They don’t actually stuff a donut into a pizza (though if someone starts that business we’ll cover it), but Berkeley Donuts is a business inside of another: in this case Hops and Pie, one of North Denver’s popular pizza and beer joints.
Berkeley Donuts opened about a year ago, also known as “just before the world went crazy.” While many small businesses haven’t been as fortunate, Berkeley Donuts is…well…cooking. We talked with Audie Mauk, Berkeley Donuts’ head baker, or simply “the guy who makes the donuts” as he introduced himself. Mauk chocks up their success to a few things. First, the sense of family that the business instills. His two roommates work for the donut and pizza businesses and he has nothing but praise for the owners Drew and Leah Watson. Once, when he was out with a head cold, they called daily to check and kept trying to bring him soup and other food. “What other business does that?” he asked, explaining why he left a more traditional corporate food background for the life of a donut maker in Denver. Mauk believes Hops and Pie’s popularity and the owners’ established goodwill in the neighborhood helped bring customers to the donut shop even as COVID hit and restaurant business slowed.
The second thing, of course, is the donuts themselves — culture and location only go so far. With both traditional cake and potato sourdough donut options, along with multiple gluten free and vegan options, they offer a variety you don’t see anywhere else, but they also don’t stray too far from the traditional definition of a donut. The sourdough donuts rise overnight, creating a soft inside but more textured outside than their traditional cake options. “Nothing too crazy,” Mauk says of their ideas. “We’re not trying to reinvent the donut here.” Like a traditional round glazed donut? They have that…except they use Hops and Pie’s sourdough starter and a sweet bourbon icing glaze instead of your run-of-the-mill sugar glaze, creating a more complex flavor. That particular donut draws inspiration from Hops and Pie’s bread pudding. Like a long john cream filled style donut? Check out their raspberry cheesecake filled graham cracker crumble. Like the others, it’s not just sweet for sweetness sake, but offers richness you don’t find in your standard donut.
Showing off a sampler box that was later mostly devoured while writing this piece, Mauk ticked through flavor combinations like “sea salt caramel with black Hawaiian Salt on chocolate cake” and one of their most popular: Dry Dock vanilla porter coffee cake (yes, that means Dry Dock beer). You won’t find donuts topped with sugary cereals or some of the other next wave super sweet donut options other businesses have started making (though those clearly have a market too — no judgement here). Instead, you’ll find donuts that look and taste like familiar donuts — but made with high-end ingredients resulting in some of the best donuts you’ve ever tasted. Next time you’re looking for a donut (or 6), check them out.
Berkeley Donuts located at 3920 Tennyson St. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday Mornings from 7:30am until they sell out. Based on the speed of business we saw on a Thursday morning at 8am, we’d recommend getting there early. Curbside pickup is also available.
Note: Do you have a small business that opened during the last year, is giving back to the community in the pandemic, has stood the test of time, or otherwise stands out? Let us know! Email us at News@DenverNorthStar.com and tell us about your business so we can help highlight you in a future issue.