Visit any of Colorado’s 400 craft breweries and you’re sure to overhear someone ordering a flight, a small sampling of five or six beers.
Not drinking? Don’t like beer? Order a flight of butter instead.
Lyons, Colorado is home to Bella La Crema, the world’s first butter bar, where you can sit down with a warm, crusty baguette and four generous samples of compound butter, all flavored with herbs and spices ranging from tarragon to turmeric.
On the menu at this tiny bistro, you’ll find savory staples like “French Countryside,” made with rosemary, garlic, thyme and herbs de Provence, and “Ode to Neruda,” made with paprika, garlic, onions and lime. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s “Hollidays Bourbon,” which combines bourbon, orange juice, bacon, molasses, maple, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla, and “Mayan Chocolate Muse,” made with chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and cayenne.
All told, owner Shauna Lee Strecker makes more than 20 different flavors of artisanal butter from scratch using organic cream from grass-fed cows. Her mission? To make you fall in love with butter—real butter—all over again
“Butter had been ruined, in my opinion,” says Strecker. “People were just using it as a throw-aside condiment, much like ketchup or mustard. Most of the store-bought butter is ridiculous—it’s crap. That’s why I decided to make butter beautiful again.”
If a butter flight doesn’t appeal to you, you can also order breakfast, lunch or dinner here, with Strecker’s butter and buttermilk playing leading roles in dishes like buttermilk chicken salad, rosemary sage grilled cheese, tomato bisque and a cassoulet of the day. Her French onion soup is so popular that people call ahead to pay for several bowls to ensure they get some before it runs out.
Strecker makes delicate tea sandwiches to show off her butters, complementing the house-made spreads with ingredients like cucumber, mint, and strawberry.
You can also order a mug of buttered coffee with any of the butter flavors (I tried it with “Monet’s Garden,” which added subtle hints of lavender, vanilla, rose and nutmeg to my coffee).
Walk into Bella La Crema and the first thing you’ll notice are the cows—cow artwork on the walls, a tiny cow figurine mounted above the kitchen door, a string of cow lights in the window. It’s fitting, considering how Strecker ended up in the butter business to begin with.
Strecker’s butter journey started in 2012, when she bought raw cow’s milk at a Colorado farmers market. Strecker and her son had been experiencing some unexplained health issues, so she decided to strip her diet down to the basics. She churned the raw cow’s milk into butter and was amazed by the flavor.
“This butter blows every butter on the market away—why?” Strecker said.
She started researching food stabilizers, pesticides and other modern technologies designed to keep food fresh for days or weeks in the grocery store. She learned that the raw, unpasteurized milk she had started eating and drinking contained tons of helpful probiotics and bacteria—the processed milk she was used to buying from the store was, in essence, dead, she says.
“People are unwittingly just eating dead food,” she said. “Food has just been killed in many ways.”
Strecker, a touring musician who split her time between Colorado and Nashville, started making butter in a commercial kitchen and selling it to grocery stores, caterers and restaurants in 2017. With an eye toward opening a brick-and-mortar bistro and butter store, she visited Lyons and found an available storefront on the small town’s quaint Main Street, a popular route for tourists passing through on their way to Rocky Mountain National Park.
To make her butter, Strecker uses grass-fed, organic cream that’s been low-heat pasteurized and has not been homogenized (“Homogenization is like a musician putting everything through autotune,” Strecker says). She churns and cultures the butter herself (she can do about 230 pounds at a time) and she grinds her own spices, which she adds at various points during the butter-making process depending on the potency.
She now lives in Lyons full-time and has become involved in the community’s music scene (Lyons is best known for bluegrass and folk music). The butters regularly sell out and events held at the bistro are often packed. Her gamble on butter has, so far, paid off.
“Everyone thought I was out of my mind when I moved here and opened a butter store,” Strecker says. “But this town is really amazing. For a town with less than 2,500 people, the way they celebrate life is pretty significant. This is a magical town and this is the perfect place to do something that no one has ever done before—make a magical buttery, so to speak.”