By Andrea Romano
October 02, 2019
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There’s nothing like a refreshing pint in the Mile High City.

Much like the West Coast cities of Portland, Seattle, and San Diego, Denver is one of the best places to explore the bustling craft brewing scene.

According to Visit Denver, brewing in Denver is nothing new. When miners and pioneers flocked to the state during the 1850s gold rush, many of these fortune seekers were also looking for some liquid gold — beer — to quench their thirst.

Adolph Coors, founder of Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado, established one of the state’s first breweries — but as Prohibition took over the nation, Colorado’s beer scene quickly dried up, according to Visit Denver. Of course, other craft brew cities can tell a similar story.

Though brewing bounced back after Prohibition was repealed, it wasn’t until the 1980s that homebrewers began to take over by starting up their own local businesses, thanks to a law passed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 that allowed people to brew in their homes, according to the Colorado Brewers Guild. Some of the city’s first breweries, such as Wynkoop Brewery, kicked off the microbrewing trend and gave some prominent Colorado public figures their start.

Current Colorado governor and former mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, is actually a co-founder of Wynkoop, which is considered an essential Denver establishment. The state, in general, is considered a “breeding ground” of quality craft brewers, according to the Colorado Brewers Guild.

Today, the city hosts the Great American Beer Festival, where brewers and beer lovers alike can sample the nation’s best craft brews, according to Visit Denver.

Methodology: We decided to take a sampling of some of the best and most-recommended breweries from a number of expert and user-rated sites, including RateBeer, TripAdvisor, Beer Connoisseur, and Beervana. We also took into account breweries that have been featured in other publications and local beer forums. While the breweries listed below are not necessarily ranked, each one has a special feature, whether it’s an attached restaurant, awards, honors, tours and tastings, an interesting space, a unique method of brewing, or is famous for having a specialty. All breweries are established or headquartered in Denver and the Denver metropolitan area, therefore some beloved spots, like Left Hand Brewing in Longmont and New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins could not be included since these places are either part of other metropolitan areas or generally not considered Denver suburbs.

Wynkoop Brewing Company

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Wynkoop is the brewery that kicked off the craft scene in Denver. It was first established in 1988 by four beer lovers, including Colorado’s current governor (former mayor of Denver) John Hickenlooper. Though it has humble beginnings as a homey brewpub in LoDo, it’s now a Denver institution that’s not afraid to experiment with flavors including gummy bears, green chiles, and Rocky Mountain oysters (yes, you read that right).

Blue Moon Brewing Company

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While Blue Moon has gone on to become a nationally loved brand, it all began in Denver in 1995. This company is particularly known for brewing its signature Belgian White beer with a hint of Valencia orange. Based on a Neilsen data survey, Blue Moon has become the No. 1 craft beer in the U.S., according to the brewery’s website.

Cerebral Brewing

Courtesy of Cerebral Brewing

You don’t have to think too hard to realize that this brewery is one of the best. Known by its signature brain-like hop leaf logo, Cerebral Brewing is a “scientific” approach to beer. The company was started by a former doctor of physical therapy who sought out brewing as a hobby — at first, anyway. Now, the company creates tons of dynamic concoctions like a sangria beer, a barrel-aged saison, and an array of IPAs and sours.

Call To Arms Brewing Company

Courtesy of Call to Arms Brewing Company

Started by brewers from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, this relaxed and non-pretentious beer company is focused on bringing good beer to good people. Perhaps it’s a little old fashioned — they typically forgo crazy flavors and experimental techniques — but Call to Arms is dedicated to local, traditional tastes in their beer and their food, so it’s also a sustainable company that’s a neighborhood staple.

TRVE Brewing Company

Courtesy of TRVE Brewing Co.

You better be hardcore if you want to try a brew from TRVE (pronounced “true”). This company has been around since 2012 and they brew craft beers that are “beyond the pale,” according to the company website. “To us this implies new ideas, channeling Loki, and embracing chaos,” the website says. Some of these killer beers include French farmhouse ales, oak-fermented saisons, and cultured sours. Their dimly lit, metal-goth-style taproom can be intimidating, but you’re guaranteed a great time.

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Courtesy of Crooked Stave

Founded in Denver in 2010, Crooked Stave has already become both a capital and a Fort Collins staple. The modern artisanal brewery takes a progressive approach to brewing, focused on creativity and sustainability first and foremost. Many of their beers are brewed with local, Colorado-grown ingredients and whole fruit.

Renegade Brewing Company

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It’s not a Colorado beer without a little rebellion. Renegade’s story began when founder Brian O’Connell was given a homebrew kit for Christmas in 2005. In 2011, the brewery served its first pint. Now that it’s a household name, Renegade’s creative, “risk-taking” brews — including the Redacted Rye IPA and Endpoint Triple IPA — are a favorite among locals. In 2018, Renegade was named the Colorado Brewery of the Year during the 7th Annual New York International Beer Competition.

Great Divide Brewing Company

Courtesy of Great Divide Brewing Co.

Opening in 1994, Great Divide is one of the older craft breweries in Denver. Now with two locations, it’s become a Colorado success story. The brewery has won over 18 awards from the Great American Beer Festival over the years, and now not only has an impressive facility to tour, but also a barrel bar and taproom to enjoy their signature brews.

Dry Dock Brewing Company

Courtesy of Dry Dock Brewing Co.

Dry Dock is technically located in Aurora, but since Aurora is considered a Denver suburb, we’re including it. And Dry Dock is such an essential Colorado brewery, it would be a shame not to. Like many breweries in the state, it started with some homebrewers who wanted to turn their side hustle into a full-time business. Since 2006, the company has taken home 33 awards, including the bronze for their Bligh’s Barleywine at the Great American Beer Festival 2018.

Bruz Beers

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If you’re looking for Belgian-style beer, you’ve come to the right place. Bruz Beers’ taproom is expansive and relaxed, but their beer certainly isn’t. Crafting a wide range of lagers, ales, witbiers, and other Belgian brews, Bruz has a ton of hearty, refreshing, and fairly alcoholic offerings. Some local favorites include the Valor specialty golden ale and the Atlas Quadrupel ale.

Cerveceria Colorado

A craft brewery concept from Denver Beer Company, Cerveceria Colorado celebrates Mexican culture by using time-honored Mexican ingredients in their beers such as cinnamon, chilies, nopal, chocolate, mole, lime, and agave. The company's mission is to build a bridge between the diverse cultures of Colorado by opening their colorful, inclusive, and welcoming taproom.

Novel Strand Brewing Company

This company calls itself a “boutique” brewery since it focuses on small batches and an especially small menu. The offerings include an IPA, a stout, and a witbier most of the time, which is different when compared to other Denver breweries and their mile-long menus. But this new little contender is starting slowly in order to bring the best beer possible to their customers.

The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Savannah Snyder/Courtesy of The Intrepid Sojourner

This brewery isn’t about science or art, it’s about adventure. Head brewer Andrew Moore brings global tastes to this local brewery. Since this company is so worldly, you’ll find lots of interesting flavors, like Mexican chocolate, horchata, Thai basil, chamomile, Moroccan Medjool dates, and some local tastes like Palisade peaches from Colorado.

The Grateful Gnome

Courtesy of The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe & Brewery

Perhaps it’s a little stereotypical for Colorado to have a Grateful Dead-themed brewery, but the locals definitely don’t mind. But this brewpub isn’t just a craft brewery with lots of fun and experimental beers, it’s also a delicious, New Jersey-style sandwich shop with over 40 different sandwich varieties. If you’ve been looking for the perfect lunch place, this is it. And yes, Dead cover bands play there sometimes.

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