A New Generation of Brewing

Historic Tivoli Brewing now part of beer degree program

By Dylan Hochstedler

While the Denver skyline is ever-changing, Tivoli’s building and beer are still recognizable icons in the Rocky Mountains.

While the Denver skyline is ever-changing, Tivoli’s building and beer are still recognizable icons in the Rocky Mountains.

Colorado native Corey Marshall remembers sitting on his grandpa’s lap and drinking Tivoli beer as a three-year-old, before the brewery shut its doors in 1969. 

After spending much of the next four decades in and around the Tivoli site on the Auraria campus, Marshall finally helped revive Tivoli Brewing Company both as a brewer of classic and acclaimed beers, and as a classroom and laboratory for Metropolitan State University of Denver. 

In the 1980s, Marshall worked as a bouncer at the Tijuana Yacht Club, a popular bar of the era on the renovated site of the old Tivoli brewery. Metro State’s rugby team would often hang out at the Yacht Club, and Marshall got to know the players. Marshall eventually got close enough with them to join the team, even though he never attended the school. 

“Nobody on Metro’s team cared and none of the other teams cared enough to check my credentials,” he said. 

Marshall also dipped his feet into the world of beer, and worked for Coors Brewing Company from 1998 to 2012. His office in downtown Denver overlooked the historic Tivoli Brewing complex, so he remained as connected to that brewery as to the Coors mothership in Golden. 

Corey Marshall is the guru behind Tivoli's revival. Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

Corey Marshall is the guru behind Tivoli's revival.
Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

Peering down at the building every day from his office ate away at his curiosity, so he decided to dive into the revival of Tivoli Brewing. He spent countless hours and resources tracking down legal documents, copyrights and recipes before he started contract-brewing the original Tivoli beer at four different Colorado breweries in 2012. 

Around the same time, Marshall met Michael Wray, a Metro State beverage and hospitality professor. As the Colorado craft beer scene began to explode, Wray recognized the need for an accredited beer program at Metro State. 

“I always knew the students wanted more, but what do you do when you’re a humble teacher. Not a lot of people want to spend money on labs for alcohol,” said Wray. “When I met Corey, it was a short conversation. He was willing to spend the money and I was willing to teach the kids.” 

Tivoli is now a brewing, bottling and distribution center that can produce 28,000 barrels of beer per year, and helps Metro State students learn every aspect of the brewing industry from fermentation to hospitality and marketing.

Tivoli is currently working with Metro State on three major projects: recreating the same yeast strain that was used in the original Tivoli beers, establishing beer quality certifications and assembling expert sensory review panels. Marshall points out that the main goal of these programs is working to achieve accredited ways of measuring the flavor of beer and the best overall technical quality of beer.

Other schools offer brewing programs and certificates, but according to the Brewers Association, Metro State is the only university in the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in brewery or brewpub operations.

-Logos courtesy of Tivoli Brewing Co

A Peek into Tivoli’s Storied Past

Corey Marshall helped relaunch Tivoli Brewing Company this decade, but the company has a deep history that predates the founding of Colorado, and mirrors the fortunes of lower downtown Denver.

Legend has it that Denver merchant John P. Good brought the first hops to Colorado in an oxcart, and sold them to Frederick Z. Salomon who opened the Rocky Mountain Brewery next to the current Auraria Student Union building in 1859. Good later became a partner in the venture, which was selling the first local beer to Colorado’s gold miners and Denver’s early settlers.

The brewery moved across the South Platte River to a site that is now a parking lot for the Denver Aquarium.

Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

In 1871, brewer Phillip Zang took over the brewery and renamed it Zang Brewing Co., which became the largest brewery in the Rockies until Prohibition.

Meanwhile, German immigrant Moritz Sigi began constructing the Colorado Brewery in the building that would 

become Tivoli Brewing Co. Sigi operated Colorado Brewery for roughly 10 years until he died in a horse and carriage accident in 1874.

Oddly, the site was briefly known as Milwaukee Brewery. Wisconsinite Maximillian Melsheimer had purchased the Colorado Brewery in 1878 from Sigi’s widow and received aloan from Good to renovate the property. However, he could not cover his loan, so John Good foreclosed on the property and named it Tivoli Brewing after an amusement park in Copenhagen.

Melsheimer continued to run the brewery, and spent the early 1890s expanding Tivoli Brewing.

The area was still cluttered with smaller breweries and in 1900, Tivoli merged with Union Brewing, creating Tivoli-Union Brewing Co., which produced more than 100,000 barrels per year, second only to Zang in Colorado.

John P. Good died in 1918, so his son, John E. Good, took over the operation during Prohibition. Unlike many other breweries, Tivoli-Union survived Prohibition by producing near beers. John E. Good died just nine years after his dad, leaving ownership to his wife, Lorraine. Following Good’s death, Lorraine remarried twice and passed around management of Tivoli-Union several times. She owned the property until she died in 1964.

Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

Photo - Tivoli Brewing Co

Tivoli-Union was sold in 1965 as part of Lorraine’s estate to brothers Carl and Joseph Occhiato. After the purchase, they immediately ran into a wave of challenges. The South Platte River flooded and filled the Tivoli-Union basement with several feet of water, causing $135,000 in damages.

From 1966 to 1969, the workforce at Tivoli-Union decreased by 50 percent, and the Occhiato brothers were forced to close shop.

On April 25, 1969, one of the longest running breweries in the nation shut down after more than 100 years of operation. The building was condemned but not torn down because it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

A popular bar, the Tijuana Yacht Club, and other retail outlets opened in 1982 at the renovated Tivoli site.

In 1991, students at the Auraria Higher Education Campus (which includes Metropolitan State University, University of Colorado Denver and Community College of Denver) voted to spend student fees to purchase the building. After more renovations, it opened in 1994 as the Tivoli Student Union building.  Tivoli brewery resumed production inside the building in 2015.

Dylan Hochstedler is a marketing student at Metropolitan State University of Denver and regular at the Tivoli.