The Beer Spa draws inspiration from similar spas in Japan and Korea.
Perhaps the most luxe iteration of the “shower beer,” an outpost of The Beer Spa may be coming to a neighborhood near you.
It’s “a day spa and a craft beer bar combined into one,” explains co-founder Jessica French, who along with husband Damien Zouaoui opened the beer-centric spa in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood in February 2021.
What does that mean, exactly? Visitors can soak in a hot tub infused with barley, pilsner malt and hops; sip a crisp cucumber-lemon gose while sweating it out in a sauna; and rinse off with a body wash made with beer, goat’s milk, and orange essential oils. And when you’ve had enough of sitting in a Jacuzzi, the bubbles frothing like the foamy head on a freshly-poured pint, you can throw on a waffle-weave robe and pad out to a communal tap room to sample more local beer, wine, and kombucha.
Some spas offer treatments involving beer, as part of a broader menu of traditional massages and other offerings. Here, beer is the whole vibe.
“It’s beer inside and out,” says Zouaoui.
The concept began in 2017, when French and Zouaoui left corporate jobs in New York City to travel around the world. “We backpacked and traveled for four months in 25 countries to find ideas and inspiration,” recalls Zouaoui. Both had experience in the hospitality industry, but knew that opening a restaurant likely wasn’t the right match. Drawing inspiration from “rustic” beer spas in Eastern Europe, where free-flowing kegs accompany hot tubs and scratchy beds of hay, they realized what America was missing: an updated version of the beer spa.
They honed in on Denver, with its robust brewery scene and copious small business-friendly incentives, as the right place to launch their concept, arriving “with nothing but our backpacks on our back and our business plan,” French says.
While theirs isn’t the first beer spa in America –– there are others in Orlando and Chicago –– it’s perhaps the best version of what the experience can be. Drawing on traditions from similar spas in Japan and Korea, this is not intended as a solitary experience: the spacious treatment rooms are sized for two or more, and a “garage door” can be lifted to join two rooms for larger groups. Socializing around the taps in a light-filled space with soothing pale woods and jewel-toned velvet sofas is encouraged.
“We liked the communal experience,” French explains. “You can relax privately, but then you can hang out with your friends and have a drink. We liked the duality.”
Recognizing that the spa industry typically targets women, the couple also saw an opportunity to coax men in for wellness treatments, which is why everything is intended to be gender neutral. At present, the ratio of customers is roughly 40% men, 60% women, Zouaoui estimates.
Another noteworthy facet: the Beer Spa was set up as a "low-touch" spa, which turned out to be a unique selling point for a business opening in February 2021, still the peak of the pandemic.
Compared to traditional spas, the Beer Spa is “technology enabled,” relying on private rooms with hot tubs that automatically shut off, massage chairs, and smart card-enabled self-serve beer taps -- not human aestheticians or in-your-face bartenders. Want to add on a beer hair mask or hop beard oil? It’s in a grab-and-go honor bar. After check-in, it’s possible to avoid any humans beyond your squad, should you so choose – extra reassuring for the Covid-cautious wellness set.
“It was right for the time, though we didn’t know it,” French says.
From a business standpoint, they soon realized they’d hit on the Holy Grail: a scalable formula that required minimal staffing and customer interaction. First up: a second location in suburban South Denver, “as proof for franchisees,” then expansion across Colorado and other mid-sized, beer-centric regions (think: Portland, Austin, San Diego).
Of course, it’s important not to lose sight of the “beer” part of the equation: The Beer Spa partners with local breweries (and wineries, and kombucha makers), spotlighting a new “takeover” each month from a different Colorado brewer. They’ve also collaborated with Greenwood Village’s Spice Trade Brewing on a “Spa Sidekick” (that cucumber-lemon gose) that’s exclusive to the Denver facility.
Personally, I had never considered beer and spa treatments to be compatible. Maybe it was just the Jolly Rancher-like Watermelon Sour from Platt Park Brewing that I sipped after sweating out the toxins. But eventually, I came around to see it can be a harmonious pairing.
“There are a lot of wellness benefits in malt and hops, the two main ingredients in beer,” French explains. “It’s been exciting for us to play with this beverage that so many people know and love in the U.S.”