Denver Burger Battle 2021 returns for a sold-out ode to the recent barbecue summer time

On Thursday, August 5th, The Denver Burger Battle returned for its tenth iteration. Once again – after a year-long hiatus – the Tivoli Quad was full of smiling droves of hungry burger enthusiasts. The 1,500 strong squad snaked through 16 stands, each of which represented arguably the best talents in town. More than a few people were dressed thematically, although they were clearly all on the same page, figure-hugging or casually dressed. This was a crowd ready to feast, drink, and meander through the smoke that descended both from above and from the many grills that surrounded the field.

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There were more than a few familiar faces – including previous winners The Cherry Cricket, Stoic and Genuine, Stanley Beer Hall, and Highland Tap and Burger – as well as a few new competitors – including Death and Co, Kuma’s Corner, and Etc Eatery. Additionally, 5280 Burger Bar, Bob’s Atomic Burgers, Briar Common Brewery, Hickory and Ash, Humboldt Kitchen and Bar, Illegal Burger, Snarfburger, The Castle Bar and Grill, and The Original quickly brought to market competitive dishes that brought constant demand. Most of the stalls served their burgers cut into quarters, and a couple of sliders made it nearly impossible to eat all of them. To wash it all down, Cancion Tequila offered a tasting paired with cheese, chocolate, and mango, Bulleit Bourbon shared standard, aged, and exclusive varieties, Frankly Organic Vodka made cocktails, and Boulder Spirits showcased its entire line of locally produced whiskeys. Great Divide was also on site and shared a central tent with Little Man Icecream for an essential pit stop for anyone who had to underline an otherwise strict beef affair.

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The recipes ranged from extremely traditional – the award-winning burger from Stoic and Genuine, consisting of two beef pies, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and potato buns, which has remained largely unchanged over the years – to less conventional and just as tasty – like Tap and Burger’s My Nona Burger with mozzarella, sunflower seed pesto, charred onions, Worcestershire glazed tomatoes, salami, and paprika relish. There was a lot of Wagyu, and Humboldt Kitchen decided to use ground short ribs for a really brilliant effect. This was an ingredient-savvy bunch, with the chefs motivating this year’s edition to be particularly culinary. Burgers are always fun, and this year’s sophistication was emblematic of an up-and-coming city.

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At the end of the night, six different spots were crowned winners by a jury and the audience. The experts ended up in third place by Death and Co and second in Stanley Beer Hall, while Snarfburger went with the coveted trophy. The audience thought differently, with Stoic and Genuine in third place, Humboldt Kitchen in second place and The Cherry Cricket at the top of the list. For everyone who was there in previous years, the event felt very familiar, a surprisingly low-stress homage to the simple joys of the barbecue. This was truly a community event that reminded everyone who took to the field that day that perhaps the Denver food scene is driven even more by camaraderie than its abundant creativity.

All photographs by Kori Hazel.

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