Feature

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.

February 2008

SUBURBS

Stampede

2430 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-696-7686
You're drinking: Coors Light on draft from a plastic cup
You're listening to: Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Deana Carter
Now this is cowboy authenticity. While the Grizzly Rose gets most of the glory, the Stampede has quietly grown into one of the best nightspots in town. Hesitant city folk can survey the situation from the second-story ledge: whirling cowboys and cowgirls, mechanical bull riders, huge jumbo screens playing country music videos, and over 35,000 square feet of boot-scootin' action. —BM

Golden City

920 12th St., Golden, 303-279-8092
You're drinking: Legendary Red Ale
You're listening to: Laughing kids, barking dogs
As a college student, I used to think it was cool to sneak in the back entrance of the Coors brewery with my friends and get our three free beers at the tasting room. Then I discovered tiny Golden City, which looks like just another house in an older neighborhood until you discover it's a house with great, strong beer on tap, a brewery in its garage, and a bar area in its backyard, loaded with neighbors playing board games and cards. I never went back to Colorado Kool-Aid again. —J. Dorris

The D Note

7519 Grandview Ave., Arvada, 303-463-6683
You're drinking: New Belgium 2 Below
You're listening to: Live blues
Part of the urban renewal that transformed Olde Town Arvada (yes, with the E) from blighted shell to vibrant, borderline-hip downtown area, the D Note is proof that even suburbs can be cool. Sundays might be the best night: beginner-friendly salsa lessons followed by a smokin' Latin jam by bands like Conjunto Colores. New Urbanism gets dinged for its irritably shiny United Colors of Benetton approach, but the D Note's wide-open vibe scores: Everyone's welcome, whether you want to nurse a cold one in the back or jump on stage to sing a blues standard with the local trio. Just make sure you can hold a tune.—JL

The Little Bear

27895 Highway 74, Evergreen, 303-674-9991
You're drinking: Coors Original, on draft
You're listening to: Live country, blues, and rock
This decades-old establishment feels like a Colorado bar should: warm, well worn, and a bit rough around the edges. Onion rings and burgers are served from a window and cold beers from the bar; every square inch of the wooden walls and booths is covered in name carvings, which isn't that surprising since everyone at the Bear looks like he carries a knife—pocket or otherwise.—LK

Auld Dubliner Irish Pub

2796 S. Broadway, Englewood, 303-781-0864
You're drinking: A Black and Tan
You're listening to: Alternating Rolling Stones and Irish folk tunes
This stand-alone pub is small—you'll brush elbows with strangers in a cozy, toast-your-neighbor kind of way—and the interior is dim and antiquey, but that's exactly what makes it a welcoming watering hole should you find yourself south of the city on a blustery winter night.—J. Dugdale

Warhorse Inn

19420 E. Mainstreet, Parker, 303-841-4018
You're drinking: A Parker Paralyzer (dark rum, vodka, gin, Coke, and sweet and sour)
You're listening to: Blues, lots of blues
This former feed store has soul: worn wooden floors, brick, and darkened leather, and a painted horse above the doorway. More impressively, it's survived more than two decades on Parker's Mainstreet.

Baker Street Pub

7260 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood, 303-953-5510
You're drinking: Baker Street Nut Brown
You're listening to: Live jazz and rock
Despite being a Sherlock Holmes-themed chain in the middle of a GAP-addicted new urbanism development, the Baker Street Pub is actually cool. No, really. The mass-produced tchotchkies are kept to a minimum, there's a great view of the ice-skating rink outside, and, most important, the bar's packed every night with a laid-back, 25- to 45-year-old crowd focused on drinking, talking, and playing cards.—PD

Old Louisville Inn

740 Front St., Louisville 303-666-9982
You're drinking: Boddingtons
You're listening to: U2, Sinead O'Connor
The copper, tobacco-spit gutter lining the bottom of the antique bar at the Old Louisville Inn should give you an idea the kind of history it's seen: mining strikes, the Ludlow Massacre, a brothel in the back, and an era when firing your six-shooter inside would only get you thrown out, not arrested. —KL

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