Move over, hazy IPAs: Front Range breweries are producing a bounty of celebrated Belgian-style beers right now, an apt trend as we move into the sweltering days of summer in Colorado. In fact, out of the 40 awards Colorado craft breweries earned at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, seven—nearly 20 percent—were for Belgian-style beers.
If you’re wondering what makes this type of suds so special, the biggest difference between Belgian beers and most others revolves around yeast. All beers need it, but most brews get their flavor from hops and malt, leaving yeast to sit in the shadows, so to speak. In Belgians beers, however, yeast wears a lampshade on its head and dances on the bar. There are many styles of beer inspired by those produced in Belgium, but they all have bold yeast contents that conjure the complexities and depth for which the styles are renowned. Kick off the summer season then by sipping Belgians from these six breweries, five of which are now opened for dine-in service; all offer beer to-go.
Jon Howland’s first encounter with a Belgian brewery, during a cycling trip across Europe, stuck with him when he returned home to Colorado. His dreams of owning a neighborhood brewpub dedicated to the style came true six years ago. Now he produces Belgians in myriad varieties, many of which have won awards over the years, and for good reason. Pair a pint of his tart and crisp Soleil Saison with a homemade soft pretzel or a plate of twice-fried Belgian-style frites. 820 Main St., Louisville, 720-638-1623 (open Sunday–Friday, 4–7:30 p.m., and Saturday, 12–7:30 p.m., for dine-in service)
Like 12 Degree’s Howland, a visit to a Belgian brewery while he was working as a tech salesman changed Charlie Gottenkieny’s life. He began homebrewing when he got back to Colorado in hopes of producing the pints he fell in love with abroad. In 2016, he opened Bruz, which offers 17 iterations on tap—the most expansive Belgian beer list along the Front Range. The success of Gottenkieny’s pub inspired him to launch a second location off East Colfax Avenue in 2019. “We do not compromise,” he says. “We stick with fermentation-focused, yeast-driven beers.” Try the Bee Bop De Miel, infused with honey, or the Beet Down, fermented with red beets, at either location. 1675 W 67th Ave., #100, 303-650-2337; 1495 York St., #101 (both open daily from 2–9 p.m. for dine-in service)
In 2017, Zach Nichols opened Cellar West’s first taproom in Boulder, but moved the operation to a larger space in Lafayette in 2018, where he serves Belgian farmhouse-style beers that speak to his Midwestern upbringing. “I grew up on farms in Wisconsin, where work and life were inseparable,” he says. “I love that the style utilizes as many local ingredients as possible.” To that end, Nichols works with Colorado farmers and maltsters to infuse his creations with local ingredients. His Westfield, a saison made with yeast captured and cultured in the original Boulder brewery, won a silver medal at the 2019 GABF. Sip on it with a side of cheese curds, another tribute to Nichols’ Wisconsin roots. 778-B W Baseline Rd., Lafayette, 720-465-9346 (open Monday–Friday, 4–9 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday, 1–9 p.m., for dine-in service)
Gordon Schuck and Brad Lincoln met at Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, where both were studying brewing science. Schuck had already won a national homebrewing gold medal for a saison, and Lincoln, an accountant, had turned to the craft as a release from number-crunching. After they moved to Colorado, the duo combined forces in 2010 to launch Fort Collins’ Funkwerks, where they brew Belgian specialties like the White, featuring hints of coriander, chamomile, and orange zest, or the tart Raspberry Provincial. 1900 E. Lincoln Ave., Unit B, Fort Collins, 970-482-3865 (open daily, from 11 a.m.–8 p.m., for dine-in service)
The Belgian family of beers encompasses hundreds of different beer styles. One of them, lambic, is particularly majestic—and challenging to execute. In fact, only one brewery in the United States devotes itself entirely to lambic-style brews: Primitive. The three-year-old brewery’s founders, Lisa and Brandon Boldt, built a large, shallow container called a koelschip that is used to capture wild yeast, since lambics rely entirely upon spontaneous fermentation. Once wild yeast inoculates the beer, the Boldts move it into oak barrels, where fermentation continues for a year or more; Colorado-grown fruit is often added, too. Primitive currently sells bottles and “bags in boxes” of its beers. One of them, Harbored in the Fuzz: Red Globe Peach, is made with Hotchkiss-grown stone fruit. 2025 Ionosphere St., Longmont, email@example.com (beer available for pick up and delivery only)
This Asheville, North Carolina-born brewery opened a Denver outpost in 2018, and head brewer Brian Grace focuses almost exclusively on Belgians. Last year, Thirsty Monk launched the Woodshed, a sour beer and barrel-aging facility. There, Grace crafts black, red, and golden based sour beers, which he inoculates with wild yeast and bacteria before adding fruit, and eventually blends and bottle conditions the variations. In the taproom, go for the Monk Lite, a low-ABV table beer inspired by the creations of brewer monks, or the Barrel-Aged Tricky Monk, a nine percent-ABV Belgian Trippel with notes of sweet citrus and spice. 1604 E. 17th Avenue, 303-568-9053 (open Tuesday–Thursday, 4–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday, 2–11 p.m., and Sunday, 2–9 p.m., for dine-in service)