Craft beer in Boulder is nothing new: The oldest microbrewery in Colorado, Boulder Beer, opened here in 1979. Yet this progressive city’s sipping scene has reached new heights in recent years, thanks to the innovative spirit of a new wave of brewers bred in kettle rooms and garages around the state. A flurry of openings has more than doubled the number of breweries in town in the past four years, to around 20. Add to that major upgrades by some of its established producers, and Boulder stands to make an even bigger splash in pint glasses nationwide.
A sunny, south-facing patio, medal-winning house beer and a 30-tap bar have spelled quick success for this 2-year-old brewpub. But the menu is the real scene-stealer, serving up craveable bites like house-smoked hot wings, caramelized sweet potatoes and burnt-end barbecue dip.
Stocking more than 2,000 beers, this locally owned megastore is the spot for the latest bottles from nearby breweries and obscure finds from around the world. You’ll drool over the encyclopedic build-your-own-six-pack aisle and a glass case full of rare barrel-aged sours, stouts and other cellarable delights.
Two Boulder Beer alums collaborated with a friend to open this brewhouse/taproom in an industrial-chic central Boulder warehouse in 2013. Sanitas has since garnered a faithful local following with its flagship Black IPA, an awesome marriage of roast and resiny hops—though its brand-new line of funky, fruity barrel-aged brews is gaining traction.
West End Tavern
Snag a rooftop spot at this cozy downtown barbecue joint, where two dozen taps lean heavily on Boulder County brews. A solid lineup of specialty bombers also includes several selections from Avery’s barrel-aged series.
Like Boulder itself, this 22-year-old mainstay has a flair for the unconventional—from big, boozy beers to an extensive barrel-aging program. A new $30 million facility opened in February, more than tripling Avery’s size and adding a sleek 30-handle taproom and soul food-inspired restaurant.
In six short years, Upslope has grown from a small brewery and tasting room on the edge of town to a 35,000-barrel-capacity player distributing to half a dozen states. Production now centers at a 17,000-sq.-ft. brewing facility and taproom opened in 2013, while the original location turns out a celebrated small-batch series.
GET OUT: On a sunny day at the foot of the Flatirons, you’ll quickly see why Boulderites rarely miss a chance to get outside. You shouldn’t, either: Start at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, a lively creekside array of local vendors every Saturday and Wednesday throughout the summer. Then hike the 1.6-mile Mount Sanitas Trail to summit a 6,863-foot peak that yields sweeping views of the city and inspired a brewery’s name (see below). Thursday nights, join hundreds of costumed riders on the Boulder Cruiser Ride, a weekly parade of music-toting, light-adorned bicycles along the streets and paths of town.
GO BIG BEFORE YOU GO HOME: Snatch up the year-round, 10%-ABV Upslope Imperial IPA, sold in giant 19.2-ounce cans, or grab one of Avery’s super-high-octane creations like Black Eye, a 19%-ABV imperial stout.