Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Northern Front Range Brewery Tour (or How to Add 67 New Beers to Your List in 10 Days) – Part II – Denver




Our first brewpub in Denver encompassed what I came to think of as the classic Colorado beer experience: an inviting patio that, with its communal tables, felt like a classic German biergarten, an eclectic mix of folks, lots of bikes parked nearby, dogs under the tables, and a long stainless steel bar with lots of taps serving a superb mix of beers. It’s located near Highland, the “it” Denver neighborhood of the moment, and so is close to all sorts of cool outdoor equipment stores, restaurants and other funkadelia. I only tried one beer (the Pedal Pusher IPA – gotta love the name!) and was impressed: beautiful floral overtones and not too much of a bite.  


“The second largest brewery in Golden” is situated so you can’t see the largest brewery in Golden (that would be Coors), which dominates the valley below this lovely, if slightly touristy town. The fact that you can’t see Coors is only a small part of its charm: it’s a laid back, low-key place where the emphasis is entirely on the beer. (If you want food, you have to order it from a natural market down the street!) It’s got a great vibe, like you’re hanging in someone’s backyard, which isn’t surprising since it’s right in the middle of a neighborhood and it actually IS the backyard of the brewery’s founders. There’s a small indoor seating area, but most of the action is out the gravel patio where virtually everyone is in biking, climbing or other outdoor clothing. People wander in and out refilling growlers. Everyone talks to everyone else. Dogs lounge about it. It’s totally cool and my favorite brewpub in the Denver area.



This is the most non-descript brewery you could imagine. It's located on a corner in a "transitional" neighborhood  where the streets are three lanes wide (plus parking) and people mostly seem to be on their way to someplace else. The facade is brick and the windows are tiny, like those slightly scary looking dive bars. There is an outside patio but considering it's stuck right on the sidewalk in this nonpreposessing neighborhood, it's not that attractive an option. Only the big tanks give away the fact that it's a brewery. Once you walk inside, however, none of that matters. The tap room is perfect: a small bar with a few chairs, additional counter space around the walls, and another few tables around the corner, all with views of the brewery in operation, right down to a couple of guys rolling kegs around (with the inevitable bicycles propped against the tuns). The two bartenders knew their beer very well.

My only complaint about Great Divide (the aesthetic of the exterior isn't a complaint as I could care less: it’s more to make my readers don't avoid it because it’s so Industrial) is the level of alcohol in their beers. Look at the photo at right: there's very little under 7% and quite a few in the 9-10+% range. Some of that is a product of the styles they've chosen to produce, but some of it seems unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong: the beer is very good – the Yeti Imperial Stout, Espresso Aged Oak Yeti, Wolfgang Doppelbock, Hoss Rye Lager were all outstanding. But it’s hard to drink much of their beer at these alcohol levels. We stuck to a few samples and still walked ahead with a buzz!


The granddaddy of Denver brewpubs, Wynkoop (according to our server) hasn’t changed a lick since it opened in 1988. (One of its founders is former Denver Mayor, now Colorado governor John Hickenlooper.) And that’s pretty amazing because they built in an area that was virtually abandoned at the time it was built: a warehouse district that people passed through on their way from the train station downtown. They went whole hog, building a three-level facility with a comedy club in the basement, the brew pub on the first floor, and a pool room on the second floor. Very brave!

We sat outside on the patio, which now features a view of Coors Field just up the street, a big feature of this now hugely revamped area. We ordered a couple of flights and were impressed with most everything, particularly the B3K Black Lager, an excellent version of a German schwarzbier.


In a phrase: great beer but the atmosphere? Meh. It feels like any sports bar anywhere. But really good beer. And kudos to them for serving a lot of beer from other microbreweries. Their beer menu had two pages of their own offerings – plus two pages of other Colorado microbreweries and one page of non-Colorado microbreweries. Located very close to Coors Field, this place must be packed during Rockies’ games.

Other Breweries

There are 22 craft breweries in Denver, according to 5280 Magazine. (Of course, I’d knock a couple of those off the list: Blue Moon, which is a “stealth” microbrewery, and Rock Bottom, a national chain.) I couldn’t get to all of them but did sample a few beers from three other breweries: Dry Dock (one of the craft brewers that uses cans – I tried and like their amber), Prost (which specializes in German beers – Ulla and I were impressed with their dunkel and alt), and Renegade. From the latter, I had their Ryeteous Rye IPA, another in the latest of a series of very good rye beers. It’s now known as Redacted Rye IPA after a complaint from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn. Considering that 1) they’re spelled differently and 2) don’t compete in the same markets, it sounds ridiculous and makes me not want to buy Sixpoints anymore!

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