Denver brews more beer than any other American city – more than 200 unique beers are produced and served every day in Denver’s tap houses, brew pubs, breweries and gastro pubs. There are now more than 70 breweries in Denver, more than 100 in the metro area and more than 300 throughout the state.
Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and USA Today have all selected Denver as the No. 1 Microbrew Beer City in the nation, an opinion shared by the New York Times. CNN.com also named The Mile High City America’s Best Beer Town in 2015.
To showcase new and iconic Denver breweries, VISIT DENVER creates an annual Denver Beer Trail. The 2017-2018 Denver Beer Trail is the largest yet, with 35 must-try local craft breweries, both new and iconic, and well-known beer producers around the Denver area.
However, beer is just the beginning of the craft beverage boom in Denver. From handcrafted whiskey to wine, you’ll never go thirsty in The Mile High City.
DENVER CRAFT BREWERIES (highlights)
It’s not a coincidence that the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has been held every fall in Denver for more than three decades. GABF, the Super Bowl of craft brewing, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest beer celebration on the planet with a staggering 6,700 beers available for tasting. It is estimated that more than 200 different beers are brewed in Denver every single day.
Wynkoop Brewing Company
Denver's first brewpub, The Wynkoop Brewing Company (co-founded in 1988 by former Denver Mayor, now Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper) produces more than 4,000 barrels of fresh beer annually, earning it a place among the largest brewpubs in the world. (1634 18th St., wynkoop.com)
Great Divide Brewery
Thirteen Great American Beer Festival medals. Four World Beer Cup awards. Ranked 14th in Ratebeer.com's 2008 "The Best Brewers in the World." Ranked seventh in Beer Advocate's 2008 "All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth." Yes, Denver's Great Divide Brewery has racked up its fair share of awards and acclaim since its founding in 1994 – so many that it has become a must-visit destination for beer lovers worldwide. (Visit the original location at 2201 Arapahoe St., or the Barrel Bar at 1812 35th St., greatdivide.com)
Falling Rock Tap House
Falling Rock Tap House takes beer appreciation seriously with more than 69 beers on tap and even more bottled beer, including what is probably the most extensive selection of Colorado-brewed beer under one roof in the world. All beer on tap is craft brewed -- "no contract brews or megaswill" they proudly state on their Web site. (1919 Blake St.,fallingrocktaphouse.com)
Denver Beer Co.
Located in the Riverfront neighborhood just west of downtown, this new craft brewery specializes in artisan and seasonal varieties of premium ales and lagers made from the best ingredients around. The tap list is constantly changing – you may get the fan-favorite Graham Cracker Porter, the delectable Peach Saison or the hoppier-than-thou Fresh Hop IPA. (1695 Platte St., denverbeerco.com
Maybe Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe should change its name to the Art (and Beer) District on Santa Fe. Renegade Brewing is that good. Founded by Brian and Khara O’Connell in the summer of 2011, the brewery’s “offensively delicious” brews were homebrewed initially. But friends and family encouraged the O’Connells to take their beers to the people. (925 W 9th Ave., renegadebrewing.com)
DENVER DISTILLERIES (highlights)
In recent years, the art of distilling spirits has become a passion for upstart Denver distilleries.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
Stranahan’s lays claim to being the first Colorado-born whiskey, and they remain committed to making the smoothest, most distinctively flavored whiskey on the market. How do they do it? By using handcrafted distilling techniques and Colorado’s finest natural ingredients. The connoisseurs of the beverage world are taking notice, too: Stranahan’s Batch 49 was voted artisanal whiskey of the year in 2010 by Malt Advocate magazine. (200 S. Kalamath St., stranahans.com)
Mile High Spirits
One of the country’s premier private label and custom brand distilleries, Mile High Spirits (MHS) is located in the heart of downtown Denver. MHS is one of three distilleries in the world to use an all-glass still for distillation which means that no metals or impurities are picked up throughout the distilling process, allowing for the most pure, crisp, and high quality product possible. Beyond private label, Mile High Spirits offers its own products to the mix, including Elevate Vodka, Fireside Whiskey, Peg Leg Rum, and Denver Dry Gin. (2201 Lawrence Street., milehighspiritsllc.com)
Laws Whiskey House
Laws Whiskey House is a fiercely independent Colorado distillery committed to producing the highest quality whiskey using local ingredients. Al Laws took concepts from paper in 2006, to production in 2011; in October 2014, Laws brought whiskey to glass, harvesting only when the whiskey said it was ready. Today the Laws team of dedicated craftsmen employ the same “no-compromise, no shortcuts” approach to making a growing family of high-quality, authentic American whiskeys that capture the character of Colorado and the people who make it. (1420 S. Acoma St., http://www.lawswhiskeyhouse.com/)
Leopold Bros. Distillery
A family owned and operated small batch distillery located in Denver, Leopold Bros. specializes in hand-crafted whiskies, liqueurs, gin, and Silver Tree Vodka, the highest rated vodka distilled and bottled in America according to the Beverage Tasting Institute. The San Francisco Spirits Competition, which is the largest of its kind in North America, agreed and awarded Silver Tree a Gold Medal. The Leopold Bros. distillery location features an orchard where they grow fruits and herbs that they use in their spirits. (5285 Joliet St., leopoldbros.com)
Downslope’s goal is to produce and sell the highest quality distilled spirits available, to do so locally and to make those products first available to the Colorado community. Their fine and unique products include Cane Vodka (made from the juice of Maui sugar cane before it is processed into sugar), Pepper Vodka (infused with New Mexico dried red chilies and black pepper from Indonesia), and Gold Rum (created in the same barrels that are used for tequila). (6770 South Dawson Circle, Suite 400, Centennial, downslopedistilling.com)
CRAFT COCKTAILS (highlights)
Try some of Denver’s best spirits at some of the city’s top restaurants and lounges, in cocktails created by expert mixologists.
Downtown Denver’s speakeasy-style watering hole, Green Russell (1422 Larimer St.), offers the Jalisco Sour: blanco tequila, mescal, Leopold Bros. peach whiskey, fresh grapefruit and lime juices, and black-pepper syrup.
Head to the Ship Tavern in the historic Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St.) for a Colorado Sidecar, made with Stranahan’s Whiskey, Grand Marnier, simple syrup and lime juice.
The curiously-named-but-delicious Corpse Reviver at Jax Fish House (1539 17th St.) is a mix of Leopold Bros. American small batch gin, cointreau, cocchi Americano, fresh lemon juice with a rinse of absinthe.
Get adventurous at ChoLon Bistro (1555 Blake St.) and order the Old Saigon, with Stranahan’s Whiskey, muddled Thai basil, Luxardo Cherries and house-made bitters.
Blackberry Sage Manhattan
Duo Restaurant (2413 W. 32nd. Ave.) offers the enticing Blackberry Sage Manhattan, with Leopold Bros. blackberry whiskey spiked with sage and lemon.
MILE HIGH WINE
Although most of the state’s vineyards are on the Western Slope, there are more than 40 wineries that operate in the Denver-metro area.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery
The Infinite Monkey Theorem is a “counter culture Urban Winery” located in the River North District in Denver, with a very cool open-to-the-public tasting room known as the Wine Lab. Sourcing fruit from Colorado’s fertile Western slope, all of Infinite Monkey’s wine is made in Denver. Recently, the winery made headlines by doing the unthinkable – canning its wines. But the results of this experiment, a lightly carbonated Syrah, were almost universally acclaimed in the wine world. (3200 Larimer St., theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com)
A vineyard in the middle of Denver? Yes. It started as a flower farm in 1969, but in 1998, the Balistreri family decided to plant some grapes. Since then, the Balistreris have been making wines in the Italian tradition. The award-winning wines at Balistreri include Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Port and Colorado cherry wines. Whites include Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat. Their wines are made from 98 percent Colorado grapes, including many grown on site. (1946 E. 66th Ave., balistreriwine.com)
Bonacquisti Wine Company
It’s a family affair at Bonacquisti! Winemaker Paul Bonacquisti is a second generation Italian American who learned to make wine from his dad, who learned to make wine from his dad. Located in the Sunnyside district of northwest Denver, The Bonacquisti Wine Co. tasting and tap room is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday–Saturday for tastings and tours of the wine-production area. (4640 Pecos St., denverwine.net)
CRAFT BEVERAGE EVENTS
Great American Beer Festival; late-September/early October – The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has been held every fall in Denver for more than three decades. GABF is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest beer celebration on the planet with a staggering 6,700-plus beers available for tasting.
Denver Beer Fest; nine days leading up to GABF – Presented by VISIT DENVER, Denver Beer Fest features dozens of beer-related events at breweries, restaurants, tap houses and attractions in the nine days leading up to Great American Beer Festival. From beer tastings to firkin tappings, events include beer bike nights, midnight beer breakfasts, pairing dinners, competitions and more.
Collaboration Fest; March – Featuring some of the most creative beer projects in the industry, Collaboration Fest has sold out its first four years. The festival showcases more than 100 collaborative projects from across the world, where each beer is crafted by at least two breweries working together – one from Colorado, the other from anywhere in the world. The limited beers are only served at the festival.
For a full list of craft breweries, distilleries, wineries and craft beverage events, go to the VISIT DENVER website.