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I have nothing against The Beer Spa, the brand new five-point spot that lets people immerse themselves in malt and hops while drinking beer, and I have nothing against beer spas in general. In fact, I sucked one in on a visit to Prague a few years ago. But when Time recently put Denver on its list of the 100 Greatest Places in the World in 2021 (an honor I certainly won’t turn down), the magazine noted that the Beer Spa was one of the reasons – almost the only reason.
Here’s what Time had to say about Denver: “With the dramatic peaks of the southern Rockies to the west, action-packed Denver is one of the best cities in the US to have a local craft beer or watch baseball – it was this year Hosts The MLB All-Star Game. A pregame stop at The Beer Spa, which opened in February – where customers can have a beer while soaking in a bath of hops, barley and herbs – is practically a requirement. ”
Practically a requirement? Colorado’s basic craft beer scene dates back to 1979 and is possibly the deepest and widest in the country, as well as a destination for beer tourists from around the world. The Beer Spa probably wouldn’t be in Denver if it weren’t for this scene – something its owners would love to admit, I’m sure.
So here’s a list of brewery-focused must-dos that Colorado visitors (and residents) can partake of before heading to the Beer Spa – that Time might have noticed:
Wait for a slow pour pilsner in the Bierstadt Lagerhaus
You can order a beer at most bars and breweries. But you can experience it in the Bierstadt Lagerhaus. The brewery is taking its time with the aptly named Slow Pour Pils; the bartender spends several minutes preparing each elegant glass of this carefully crafted lager. First she fills the glass about two thirds. As soon as the beer has settled, she slowly pours more, this time she lets her head build up a little. Finally, after a further rest period of about a minute, the bartender returns and crowns the whole thing with a thick, frothy, five centimeter long head that is reminiscent of soft ice cream. The result is a masterpiece that local and visiting beer lovers, beer critics and brewers take the time to enjoy whenever they’re in the neighborhood.
Explore Denver’s Brewery District by scooter.
Stroll through RiNo’s famous group of beer makers
Now that you’re in Bierstadt, you can also explore the rest of the River North Art District, which has grown into one of the best brewery hangouts in the world, not to mention a hub for shopping, dining and street art. to see it all is by scooter (hey if you can’t fight them join them). There are eight other breweries within a few blocks, including outstanding ones like Ratio Beerworks, River North Brewery, and Our Mutual Friend (try Owlbear Barbecue next door while you drink). Be careful in traffic: not all drivers brake on beer.
Empourium Brewing is one of five beer makers along Tennyson Street.
The Empourium Brew
Have a drink on Brewery Row on Tennyson Street
Outside of RiNo, there is no better place in Denver to take a brewery tour than lively Tennyson Street, a shopping, eating, and drinking destination that is constantly growing and changing. Between 38th and 46th Avenues you can now find five independent breweries – FlyteCo, the Empourium, Grateful Gnome, De Steeg and Call to Arms – each with their own atmosphere and an enormous variety of beer styles. Not enough? The street also features one of the best bottle shops in town, Small Batch Liquors, as well as the Hops & Pie Artisan Pizzeria, which always has a staggering list of the best, rarest, or most delicious craft beers from across the country alongside killer pizzas and sandwiches.
Take the Bustang to Outer Range Brewing
Start your day with a beer at Wynkoop Brewing Co., where the Denver craft beer scene was born in 1988, a bus that takes drivers west through the foothills, across the continental divide, and down to the city of Frisco (under other) brings. Hop off and walk a few yards to a brewery that truly represents where American craft beer is headed – lush, hazy IPAs along with oak-aged lagers. Outer Range Brewing is one of the top producers of cloudy IPAs in the state, and possibly the best. It definitely has an unbeatable view. Sit on the patio or upstairs and enjoy some Thai style grand piano, a haze bomb and stunning scenery.
Rooftop views and craft brews are a must.
Hit the roof on these Sloan’s Lake Brewery patios
With 300 (at least partial) days of sunshine a year, Denver was built for decking, and the best of them are on rooftops. One of the most beautiful green spaces in town, Sloan’s Lake Park has two rooftop decks roughly on opposite corners. Start with the view from Joyride Brewing, which stops at the intersection of 25th Avenue and Sheridan and has a stunning terrace into the sky. Then, stroll the park and count the activities Coloradans participate in, from zip lining, frisbee, and spikeball to town fishing, boating, and dog training. You will definitely see some soccer games and maybe even catch a practicing tuba player or a marriage proposal. (I counted over 35 different activities in one afternoon at Sloan.) Make your way to Odell Brewing’s amazing new place on West 17th Avenue and Perry Street, where you go back up and over the stairs with beer in hand can see the city.
Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
Try the terroir on Broadway
If you really want to know what makes Denver tick, you need to drink the very particles that float in its dilute air. Beer lovers who love ales made from naturally occurring yeast and bacteria through spontaneous fermentation know where to get a sip of the wild (or sour) side: Broadway. Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales brews all of its beers this way and the extremely small batch alehouse has attracted worldwide attention. On the other hand, TRVE Brewing also makes some of its beers through spontaneous fermentation while also offering a wider range of carefully crafted wild and sour beers. Not in anger? TRVE, which revolves around heavy metal music, also has an excellent selection of excellent lagers and nuanced IPAs.
Catch a ball game and a blue moon where blue moon was created
About 26 years ago, the Coors people had two great ideas at the same time: building a small brewery in Denver’s brand new baseball park and creating a beer that was very different from what Coors drinkers were used to. The result was two big hits. Blue Moon Belgian Wheat is one of the best-selling non-lager in the world today – and it was made right there at Sandlot (formerly Blue Moon Brewery at the Sandlot), a gem of a small brewery in the basement of Coors Feld. Off to the stadium, to a game and a few beers in the sand lot: the brewers there have won more than 45 medals at the Great American Beer Festival over the years and are best known for their small German-style lager beers.
Have a pint or a pour of whiskey in the English warmth of Bull & Bush
The English pub-style Bull & Bush, built by twin brothers Dean and Dale Peterson in 1971 on empty property in Glendale, a small town surrounded by Denver, was passed on to Erik and Dave, Dale’s sons, in 1996 and added their own brewery but almost everything else is the same – and that was, as Erik Westword recently said, “the secret sauce” of their success. Bull & Bush is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a blowout bash in August, and the pub’s longevity is proof that it’s done right. Sit on the terrace in summer or on the leather sofas in winter and enjoy the convenience of an on-site English-style IPA or an extensive whiskey menu that warms both your interior and exterior.
Hike Mount Sanitas, then admire your work at Sanitas Brewing
Mount Sanitas is one of the most famous bouldering hikes, but it’s not easy. As Your Boulder puts it, “Although Sanitas is only 1,863 feet, the trail is steep, strenuous, and littered with false peaks,” but “the views of snow-capped peaks to the west and expansive plains to the right are well worth your time.” “Then unwind at Boulder’s Sanitas Brewing, which has one of the most inviting backyard patios in the brewery. Here, on a wonderful day in Colorado, you can enjoy a view of the foothills (and the brewery’s namesake), tacos in the.” Enjoy the outside bar and play a rousing game of bowls or cornhole in a court overlooking a greenway and train tracks – your leg muscles will thank you later.
Back to the roots of craft beer in Fort Collins
You can’t really get closer to Colorado’s craft beer roots until you’ve been to Fort Collins and visiting the homes of New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing, two of the oldest, largest, most famous and beloved breweries in the state. Both have expansive terraces that serve a wide variety of beers – everything from historic beers on tap like Fat Tire and 90 Shillings to more modern interpretations of beer styles, including hazy IPAs and tart or fruity sours. Prior to COVID, New Belgium’s tours were a point of pride and purely a reason to visit. Although they haven’t returned yet, the brewery says they could be back soon.
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Jonathan Shikes is from Denver and writes about business and beer for Westword.