USAJ Realty: Best Microbreweries in Denver
“When John Hickenlooper and his buddies opened the Wynkoop Brewery back in 1988, he probably had no idea how their little brewing operation would not only help change the landscape of Lower Downtown but lay the foundation of how great beer would be brewed.
Of course, it’s also doubtful he ever imagined himself as governor of Colorado.
Today, Denver’s craft beer operation continues to “pour it on” and ranks second nationally behind Portland, Ore., for total number of microbrewers, according to Forbes magazine and Statista. Portland leads the nation with 68 microbreweries while Denver trails with 58. Per capita, Denver is 8th in the nation with 8.7 microbreweries per 100,000 people.
The proliferation of microbreweries has extended beyond little wannabe startups and has become a major driver of Colorado’s economy. According to a September 2016 report by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, Colorado’s craft-beer industry had a $1.7 billion economic impact in 2015 and accounts point to more than 350 breweries in the state. That figure represents a 48 percent growth from 2014, the report states.
In an article published in the Denver Post last fall, Steve Kurowski, the operations director for the Colorado Brewers Guild which commissioned the Leeds study, said the findings “legitimize the craft-beer industry and show our influence on the state’s economy.” Additional craft breweries are expected to join the ranks this year and half of the existing operations are predicting 20 percent or greater growth, according to a survey of brewers in the report.
“That’s pretty astonishing,” Kurowski said. “It just shows that … craft beer is not going away in Colorado, More people are being turned on to craft beer all the time.”
With the advent of summer and hot temperatures, there is no better time to start exploring the microbreweries in Denver. Below is a very biased selection by some of the Usaj Realty staff members of Denver’s best craft beer stops.
Great Divide, Jenny Usaj — “The Boss-anova”
As the head honcho of Usaj Realty, Jenny is going with this iconic brewer located now in both Ball Park and RiNo neighborhoods. This microbrewery began with a marketing study and a business plan back in 1994, and is now one of the oldest and most respected tasting houses around. The brewery started small with only one full-time employee and just recently moved into an expansive facility in RiNo. The trademark Yeti brand is always a favorite and the Pale Ale artist series is distinctively Denver. Launched in 2016, local artists vie to design a can depicting what the Mile High City means to them. “Try the Strawberry Rhubarb Sour,” says Jenny.
According to their website, this Slo-Hi location near Sloan’s Lake was developed to provide a local clientele, beer aficionados and lovers of good times a central spot in Denver to enjoy a proper pint and have a chat. You will find three to four great beers on tap via CO2 pressurized kegs and properly conditioned real ale from naturally carbonated casks.
Paige proclaims, “They specialize in cask beer, which has less carbonation. They also have a great patio. My favorite beer would have to be the Chin Wag (The brewery cautions that one too many may cause you to talk Shite. It combines a chewy malt, forward mouth feel, balanced by a moderate hopping rate delivered by challenger golding and fuggles hops. Dangerously quaffable at 38 IBU. It’s a beer to savor over a good conversation).”
Station 26, Megan Ivy — Bodacious Broker
It’s a pretty simple philosophy from this Park Hill brewery. “We love to drink beer – all types of beer. When it comes to good beer, we don’t discriminate. Light, dark, hoppy – there is a time and a place for them all. We also love making beer. So much so, that we decided to start making it in an old Denver fire station. We’re making all sorts of beer. Come taste for yourself. We’ll pour you some tasters in our fancy cups. We have a cool space for drinking beer with friends. Ride your bike. Bring takeout. Whatever, man. We’re making this beer for you. We’re making this beer for all. And for us. A lot for us.
As for Megan’s take on the operation, “I love this Park Hill spot. Folks come by car, bike, and foot to enjoy the chill, indoor/outdoor vibe. There’s some inside space, as well as a big sunny patio and a small side yard with shade for families with little ones. They feature rotating food trucks (as all good breweries should) and their beer menu is constantly shifting for the season. My current favorite is their Watermelon Gose (lightly tart German wheat beer is kettle soured for 18 hours, brewed with pink Himalayan sea salt and fermented with watermelon puree) but their always present Colorado Cream Ale (light, crisp, and refreshing. Made from Alamosa-grown and malted 2-row barley, brown rice, and Paonia-grown organic Cascade hops. gluten reduced.) is always a winner!”
In April 2008, the Mountain Sun restaurant group took its concept to the Uptown neighborhood of Denver, opening the Vine Street Pub. The surrounding neighborhoods embraced the pub immediately, naming it Denver’s best brewpub in its first year in Westword magazine. In April 2012, the pub opened its flagship brewery with the capacity to produce 5,000 barrels annually, outnumbering the current brewing capacity of both Boulder locations combined, and reducing beer transportation miles between the pubs.
Jennifer is one of those embracers: “My favorite go to spot. You can’t go wrong with any of their hearty meals. They have the best french fries (and poutine). They are always brewing up delicious beers like their Blackberry Wheat Ale (one of our best selling beers. Having brewed Raspberry Wheat for years, they decided to mix it up a bit and put a new twist on an old favorite. Light in body, pink in color, and full of berry aroma, this beer boasts over 250 pounds of blackberry puree per batch). Yum!”
Joyride – OK, it’s not in Denver (Edgewater) but close enough! Here’s is Joyride’s mantra. “The name Joyride refers to slowing down and enjoying the moment instead of concentrating on the destination. Sometimes it’s not about where the ride takes you, it’s just about going for the ride itself. It’s about wanting a shared experienced between you and your loved ones. Too often in this crazy world of ours, we don’t allow ourselves to stop and smell the roses, or in our case, the hops. That’s one of the reasons why we started Joyride Brewing Company. We wanted to create a place where you could relax, hang out with your friends, family and coworkers, have a few beers and be yourself. We’re hoping this kind of idea appeals to you and you’re willing to hop on!”
The brewery opened for business in 2014. There is a 10 barrel brewhouse with eight serving tanks and six fermenters. The taproom is 1,600 sq. ft. and can hold about 95 people. Enjoy the majestic views of the lake from the six roll-up glass garage doors.
Bri says, “Great open air, next to Sloan’s Lake. There’s lots of seating and a parking lot next door. They host game nights, run clubs and you can enjoy sports on the TVs inside. Since the operation is outside the city limits, dogs are allowed inside. Kids are welcome, too.
10 Barrel – Here’s the lowdown on 10 Barrel: Originated in 2006 with three guys in Bend, Ore., who shared one simple mindset; brew beer, drink beer and have fun doing it. Since then the brewery has grown but will always stay the same… Rough morning? Grab a beer. Big powder day? The “Gone Skiing” sign goes up. Too hot to work? Mandatory company float. You get the picture… Here’s to living it up with a beer in hand. Cheers!
Bri compliments 10 Barrel on the, “huge space for lots of people or events. So many delicious beers (cucumber sour is awesome for summer!), a kitchen for your hunger pangs and wonderful outside patio.”
Ratio, Our Mutual Friend, Call to Arms, Wynkoop, Mockery, Nicole Smith — “I Can’t Narrow it Down” Broker
Ratio — Here are the accolades of Ratio: Located in Curtis Park, this microbrewery has a state of the art 20 barrel system and more than enough beer to go around. And the tap room will be as eclectic as the community that it’s built to support. The scene at Ratio is all about beer, but the art and music programs will ensure all of the senses are stimulated.
Our Mutual Friend — The skinny on Our Mutual Friend: An award-winning brewery and taproom located in RiNo. Brewing beer began as an excuse to gather with our friends and ruminate on life, philosophy, music, food, and of course, beer. Once they got started, they grew more curious about the brewing process, honing the craft and experimenting with different methods and techniques. Along the way, a fundamental question to the process was, “How can we do more of this ourselves?” The desire to participate in every step of the grain to glass process led them to open Our Mutual Friend. Part of what they love about beer is its power to bring people together (hence the name!). They are happy to be a gathering place in the RiNo neighborhood where locals and visitors alike can meet in camaraderie alongside a quality pint. They believe in the power of neighborly acts and the spirit of neighbors taking care of one another within the local community. Nicole’s take, “Great atmosphere, vinyl music always playing.”
Call to Arms — The Rundown: Three guys from different backgrounds joining together to brew great beer. As veterans and passionate fans of the craft beer community, the three decided to use combined 20 years of experience to blaze a new trail and leave a lasting imprint on the industry. Call to Arms is both a battle cry and tribute to the family, friends and coworkers who’ve helped along every step of the way. This is their passion; the overture; their movement. This is their Call to Arms. Nicole says, “Cozy atmosphere, good seasonal collaborations . Must sips are TnT Wedding Saison and Kiss from a Rose.”
Wynkoop — The Granddaddy of them all is still an epic sudsy place. Beer drinkers across the state braved the sketchy ghost town that was LoDo in the late 80’s for billiards and pints of unexpected beer styles. Almost 30 years later, Wynkoop is a Denver institution, still known for innovative concoctions, and brewers who put just about anything in their beer, including Rocky Mountain oysters, gummy bears and green chiles. From the novice to the expert connoisseur, they view patrons as friends and aim to provide an open, carefree environment for all to enjoy. They are Colorado natives, family owned, and pursue the happiness in life one fantastic beer at a time. Nicoles sums it up, “Wynkoop — Fun downtown location, lots of history.”
If you’re serious about your beer drinking, you might also want to check out this link for great deals on craft beer:
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