Beer-Sighted: Best Brews in Denver
Slake your thirst for the best suds at these standout spots in the Mile High City.
May the Froth Be with You
In Denver, craft beer is not merely a pastime; it’s a celebrated part of the city’s culture. The City of Plains boasts one of the most vibrant beer landscapes in the country, earning it a place of prominence in the region of Colorado referred to as the "Napa Valley of Beer." In a city awash with so many breweries, taprooms, bars and restaurants serving superior suds, making a beer-centric itinerary is a must. Start your schooling with these 12 standouts, where you can slake your thirst for the best brews.
Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
Black Project currently pours just seven beers, but all are beautifully complex, thanks to something called spontaneous fermentation. This age-old process involves capturing wild microbes living in the natural environment and allowing the microorganisms to evolve in a fermentation vessel known as a coolship. It’s nerdy beer science, and the resulting brews are tart, sour and wildly experimental. Secure a bar stool and sip on all seven, including the Elsewhere sour with uninhibited cherry undertones and the Shadow Factory fruity wheat ale refermented with raspberries and cranberries.
Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen
This pub is an ideal pit stop to brush up on beer knowledge over a plate of hearty bites, given its extensive selection of suds and snacks (the hand-cranked sausages are a stellar option). Euclid Hall boasts a dozen beers on tap and another 60 by the can and bottle, but a good way to avoid drowning in indecision is to become familiar with the bar’s system of categorization. The brews are grouped in math terms, so those suds that are slotted under Arithmetic, for example, are easy-breezy pale ales. If you choose from the class of Quantum Mechanics, expect Belgian quads, Imperial stouts and sour IPAs. There’s a Dean’s List, too, crowded with high-proof picks that earn high marks: Avery Hog Heaven barley wine, Gouden Carolus Belgian strong dark ale and the Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, an American Double/Imperial IPA brewed with a massive amount of hops. Grab a bunch of brews and make a beeline for the sidewalk patio strewn with picnic tables.
Alpine Dog Brewing Company
This popular spot proffers a terrific tap list designed to appease every taste, with a trio of year-around beers and an eclectic assemblage of rotators. The brewery’s founder take his suds — and his devotion to Colorado — seriously. "Whether it’s mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking fourteeners or just enjoying a brew and a view, we’re the Alpine Dogs because of our passion for the high country," says owner Gardiner Hammond, who has that motto inked on a chalkboard inside the pub’s relaxed quarters. Indulge in a lazy afternoon by grabbing some beers and one of the brewery’s many board games. Standout suds include an easy-drinking Sex on the Gondola (a farmhouse ale aged in Chardonnay barrels), as well as the Second Anniversary ale (a barrel-aged Imperial stout with vivid notes of chocolate and caramel). Pro tip: Score a sandwich along the route, then settle into a table by the window and sip away the day with a four-ounce taster of every beer.
Farm House at Breckenridge Brewery
Craft beer is the backbone of Breckenridge Brewery’s sprawling 12-acre campus, which boasts the 8,000-square-foot Farm House restaurant and bar, as well as a brewery that hosts tours, a lovely wraparound porch that peers over thicketed open space and a delightful beer garden scattered with shaded picnic tables and lawn games. The restaurant’s centerpiece is a rectangular bar, its shelves stacked to the ceiling with different glassware of varying shapes and sizes. Each vessel is specifically designed to ensure a proper pour from the 48 tap handles, the majority of which unleash a tempting torrent of Breckenridge-brewed suds. The demand is strong; the supply is superlative. Selections include a salted caramel brown ale, a (seasonal) nitro chocolate-orange stout and a tequila barrel-aged wheat ale heavy on the hops and fragrant with tropical fruit. A solid menu of beer-friendly bites (think charcuterie and cheese, sandwiches, elk burgers and chili) furthers the argument to while away the hours here.
Declaration Brewing Company
"Make a statement" is the tagline of this intriguing brewery and tap room. Step inside and you’ll find a winter-themed space splashed with a wall of snowboards listing the selection of beers available (there are a dozen brews on tap and a duo of beer slushies, to boot). Declaration Brewing is the brainchild of geeky scientists who graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and are fiercely committed to cult-status craft beers. Options range from Scottish strong ales and IPAs to wild saisons and wicked-good stouts that pour remarkably well. While there’s no onsite kitchen, sustenance comes by way of a food truck. One is nearly always parked in the beer garden, where you can also find picnic tables and plenty of entertainment in the form of lawn games and Ping-Pong tables.
Little Machine Beer
Located just a few blocks away from Sports Authority Field at Mile High, this 85-seat spot routinely fills up with Broncos fans before and after football games. But don’t dismiss it as simply a sports bar. This brewery and taproom arguably draws just as many craft beer aficionados as football fanatics, thanks to the exceptional — and often experimental — beers dreamed up by the head brewer. Brett Williams’ rotating roster of 14 brews ranges from a tart ale swirled with raspberries to a nitro oatmeal stout with pronounced notes of chocolate and caramel. Opt for the Supercharger double IPA if you spot it; you’ll be rewarded with full-throttled hoppiness offset by gentle hits of citrus and the earthiness of pine. The owners take locally produced to the next level, as all the equipment in the brewing quarters — from the serving tanks to the mills — was built and manufactured in Colorado. Pro tip: Order taster portions of as many beers as you can handle and balance them out with bites from one of the food trucks in the parking lot (from 4 p.m. to close, Tuesday through Sunday).
Station 26 Brewing
The fire pole in Station 26’s taproom is a throwback to the building’s former life as a fire station. But these days, the spray of the fire-hose has been replaced by suds on tap. The superb lineup of brews includes the Tangerine Cream (a straw-gold ale that flaunts crisp hops, a noticeable citrus zing and notes of vanilla) and the Juicy Banger IPA served in a snifter glass and aromatic with tropical fruit flavors. The brewery lacks a kitchen, but a rotating fleet of food trucks offers a robust selection of snacks. Just beyond the building’s massive garage doors is a large courtyard dotted with picnic tables. This communal gathering space buzzes with conversation — and the music of bluegrass bands on the second Sunday of the month. Dogs and kids are welcome.
Baere Brewing Company
Scrunched into a strip mall, this small brewery is squeezed into a row of nondescript storefronts, including a Chinese joint advertising its $1 beers on a neon sign. It’s a hard-to-resist offer, but forego the temptation (there’s plenty of time for drunken noodles later) and instead revel in the coveted small-batch releases at Baere Brewing Company. Flanked by a super-chill taproom embellished with reclaimed wood, this brewery turns out exceptional beers that have limited distribution. More than just a one-trick pony that specializes in a specific style, this spot is awash in liquid assets: stouts, hoppy browns, sours, saisons, farmhouse ales and barrel-aged bombshells. Stellar picks include the Four Grains in the Membrane, a beer that’s aged in barrels from Laws Whiskey House, a local distillery. Another must-try is the Baere-liner Weisse, a crushable tart number that can be amped up with raspberry syrup upon request. The brewery also sells bottles of beer to go, including its fantastic batches of sour browns. Meanwhile, there are a half-dozen other wild and funky bottled beers that you can only drink at the brewery.
There was a unified fist bump across the Mile High City when a trio of beer philosophers — Tyler Rees, Austin Wiley and Darren Boyd — took over a former Denver Motor Vehicles office in Five Points. Their collective creativity has replaced the buzzkill of DMV bureaucracy with the buzz of a lively taproom. The brewing equipment housed in the adjacent brewery doubles as window dressing, and the beers brewed in those barrels have garnered awards — including a Great American Beer Festival gold medal for the Sugarfoot, a Belgian-style table beer. The commendable lineup continues with saisons, wheat ales aged in wine barrels, fruit-forward sours, double IPAs, Belgian-style quads and a brilliant Imperial stout baptized the Nightwalker. In addition to the stellar brews, this spot features plenty of board games to pass the time, as well as live performances and local artwork that reflect the neighborhood’s jazz roots.
Falling Rock Tap House
If the lyrics to "99 Bottles of Beer" still make you stop and ponder the possibilities, you’ve probably never witnessed the shrine to suds at Falling Rock Tap House. This iconic fixture pays homage to hops, oats, barley, rye and yeast with a staggering collection of 2,200 empty beer bottles. These unique decorations are testament to the devotion of founder Chris Black, as this early pioneer of Denver’s now Herculean craft-beer scene consumed most of the brew that once filled the bottles. Slake your own thirst for suds at his bar, where options include 75 beers on tap and a whopping 130 more by the (full) bottle and can. Falling Rock really excels in rare and offbeat selections, but does keep some familiar favorites on tap as well, including Great Divide’s Colette, Stone IPA and Big Sky Moose Drool Brown. Its proximity to Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team) also makes it a prominent destination for pre- and post-game revelry, especially when it’s patio season.
Bull & Bush Brewery
You never quite know what’s brewing in the barrels at this beloved pub. After all, Bull & Bush turn out more than 40 different types of beer each year. The second- generation owners of the "Bull" began an in-house brewing program in 1997 and have since gone on to score a stockpile of awards for their suds. The beer list beckons with its ever-changing jumble of ales, saisons, hoppy Belgians, lagers, stouts, sours and collaboration beers (including a double red ale barrel-aged with sour cherries and figs). A scroll of guest taps enhances the selection, but don’t sleep on the bewitching reserve list, either. It’s the brainchild of co-owner Erik Peterson, a passionate beer scholar who loves to uncap everything that’s wild, weird and wacky.
Epic Brewing Company
Tourists, locals, and weekend warriors from neighboring towns all crowd into this beer emporium for Denver-brewed suds that are some of the best in the Mile High City. Epic’s wide-ranging selection is sorted into groups — Classics, Elevated and Exponential — that give an indication as to what type of brew you’re about to tip back. The Classics involve pale ales, lagers and wheat beers, which are extremely drinkable and ideal for leisurely afternoons. Bar patrons seeking a stronger jolt in their suds step it up with more aggressive creations from the Exponential category like Big Bad Baptist, a thick, bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout with a strong cocoa presence and a 12 percent ABV. The brewery really amps up the buzz with Son of a Baptist, an Imperial stout brewed with more than a dozen coffees from here, there and everywhere.