Dan Murphy makes a barnstorming beer tour through the amazing beer city that is Denver. Plus: City Lights Brewing, Summerfest brews and more.
Before I headed to Denver last week, I polled the Twitterverse and a few other gurus whose beer expertise I trust to narrow down the ridiculous amount of choices of breweries and bars to visit.
I got great answers from everyone, and a list of places that couldn’t all be seen in a week, and certainly not in the long weekend that I was there. This just means I’ll have to come back.
Denver is such an amazing beer city, and there are so many quality breweries to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Logistics and time prevented me from hitting a few places on my list, but I did manage a solid barnstorming tour. Here’s the rundown (in order of appearance).
Black Shirt Brewing (3719 Walnut St.) resides on the edge of the up-and-coming RiNo (River North Art District). It’s an outpost conveniently located one block from a light rail stop (that I took from the airport). Red ales are the specialty and they’re pretty tasty, as is the Blood Orange Double IPA. The dark taproom is welcoming and has a rock vibe—Fugazi was playing as I walked in. It was a great start to the weekend.
I hiked a mile from Black Shirt to Spangalang Brewery (2736 Welton St.), which resides in a former DMV office in the Five Points area—the name pays homage to the jazz heritage in the neighborhood. Co-founder Taylor Rees was the head brewer at Great Divide before opening Spangalang last spring. The spot offers a range of well-crafted styles. My favorites were the Lil’ Confused Dry Hopped Wheat Beer, a crisp summer brew made with Hefeweizen yeast. The big, juicy fruit flavor of the D-Train IPA was also perfect.
After a short walk I got to Ratio Beerworks (2920 Larimer St.), a funky, brightly colored space. The Domestica American Standard Ale was crisp and refreshing and as good a blonde ale/lager as I’ve had. The Novo Hold Steady Scotch Ale added the richness of coffee nicely to an already flavorful beer. The staff was incredibly friendly. Shad, the taproom manager, shared his insights and stressed how the craft beer community in Denver is just that—a community. He also recommended quite a few other breweries to try.
Euclid Hall (1317 14th St.) provided sustenance after the sampling. The cool spot downtown has an astonishing beer menu and a cellar list that is big on pricey rarities. The good beer was made all the better by a delicious shrimp po’ boy and potato chips topped with duck breast and lemon goat cheese. Amazing.
The last stop of the day was Westfax Brewing Company (6733 W. Colfax Ave.) located in a strip mall next to the famed Casa Bonita (side note, if you ever make it to this bizarre place to watch the cliff divers make sure you see talented Rebecca, she’s a family friend and a fine Denver tour guide). Anyway, Westfax had a nice broad selection as well. The barrel-aged Death Star Dubbel was a nice sipper with a big boozy finish.
When we walked into Falling Rock Tap House (1919 Blake St.) on Saturday morning my brother spotted a Pliny the Elder tap handle and asked the bartender if it was real. Her response, “It’d be awfully mean if it wasn’t.” So that’s how the day started, with a Pliny, a Russian River Blind Pig and a Melvin IPA. We would’ve stayed to sample more of the 80 taps, but we had tickets to the see the Rockies play. Truly one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to.
The taproom at Great Divide Brewing (2201 Arapahoe St.) was small but bustling when we got there in the early afternoon. The cozy space encourages interaction with those sitting nearby, and drinking beer from the several taps doesn’t hurt either.
First Draft (1309 26th St.) has a self-serve concept that makes it an ideal spot for sampling. Patrons pour their own from a bank of a few dozen taps and are charged by the ounce. I had a few small pours to get a taste of some more local beers and a big bowl of poutine to provide a base.
So, that’s my trip to Denver. I recommend taking a trip there, and I can’t wait to go back to try the dozen or so breweries I didn’t get to.
Do yourself a favor and subscribe to the City Lights Brewing newsletter. It keeps you informed about the progress of the brewery, and that’s great. But it’s the writing style of owner Robin Gohsman that makes it unique. Gohsman offers sarcastic takes on horse racing, Muhammad Ali, Meatloaf (the singer) and meatloaf (the food), and he still manages to provide news about City Lights.
Summerfest kicks off on Wednesday. For some, that’s exciting. For others, it means avoiding the lakefront and Downtown for a couple of weeks. Regardless, it means lots of beer. Be sure to camp out at the Lakefront brewing tent every day at 4 p.m. to taste a different firkin—that’s reason enough to show up.
Just in time for summer. Draft Magazine.
Wednesday, June 29: Milwaukee Beer Society gets a sneak peak at MobCraft (505 S. 5th St.) from 6 to 9 p.m.
Wednesday, June 29: Barley John’s takes over the taps at Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) at 5 p.m.
Friday, July 1: Try Goose Island brews at Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.) from 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 2: Goose Island hands out samples at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.) from 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 2: Wheat beers are the subject of the weekly sampling at both Three Cellars locations (7133 S. 76th St., Franklin and N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls) from 1 to 4 p.m.