Other than outdoor sports, craft beer may be the single most popular aspect of contemporary Coloradan culture, and for good reason. Some regional brews reach alcohol levels of up to 20%, and feature flavours as diverse as lemongrass, Thai basil, pumpkin, Mexican chiles, wild berries and bourbon to name just a few. If you think you don’t like beer, think again; many of these ales are worlds apart from standard corporate lager. Michael, our Denver-based beer enthusiast, gives you the inside scoop on where to find the city’s craftiest suds.
Colorado loves craft beer, and Denver is lucky enough to host the annual Great American Beer Festival. It’s easily the biggest and most diverse beer festival in the world. Over three days, more than 50,000 locals and visitors flock to the Convention Center to sample as many one-ounce tasters of the nation’s finest brews as they can handle. Keep in mind that the event sells out fast, so planning ahead is required.
Photo credit: Great American Beer Festival
The colossal scale of the Great American Beer Festival isn’t for everyone, or perhaps the problem is that it’s too much for everyone. Those who want to skip the crowds of rookies and the blander brews to seek out barrel-aged, wild, sour and funky masterpieces among fellow connoisseurs opt to attend What The Funk instead of, or as well as, GABF. Attendees are committed geeks and industry insiders who can hold their beer respectably well.
Photo credit: The Full Pint
With renegade attitude, this brewery prides itself on making beers that are, in their own words, “offensively delicious”. Luckily most locals aren’t offended, but do agree with the “delicious” descriptor. Some of the suds here are indeed potent: think triple IPAs, Russian imperial stouts, coffee-infused strong ales and Belgian quads. Keep an eye out for experimental special offerings on tap.
Photo credit: Renegade Brewing Company
Crooked Stave’s new taproom is one of the main attractions of the stylish artisan food market The Source. The mantra of CS and its cultish following is simple: “Brettanomyces!” If this is new vocabulary for you and you’re a fan of unusual beers, be prepared to have your world shaken. If this is already your personal mantra, welcome to your home away from home in Denver.
Photo credit: The Source
Colorado is renowned for producing brilliant craft beer. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case. Coors reigned supreme from its foundation in 1873 until as recently as the 1990s, when artful brewers like Great Divide began to emerge on the scene. Corporate beer may still dominate in gross sales nationally, but there’s no doubt where local allegiances lie. Unlike the subtle lagers of Germany or mellow ales of England, Colorado’s beers are best known for being strong, bold and adventurous, befitting of the state’s adventurous character. Great Divide honours this reputation with its impressive imperial stout – an inky, viscous and rich-like-liquid-chocolate brew called Yeti.
Photo credit: Great Divide Brewing Co.
Nowhere else in the city has a selection that can compare with Falling Rock’s. Here you’ll find more than 70 craft beers on tap, never any “contract brews or megaswill”, plus hundreds more available by the bottle, from Colorado classics to obscure European gems that age like fine wine. Beer geeks of the highest degree gather here for limited releases and to share their personal tales of hunting whales (a common pet name for elite bottles).
Photo credit: Falling Rock Tap House
Everybody loves pizza and beer, but this is no ordinary greasy spoon. Owners Drew and Leah Watson have worked in gourmet restaurants across the nation, and when they decided to root down in Denver and open a pizza and beer joint, they also decided to elevate these humble components to unprecedented heights. There are 22 high-quality craft beers on tap at any given moment, one of which also features as an ingredient in the exceptional pizza dough.
Photo credit: Hops & Pie
In a space as casual as your living room, Vine Street Pub serves up their own brews alongside bar fare mostly made from organic, chemical-free and genetically unaltered products. Hippies, hikers and lawn-game enthusiasts gather here, united by a love for reasonably priced quality brews and a food menu offering both award-winning wings and vegan dishes. If you’re feeling creative, order a pitcher of two beers mixed.
Photo credit: Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery
Not for the faint of heart, TRVE is the sort of place you either stay as far away from as possible, or love so much you join the cult. Supersonic heavy metal plays constantly, and some of the special beers are so hoppy that the experience can be as intense for your tongue as it is for your ears. If you enjoy metal but don’t look the part, you’re still more than welcome. The beers are a big draw themselves; insanely bitter IPAs and puckering sour ales are brewed and tapped without much concern for repressive, stylistic dogma.
Photo credit: TRVE Brewing Company
The “gastropub” is an illusive concept. Too often, the term is used to justify pricing a simple hamburger and lager over $10. Not here. Euclid Hall rightfully earns the classification by serving outstanding pub food and offering one of the best beer selections in the city, all in a gorgeous raw brick building from the late 1800s. If you care at all for quality meat, craft beer or historic ambiance, you may find it hard to leave.
Photo Credit: Bill Hurwitz
Over the past 10 years or so, Bull & Bush has become renowned as one of the best craft breweries in town. With low, dark wood-beamed ceilings, brass fixtures and a hearth, it successfully replicates an old-world British pub, comfort and quirky charm included. In the spirit of the place, try the English-style ales, otherwise the American double/imperial stout dubbed “Legend of the Liquid Brain” is outstanding.
Photo credit: Bull & Bush Brewery
Colorado loves beer, and many craft brewers value the characteristically American approach of radical experimentation and the resultant taste bud-frying hop flavours, absurdly syrupy stouts and ultra-strong ales. Prost stands out from the pack by brewing exclusively traditional pilsners, bocks, dunkels and other light German lagers.
Photo credit: Prost Brewing Company
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Opening photo credit: Falling Rock Tap House