The Brewery: Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th St.
The People: Head brewer Andy Brown; executive chef Rhonda Banks; general manager Amanda Young
The Space: Wynkoop Brewing Company is really composed of four different spaces. There’s traditional restaurant seating on the main floor; the adjacent bar has a bit of a sports bar feel to it, with TVs positioned for just about any vantage point. The upstairs bar, on the other hand, is less about watching the game du jour, and more on point with the vibe you’d find at a traditional neighborhood brewery. And then there’s the space opposite the second floor bar, which is home to dozens of pool tables. (This particular area is now famous for hosting a billiards contest between Governor John Hickenlooper and President Barack Obama.)
The Brews: Wynkoop has a well-rounded tap list, which includes many traditional beer styles: IPA, pale ale, red ale, lager, milk stout, etc. The brewers have also been known to dabble in new concoctions, such as Patty’s Chile Beer, which is fermented with Anaheim and ancho chiles; or the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which, obviously, is brewed with roasted bull testicles; or a pumpkin ale in regular rotation every fall.
Buzzed Trivia: Here’s the first bit of trivia anyone who walks through the doors of Wynkoop should know: This is Governor Hickenlooper’s former joint. Of course, there’s a story behind how the governor got it all started back in the late 1980s, which is detailed in a piece from 5280‘s August 2012 issue titled “The Happy Shrewdness Of John W. Hickenlooper.”
Hickenlooper was the guy who’d promoted his Denver brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Company, which he opened in 1988, with a running of the pigs in Lower Downtown. The idea grew from the frustrated writer’s love of literature—Ernest Hemingway made Spain’s running of the bulls famous in The Sun Also Rises—and his persistent self-promotion, which could be so unabashedly crass that it was charming. Hickenlooper was the guy whose 40th birthday bash invitations featured him sitting on a Wynkoop barstool, naked except for cowboy boots, bandanas, and a strategically positioned hard hat. Hickenlooper was the guy who, in the early 1990s, offered a $5,000 “bounty” to anyone who could find him a bride, which he ended up explaining (meaning, once again, promoting himself and his bar) on the Phil Donahue Show. In the contemporary wild West, John Hickenlooper at once fit right in and distinguished himself as a character among characters.
Sample This: The Mile High Pale Ale, a hop-forward but still easy-drinking take on the familiar style.
Take Home: Seems every time we look, Wynkoop has begun canning another beer. If you don’t have a growler on hand during your visit, grab a sixer from the cooler near the front downstairs bar, which typically has at least a half-dozen of Wynkoop’s regular brews to choose from.