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.
Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café
534 E. Colfax Ave., 303-861-0347
You're drinking: An imported beer whose name you can't pronounce
You're listening to: Early '90s rock
The new-bar smell at the Cheeky Monk hasn't worn off yet—the walls are bare, the bar unscratched, and the windows, which face Colfax, haven't been mussed up. After a few beers, though, you won't care, and you'll have a hard time telling who has more trouble walking—the Fax denizens outside or the Monk drinkers inside, tossing back Belgian ales with 9-plus alcohol content. —NG
221 W. 13th Ave., 303-534-7543
You're drinking: Alchemy ESB cask ale and two fingers of Scotch
You're listening to: Traditional British music
We love Scotch. Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch. At Pint's Pub, there are more than 260 types to try, as well as hand-pumped cask ale—a Denver rarity.
Govnr's Park Restaurant & Tavern
672 Logan St., 303-831-8605
You're drinking: A Bloody Mary
You're listening to: The game
Need a mid-Sunday place to decompress after Saturday night's bender? Gov's is as familiar and worn as your favorite Broncos jersey; where the only things that exist in the universe are you, your team, and your $2 pint. Every corner glows with NFL Sunday action—even the outside patio. If you're not wearing sports paraphernalia or jeans and a fleece, you're overdressed. Personally, I roll up in PJs, order up some nachos and a big ol' Bloody to nurse the hangover, and stake out a table with a view of the big-screens.—J. Dugdale
Don's Club Tavern
723 E. Sixth Ave.
You're drinking: A whiskey sour
You're listening to: Rock ranging from Death Cab for Cutie to AC/DC
Don's Club Tavern—better known as Don's Mixed Drinks—has cheap drinks, gruff bartenders, dim lightning, and a bar coated with a sticky film. Go here.
The Nondrinker's POV
9 p.m. The bartender finally emerges from the bowels of the tavern holding a dust-caked six-pack of O'Doul's. I'd bet a week's pay on what he'll say next.
Oh well, at least they have it.
I quit drinking about 12 years ago but never stopped going to bars. I'm no weenie teetotalist, and bars are where everyone is: friends, bands, women. I just like the atmosphere—to a point.
10 p.m. The O'Doul's has chilled to lukewarm. Close enough.
After flunking a magazine test about my inebriation habits at 29, I knew it was time. I rarely stumbled home, blacked out, or got into foolish brawls; to paraphrase writer Pete Hamill, I simply wasn't very good at it. So when I saw my red-flag score, like a longtime fugitive weary of running, I turned myself in.
Quitting was surprisingly easy. I went to a month of AA meetings, but haven't been back since I got my 30-day chip. I once craved a drink, following my grandfather's funeral several months after my last cocktail (which, for the record, was champagne sipped from my girlfriend's navel). My cousin handed me an N/A, and the moment it hit my tongue the craving washed away in a startling rush.
11 p.m. The best time. People laugh, flirt—connect—the inhibitions beating a charming retreat. The revelers teeter toward incapacitation, predictably oblivious to my unaltered sobriety.
AA devotees might compare me to a junkie kicking it in a crack house, but it's simply never been an issue. Bars unite and entertain—usually, for the sober, until about midnight, when my jackass friend tells the same story for the third time in about 30 minutes.
Think I'll call it a night. —Luc Hatlestad