Simply put, Denver is known for beer, but since you’ve last visited, breweries have popped up across the city that shouldn’t be missed. The next wave is filling in, and they are pushing the envelope, providing great examples of every type and style of beer imaginable.
Before you even get to Denver, your first stop from the airport should be Coda Brewing (2101 N. Ursula St. #10, Aurora, CO 80045). This little place is usually filled with graduate students, given the brewery’s location next to a medical campus. Music here is the focus, from the name, symbolizing a concluding musical passage, to the collaborations with musicians, such as Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident, producing Hollingsworth-It, a lemon pepper saison. Backing that up is the brewery’s impressive Sleepyhead Passion Fruit Kölsch, a silver medal winner at last year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF).
Head into the capital and visit River North Brewing Co. (2401 Blake St. #1, Denver, CO 80205) in the aptly named River North neighborhood, known as RINO. The brewery focuses on Belgian styles and maintains a small location—just six tables inside and 10 seats at the bar. However, while in the taproom you will see a big window; through that are rows upon rows of barrels, many of which hold the brewery’s well-regarded J. Marie (a series based on its imperial saison, a great example of the style, albeit with a much bigger punch starting at 7.5% and varying with its barrel aging).
Leaving RINO, head down to Former Future Brewing (1290 S. Broadway). It’s not often you get to drink on the wings of an airplane, now repurposed as a bar top. The brewers tap pilot batches every Friday, so be prepared when you arrive. If the small experimental batch isn’t what you’re looking for, the brewery has rotating batches and routinely carries staples like a salted caramel porter.
Next, head over to the Denver Bicycle Cafe (1308 E. 17th Ave.), tucked away in Northern Cap Hill. Grab a seat in one of its comfy chairs and enjoy a local draft. Or a seat at one of the community tables, a friend, and one of the board games they keep close. This place features bike mechanics who could make you a custom bike, should you ask. It is a full functioning coffee shop in the morning and a taphouse filled with locals and industry workers at night.
Head over to Snooze for breakfast. With three locations in the Denver area, you will certainly find one close enough to start your day. Don’t let the laid-back attitude fool you, the food is incredibly well-done, and the servers will give you an idea of what Denver locals are really like. With food from a pancake flight to chilaquiles Benedict, fried corn tortillas with chilies and egg, and breakfast cocktails like Boss Hog, bacon-infused Breckenridge bourbon and bloody mix, this isn’t one to miss.
When you come to Denver, you have to spend some time outside, and for that, you should head right over to hike at Red Rocks Amphitheater (18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO 80465) just west of downtown. It is famous for its concerts, but the venue is actually also a park with a couple of hiking trails.
After you have worked up an appetite, head over to the trendy Berkeley Park Neighborhood to Hops & Pie (3920 Tennyson St.) for the Denver rite of passage, the Saturday Session. You get two slices of the day, such as the buffalo chicken and blue cheese, and three drafts. With 22 beers on tap, the selections are not always local, but always interesting. If there are a few out-o-town beers you are searching to find, this is the place you will likely find them on draft.
Heading back to RINO, you will come to Black Shirt Brewing-Red Ale Project (3719 Walnut St.), one of the most interesting breweries you will ever walk into. Not because it’s always full and people are always smiling. No, because it makes reds, a lot of reds, and only reds. Everything from the red IPA, to a red farmhouse or a red imperial porter. This is your one chance to try as many as 10 to 12 varieties of beer with the same idea behind them. If you decide to make it to one brewery in Denver, make it this one.
After having your fill there, head over to Hogshead Brewery (4460 W. 29th Ave.), sandwiched between the Edgewater and the Highlands neighborhoods, in a neat modern building that holds a bar that focuses on English-style ales. It’s not uncommon to see all seven casks and 16 taps flowing, but be sure to try the blacktop, a mixture of 4 ounces of barleywine and 16 ounces of its porter to form a perfect proper pint.
For dinner, you should try Linger (2030 W. 30th Ave.), an old mortuary converted into a trendy eatery. Try to snag a table up on the rooftop (Linger doesn’t accept reservations); it has a view of the city. The restaurant features street food inspired all over the world. Grab a bunch of small plates and share them, house specialties such as Mongolian BBQ Duck and Devils on Horseback, Medjool Dates stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon; they will make you wish you ordered two. Linger carries the local staples on draft, with a few surprises.
For your last stop of the night, make it TRVE Brewing Co. (227 Broadway #101). This heavy metal brewery will make sure to keep you going, not just with its music, but with everything it brews. Its selection ranges from the hard to find grisette to a great American stout. You will certainly find something to end the night well.
Devil’s Food (1020 S. Gaylord St.) is tucked away near Washington Park and is a small, albeit wonderful, place to grab breakfast. It’s got a purposeful vintage feel, featuring long-worn ovens, wooden furniture and frames, and the wait staff will even bring you an entire French press full of coffee if you ask. It feature staples of American food with an upscale twist, but carries a pancake of the day and the favorite local standby, chicken and waffles.
On your way out of town, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not stopping at Tattered Cover and Twist and Shout (2526 E. Colfax Ave. and 2508 E. Colfax Ave.). These two stores that are right next to each other on Colfax and are Denver institutions. Founded in 1971, Tattered Cover is one part indie bookstore and one part café; however, this location is big enough to hold something for everyone. Twist and Shout next door is in the same vein, big, with an extremely helpful staff. It has enough surprises, vinyl and otherwise, that you can’t go home empty-handed.
Make your last stop before the airport at The Source (3350 Brighton Blvd.), an artisan food market. While you’re here you can grab a snack at Comida, a former taco truck turned restaurant featuring Mexican street food; shop at the Proper Pour, a specialty bottle shop; or head to the very end of the building to visit Crooked Stave. This sour house is making waves and always has something interesting pouring, such as its Nightmare on Brett aged in Leopold Bros. Apple Whiskey Barrels. Many of the beers you will see on draft are difficult, or impossible, to get your hands on anywhere else, so sit down at the bar and have one last treat.