Highlands brewery settles on a name; solves pronunciation debate

Zuni garage

Zuni Street Brewing plans to open this garage-turned-brewery in November. File photo – April 2016 – by Amy DiPierro.

While naming their new brewery on Zuni Street in the Highlands, two childhood friends stumbled across the answer to a long-standing Denver debate: Is it pronounced ZU-nee or ZU-ni?

Willy Truettner and T.J. Slattery decided to check the source. The Zuni Pueblo, a Native American tribe in New Mexico, traces its history back thousands of years.

“It is actually pronounced ZU-nee,” said Truettner, who will leave his position as a brewer at New Belgium to start the newly named Zuni Street Brewing Co. “And we got tribal council permission to use the name.”

Truettner and his middle school lab partner-turned-co-founder, Slattery, reckon they’ve renamed their brewery five times. The company leased a space next door to Teatulia Tea Bar in March.

But each time they thought they had picked a winner, they realized another brewery or local bar had snagged a trademark or operated under a similar-sounding name.

Luckily, there aren’t many Zunis. A quick Google search shows that New York, Arizona, New Mexico and Minnesota each have a Zuni Street, but none stretch through a city like the one running from Sheridan north to Broomfield.

“We wanted a name that really incorporated the part of town that we’re in,” Slattery said.

Zuni logo

The Zuni (ZU-nee Pueblo dates back thousands of years, and inspired the Highlands brewery’s name.

The pair said they chose the 3,500-square-foot spot at the corner of Zuni and 29th because LoHi fits their target demographic: outdoor enthusiasts in their early 20s to mid-30s. Truettner and Slattery want their brewery to evoke the wilderness beyond Denver’s city limits, too.

William Wood Architecture’s design for Zuni Street Brewing Co. begins with a bar that looks like a mountain cabin, a ceiling with cut-out silhouettes of trees against a blue backdrop and patios outside two pairs of garage bays on either side of the bar.

“The brewery and the bar – that’s your home,” said Truettner. “But then you turn out to a great expanse of wilderness.”

Truettner and Slattery even toyed with the idea of a seating area meant to look like a boulder to complement their Sitting Rock Ale, one of 10 brews they hope to serve.

The brewery plans to begin construction in mid-August and to open in November. It raised $400,000 from seven investors to launch, according to an SEC filing in March.

Zuni garage

Zuni garage

Zuni Street Brewing plans to open this garage-turned-brewery in November. File photo – April 2016 – by Amy DiPierro.

While naming their new brewery on Zuni Street in the Highlands, two childhood friends stumbled across the answer to a long-standing Denver debate: Is it pronounced ZU-nee or ZU-ni?

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One Comment

Jill Bishop

Of course it’s really pronounced Zuni (ee) I thought that was common knowledge. But as a street name in Denver it has always been Zuni (long i) So it’s a dilemma for me – to pronounce such things historically or not. I tend to go with the historical pronunciation, meaning the way the locals have always historically pronounced it, with one big exception — I have never been able to call it the Mayan (May- like the month) Theater, even though the neighborhood there did historically. Similarly in Denver, Tejon was always long e, whereas in Colorado Springs it was the (more correct) Tejon (long A in first syllable) But still, we kind of stress the first syllable, whereas the real Spanish word has an accent on the second. Tejón. So even in the Springs, it’s not like it’s pronounced 100% the way it would correctly be pronounced in Spanish. So I tend to go with the way thousands before us have done (But then I’m old and a several-generation Denver native.) On the other hand, the (mis)pronunciation of Zuni (long i) has always seemed to me to be a particularly egregious mistake that SHOULD one day be corrected, (perhaps reflecting how much more educated and cosmopolitain Denver is becoming??) And speaking of pronunciation debates, I, as a Denver native, always heard Wynkoop pronounced the way it would be if it follows normal English spelling/pronunciation rules, which would be with a short i (win, or like Steve Wynn). Hickenlooper himself once told me he makes a point to pronounce it both ways – win or wine – on different occasions. I guess he may figure that it’s good publicity to keep that debate alive.

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