While in town for the GABF or just on a beery vacay, find out why the Mile High City’s beers, bars and breweries are among the country’s best.
The Mile-High City may have shot to beer stardom with a single Silver Bullet, but today it’s one of the top craft beer destinations in the country, ranking second in the nation for the total number of breweries in a city. To experience how it all started, head over to Wynkoop Brewing Co. (Downtown, wynkoop.com), Denver’s oldest brewpub. This stalwart two-level brewpub, owned by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, made a local name for itself with draft-only brews like its flagship Rail Yard Ale and Patty’s Chile Beer, but its audience has grown since the brewery started canning Rail Yard and the citrusy Silverback Pale Ale in 2010. Whether you’re just south of downtown looking for a beer or pre-gaming for a Rockies matchup, Breckenridge Brewery (breckbrew.com) has you covered. The Breckenridge BBQ & Brew Pub location (Golden Triangle District) serves up succulent barbecue alongside the brewery’s popular Small Batch 471 Series, while its Ball Park Brew Pub (Downtown) is an ideal meet-up spot before a game. Since you’re already by Coors Stadium, don’t miss The Sandlot, an on-site brewpub located in right field and operated by Molson Coors Brewing Co. Here, you can sample the brewery’s small-production, experimental craft beers, which have won numerous GABF awards. Head just a few blocks southeast to the prolific Great Divide Brewing Co. (Downtown, greatdivide.com), where they’ve brewed classic brews and trailblazing new styles since 1994. Grab a seat in its brightly lit taproom and sample rare taproom-only drafts alongside seasonal favorites like the chewy Oak Aged Yeti. If you’re looking for a break from American craft beer, head south of downtown to the Pints Pub Brewery-Freehouse (Golden Triangle, pintspub.com), located a block from the Denver Art Museum. Pints serves up classic English cask ale like Alchemy E.S.B and John Bull Nut Brown Ale to thirsty anglophiles inside its quaint British décor bar. Get back on the U.S. craft beer trail with a jaunt to Dry Dock Brewing Co. (Aurora, drydockbrewing.com). This outfit won Small Brewing Company of the Year at the 2009 GABF, and after a few pints of its aggressive 80-plus IBU Seven Seas Double IPA, you’ll see why. On the way back from Dry Dock, make a pit stop at the Bull and Bush Pub and Brewery (Glendale, bullandbush.com). This Denver institution’s served up locally famous burgers and pub grub since 1971 and a solid line of house beers since the ’90s. Pair a pint of its citrusy Man Beer, an American IPA, with a Queen Mother burger, stacked with bacon and smoked cheddar. Cap off your tour with a stop at Denver’s newest brewery, Strange Brewing Co. (Sun Valley, strangebrewingco.com). Sample their range of beers, from the straightforward Strange Pale Ale to the twisted Paint It Black Honey Coffee Stout, inside its newly opened taproom.
Just like the Denver’s vast selection of breweries, you’re never too far from a phenomenal beer bar, the most famous of which is Falling Rock Taphouse (Downtown, fallingrocktaphouse.com). Inside this two-story craft beer emporium you’re just as likely to sidle up to the bar next to a beer industry legend as you are a craft beer newcomer. The Rock pours more than 75 beers on tap and uses its star status to acquire the rarest domestic and international brews for its regular specialty tapping events, like Russian River’s highly coveted, rarely seen Pliny the Younger. Down the street from Falling Rock, Freshcraft (Downtown, freshcraft.com) pours 20 taps and stocks roughly 100 bottles to pair with mid-day snacks like Mole Belo Tacos. Go for lunch, then return for the bar’s daily Session happy hour. Over at My Brother’s Bar (Downtown), an eclectic crowd of easygoing hipsters and buttoned-down 9-to-5-ers mirrors its equally diverse beer list, which mixes English pub beers and great local drafts. The bartenders are the nicest in town, and if you need to take a break from beer drinking, they’ll be happy to recommend one of the bar’s superior old-fashioneds. For more than 30 years, Govnr’s Park Tavern (Governor’s Park, govnerspark.com) has served as a trusty neighborhood pub for locals and visitors alike. Come for the two-a-day happy hours, 4-7 p.m. and 9 p.m.-1 a.m.; perfect opportunities to imbibe from all 23 taps, including its new house beer Big Nose Pale Ale brewed by Breckenridge Brewery, and earn a spot in the Mug Club. Embrace your inner rockabilly with a trip to The Skylark Lounge (Broadway, skylarklounge.com), where near-nightly events from live music to comedy to Drinking Liberally Denver club meetings keep the joint jumping. With its vintage 1950s décor, lively pool room and vibrant event calendar, it’s no surprise this brand’s been slinging suds since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Take a quick respite from hoppy brews and settle yourself down inside The British Bulldog (Downtown, britishbulldogdenver.com), where the Queen’s English is as standard as Fuller’s ESB on cask. Modeled after the narrow pubs that pepper London’s quaint side streets, the Bulldog is so true to its theme, it opens its doors at 7 a.m. so soccer fans can watch live matches of the English Premiere League. Stay international during your pub-crawl with a visit to Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café (Downtown, thecheekymonk.com). Roughly 30 taps offer an array of Belgian and Belgian-inspired beer, like the sparkling Deus Brut des Flandres and Tripel Karmeliet. When paired with house specialties like the Dutch Lunch, a selection of cheeses and meats served with crostini, you’ll swear you’ve arrived in Belgium. For the sports enthusiast, Blake Street Tavern (Downtown, blakestreettavern.com) is a can’t-miss. Located just one block north of Coors Field, this watering hole’s adorned with flat screen TVs, features daily drinking specials—like $2 PBR cans during happy hour—and has racked up awards like “Denver’s Best Sports Bar” and “Denver’s Best Bar Food” from local media.
If you’re in town for the GABF, it’s hard to beat the location at Hotel Monaco (Downtown, monaco-denver.com). The Monaco may just have the friendliest staff we’ve ever encountered, and it loves the beer-drinking crowd. This hotel boasts close proximity to the GABF, but don’t count on mountain views, as the hotel’s just a seven-story building. It also has a nice attached bar, Panzano, featuring select local pours. The Grand Hyatt (Downtown, granddenver.hyatt.com) is another popular GABF stay, probably because it boasts two bars: one in the lobby featuring piano music, and a lounge near the restaurant that stays open until 2 a.m. The Hyatt’s real selling point is its views; you can watch the sun set over the mountains from the 26th floor. For history buffs, a stay at The Brown Palace Hotel (Downtown, brownpalace.com) won’t disappoint. Every president since 1905 (except Calvin Coolidge) has stayed here. Opened in 1892, this place is still a charmer, and it’s especially beer-friendly; the Palace boasts that its bar, The Ship Tavern, “opened the day after Prohibition ended.” The 240 rooms fill up fast. Hotel Teatro (Downtown, hotelteatro.com) was recently listed by Travel + Leisure as one of its “Top 500 Hotels in the World;” the quaint, 110-room hotel’s located just steps from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and its rooms and lobby are decorated with old performance costumes. Before a show, dine at one of the hotel’s two restaurants: PRIMA Ristorante or Kevin Taylor Restaurant. Beer drinkers aren’t middle-of-the-road folks, and The Curtis (Downtown, thecurtis.com) isn’t your standard hotel. Take, for example, the fact that it has a robot on hand to greet you, or the video art display in the lobby. To make your stay truly unforgettable, book a room on one of the pop culture-themed floors like “Chick Flick” or “One Hit Wonder.”
Mountain Sun Brewing Co.’s Vine St. Pub (City Park West, mountainsunpub.com) is worth a visit if only for its stellar beer lineup of house-brewed beers—Isadore Java Porter and Belgian Dip Chocolate Stout are especially delish—but the mural-covered, hippie-vibed tavern also boasts a big menu of healthy chow that leans Latin. Try the Spicy Pollo Asada Burrito with a pint of Colorado Kind Ale. You’ll do yourself a disservice if you miss the burgers at The Cherry Cricket (Cherry Creek, cherrycricket.com). It’s a bustling restaurant that has more of a huge-family-at-the-holidays feeling than an overcrowded restaurant vibe. Opt for a basket of “frings”—fries and fried-to-perfection onion rings—and brews from The Cricket’s impressive draft list that rivals most. If you’ve got gorgeous Colorado-in-the-fall weather, walk straight through the Pearl Street Grill’s (Platt Park, pearlstreetgrilldenver.com) dining room and take a seat on its patio; the comfy chairs and cozy canopies can’t be missed. For a good deal on grub, visit during PSG’s happy hour; in the late-afternoon hours, you can snag its famous burgers and homemade fries for around $5. The Hornet (Speer, hornetrestaurant.com) does a nice job marrying traditional bar food with some healthier options; don’t be surprised to see chilled cucumber soup or grilled mahi mahi on the board of daily specials. Its expansive dining room means you’ll be seated ASAP for lunch or dinner, and it should be noted that The Hornet has one of the few smoker-friendly patios in Denver. If your belly growls for beer-soaking bar food, head to Pete’s Bank Bar & Grill (City Park West, thebankbarandgrill.com). This two-story bar has a way of drawing the tattooed and late-20s crowd, so prepare for a clientele that’s hipper than you are. After you pile down an order of the beer-battered mushrooms and wings, be sure to check out the sizable draft lineup. The Wazee Supper Club (LoDo, wazeesupperclub.com) should be on a tour of great Denver historical buildings, with its Deco-style black and white tiles, telegraph clock, gaslights and other remarkable décor. A family-friendly restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere, Wazee’s the place for grub and good brews that are easy on the pocketbook. And if you’re in the market for good pizza, look no further. At Hops & Pie (Berkeley, hopsandpie.com) specialty pizzas topped with gourmet ingredients like skirt steak or blackberry barbecue sauce pair great with the bar’s house beer, Hops & Pie P.A., crafted by local Strange Brewing. Craft suds are a draw at the Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen (Larimer Square, euclidhall.com) but its hearty, delicious dishes, like crispy Buffalo-style pig ears, fried cheese curds and hand-cranked sausages are what keep this place packed.
Featuring everything from African to Western American to Oceanic art, the Denver Art Museum (Downtown, denverartmuseum.org) is an ever-changing hub of international culture. Come for the permanent exhibits, and stay a bit longer with fun events like wine tastings, mixed-media installments and artist demonstrations. Denver’s Botanic Gardens (Cheeseman Park, botanicgardens.org) are open year-round; its more than 45 gardens sprawl both indoors and out. Check out the Japanese Garden, which features an authentic teahouse with a moon-viewing deck imported from Japan that stands among Ponderosa pines, water plants and bonsai. Antique Row (South Broadway, antique-row.com), seven blocks of antique and furnishing stores, is quickly becoming a Denver must-see. Want a Southwestern knickknack? No problem. Used furniture? Got it. Scandinavian rugs? You bet. Beyond that, there are stores specializing in lighting, silver and jewelry, plus a few used bookshops along the way. Burn of those beer calories with a walk along the South Platte River (Downtown, greenwayfoundation.org). The South Platte River has two hiking trails: The first is a rigorous 10.5-mile trek, but if you just want to take in the mile-high skyline, take an after-dinner stroll along the second, more leisurely path. One of the easiest places to jump on is at Confluence Park near 15th and Platte streets, but be watchful; Denver’s bike lovers also frequent this multi-use trail. Bibliophiles simply must visit the Tattered Cover Book Store (Multiple locations, tatteredcover.com). The enormous independent bookstore boasts around 150,000 titles at its store on Colfax alone. Each store sports a coffee shop to help sustain you through what could be a daylong browsing session.