Colorado's Best Craft Beers

We tasted every commercially distributed craft beer we could track down in Colorado, one of America’s true craft-brewing hot spots. (Yes, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.) Here, in nine categories, we rank the very best.

September 2010

Ladies and gentlemen of Denver and beyond, we are here to report that the state of beer in Colorado is strong! In fact, there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker in the Centennial State—and, if current trends hold, things are only going to get better for the hop heads and the malt mavens among us. (Think: better quality, more diversity, and continuing experimentation.) Consider the numbers: In metro Denver alone, there are more than 20 craft breweries and brewpubs. Add in craft-brewing hot spots like Fort Collins, Lyons, Longmont, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, and it’s clear the Front Range has become the Napa Valley of beer. (Portland, eat your heart out!) This month (the 16th–18th), the 29th Great American Beer Festival descends on our fair city and will offer amazing (and some not-so-amazing) brews from around the world to sample. We decided, a year ago, to do our part to highlight our great state’s contributions to the craft-beer movement and taste just about every commercially distributed beer in Colorado. Yes, we had some late nights and some rough mornings, and we endured the wrath of our jealous colleagues. In the end, we found the very best brews being made here right now—and feel fortunate to be part of this craft-brewing renaissance. Enjoy.

Ratings Key: On a scale of 1–10, we ranked the maltiness and hoppiness of each beer on this list (1 = mild; 10 = aggressive).

The Glossary: A primer on beer terms.

  • ABV: Alcohol by volume. Beer sold in supermarkets in Colorado cannot have an ABV of more than 3.2 percent. A beer with a 10 percent ABV will knock you on your ass.
  • Barley: A cereal grain used to make malt.
  • Hops: The female flower of the hop plant (a close relative of cannabis), which is dried and used to provide bitterness in beer.
  • Malt: Barley that has been soaked in water to germinate and is then heated to quickly stop the process. Malt provides the backbone of flavor in most beers.
  • Yeast: A fungus that converts the sugar in malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide.