The Best Bars in Denver
From swanky lounges to boozy bars, we round up more than 40 of the city's best places to imbibe. Plus, the nondrinker's journal, bartenders' tips, and debunking the alcohol-altitude myth.
3200 Tejon St., 303-919-7942
You're drinking: Pic's Pale Ale or the local microbrew of the week
You're listening to: The game, classic rock
Convenience lures East Highlanders to North Star; the tater tots compel them to stay. Co-proprietor Kyle Carstens had the good sense to put the golden-fried nuggets on his menu alongside such pub staples as sliders and a falls-apart-in-your-hands pulled pork sandwich with slaw on top that could turn the most righteous vegetarian into a born-again caveman. Yes, it's a brewery—they make three or four of their own, the best being the Pic's Pale, a bitter, hoppy elixir that'll make your cheeks flutter like an excitable stallion. But the beer list reaches way beyond North Star's walls, with brews like Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen, and picks-of-the-week from Wynkoop, Railyard, and Boulder breweries. North Star's no dive and no yuppie joint; it's neither clean nor dirty, light nor dark. It's simply, refreshingly normal and reliable, like a tater tot fried to perfection.—Mike Kessler
My Brother's Bar
2376 15th St., 303-455-9991
You're drinking: Fuller's London Pride, on draft
You're listening to: Classical music
If there were a prototype for drinking-establishment excellence, it would be My Brother's Bar. It has history: When Jim and Angelo Karagas bought the joint in 1970, the building had already been a bar for nearly 80 years. It's generally dark, there are no distracting televisions, soothing classical music is always playing, and the bar and tables are worn in and lacquered to hell. The slim, delicious hamburgers are some of the best in the city, and a bag of popcorn will only set you back 50 cents. There's a well-edited beer list with hard-to-find Fuller's London Pride and Golden City Red Ale, not to mention a huge selection of bourbon, Scotch, and rye. It has good service: The bartenders are smart, funny, and always on their game. Seating options abound: a front room with an 11-stool bar and a few weathered tables, a back room for dining, and a homey beer garden that's the best spot for outdoor drinking in the city. The only possible conclusion: My Brother's is the best bar in Denver. —Patrick Doyle
The Grizzly Rose
5450 N. Valley Highway, 303-295-2353
You're drinking: Whatever cheap beer the bartender hands you
You're listening to: Live honky-tonk acts, both big and small
From I-25, the Rose looks like a well-used strip club, but inside the bar is home to one of the best honky-tonk dance floors in the country. The belt buckles are huge, the Wranglers are pressed, and the live acts are some of the biggest (think: Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Willie Nelson) to come through town. Beer lines stretch 20 cowboys deep on the weekends, so make the bartender fish an extra bottle out of the tub when you finally shuffle to the front. And, if you tire of line-dancing, be sure to watch skinny-jeaned hipsters falling off the mechanical bull.—NG
Mead St. Station
3625 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-2138
You're drinking: Harp Lager or a glass of red wine
You're listening to: Earnest-as-hell live local bands
Despite its location in the heart of the increasingly upscale Highland hood, Mead St. Station feels like some forgotten pocket from the area's not-too-distant past, when Italian grandmas watered flawless lawns and people sat on stoops instead of power-walking their Weimeraners. Long-time regulars blend in with families, blind dates, and post-lawn-mowing beer drinkers, all here for tap beers, pub fare, and music. Chances are, you'll hear "Horse With No Name" on a slower night, between the more polished R&B and acoustic bands. And you'll like it. —Cara McDonald
On the House
Drinking advice from an old pro
Dwight Long has been pouring drinks at My Brother's Bar for eight years. In 2007, 5280 named him the best bartender in Denver, an honor he says earned him "a lot more crap from my fellow bartenders." A while back, Dwight poured us a nice, smoky scotch and talked about American bourbons, where he likes to drink, and how to kick a hangover.
What do we need to be drinking these days? I like to recommend that people drink more whiskey. I'm really into American whiskeys lately. Many people forget what a great distilling history we have.
Speaking of whiskey, what do you do to get rid of a hangover? Oh man, Monday I had a really bad hangover. I hadn't really drank for a year.
What? Well, I just had a baby. She's five weeks old. Her name is Jameson.
So what did you do about that hangover? I think the best cure sometimes is just to get up and get moving. That and the chili cheese fries from Chubby's. Those things could cure cancer. And then you'll forget you had a hangover because your stomach will hurt so bad.
Aside from My Brother's Bar, where do you like to knock 'em back? The Skylark Lounge. They have about 20 beers on tap, and 90 percent of them are relatively good.
Any advice for the other bartenders out there? My mantra is to never piss off the waitresses.
—Interview by Jennie Dorris
When faced with compiling a definitive bars guide, we asked ourselves a simple question: Where do we regularly drink? Which bars do we return to time and time again, on good days, on bad days, and days in between, to get a beer and have some company? This list is the answer—these are our drinking places. So please, come in, pull up a stool, and have a beer. Next round's on you.