we wanted our personalities to show through. It’s rewarding after so many late nights to see it come together.”
The kegs are stored in a large walk-in cooler in the back, piped through insulated conduit lines up front to the taps behind the bar — much like the Yard House in Denver, Laboy said. She said some visitors have had trouble pronouncing the bar’s name, but she’s happy to explain the history of après, saying she loved the name for a bar atmosphere.
Her family looked at the building in June last year, and started construction in October, renovating for the next three months. The Après building, the former location of Colorado Scenes, is reportedly haunted, with Sylvia the ghost trapped inside.
“There’s such a history here, all of the people throughout hundreds of years who have all hung out here,” Laboy said.
Inside, bright blood-orange chairs line the bar, where large paper menus are secured on clipboards. Beers range from $5 to $9, with flight options as well. Chalkboards prompt customers to write suggestions for favorite beers or liquor they would like to see in the future.
“The concept been amazingly well received,” Laboy said. “Everyone has said this is just what Breckenridge needed, a place to hang out and talk about beer.”
The bar also features small-batch whiskey and local products from the Breckenridge Distillery and Breckenridge Brewery. Laboy said getting the numerous beers from different distributors has been a challenge. In the future, she hopes to bring in some board games for people to play.
“I hope people pick up on our passion and enthusiasm,” she said. “This really means everything to us. It’s family, right down the employees.”
Après Handcrafted Libations is open from noon to 2 a.m. every day at 130 S. Main St., Breckenridge. For more information, call (303) 868-7990 or visit www.apreslibations.com.