Denver is a city that you could visit many times and fall in love with all over again each and every time. Unlike most of our trips, this trip was not meticulously planned. Aside from our hotel reservation, we had no plans set in stone except stargazing which we heard was amazing in Denver.
Our dog’s first plane ride went smoothly, and he was a great travel companion.
But once we landed, he wasn’t quiet sure to think about his first time in the snow.
We knew we wanted to see as many breweries as possible in our short trip, but also take in the mile high city’s great food scene, outdoor activities and some touristy sight seeing as well. We bundled up, and headed out.
We checked into Hotel Monaco, a
pet friendly pet loving hotel a block away from the bustling 16th Street Mall. The hotel was fantastic! The doting staff, who provided dog food and water bowls and a perfect bed for Zulu ready in our room, to treats at the front desk after our brisk walk, everything was perfect.
The room was spotless, 2 flat screen TVs, a gorgeous bed fit for a queen. Since we had a late flight coming in, arriving at the hotel at about 11pm, the staff was sweet enough to send up the Fattoria Piatto, which was a generous platter of Prosciutto d’ parma, duck mousse, bresaola, pecorino gran cru, grana padano, local goat cheese, sliced pear, marinated olives, cranberry orange compote, roasted garlic and grilled crostini. I was in heaven. Especially my new addiction, Tuffy Kickshaw’s Caramel Corn. Mmmmmmm.
We quickly changed into our comfy clothes, hopped in bed and snacked and watched House Hunters until we passed out.
The next morning we found a place on Yelp with high ratings and decided to head over to grab a bite at Syrup, a few blocks away. Since a law was passed that Yelp can manipulate ratings to sell advertising, we should have known better. We have learned to solely use Yelp as a photo gallery of food, not trusting in the reviews at all. Syrup was a big let down. My Eggs Benedict was overcooked. When the yolk breaks and smothers your food in its gooy-ness, that is perfection This was more like eggs over medium with a powder hollandaise sauce. The Mr. ordered the french toast which ended up being soggy and awkwardly gritty granola coated bread. The syrup, their namesake, was another failure. The berry syrup was somewhere between corn syrup and cough medicine.
Next, we planned to go see 16th Street Mall, where you can ride for free, from Union Station to the Civic Center almost 24 hours a day. The bus stops on every corner and you can hop on and off as you please. Our first stop had to be a clothing store, because well, we weren’t prepared for Denver in December. Don’t laugh, we are from Los Angeles and turn blue and shiver when it dips under 60 degrees.
We got the touristy stuff out of the way first, stopping at the Capitol Hill and Congress Park to take some photos, enjoy the slowly falling snow and tour the State Capitol and U.S. Mint which both offered free tours. Make sure to make reservations to tour the mint ahead of time. We had made a reservation that morning, but heard from others that sometimes you need a day or two in advance. Leave your backpacks and cameras at your hotel for the U.S. Mint tour, the backpacks won’t be allowed inside, and photography is not allowed.
Both tours were informative and awesome. The Capitol you can pretty much tour yourself and skip the history lesson if you want to just see the golden dome, you take the back stairs to the third floor and look straight up.
We were starving after all the sightseeing and before hitting the breweries, we needed something to eat. We came across Sugarmill nearby the breweries and wow did we hit the jackpot. The design and menu was amazing, and everything looked so good we had a hard time deciding what to order.
We sat at the bar watching owner and chef, Noah French, craft our food and chat with us, and we sampled the many delicious macaroons that are made in house. After a great meal, we went in for the kill.
The Noahsphere, a hollow chocolate sphere stuffed with brownie bites, vanilla crème and candied walnuts. With a warm caramel pour, it breaks open and….welcome to heaven.
Ok, now onto the breweries!
Black Shirt Brewing Co.
3719 Walnut Street, Denver, CO 80205
Black Shirt Brewing Co., which we will refer to as BSB, is hands down our favorite brewery in Denver. As other breweries experiment with crafting up good and tasteful brews of all kinds, BSB specializes in Red’s, which not only sets them apart from other breweries, but it gives BSB the opportunity to focus on one style of beer and making that style better than any other.
From Red Saisons to Red Ales and Red Porters to Red Rye’s, this brewery is a master at it’s craft! We had the opportunity to meet with Founder and head brewer, Branden Miller who gave us a personal and private tour of the BSB brewery and showed us the processes that makes their Red’s so damn good. Along with Branden, BSB was founded with his brother, Chad aka “The Hammer” and his wife, Carissa. The wise words of Chad’s and Branden’s father, “Do one thing and do it better than anyone else!“, launched their quest to brew only Red Ales, and make them the best.
The Colorado Red Ale is their signature brew out of the line up of many and we have to agree that this was one of our favorites, along with their India Red Ale, Imperial Red Porter and American Red Ale and Red Saison.
BSB has a keen love for music and it shows throughout the place, from their classic microphone tap handles to the live bands and summer events they host in their very own beer garden. BSB also hosts Sunday movie nights, setting up rows of chairs and a huge projection screen in the middle of their brewing systems showing classics like The Big Lebowski.
This brewery is a must when visiting Denver, not only for the great brews but for the awesome staff, environment and food trucks available for good grub. But, why put a outdoor bar around your utility boxes?
Surprise! Freaking awesome hidden outdoor taps! He didn’t want to try and hide the boxes….if you can’t hide ’em, join ’em!
No doubt the popularity will grow overtime as the city plans on a rail system, which includes a stop right behind the brewery.
3350 Brighton Boulevard, Denver, CO 80216
A brewery that mainly specializes in sours? Yes! This is definitely a place for us. Crooked Stave, which we will refer to as CS, has a taproom located inside a hipster joint called The Source, which offers 15 merchants serving up artisan foods, a taqueria, a cheese shop, and a wine & spirits shop.
During our visit there were 20 CS beers on tap and more than half of them were sours. We’ve found a few favorites such as the Motif Dark Belgian Sour, Sentience Wild Quadrupel, and the Bacth 4 Origins Burgandy Sour. We had the pleasure to try and purchase a few bottles of the recently bottled Reserva Cassis and try the only-on-tap Pomegranate Petit Sour, which were hands down our two favorite beers of them all.
CS was founded in 2010 by Chad Yakobson, whom we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting. We were informed by the tapmaster at CS taproom that Chad studied wine-making in New Zealand, and also received a Masters of Science in Brewing and Distilling in the U.S. and the Internationally via Scotland. I have hope for CS in the wonderful world of sour beers and we sure hope to see more of their bottles around. In Los Angeles, we have been able to come across bottles of their Vielle Artisanal Saison, St. Bretta Citrus Wildbier and the Surette Provision Saison, but would love to find more of their gems.
Crooked Stave is a must visit in Denver if you’re seeking to satisfy your palate with sours and Wild Brett style beers. Most of their brews are served in bottles, available for purchase, and of course the best ones are served only on tap. Rumor has it that they will be starting brewery tours soon and we hope this is true, as we’ll be back soon.
Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery
1139 20th Street, Denver, CO 80202
Jagged Mountain was the oddball of the breweries we visited during our stay. 20 brews on tap and 11 were made by Jagged Mountain, so you will definitely have a lot of choices if you do visit their taproom. We had heard good things from local bars we had visited before starting our brewery hopping adventure, and were excited to give it a try.
Unfortunately Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, which we will refer to as JM, was our least favorite brewery of the trip. Don’t get us wrong, they have a huge taproom with a vast seating area and a pretty big bar to seat a lot of people and the location is not too far from the center of downtown Denver, but, the brews just didn’t wow us at all here.
We would most likely blame our review of JM on the way the brews were poured. The brewtender did a straight pour, no tilt, which ended with a huge, foam capped beer. By the time they settled, the glasses were 1/2 empty and the true flavor of the beer was gone along with the carbonation. This being said, we couldn’t make it through the four beer flights, because we were disgusted with the flatness of the tasters. We definitely could’ve asked for better pours and complained, but you live and learn.
Don’t let our opinion steer you away from JM as we are sure they have potential, some good brews and of course, we most likely would give them another chance next time we visit the mile high city.
Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver, CO 80205
Great Divide Brewing Company, which we will refer to as GDB, has been one of our favorite breweries since we started drinking craft beers. From their Yeti Imperial Stout and Titan IPA to their Colette Farmhouse Ale and DPA (Denver Pale Ale), they all been great choices for us. Their taproom and brewery is not too far from Jagged Mountain, about a 5 minute drive. The taproom is spacious but very dark during the evenings and besides the bar, the tables are mostly communal. They offer brewery tours every hour and it’s pretty damn informative and fun. Definitely a must when visiting!
GDB has been in the craft beer game for a very long time and we’d would be shocked if you’re reading this and never had the pleasure of pouring a solid glass of one of their classic brews. Some bottles are trade worthy depending on the rare availability of a few.
Beryl’s Beer Co.
3120 Blake St. Denver, CO 80205
Good beer is about technique, quality ingredients and skilled craftsmanship and Beryl’s Beer Co. has this locked down! Recently joining the Denver craft beer scene on June 28th, 2014, Beryl’s is a decent sized brewery that was started up by Calvin Beasley and his fiancée Beth, whom were originally homebrewer. They were joined by headbrewer Eric Nichols, formerly of Black Shirt Brewing Company. The taproom is smack in the middle of their brewhouse and majority of their barrels are brandy, wine, and bourbon. They have other brews in the works, such as a sour and also a tequila barreled brew.
We had the pleasure of trying an extensive tasting of all of their current beers on tap, such as their Paper Moon IPA, Afternoon Delight Wheat Ale, and the Seasonal Wald Smoked Dampf. Our favorites were the Elsie Saison w/ Colorado Honey which was named after Beth’s grandmother, the Riga Baltic Porter and the Riga Doms aged in Brandy barrels.
While the area is very industrial, it is also a hip, up-and-coming, trendy neighborhood filled with art and other breweries. Beryl’s is one of our other favorite breweries in Denver. The vibe, the friendly service and the brews come together to make this place a nice spot to hang with friends.
Under the overhang of the bar you will not only find purse-hooks for the ladies, but, also outlets and USB ports. These nice little touches are apparent throughout the establishment. We had a chance to talk with one of the owners, Calvin, and it was obvious the pride they all have in their brewery. Calvin was also very generous to allow us a small tasting of a sour they had aging, right out of the barrel. Great things to come from this brewery and we will be back around their one year anniversary to see how far they’ve come.
Our expectations of the Denver beer scene was pretty high and we knew to expect nothing but good things, but after visiting, our expectations were exceeded. Unfortunately, a week long trip isn’t enough to visit the 200+ breweries in the state of Colorado alone, but the list in the city of Denver is quite extensive. Living in California, one of the largest craft beer states in U.S., I was impressed with the selection of brews available in local wine & spirits shops that weren’t available in Los Angeles.
Note to self: Bring extra luggage to transport local brews back home.
We can’t wait to visit this great city again to knock a few more out and get some more brew tastings under our belt, especially a rematch against Epic Brewing Co. since unfortunately the Mr. almost passed out 10 minutes after stepping foot inside and only having one pour of the Green Apple Saison. After that pour he had to call it a night. As always, you can follow the Mr.’s brew adventures on Instagram.
Just about every night we ended up eating at our hotel’s restaurant, which happens to be one of the best restaurants in Downtown Denver, Panzano. Every meal we had here was better than the last. Scallopini di Vitello ( Veal Scallopini) and Ragu di Agnello (Duck Ragu) on the first night was off the charts, but made our mouths water as we looked over the breakfast menu. The following morning we enjoyed the Panzano “Eggs Benedict”, which is basically two poached eggs served over a sun-dried tomato polenta cake layered with prosciutto cotto, fontina, and pickled roasted tomato, topped with prosecco hollandaise, served over basil pesto….yeah, AMAZING.
I had to save the best for last. The brussels sprouts. Holy moly! Fried brussels sprouts tossed with apple cider reduction, pistachios, rosemary salt and sliced green apple….WOW. We have even tried to replicate the recipe, it was that good.
A bar, a few blocks from our hotel was FreshCraft. If you are into craft beer, this is a must in Denver. They have a great variety of beers on tap and the BEST chicken wings I’ve ever had. Seriously. Garlic chile chicken wings, wings tossed with a garlic chile glaze then topped with sesame seeds. YUM.
On the last day of the trip we had to make one last stop. That Tuffy Kickshaw caramel popcorn that hotel had placed in our room was a serious addiction I couldn’t resist. I got in contact with the owner, Julie Ciezaldo, who invited us to see where the magic happens. Julie Ciezadlo is the creator and chef at Tuffy Kickshaw. She is a graduate of Cook Street School of Fine Cooking, and has traveled to France and Italy, learning from local chefs. She spent her first six years in the culinary industries as a pastry chef, creating delightful desserts while exploring her passion for making foods that make people happy. This popcorn? It makes me giddy. Its really THAT good.
The popcorn is a gourmet, small batch, old fashioned treats with new fashioned flavors. A blend of the traditional crispy, buttery, caramel flavors with a twist of culinary flavors. Each batch is made handmade, no machines and the popcorn is non-GMO. They have an ever changing seasonal menu that is sure to keep you on your toes, and even a popcorn of the month club.
Denver was a fun trip and we will be returning in June of this year to visit Denver again, Boulder and Colorado Springs. Have you been to these breweries? What did you think? Are you a Denver brewery or business that we missed out on? Let us know in the comments!