Craft beverages have long been a part of Denver’s culture – the city’s first business was a saloon, which opened before a post office or bank. More recently, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and USA Today all selected Denver as the No. 1 Microbrew Beer City in the nation, an opinion shared by the New York Times and CNN.com.
However, beer is just the beginning of the latest craft beverage boom in Denver. Distilleries, urban wineries and even a traditional-style sake brewery have emerged on the scene, using local ingredients to create world-class products.
Several local craft beverage producers and cocktail bars have been nominated for James Beard Awards, most recently including Scott and Todd Leopold of Leopold Bros. distillery, nominated in 2020 for “Outstanding Beer, Wine or Spirits Producer,” and speakeasy Williams & Graham for “Outstanding Bar Program.”
From handcrafted whiskey to wine, you’ll never go thirsty in The Mile High City.
DENVER CRAFT BREWERIES & TAPHOUSES
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 150 in the metro area and nearly 400 throughout the state.
It’s not a coincidence that the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has been held in Denver for nearly four decades. GABF, the largest ticketed beer festival in the country, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest beer celebration on the planet with a staggering 6,700 beers available for tasting.
To showcase new and iconic Denver breweries, VISIT DENVER creates an annual Denver Beer Trail, featuring more than 40 must-try local breweries, both new and well-loved, from beer producers around the Mile High City.
Growing side-by-side with beer brewing is Denver’s distillery scene. There are more than 40 craft distilleries producing whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin and rum in Denver and the metro area. Many distilleries offer tours of their facilities, as well as tastings – and some have on-site cocktail bars, pouring their own spirits straight or in handcrafted cocktails. Visitors can also create a tour of some of Denver’s and Colorado's finest distilleries along the Colorado Spirits Trail.
Colorado Sake Company
Colorado’s first sake brewery and tasting room, Colorado Sake Company, opened in August 2018. The tasting room offers six types of sake, all using traditional brewing methods and local ingredients to introduce drinkers to the beverage. www.coloradosakeco.com
Denver Distillery is the city's first distillery-pub, meaning you can enjoy creative in-house spirits like strawberry kiwi liqueur, apple pie moonshine and spiced rum, along with beer, wine, cider and spirits from other local makers. This micro-distillery is located inside a repurposed historic hotel and specializes in creating small-batch, grain-to-glass spirits from natural and local ingredients using traditional distillation techniques. www.denverdistillery.com
Downslope’s goal is to produce and sell high quality distilled spirits, to do so locally and to make those products available first 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). downslopedistilling.com
Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse
RiNo’s newest distillery, Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse, is housed in a working studio and gallery space. They produce small-batch whiskey, gin, vodka and rum, along with flavored liqueurs and seasonal options, all of which they serve in their in-house cocktails – either hand-mixed or on tap. irontondistillery.com
Laws Whiskey House
Laws Whiskey House is a fiercely independent Colorado distillery committed to producing the highest quality whiskey using local ingredients. In 2011, Al Laws left his Wall Street job behind to create whiskey, harvesting only when the whiskey said it was ready – his first batch poured in 2016. In 2017, Laws was recognized by the World Whiskey Awards for winning “World’s Best Rye” with their Secale Straight Rye Whiskey, and the distillery now makes six styles along with limited releases. 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. leopoldbros.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 creates Elevate Vodka, Fireside Whiskey, Peg Leg Rum and Denver Dry Gin. milehighspiritsllc.com
Mythology Distillery, in Denver’s Highland neighborhood, houses a travel-inspired tasting room that features unique items collected throughout the owners’ travels. The distillery currently makes and serves a rye vodka, a blended American whiskey, a silver rum, a syrah-finished whiskey blend and a gin – all of which can stand alone or be blended in to creative cocktails. And, they have created a botanical gin in partnership with the Denver Botanic Gardens. www.mythologydistillery.com
Rising Sun Distillery
Rising Sun Distillery specializes in vodka, gin, brandy and eau de vies handmade from scratch in small batches using local and organic ingredients and pure Colorado water. www.risingsundistillery.com
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
Stranahan’s lays claim to being the first Colorado-born whiskey, and they remain committed to making some of the smoothest, most distinctively flavored whiskey on the market by using handcrafted distilling techniques and Colorado’s finest natural ingredients. They also offer weekly opportunities to become part of the bottling crew – the general public can sign up to help bottle the craft whiskey. stranahans.com
The Family Jones Spirit House
The Family Jones Spirit House is a craft spirits distillery and tasting room that accentuates the interplay between distiller, chef, bartender and guest with cocktails, food, tours and tastings in an inventive setting. Currently, they craft vodka, gin, rum and whiskey; and they have partnered with several local businesses to create limited releases. thefamilyjones.co
CRAFT COCKTAIL BARS
Try some of Denver’s best local spirits in cocktails created by expert mixologists at some of the city’s top restaurants and lounges.
54Thirty’s name is a nod to its elevation – at 5,430 ft., it is Denver’s highest rooftop bar. Part of Le Méridien Denver Downtown, the menu is globally-inspired.
The Cooper Lounge
Located on the second floor of Denver Union Station, the Art Deco décor lends a speakeasy vibe to the upscale cocktail, wine and beer list.
Hidden in the historic Oxford Hotel, the Cruise Room was Denver’s first bar to reopen after Prohibition and it still features Art Deco décor and classic cocktails.
Death & Co.
The second outpost of the famed New York hotspot resides in Denver’s Ramble Hotel, serving top-notch cocktails in the bar, garden and exclusive Suite 6A.
A modern jazz and supper club in a restored warehouse in Denver’s hip RiNo neighborhood, Nocturne features live jazz, as well as carefully curated wine, beer and cocktails.
Poka Lola Social Club
Located in the Dairy Block in LoDo, Poka Lola is a classic cocktail bar with a nod to American soda fountain culture.
Run for the Roses
Nestled underground at Dairy Block, Run for the Roses offers seasonal cocktails, rare/vintage spirits and pays homage to the elegant clubs of the past.
Williams & Graham
A true speakeasy, guests have to enter the award-winning Williams & Graham via a bookshop façade, through a rotating bookshelf.
MILE HIGH WINE
Denver is also home to 13 urban wineries and, although most of the state’s vineyards are on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, there are more than 40 wineries that operate in the Denver-metro area. Below are a few of the wineries doing interesting things in Denver. For more, visit this page.
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. The winery made headlines by being the first to do the unthinkable – canning its wines. The results of this experiment, a lightly carbonated Syrah, were almost universally acclaimed in the wine world and are perfect for Colorado’s outdoor lifestyle. theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com
Balistreri actually has their vineyard in the middle of Denver. It started as a flower farm in 1969, and 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. balistreriwine.com
Carboy works with vineyards and winemakers from prominent wine regions around the world — primarily local Colorado growers and producers — to source high-quality grapes, juice and wine that is then crushed and fermented, aged further, blended and kegged and/or bottled to make their unique brand of Carboy Wines. carboywinery.com
Bonacquisti Wine Company
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. has won several awards, including the 2019 Governor’s Cup for its 2018 Tempranillo Franc Reserve. denverwine.net
CRAFT BEVERAGE EVENTS
Great American Beer Festival (late-September/early October)
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has been held almost every fall in Denver for nearly four 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 Week (nine days leading up to and including GABF)
Presented by VISIT DENVER, Denver Beer Week 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 also 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 every year it has taken place. 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-edition beers are only served at the festival.