Last weekend, I visited Denver for SeriesFest, a TV festival in Denver’s City Park neighborhood just east of downtown. I interviewed Olivia Munn and Jimmy Smits about their new TV shows, moderated a panel on podcasting and saw Stevie Wonder at Red Rocks. But I had nothing on my schedule on Saturday afternoon, and figured it’d be a perfect time to get to know one of the craft beer capitals of America a little better. With over a dozen breweries in a two-mile radius, I couldn’t get to them all—or even to all the ones I really wanted to visit, like TRVE, Great Divide, Ratio, Epic or Wynkoop, founded by Presidential hopeful and former Governor, John Hickenlooper.
But guided by fellow beer enthusiasts and the recommendations of local brewers and taproom staff, I found my way to five fantastic breweries (and one bonus beer bar) in the Five Points and River North neighborhoods. On Sunday, I added Cerebral Brewing to the mix. Here is my take from all six breweries:
1. Bierstadt Lagerhaus
Address: 2875 Blake Street
Beer Recommendation: Slow Pour Pils
The huge open space that houses Bierstadt Lagerhaus is one big party. Visitors can play a giant version of cornhole with full-sized bean bag chairs or head upstairs to try any of the eight ciders or six lagers on tap, including a delicious Slow Pour Pils. The head brewer of another brewery told me he was very proud of his own lagers, but that they’re still second to Bierstadt Lagerhaus. There’s a distinctive musty flavor to their beers that works nicely with the bready, malty traditional flavors. The Dunkel and Helles were both tasty and refreshing. This is a must visit to any lager lovers out there.
2. Cerebral Brewing
Address: 1477 Monroe Street (*This would be a long walk)
Beer Recommendation: You Can’t Do That Blue Raspberry Milkshake IPA
Barrels and a foeder greet you at Cerebral, along with a crowd waiting in line for juicy IPAs, barreled sours and dessert beers, and foeder-aged lagers. Collaborations with highly regarded breweries like Threes and Weldwerks hint at this brewery’s own reputation for actually pulling off styles like a milkshake IPA that still tastes like beer. You Can’t Do That is a blue raspberry IPA that’s as green as a St. Paddy’s Day river. The blend of excellent traditional lagers and experimental successes here is impressive.
3. Jagged Mountain
Address: 1139 20th Street
Beer Recommendation: Kawaikini Tiki Sour New England IPA
This five-year-old brewery divides its 19 beers on tap into Trailhead (easy drinking), Basecamp (a little heavier) and Summit (high-ABV) selections. They execute well on experimental beers like Kawaikini, a tiki-inspired fruited IPA; a blonde coffee milk stout called This Beer Really Ties the Room Together (made with whole coffee beans); and Big Apple, a blended cider/beer collaboration with a local cidery that was dry and unique.
4. Our Mutual Friend
Address: 2810 Larimer Street
Beer Recommendation: Blackberry Gose
Our Mutual Friend was hopping on the Saturday I visited. Twelve beers on tap included a blackberry gose, a Rauch beer, a hazy double IPA with NZ hops and my favorite new beer name: Gig Economy, a rustic saison. The line, meanwhile, backed right up to the door. The raspberry gose was creamy, the hazy IPA had all the weedy dry hop flavor you could hope for, and the music was straight out of a Paste playlist. In other words, I was the oldest person in the bar. If you’re looking for the hot, new thing in Denver beer, Our Mutual Friend had it going on.
Address: 2736 Welton Street
Beer Recommendation: Miss Bliss Raspberry & Cherry Sour
Started by two guys from Great Divide, Spangalang is a little off the beaten path, but this jazz-themed brewery is well worth the short side trip. Of the 11 taps, two are delicious barrel aged sours, including a bourbon barrel aged English old ale blended with a cherry sour, called Rod and Todd. Even better was Miss Bliss, a raspberry and cherry sour. This is the amazing little secret you’re always hoping to find on brewery-tour days.
6. Woods Boss
Address: 2210 California Street
Beer Recommendation: The Dreams That Stuff Are Made Of Farmhouse Ale
This two-year-old brewery has a nice open atmosphere and a friendly staff. The offerings range from traditional (an excellent Farmhouse ale) to the imaginative (Fruity Flash is a kettle sour with pineapple, mango and blackberry, and Chile Lime Starr’s Early is a lager with chili pepper and lime). I also tried the bartender’s recommendation: No Root, No Peacock, a super-refreshing blonde ale with plenty of flavor.
Bonus: Goed Zuur
Address: 2801 Welton Street
Beer Recommendation: Anything you haven’t tried before.
For someone who loves sours, I could live here. On tap you’ll find one pils. Two hoppy ales. And TWENTY-THREE SOURS. The list ranges from local breweries like Crooked Steve and Spangalang all the way Beersel, Belgium. Oh, and the chef raises his own hogs for the delicious charcuterrie. Just across the street from Spangalang, this could make for an afternoon all its own.
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Josh Jackson is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste and host of The Paste Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshJackson.