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10 Hottest Craft-Brewery Taprooms Around Denver

By Ruth Tobias
July 7, 2014
Photo by: Ruth Tobias

The sheer number of breweries that have opened since we released our guide to the hottest taprooms last March would be mind-boggling in any other city. For Denverites, it’s par for the course. That’s not to say this list needed a total overhaul — on the contrary, many in our original lineup are going even stronger now that summer’s in full swing. But they’re joined by some especially impressive newcomers. 

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Chain Reaction Brewing Company

    The Gist: A former beer writer, Zack Christofferson has spent the past few years using his critical skills to identify and avoid the problems local start-ups have tended to face with respect to supply and demand. As a result, the brewery he opened with his cousin Chad Christofferson just a couple of weeks ago already feels like a hidden gem out in residential Athmar Park, combining a well-thought-out lineup of 16 taps with a laid-back, personal approach to service that makes you feel like you’re kicking it in their garage rather than merely patronizing a business.
    Signature Suds: Six year-round beers include a strikingly elegant pink-peppercorn saison and an orange-cream ale that blossoms with a bit of time in the glass, as well as workhorse styles from pale ale to rye stout.
    Now on Tap: Among the quartet of seasonals, the snappy Lemon IPA grabbed our attention on a recent visit. But the remaining taps are dedicated to ever-changing small batches that proved an even bigger delight, including the delicate Earl Grey Wit and the deliciously balanced Lavender-Sage Belgian Ale.
    The Food: Having recently discovered Brooks Smokehouse Catering at Mu Brewery on East Colfax, we can officially say we’re fans of the Louisiana owner’s honest-to-goodness Southern barbecue. Also making the rounds here are newer names like Street Frites and Churn & Burn, which turns out such funky stuff as pork-belly corn dogs and garlic-dill wings as well as liquid-nitrogen ice cream.    
    Insider’s Tip: Ask the Christoffersons about their plans to bring in local musicians for collaborative one-off brews. Pretty cool.

    902 S. Lipan St.; 303-922-0960

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Coda Brewing Co.

    The Gist: “Fermentation scientist” Luke Smith is a trained chemist; Scott Procop and his wife own Cedar Creek Pub on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Now the trio has joined forces to run this cool little beer lab just steps from the pub, where beakers, jars and apothecary bottles serve both as glassware and as hints to the founders' experimental leanings.
    Signature Suds: Other than being partial to West Coast styles and novel “elixirs” like the Hibiscus Belgian Wit, Procop laughs that he and Smith “haven’t figured out yet” what their house beers will be. But we think we know: the Dogcatcher, a terrific red ale brewed with orange-blossom honey, is already drawing partnership requests from local restaurateurs.
    Now on Tap: Sometime in the next week or so, Coda will be pouring four versions of its Hindenberg American IPA as a small-batch sampler, each infused with a different fruit: grapefruit, pineapple, tangerine and orange. Keep your eyes peeled for a soon-to-launch raspberry-honey saison as well.
    The Food: Cedar Creek’s entire menu of bar bites and burgers is available for delivery right here in the taproom. How’s that for synergy?
    Insider’s Tip: Though a wall-mounted blackboard lists anywhere from five to 10 beers du jour, ask to see the printed menu anyway. That’s where the musical motif suggested by the name returns, in the form of recommended “audio pairings” for many of the song-inspired beers — George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” with the Dogcatcher, for instance.

    2101 N. Ursula Ct., Aurora; 720-324-8529

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Comrade Brewing Co.

    The Gist: This slick, sprawling Southeast Denver operation maintains its cheeky Communist theme with four “rank-and-file” beers as well as a handful of rotating seasonals and one-offs brewed by guest “comrades," including the illustrious Bill Eye (formerly of Dry Dock and Prost).
    Signature Suds: Alongside Yellow Card American Blonde, DEFCON Red and the Superpower IPA, the Koffee Kream milk stout owes its popularity in part to a custom blend from DU institution Kaladi Coffee Roasters.
    Now on Tap: Try the crisp, true-to-style English summer ale Moneypenny, or go for the extremely guilty, cinnamon-creamy pleasure that is American as Apple Pie Malt Liquor — at least until it's replaced on Thursday by a firkin of dry-hopped Caliente DEFCON.
    The Food: Jessie’s Smokin NOLA, Wikipita and Golden Flame Hot Wings, among others, pop up in the strip-mall parking lot. (No sign of a borscht vendor thus far.)
    Insider’s Tip: In fall, Comrade plans to host a series of sensory-analysis classes for budding beer geeks.

    7667 E. Iliff Ave. #F; 720-748-0700

  • Photo by: Adam Larkey Photography

    Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

    The Gist: Though his taproom at RiNo artisanal marketplace The Source is just 10 months old, Chad Yakobson has been building a national cult following since 2010 for his Brettanocmyces-fermented, barrel-aged creations. With a background in viticulture and a master’s degree in brewing and distilling, he’s your go-to guy for wild sours and saisons.
    Signature Suds: Since the variations on that theme are constantly changing, better to ask what’s new than to get your heart set on any one thing you’ve read about (and read about, and read about).
    Now on Tap: As of yesterday, eight taps were flowing with the likes of wild-sage saison, St. Bretta Summer made with Valencia oranges and Surette blended with strawberry-basil kombucha from Happy Leaf. Today, who knows? Tomorrow, though, you can rest assured there will be something new for Tap-It Tuesday​. 
    The Food: Hey, this is The Source, where Babettes’ pastries, snacks from Mondo MarketComida’s tacos and Acorn’s seasonal small plates are literally steps away.   
    Insider’s Tip: As you might guess from the above, our best tip is to ignore all tips, insidery or not. Come free of expectations and ready for surprises.

    3350 Brighton Blvd.; 720-508-8860

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Denver Pearl Brewing Company

    The Gist: At long last, one of the city's most venerable Restaurant Rows, Old South Pearl, has a taproom to call its own. With a shiny mod interior, a 15-seat patio and a brewing philosophy that favors drinkability and balance over turbo-charged styles, the month-old Denver Pearl is shaping up to be an easygoing session-drinker’s home away from home.
    Signature Suds: Owner Colby Rankin’s 10 taps are about evenly divided between seasonals and year-round beers like Phaded Pale Ale and Ash Valley Wheat.
    Now on Tap: Berliner Weisse, served naked or “juiced” with a traditional slug of raspberry syrup, has been a hit for a few weeks now. Later this week, Rankin plans to add an amber aged in red-wine barrels with tart pie cherries and a nitro version of his Drop It Like It’s Hop Rye IPA.
    The Food: You’re welcome to bring in food from outside kitchens — and Denver Pearl just so happens to have some particularly swell neighbors, including Makan Malaysian Cafe and the original Park Burger.
    Insider’s Tip: Bring your parents, friends, babies and dogs as well. While not all taprooms are one-size-fits-all, this one goes with the inclusive neighborhood flow.

    1875 S. Pearl St.; 303-968-6674

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Former Future Brewing Company

    The Gist: This Platt Park taproom has been a must-stop on the cool kids’ circuit since it opened in February with style to spare (check out that bartop, fashioned from the wing of a 1970 Cessna). While Sarah Howat oversees the front of the house, her husband James takes a carefully researched yet experiment-driven approach to brewing that could yield a salted-caramel porter one week, a rye-oatmeal saison the next.
    Signature Suds: Exemplifying James's fascination with historical styles, the Countinghouse cream ale has emerged as a standard favorite on the eight-tap system.  
    Now on Tap: Look for the tart saison being released this week.
    The Food: With neighbors like Adelita’s Cocina y Cantina, GB Fish and Chips and Maria Empanada, Former Future’s BYOF policy is a given. 
    Insider’s Tip: Ask and you shall receive: James has been known to conduct impromptu tours that inspire “everybody in the place to gather in the back and ask questions.”

    1290 S. Broadway; 720-441-4253

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery

    The Gist: Sporting a classic industrial look personalized by photos and mementos of the owners’ mountaineering escapades, this newcomer on the Downtown/Ballpark divide has an adventurer in seasoned brewer Wayne Burns, who has built a career on making some of the stronger beers in the country — between 15% and 20% ABV. But the "focus on big, rich, intense beers doesn't mean we’re limiting our styles," Burns assures. "I’ll aim for assertiveness even if it’s a session beer.”
    Signature Suds: The strikingly balanced Imlay American IPA and the telltale-earthy Spearhead saison are running “neck and neck” as the most popular staples — but the whiskey-barrel-aged First Descent Old Ale, a complex stunner at 15.5%, may best showcase Burns’s aesthetic.
    Now on Tap: The Wolf, a black saison, was released Thursday; keep your eyes peeled as well for a soon-to-launch Imperial porter aged in 30-year-old tequila barrels.
    The Food: Trucks stop by almost daily — tonight, for instance, Pride of Philly will be slinging cheesesteaks. Bonus: the bar also sells popcorn, nuts and beer fudgesicles infused with the house stout.
    Insider’s Tip: If you’ve got an old backpack, new toiletries and undergarments or unopened liters of bottled water lying around, bring them with you next time you come in as a donation to the Jagged Pack Project, which benefits local homeless shelters.  

    1139 20th St.; 720-689-BEER

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen

    The Gist: The Golden Triangle was thirsty for a brewery of any kind. Happily, what the neighborhood got was no hasty bandwagon-jumper, but a well-planned venture from a pair of Rock Bottom pros with a wide-ranging, long-term vision for their 18 taps, a full-service kitchen and a spacious patio complete with cornhole court. 
    Signature Suds: As long as brewer Scott O’Hearn keeps his gracefully crafted yet plenty flavorful Selfish pale ale on the board, we’ll keep knocking it back.
    Now on Tap: Named for its combination of Cascade, Centennial and Citra hops, the C3PA should be around for another few days.
    The Food: A wide array of pub grub takes a creative, modern spin, from thin-crust pizzas to a vegetarian sandwich we could eat daily and feel good about — namely the Left Coast with edamame hummus, roasted red peppers, jicama, pickled onion and pumpkin seeds on rye.
    Insider’s Tip: The vibe is completely different from day to night. If you’re looking to chill here, steal away for a late lunch on a weekday afternoon.

    800 Lincoln St.; 720-524-8065

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Station 26 Brewing Co.

    The Gist: You can take the slogan of this super-cool hangout, “For You For All,” to heart: owner Justin Baccary and his partners do. Occupying a sun-splashed old Park Hill firehouse (hence the name) since Christmas, 5280’s just-named Best New Brewery changes its roster of about 10 beers constantly to cater to all manner of tastes — as they explain, “we don’t want to dictate to our customers” when it comes to style. 
    Signature Suds: ​That said, head brewer Wayne Waananen’s IPA No. 1 is a constant, as is the Colorado Cream Ale made from state-grown barley.
    Now on Tap: The Belgian Blonde, a buoyant porch pounder at 5.3% ABV.
    The Food: We love the map Baccary created of his favorite take-out spots, but mobile vendors also park out front most days, including Crock Spot, Basic Kneads Pizza and Milk Money Ice Cream & Treats​. 
    Insider’s Tip: In addition to free-wheeling Firkin Thursdays at 4 PM — when the team might tap anything from Chai Chocolate Rye to yerba-mate-infused pale ale — there’s a bluegrass brunch in store the second Sunday of each month. 

    7045 E. 38th Ave.; 303-333-1825

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Stem Ciders

    The Gist: Eric Foster and Phil Kao, co-founders of this tastefully wood-accented hideaway along a warehouse-lined stretch of RiNo, grew up near a cider mill in Michigan. Now they make their own elegantly dry ciders from Western Slope apples, presented in handsome branded glassware.
    Signature Suds: Four of five taps are dedicated to beers available year-round, including the classic, all-about-apple Malice and the best-selling Banjo, aged in bourbon barrels. There’s also a hopped variety, Remedy, and the Zinfandel barrel-aged Le Chêne to put a gleam in the eyes of beer buffs and oenophiles, respectively.
    Now on Tap: ​Made with Granny Smiths as well as crabapples, the Crabby Neighbor has mellowed just enough with age to ensure its tartness is juicy, not sharp.
    The Food: SlydermanA Taste of the Philippines and others roll up to the patio-flanked tasting room on the regular.
    Insider’s Tip: Watch the Facebook page for constant goings-on, from pasta-making classes and pizza parties to art shows, trivia games and bluegrass concerts.

    2811 Walnut St., Ste. 150; 720-443-3007

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Places Mentioned

Crooked Stave

Bar • River North Art District

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery

Brewpub • Ballpark

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
LowDown Brewery + Kitchen

NoneCapitol Hill

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Stem Ciders

NoneRiver North Art District

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Station 26 Brewing Co.

Brewpub • Park Hill

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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