When the Brewers Association sets up headquarters here, you know great beer abounds. A college town so whacky that even Mork from Ork could’ve blended in (it may have been the late ‘70s but the more things change…) makes it a great playground worth visiting while in this corner of Colorado.
Alas, GABF falls after the summer concert schedule at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, probably the most spectacular, majestic outdoor venue in the country. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be rock stars. Begin your visit at Adam Avery’s eponymous brewery. Avery Brewing (5763 Arapahoe Ave.), nearly 20 years strong, is revered for their foil-topped big beers like The Reverend Quad and Maharaja Imperial IPA. For diehards, a visit to the tap room yields fun small batch or one-off beers including mesmerizing creations from their barrel room packed with sour or spirit-aged delicacies.
Even older is Boulder Beer Co. (2880 Wilderness Pl.), dating back to 1979, one of the earliest craft breweries in the country and the very first in Colorado. After taking the tour, guests are treated to a sampler tray, and there may be some nostalgia involved since Hazed and Infused pale ale turned many a Coloradoan onto better beer. Conversely, Upslope (1501 Lee Hill Rd, #20) is one of the newer breweries in town but immediately became a local fave. In fact, what started as a tiny brewery in North Boulder just four years ago with two canned offerings keeps growing so quickly, they’re building a second brewing facility in town, and both will have a taproom. Not that Sparhawk only drinks their beer fresh from the brite tanks. “I’m craving cans of Brown Ale” he says, now that they’ve brought this cooler weather brew back out.
Yet another popular new brew on the block is Twisted Pine (3201 Walnut St.). They made a splash with Ghost Face Killah, made with six different chilis including the nefarious Ghost Peppers. Sparhawk says they have “a great series of beers like their NorthStar Imperial Porter,” which comes out in December should you stick around. A final brewpub that Sparhawk emphatically recommends is Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery (70 E. 1st St. in Nederland), but it’s a good 15 miles west of Boulder. Still, he says, it’s worth the haul for the giant, smoked wings that he calls “insane” and happen to pair perfectly with their Hop Diggity IPA.
For some tasty vittles with your local brews in Boulder proper, head to The Kitchen (1039 Pearl St.) but note that it’s actually sort of three restaurants in one. The Kitchen is the wine-oriented bistro and The Kitchen Upstairs is geared toward group dining, so it’s The Kitchen Next Door (technically 1035 Pearl St.) that is the pub and taps exclusively Colorado beers. Organic, farm-to-table grub abounds.
Feeling less fancy? Pop into Backcountry Pizza and Tap House (2319 Arapahoe Ave.) with a menu that, sandwich- and pie-wise, appeals to meat lovers (“the meat grinder”) and vegetarians (“garden fresh”) alike. Diners can slake their thirsts from 52 taps, most of which rotate on the regular, and the patrons become regulars, too. Naturally, several are local taps such as Left Hand Milk Stout from Longmont in case you don’t have time to stop in on your way from Boulder to Fort Collins. But if you do stop in Longmont, be sure to visit Oskar Blues’s two locations, the brewery’s Tasty Weasel Tap Room (1800 Pike Rd. Unit B in Longmont) and Homemade Liquids and Solids (1555 S. Hover Rd. in Longmont). The original site of the brewery is in the nearby town of Lyons but now closer to the metro area, Tasty Weasel offers visitors something beyond Dales Pale Ale or Old Chub including a weekly firkin. Come ready to get your Skeeball on as well. As for the Homemade pub, of the 43 American craft beer taps, 10 are house brews to help wash down their Cheese Fry Po’boy.
Oh, and here’s the best part about hitting Oskar Blues during your GABF-cation. Book a seat on the Oskar Blues Ordeal for $25 and a short bus will pick you up in downtown Denver, shuttle you to their locations around Lyons and Longmont, and have you back by 4 p.m.