TELLURIDE – A collection of cushy chairs and well-used sofas lure an equally diverse collection of patrons, both locals and visitors alike, to Telluride’s Steaming Bean each morning. Some swing by to fuel up with a quick coffee-to-go, while others linger over waffles and lattes, the scents of fresh-brewed coffee and sweet pastries mingling with the low drone of coffee shop conversation.
The Steaming Bean is Telluride’s living room, with its days as a Main Street institution stretching back to its inception in 1992. Since then, “The Bean,” as it’s known, has offered that quintessential element of small town coffee shop – the place to be and be seen on any given morning.
Yet the Steaming Bean has now undergone a transformation. There still remains, of course, the daytime Bean: Fresh coffee, exceptional teas and quick eats in this shabby-chic den. But nowadays, the Bean wears a new cloak once the sun goes down.
Thanks to a renovation and new fresh-faced owners intent upon broadening this long-standing business’s appeal, the Bean now boasts a substantial presence amid Telluride’s nighttime scene. The space now boasts a sizeable calendar of evening events, from bands and DJs to live theatre. Its bar, opened over the summer, serves up beer, wine and specialty cocktails in a setting that is decidedly distinct from other bars in Telluride.
I stop in with a girlfriend on a Tuesday evening, just as the crowd for the Bean’s popular weekly Tuesday Trivia night began to file in.
“Really? You want to try the Mexican Hornet?” Bean mixologist Ben Steenblik raised an eyebrow at my friend’s request. The cocktail is a mix of Sobra Mezcal, Saint Germain elderflower liqueur, and orchard pear juice, embellished with jalapeno, lime, and honey. It’s one of Steenblik’s inventions: A smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet mouthful.
I poured over the hand-written drinks menu, which boasts almost exclusively artisanal and Colorado-crafted distillery and brewery labels, and chose the Colorado Pear: A shaken concoction fusing organic and local pear-apple juice, Orchard Pear liquer, Caprock Vodka (a vodka made from organic grapes grown in Hotchkiss,) given a final flourish of ground cinnamon that’s divine.
The Steaming Bean bar evolved out of new owners Brian Werner and Meghann McCormick’s desire to provide an alternative venue to the traditional bar scene in Telluride.
“Our bartenders are passionate about making interesting drinks tailored to each customer,” McCormick explained, noting that there are at least a dozen specialty cocktails that aren’t yet even written on the already extensive drinks menu. Drinks like the Oolong-lychee Toddy, a blend of lavender-infused Caprock Gin and Saint Germain poured over steaming lychee-plum oolong tea and served with a lemon twist. With strong herbal undercurrents and only a hint of exotic fruit, it delivers comfort in a cocktail.
When McCormick and partner Werner purchased the business last March, they saw untold potential in this longstanding local coffee shop space. “We don’t see it just as a coffee shop, but also a community social hub that offers a different kind of social setting,” says Werner, also a Telluride Town Council member. Working at the Bean was Werner’s first job when he moved to Telluride in 2001, and it has held a warm place in his heart ever since, he says.
McCormick also worked there under the company’s previous ownership. When longtime Steaming Bean owner Mick Hill was ready to pass the torch last winter, Werner and McCormick were happy to help shepherd the business into its next era. Following an early-summer remodel, in which the new owners rejuvenated the space with an expanded bar and revamped sitting area, the Bean reopened with a fresh take on the traditional coffee-shop theme.
“The goal is to be flexible, and have this be a space that can evolve and is driven by what the community wants,” Werner says. Creating a bar that prides itself on crafting creative, artisanal concoctions seems – from the look of the place on a mid-January Tuesday evening – like exactly what the Telluride community has been craving.
A series of unique drinks pass over Steenblik’s bar over the course of the evening: Aromatic spiked apple ciders, whiskey chai lattes, an egg nog dressed with a tall swirl of whipped cream. Even the “traditional” bar drinks become more interesting at the Bean. The classic rum and Coke (or Cuba Libre on the drinks menu) blends Montanya Rum, crafted in neighboring Silverton, with true Mexican Coke (made with real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.) The Bean Bar is only the third place in Colorado to serve Root, a wildly authentic American-made liquer crafted from a centuries-old recipe blending organic ingredients like sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark and other wild roots and herbs.
The Bean has also expanded its appeal in the edibles department, with an après-ski menu following the theme of providing unique offerings over the traditional selections in après food fare. You can sample a wide selection of fresh-made waffles, adorned with ingredients like bacon and bourbon-infused syrup or bananas and Nutella, or go the savory route with a meat or vegetable Aussie Pie (similar to an Indian Samosa.) First drinks are half-off with the purchase of a meal between the hours of 4-7 p.m.
“We just want this to be whatever people want it to be, any time of the day,” Werner explained of the new Bean, open from 7 a.m. to as late as 2 a.m. on some nights. “It’s truly driven by the customers…Come in and have a cocktail in the morning and a coffee at night, if you want.”