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Rejoice, all ye beer drinkers, for thy cups overfloweth! Nearly 30 breweries have opened in Denver since February 2013, the last time we comprehensively covered the Mile High City beer scene. Here, we highlight 10 of our favorites—and take a look at local beer trends, seven beer-cations, and the end of suburban beer deserts.
The Rise Of Craft
What’s behind the explosion of new breweries in Denver?
When Great Divide Brewing Co. planted its production facility in a 5,000-square-foot former dairy processing plant at 22nd and Arapahoe streets in 1994, Denver had exactly six craft breweries. Today, over 50 live within Denver’s city limits—more than many states can claim—and Great Divide is expanding to a five-acre campus in RiNo to meet demand.
Sure, craft brewing is a national trend, but it’s also a particularly Colorado thing. Consider: While craft beer accounts for 11 percent of all beer made nationally, in Colorado, about 20 percent of all beer made comes from craft brewers—an impressive feat when you consider we’re also home to Coors. Colorado also ranks third nationally in total craft breweries (235…and counting), breweries per capita (6.1 per 100,000 legal-age residents), and total barrels of craft beer produced annually (almost 1.7 million, or roughly 421 million pints). And we lead the nation in craft beer sales per capita.
The reasons behind this explosion are as varied as the taps at Falling Rock Tap House, but brewers seem to agree on a few elements. After a few pioneers (Boulder Beer, Wynkoop Brewing Company) established the brewpub model in the late 1970s and ’80s and GABF was created in 1982, others joined the movement: Great Divide (1994), Bull & Bush Brewery (1997), and, in Aurora, Dry Dock Brewing Co. (2005). Now, a couple of decades in, those early breweries have bred a second generation of talented and knowledgeable beer makers. Many who cut their teeth at these established Denver breweries have begun opening their own spots.
It doesn’t hurt that the birth of hip neighborhoods in former warehouse wastelands has created havens for Denver’s booming population of thirsty millennials who want to drink craft beer—and walk or bike home. Further, whether it’s beer or coffee or booze or handmade leather goods, Denverites worship at the same altar of local artisanship that Portland and Brooklyn residents do.
Colorado’s liquor laws have also made it easier to develop a brand beyond the brewery: Since supermarkets can each only sell beer above 3.2 percent ABW at one of their locations in the state, liquor stores have become launching pads for many smaller breweries. “Mom-and-pop stores have been very good about carrying a broad selection,” says Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder-based Brewers Association. “So even the smallest breweries have had a place to get their beers distributed.” This is also part of why the Colorado Brewers Guild officially opposes any change to the law that would allow supermarkets to carry full-strength beer.
But can this seemingly exponentially expanding industry sustain such growth? Probably not, says Great Divide founder Brian Dunn. At some point, the market will become so competitive it will be difficult for new breweries to break in. “But,” says Dunn, “about 65 percent of all draft beer sold [in Denver] isn’t craft beer. So that leads me to think there’s still a lot of room for growth.” Here’s hoping.
10 New Denver Breweries You Need To Visit
Little Machine Beer
Little Machine’s circular bar—“C” for Colorado, perhaps?
Est. October 2015
2015 Production: 150 barrels
2924 W. 20th Ave., 303-284-7893, littlemachinebeer.com
? Company mottos often feel more aspirational than accurate, but Jefferson Park’s Little Machine Beer nails it with its oxymoronic slogan: “Laid-back hard-core.” “We like to take it easy,” says Brett “Brettman” Williams, co-founder and head brewer—and that’s apparent when you walk into the casual taproom. Generously spaced tables dot the concrete floor, and the room’s centerpiece is a circular bar that’s not only unique but also facilitates conversation among the barflies sipping Little Machine’s dozen or so brews. The goal, says Williams, is to make a lot of fun, different beers. Sometimes, when brewers say their beers are “fun” or “different,” it actually means the brews are “bad” or “undrinkable.” That’s not the case here, where the sessionable Colorado Stock Ale (made from all Colorado ingredients) and the funky black currant kettle sour (more tart than sour) and the big, bold coffee-infused oatmeal stout all rate as tasty. If Williams and his team have done their jobs—and we think they have—after a couple of their soulful brews, you’ll feel laid-back, and hard-core, all at the same time. —Geoff Van Dyke
Comrade Brewing Company
Est. April 2014
2015 Production: Less than 1,000 barrels
7667 E. Iliff Ave., Suite F, 720-748-0700, comradebrewing.com
? It’s a bit of a haul to Comrade Brewing, situated as it is in Denver’s southeast hinterlands. Serious sippers, though, know there’s at least one damned good reason to make the trek: Comrade’s Superpower IPA, the fresh hop variety of which won silver at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2014 and ’15. And Comrade’s taproom is one of the only places you can buy what’s often been cited as Denver’s best IPA and the 10 or so other brews on tap from brewmaster Marks Lanham. Lanham, who has brewed all over the West, has established an IPA-heavy menu at Comrade—one he’s constantly tweaking based on the changing flavor profile of hops mostly from the Pacific Northwest. Comrade also mixes in playful spins, like spicy Yellow Fever Jalapeño Blonde Ale and Koffee Kream Stout, and upgraded its capacity to 3,000 barrels in January. But the brewery has no plans to package its beer—yet. Because if you could pick up a six-pack of its IPA at the liquor store, you might not make the trek to the taproom. And where’s the fun in that? —Spencer Campbell
Fiction Beer Company
Beer, books, and games at Fiction Beer Company
Est. September 2014
2015 Production: 400 barrels
7101 E. Colfax Ave., 720-456-7163, fictionbeer.com
? Once upon a time, there was a man named Ryan Kilpatrick who loved beer. The accountant loved beer so much he figured he’d try brewing it at home. By his second batch, he knew he was onto something, so he started keeping detailed recipe notes. Fast-forward six years: On September 20, 2014, Kilpatrick and his wife, Christa, opened Fiction Beer Company on a stretch of East Colfax that was, at the time, a bit of a beer desert. “There wasn’t anything in this part of Denver,” Kilpatrick says. “Our goal was really to be a neighborhood brewery that would have a regular clientele.” On that front, Fiction has succeeded: The South Park Hill location is a magnet for those who live nearby and can walk—and even bring their kids by stroller—to the cozy taproom. The decor, while echoing many of the de rigueur tropes of neighborhood craft breweries, distinguishes itself with soft couches and, you guessed it, lots and lots of books. As for the beer itself, Kilpatrick is an inveterate experimenter (pear cream ale with caraway, anyone?) who is not happy simply turning out West Coast–style hop bombs. Among Fiction’s 10 rotating taps you might find an eight percent ABV chocolate milk stout brewed with green tea or a saison made with the yeast used in sour beers (Brettanomyces) and rosehips. Given the brewery’s initial success, the Kilpatricks hope to double production to around 800 barrels by early 2017. We’re eager to see the next chapter in this couple’s grand adventure. —Geoff Van Dyke
Call To Arms Brewing Co.
Est. July 2015
2015 Production: 300 barrels
4526 Tennyson St., 720-328-8258, calltoarmsbrewing.com
? Old World meets New World at seven-month-old Call To Arms Brewing Co. Think a handcrafted wood bar alongside digital menus and old-school ales with contemporary twists, like the German Zoiglbier. Owner-brewers Jesse Brookstein, Jon Cross, and Chris Bell bring 22 years of combined experience—most recently from Boulder’s Avery Brewing Co.—to this Tennyson Street spot, and you’ll taste their know-how in everything from the Oats and Hose, a goes-down-easy oatmeal porter, to the nutty Vienna lager. Pair your beer of choice with modern grub (wood-fired pizza and street tacos) from Mas Kaos, which, at press time, was slated to open next door this month. A building expansion will bring additional seating and games such as shuffleboard in the coming months. The digital beer lists (you can order off a regular ol’ menu, too) also show how many barrels of each particular beer remain in the bar, so you can be sure to get that Dunkelweizen you adore before the final keg is kicked. Even if it is, there’s always something new to discover: Call To Arms taps as many as three new beers a week. “We love experimenting with new styles,” Brookstein says. And we’re happy to sip, er, support such creative endeavors. —Daliah Singer
De Steeg Brewing
Est. February 2013
2015 Production: 150 barrels
4342 Tennyson St., 303-484-9698, desteegbrewing.com
? Attention, hop heads: Don’t come to De Steeg looking for an IPA. You typically won’t find one. You will find a single-barrel brewing system churning out an admirable collection of flavorful, potent brews from 33-year-old engineer turned brewer-owner Craig Rothgery. De Steeg favors Belgian-style beers, and with a few exceptions, the brews start at about seven percent and go up from there. The top-selling French saison and Het Huis (the house beer) are the only permanent fixtures among De Steeg’s eight taps; Rothgery rotates what’s pouring from the others regularly, choosing from his nearly 100 beer recipes. One month you might find a saison noir—the next, a beer-wine hybrid. Of course, you have to find De Steeg first. The modest 40-seat hangout, which gets its name from the Dutch word for “alley,” is tucked behind the Dailey Method barre studio on Tennyson Street. Once you find the front door (or is it the back door?), you’ll be treated to customer service practically unmatched in the city. Whether he’s projecting the Broncos game in his bright taproom (despite his loyalty to the Green Bay Packers) or opening early for stray tasters, Rothgery is as eager to pour for curious patrons as they are to sip the fruits (and barley and hops) of his labor. —Lindsey R. McKissick
Est. April 2015
2015 Production: 350 barrels
2736 Welton St., Suite 102, 303-297-1276, spangalangbrewery.com
? Spangalang might well be the perfect example of Denver’s second wave of craft brewers. Co-owners Taylor Rees, Austin Wiley, and Darren Boyd collectively tallied more than 20 years of experience at Denver craft stalwarts such as Denver Beer Co. and Great Divide Brewing Co., where they all met, before deciding to start their own shop in Five Points. (As a nod to the neighborhood’s history, the brewery’s name comes from the musical term for jazz’s classic cymbal rhythm.) The brewery’s taproom, next to beloved soul food joint Welton Street Cafe, bustles with locals. You’ll have to get there early to get a seat at the 26-foot-long wooden bar, where Rees, Wiley, and Boyd pull pints of their popular D-Train IPA and GABF gold-medal-winning Sugarfoot, a low-octane (4.5 percent ABV) Belgian table beer that beautifully balances coriander and citrus. If you’d like a little more room to spread out, there are plenty of bistro tables with ample space for tasters of Spangalang’s rotating list of 12 beers. D-Train and Sugarfoot are always on tap, as are a saison, an imperial stout, a standard American IPA, and a double IPA. The rest, Rees admits, are a reflection of the brewers’ varied and ever-changing interests. You’ll usually find a Belgian or two since Spangalang’s square tanks are well-suited for the style, but you might also find something made with local fruit, like this fall’s Peach Table Beer, made with Palisade peaches. What you won’t find in this cozy community alehouse is pretension, and that alone is a good reason to keep coming back. —KC
Beryl’s Beer Co.
Est. June 2014
2015 Production: 300 barrels
3120-C Blake St., 720-420-0826, berylsbeerco.com
? One of about 10 breweries sprinkled like confetti throughout RiNo, Beryl’s Beer Co. looks a lot like its peers in this burgeoning beer district: roll-up garage door, concrete floors, a lot of stainless steel. What sets it apart is what’s in your glass. The brewery specializes in barrel-aging, a process that involves letting brews sit for several months in old whiskey, tequila, and wine barrels. (Hence, “Beryl’s,” a play on the word barrel as well as beryl, a mineral that forms the base of Colorado’s state gemstone, aquamarine.) About half of Beryl’s 15 taps pour barrel-aged beers; the same beers, pre-aging, make up most of the other taps, so you can compare the flavors. Unlike most barrel-aged beers, Beryl’s brews are relatively low alcohol, hovering between five and seven percent. Order a few four-ounce pours to find your favorite. Just make sure one of them is the 1876, an easy-drinking American ale made from all Colorado ingredients. A dollar from every pint of 1876 purchased goes to the Denver Beer Olympics, which raises money for leukemia and lymphoma research. So you can drink good beer and do good all at once. —KC
Baere Brewing Company
Est. July 2014
2015 Production: 250 barrels
320 Broadway, 303-733-3354, baerebrewing.com
? Sandwiched between a tax service shop and a Chinese restaurant in an old strip mall on Broadway, 18-month-old Baere is easy to overlook. Its rotation of 10 to 15 clean, easy-drinking brews, however, is not. Homebrewers Kevin Greer and Ryan Skeels opened Baere with a slight Belgian bent (think saisons and farmhouse ales). But their aim from the beginning was to create a neighborhood gathering place, an ode to olden-day beer houses. They’ve succeeded. On any given Saturday, expect to find twentysomethings catching up in the unembellished Baker taproom over pints of Baere-liner Weisse and a game of Connect Four while middle-aged couples enjoy slightly tangy Laws Whiskey barrel–aged Brett Hoppy Browns. “We’re not focused on telling customers what they like,” Greer says. But the pair is focused on the Colorado community. Baere (an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “barley”) uses hops from High Wire Hops Farm in Paonia and malted barley from Alamosa’s Colorado Malting Company. And every month, the brewery donates a percentage of gross sales to a rotating lineup of small, local nonprofits, such as Denver Food Rescue. —DS
Declaration Brewing’s Hardtack Copper Ale
Est. February 2015
2015 Production: 2,000 to 2,500 barrels
2030 S. Cherokee St., 303-955-7410, declarationbrewing.com
? Inside Declaration’s colorful production facility and taproom a few blocks off South Broadway, there’s a lab many engineering programs would be jealous of. That’s partly because Declaration’s founders are essentially a stand-alone science department: Founder Michael Blandford, a Colorado School of Mines biochemical engineering alum, spent years as a water engineer for the oil and gas industry; Blandford’s former instructor Greg Schlichting, Declaration’s head brewer, holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is helping establish Mines’ brewing lab; and head taster and quality control manager Paul Ogg, a GABF steward and Mines professor of biochemical engineering, is one of the top yeast scientists in the Western hemisphere. (In fact, Declaration is one of the only craft breweries in Colorado that propagates its own yeast; it also has a water lab that lets Blandford recreate water from anywhere in the world.) But Declaration’s most impressive credential is the one flowing from the taps: a constantly rotating selection of beers, from the bright, crisp Purloined Pearl Pale Ale to a notable selection of German and Belgian brews. Just a year old, Declaration’s cozy taproom boasts 40 taps, but they’re only pouring from 20 right now. (Only.) They’re also canning six beers. So if you fall in love with, say, the Veiled Vixen Strawberry Wheat while you’re watching the game, you’ll be able to find it in about 50 liquor stores around town. —KC
Epic Brewing Company
The tasting room at Epic Brewing Company is regularly packed.
Est. July 2013
2015 Production: 12,000 barrels
3001 Walnut St., 720-539-7410, epicbrewing.com
Like so many Denver residents these days, Epic is a transplant. Yet the good-natured brewers at this Salt Lake City–born brewery, which opened in RiNo in 2013, have had no trouble making friends with the Colorado crowd: Their 40-plus varieties of beer mean nearly everyone, from the newbie to the snob, is satisfied. The former can try several wheat beers, pale ales, and lagers (our favorite is the Los Locos Lager, a Corona on steroids that’s brewed for Los Chingones) while the latter will find an impressive selection of “big beers.” On a recent visit, more than half of the 25 options on tap weighed in at over seven percent ABV. That’s due in part to the brewery’s love of barrel-aging. There’s plenty of room to store brews as they age, too, in the nearly 20,000-square-foot building that was once an auto shop. Epic carried the minimalist vibe into the building’s current life; the only standouts are the lime green walls and funnel-shaped light fixtures, which resemble the bottoms of fermentation tanks. And unlike a lot of craft breweries around town, there’s ample seating here, thanks to 13 stools at the polished bar, several long tables, and clusters of comfy chairs. Between the couches around the fireplace, the organic Kettle Head popcorn for $2, and the $40 Gauntlet sampler of all the beers on tap (for sharing, please), you might just make like a good transplant and never leave. —MCF
Why we drink outside.
There are few things more pleasurable than drinking a cold beer on a hot day under the sun and blue sky and, maybe, a couple of clouds. The Bavarians knew as much, and thus the biergarten was, ahem, begotten in the 1800s. In our great nation the term has, sadly, lost some of its Teutonic grandeur, but the great joy of having a brew, preferably in a large stein, outside has not been diminished—especially not in Denver, where a profusion of beer gardens have recently opened. Our versions cater to a variety of tastes (and maybe stretch the definition of what a beer garden is). The ne plus ultra of Mile High City biergartens must be the Lowry Beer Garden (pictured), which opened four years ago and pairs Colorado craft beer with the kind of tasty, unpretentious pub grub—brats, hot dogs, “super giant” pretzels with cheese—beer gardens are known for. Rhein Haus started pouring this past fall (and offers indoor bocce courts, which may create in some patrons a bit of nationalistic cognitive dissonance). My favorite of the bunch, however, may be Recess (opened this past September), which, inside, doesn’t feel much like a beer garden at all. But the actual “garten” is such a cool urban space—replete with old shade trees, terraced seating, and light bulbs hung to provide a soft, warm glow—that all we need now is the temperature to rise a few degrees so we can have a cold one al fresco. —Geoff Van Dyke
—Embedded photo courtesy of Lowry Beer Garden
Outside The Lines
The end of the suburban beer desert.
When I moved from an apartment in Congress Park a few years ago to the ’burbs north of Denver, the area was something of a craft beer wasteland. While hip new breweries popped up everywhere in Denver, suburban beer drinkers, for the most part, were stuck with whatever was on draft at Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom. The good news is that soaring rental prices and more competition in the Denver market have led prospective brewers to look outside the Mile High City when considering new venues. (Today, there are 10 breweries within five miles of my house.) The bad news? The beer is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not that you can’t find good beer in the suburbs. In the past two years, breweries in Aurora, Parker, Wheat Ridge, Lone Tree, and Lafayette have won at GABF. But I’ve found you’re just as likely to find beer that tastes like something your neighbor whipped up in his garage. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality.
And maybe that’s OK: The more I visit the breweries near my house, the more I realize the quality of the beer isn’t really the point. These breweries are as much about community as they are about craft beer. They’re gathering spots where you can sample a beer made in your own backyard and talk to the person who brewed it. And the company you keep—a neighbor, or the parents of your daughter’s friend—while drinking that nondescript IPA is worth as much as whatever complexity might be absent in the beer. Of course, I still like good beer, too. Which is why when I want to feel connected to my community and drink exceptional beer, I head to Twenty Brew TapHouse (pictured), a simple and welcoming spot seven blocks from my house that boasts—wait for it—20 taps. True, Old Chicago is just four blocks away and has more options. But at Twenty Brew, the only thing coming through those lines is the very finest Colorado craft beer. —Chris Outcalt
—Embedded image courtesy of Twenty Brew Taphouse
What’s In A Name?
As Colorado’s craft beer industry grows, so do the number of debates over naming rights.
While there’s plenty of upside to Denver’s craft beer boom (new opportunities for brewers, more beer for us!), industry crowding in Colorado and nationally has led to some squabbles over brewery and beer names. Chalk it up to state and federal trademarks. The trouble with trademarks is that if you own one and are aware of someone else using the same name but don’t do anything about it, it’s much more difficult to claim it’s yours in court later. (See dumpster, thermos, etc.) That’s partly why beer makers, who are generally a pretty amicable bunch, have found themselves making uncomfortable phone calls or sending cease-and-desist letters to fellow brewers. Of course, some people are also just, well, a little uptight. Here, a look at some of Colorado’s naming spats—you decide who the real winners are. —KC
—In 2013, Former Future Brewing Company changed the names of its beers before it opened because of a conflict with San Diego’s Societe Brewing Company. Societe took issue with Former Future’s use of the Harlot and the Rousabout (Societe also makes beers with those names)—and the fact that the Denver brewery named its beers after occupations or types of people, which Societe also did. Wanting to be unique, Former Future took a different approach to naming its beers.
—Renegade Brewing Company changed the name of its Ryeteous Rye IPA to Redacted Rye IPA in response to a phone call, and then a cease-and-desist letter, from Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery in New York City. Sixpoint had been making its Righteous Ale since 2005 (and owns the trademark).
—Denver Pearl Brewing Company became Platt Park Brewing a few months after opening to avoid a fight with Pabst Brewing Co. Yes, the maker of the iconic bad beer of hipsters everywhere owns the trademark for the long-dead Texas brand Pearl Brewing Company. (Well, mostly dead: Pabst still brews some Pearl and Pearl Light.)
—Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Co. gave up on its attempt to trademark the term “Nitro” (as in Milk Stout Nitro) in 2014 following official challenges from the likes of Diageo, owner of Guinness—and unofficial irritation from beer lovers who consider the word a general term used to describe the process of using nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide in beer.
—In 2004, Avery Brewing Co. and California’s Russian River Brewing Company realized they both made Belgian ales called Salvation. The breweries each kept the name and collaborated on a new Belgian they dubbed Collaboration not Litigation Ale.
—Embedded image: Courtesy of Renegade Brewing Company
What’s in vogue for Colorado craft beer?
1 Bigger is better Now that everyone and their mother (and father and sister) want a taste of Colorado craft beer, industry trailblazers have expanded to meet demand: Breckenridge Brewery abandoned its Kalamath Street facility for Littleton, where it settled on 12 acres (and was shortly thereafter purchased by Anheuser-Busch); Avery Brewing Co.’s year-old, $30 million facility in Gunbarrel was five years in the making. Meanwhile, Great Divide Brewing Co. will roll out its five-acre RiNo development over the next several years. Don’t worry, the taproom is already open.
2 Have a drink with your drink Beer ingredients continue to become more obscure; grapefruit and chrysanthemum, for instance, were popular IPA flavors this past summer. Our favorite addition, though, goes beyond fruits and flowers: Brewmasters have been adding other drinks, such as the tea infused in Mockery Brewing’s beers, during the brewing process.
3 Serve you right First Draft Taproom & Kitchen opened in July in RiNo as one of Denver’s first pour-your-own bars; the spot allows patrons to pour their own tastes of beer, cider, and wine from 40 different taps. At about the same time, LoDo’s Nativ Hotel installed a similar system in its bar and restaurant, Pourtions Keg & Kitchen. And plenty of introductory homebrewing classes (try Westminster’s Do Your Brew for on-site brewing) up the do-it-yourself ante.
4 Pucker up Once a cult favorite, sours have hit the mainstream. For proof, look to the room designed for sour beer storage in Great Divide’s RiNo taproom; New Belgium Brewing Company’s sour-focused brewery set to open in the Source Hotel in 2017; and Trve Brewing Co.’s new, aptly named Acid Temple production facility, dedicated to wild and sour bottled beers. —Mary Clare Fischer
Denver’s new generation of breweries has a rich lineage. —Natasha Gardner
Beer + pizza = love. Three chefs’ formulas.
Who: Max MacKissock, chef and co-owner of three-month-old Bar Dough, and Brigitte Brown, Bar Dough’s cicerone
Pizza: Mountain Man with Gorgonzola and Montasio, guanciale, onion, pistachio, and Calabrian chile honey
Beer: Trinity Brewing’s Seven Day Golden Sour
Why: “The Seven Day cuts through the richness of the Gorgonzola. It cleanses the palate,” MacKissock says. “The lemon notes of the beer almost act like seasoning on the pie.”
Who: Alan Henkin, Cart-Driver’s beverage director
Pizza: Clam pie with little necks, pancetta, and roasted garlic
Beer: Prost Brewing Weissbier
Why: “The beer’s mostly wheat-based malt content lends crisp, light, and sometimes fruity flavors that complement the pizza’s richness. These beers are usually highly carbonated, which helps reset the palate.”
Who: Chris Donato, operations director of Pizzeria Locale
Pizza: Mais with mozzarella, crème fraîche, ham, corn, garlic, and black pepper
Beer: Twisted Pine La Petite Saison
Why: “The Twisted Pine is well carbonated and full-bodied, allowing it to cut through the rich and salty flavors of the Mais. The saison’s chamomile and white pepper mix well with the rich mozzarella and charred crust.” —Amanda M. Faison
—Embedded image courtesy of Pizzeria Locale
[The Weekender] Glenwood Springs
Hot springs and Hanging Lake aren’t the only attractions in Glenwood Springs anymore. Between Glenwood and nearby Carbondale, the area now boasts four breweries, two of which opened in the last two years. By our math, that’s four more reasons to get in the car and head up the hill.
Stay: Established in 1893, Hotel Colorado is one of the state’s most historic properties (Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft stayed there) and sits across the river from Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. From $99 a night
Eat: Situated along the Colorado River, Grind is a burger joint with a farm-to-table ethos. The five-year-old restaurant sources its meats—beef, pork, chicken, bison, and lamb—sustainably (often from local ranchers such as Crystal River Meats) and hand-grinds them on-site. This locals’ favorite puts as much care into selecting the 20 craft beers on tap, with a range that spans from Colorado standbys such as Odell’s IPA to Funkwerks’ hoppy saison.
Drink: Started by former AC Golden Brewing Company darling Troy Casey in 2013, Casey Brewing and Blending’s tasting room is only open on the first Saturday of the month. You’ll need to buy a $20 ticket online (the money goes to local nonprofits) to get your mitts on Casey’s popular sours and saisons, made using 99.9 percent Colorado ingredients and vintage-oak barrels for aging and fermentation. Carbondale’s Roaring Fork Beer Company (pictured), on the other hand, is open Monday to Saturday, and you won’t be disappointed in the IPAs, pale ales, lagers, and seasonal ales from brewer-founder Chase Engel, owner of eight GABF medals.
Do: Burn off those beers with a hike up Red Mountain. Whether you opt for the gently graded seven-mile march up an old service road or the butt-kicking route through the switchbacks on trails, your reward is a sweeping view of the valley and Mt. Sopris. —Alison Osius
—Embedded image courtesy of Roaring Fork Beer Company
[The Daytrip] Tour de Sips
You could fill every Saturday in 2016 shuffling between Denver breweries. But why not expand the adventure—and still be home for dinner? The Front Range boasts a fleet of new beer makers worth visiting. These will get you started.
Five new breweries sprouted in Fort Collins in the past year, bringing the city’s total to almost 20. OK, so one of them isn’t technically new, but it’s certainly revitalized. Founded in 1989, Old Colorado Brewing Company—Fort Collins’ first microbrewery—dried up in 2002, but this year Brandon Neckel (the grandson of the original owner) relocated the brewery a few miles to the north and started pulling taps again in downtown Wellington’s historic grain elevator. Old Colorado rotates through 75 different recipes, including some of the originals from its early days.
Driving through Greeley, you often get a whiff of, well, you know. But today, the aromas of hops and barley fill the air around the University of Northern Colorado. Wiley Roots Brewing Company started operations in a horse barn in 2013 before opening a taproom in downtown Greeley. The beer outfit quickly snagged GABF honors—2013 (bronze) and 2015 (gold)—in the American-Style Wheat Beer category for its flagship brew, the Super 77 Wheat.
When Estes Park officials revised the town’s laws to allow microbreweries without restaurants attached to them in 2014, homebrewers Nick Smith and Nathan Weber brought their beer operation from Nathan’s basement to the public. Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company, which opened in July, treats patrons to eight varieties—including the potent 8.4 percent ABV N8’s Heli-Brown and the popular Rye Pale Ale—in a converted gas station overlooking, you guessed it, Lumpy Ridge.
The Post Brewing Co. is best-known for its fried chicken, and its light Howdy Beer Pilsner—a 2014 GABF silver medalist in the American-Style category—is the perfect complement. (While you’re out there, try Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., whose German-style Altbier won a 2015 GABF bronze medal.)
Since opening in 2013, Cannonball Creek Brewing Company has scored GABF awards in three consecutive years. Stop by and taste success by ordering the Featherweight Pale (silver in 2013, bronze in 2015) and the Black 28 (an IPA that won gold in 2014). —LRM
—Embedded images courtesy of Lafayette’s Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co.; David Helden
[The Long Haul] Durango
From stalwarts such as Durango Brewing Company (established in 1990) and Carver Brewing Co. (1988) to riverside newcomer Animas Brewing Co. (2014), this southwestern Colorado town’s diverse craft breweries are worth the six-hour drive. Grab a pint nearly anywhere, and you’ll soon see why they call it the City of Brewerly Love.
Stay: Rent one of Nobody’s Inn’s four private second-floor apartments on Main Street—winter rates start at just $119 a night—and use the money you save on beer.
Eat: Thanks to three-year-old Brew Pub & Kitchen, you don’t have to venture outside the brewery scene to score made-from-scratch grub like a Cubano with beer-braised pork or Colorado striped bass served over spaghetti squash—paired with rotating small-batch Colorado selections
Drink: Steam Engine Lager, from Steamworks Brewing Co., has won six GABF medals and took silver at the World Beer Cup; if there’s a Dry Dock collaboration brew on tap, try that too. A few miles south of downtown, wind-powered Ska Brewing Company often serves its brews with live music.
Do: Listen to local brewers talk about their craft, enjoy live bluegrass and a catered meal, and sample to your palate’s delight during one of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s Brew Train events (June 12, September 4, and October 2). $99 to $149 —Jessica LaRusso
—Embedded image courtesy of Yvonne Lashmett