Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Where the Craft Is, Downtown Denver Edition

Remember when downtown Denver was awash in craft beer destinations? Euclid Hall, Freshcraft, Lucky Pie, Falling Rock Tap House? All share the common theme of being places where I drank too much, but also are all just fond memories of beer bars who have departed. On a recent visit to the city, I was lucky enough to share hotel elevator space with crowds from both a tattoo convention and some big karate event, so there were plenty of visitors to the city. But the 16th St. Mall was a shell of its former self with the major construction going on there. Used to be you had to go back and forth between homeless people asking for money and SPCA/Greenpeace etc. asking for money. Hardly anyone asking for money there anymore. So where are people going, and more importantly, where are they drinking?

Surprisingly, or maybe not, most craft beer choices in downtown Denver are down to regional or national chains. You have Rock Bottom, who deserves credit for being one of the originals in Denver and staying alive all these years. Mellow Mushroom, the pizza chain with a multitude of taps, does a good job of supporting local and doing events with breweries. Yard House is still always one of the busiest places in town. Rhien Haus, a mini-chain with locations in Colorado, Kansas, and Washington, reminds me of a frat house dropped into a German beer hall. They usually have a decent selection and also serve up good goulash. So the few outliers are places such as Stout St. Social, with a mostly Colorado tap list, as well as beers brewed at their Boulder Social location. I guess Tap Fourteen should be mentioned, though sometimes it has a feel of a frat house that was dropped into a frat house. With a better beer selecton. Also should mention One Up, which is unbearable on weekend nights but a great arcade bar with some decent beers.

Most of the action is going on in the RiNo district, with places like the divey Star Bar putting together great tap lists and some fine GABF events as well. Finn's Manor was hosting a Belgian beer fest this past weekend, complete with bottle pours of Cantillion. Improper City, First Draft (where else can you pour your own Maine Dinner, Lawson's Sip of Sunshine, and Russian River Pliny the Elder???), and breweries like Ratio, Our Mutual Friend, Bierstadt, Odell, round out a few reasons RiNo is drawing the crowds. Cohesion Brewing isn't technically in that official area, but close and worth a visit for a mliko pour. And of course there's all the fun historic bars on Colfax, as well as Cerebral Brewing. If you have extra time, I recommend driving up to Niwot, just outside Boulder, to Fritz Family Brewers, for some of the best lagers being made in the state. Though the Denver beer landscape is changing, there are still many reasons to drink there. You just have to venture further from that Convention Center hotel than in the past.

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