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A Beer Lover's Guide to Denver, CO

by Katie Hammel Jul 16, 2009
From brew pubs and beer fests to non-alcoholic activities and outdoor adventure, Denver brings the full package.
Brewery Tours

A brewery tour will show you the care and craft that goes into beer production, and most breweries offer them for free.

Try the short but informative free tour at Great Divide, often given by one of the brewers themselves.

Afterwards, enjoy free samples of award-winning beers like Saint Bridget’s Porter and Hercules Double IPA in the small tasting room. If your visit coincides with happy hour (4-7pm, Monday-Friday), you’ll also get discounts on pints, which normally cost $4-$5 each.

The smaller city of Boulder sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 35 miles north of Denver, and a tour of father-and-son-run Avery Brewing is worth the short drive. Make sure to toss back an India Pale Ale or Out of Bounds Stout once your tour’s over.

If you need a snack to go with your beer, try a gyro from the Pearl Street Gyro Cart, which sets up shop in the Tap Room. A pint’s just two bucks with any gyro.

The largest of Colorado’s breweries, Coors, is found between Denver and Boulder. For Fat Tire fans, New Belgium Brewing Company lies farther up the road in Fort Collins.

Brew Pubs

With nearly 70 rotating beers on tap and many more in bottles, Denver’s Falling Rock Tap House is the place to sample to your heart’s content.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of taps lining the wall, but the friendly bartenders are happy to make recommendations and offer a taste to help you decide. The diverse menu is categorized by style and includes ales, ambers, lagers, IPAs, stouts, porters, and cask-conditioned beers from both local brewers and producers around the world.

If the 16-ounce curls sap your strength, Falling Rock has you covered with a bar menu featuring standard pub fare like wings and burgers.

Just off Pearl Street in Boulder is Mountain Sun Pub, offering more pub grub and the perfect beer sampler — six 6-ounces tastes of their award-winning brews for under $10.

For a few more options, head to Walnut Brewery, Boulder’s first brewpub. Indulge in anything from giant soft pretzels and thin-crust pizzas to fajitas and baby-back ribs along with a rotating selection of brewed-onsite beers like Devil’s Thumb Stout and Big Horn Bitter.

After dinner, walk a few blocks down to the Boulder Drafthouse, which hosts a variety of live music every night.

More Good Eats in Denver

Most of Denver’s bars and restaurants offer great happy hour deals on weekday nights and during certain weekend hours.

One of the best places for cheap happy hour eats is Dazzle, with nightly jazz performances. The $5 food menu includes items like fried calamari and creamy mac-and-cheese, and pulled-pork or salmon sliders are under two bucks each.

If the previous night’s exploits have left you a little rough around the edges, take a drive to Govnr’s Park for some hair of the dog. On Saturdays, brunch is buy one, get one free and mimosas are bottomless from 10am-2pm.

Or, if you’re up early and raring to go, hightail it to Snooze, Denver’s best brunch spot, to beat the crowd. Soak up any leftover alcohol in your system with corned beef hash, steak and eggs benedict, or pineapple upside-down pancakes.

Frothy Festivals

True beer fanatics should plan their Denver visit around the Great American Beer Festival, held every September. Tickets cost around $50 and are good for four hours of sampling some of the 1,800 beers on tap from around the world.

The newer, less-crowded All Colorado Beer Festival goes down in Colorado Springs each November and serves up beers from over 70 Colorado breweries.

Alcohol-Free Exploits

Everyone needs a break from the bottle at some point (c’mon, admit it!). When it’s time for yours, give some of these more “wholesome” activities a go:

* Art perusing at the Denver Art Museum
* Paradisaical bliss at the Denver Botanic Gardens
* Beer calorie management on a hike in Red Rocks Park (located halfway between Denver and Boulder)
* Rock climbing near Boulder at Eldorado Canyon
* More outdoors in Chautauqua Park, at the base of the Flatirons


To explore outside of downtown Denver you’ll need a car (but don’t even think about drinking and driving), so pick one up at the airport.

In town, budget travelers can check into the Melbourne International Hostel for as little as $16 a dorm bed ($39 for a private double). Or, score yourself an eco-friendly suite at the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast for around $135 a night.

In Boulder, private doubles at the Boulder International Youth Hostel start at $50.

The Bradley Boulder Inn, located right off Pearl Street in downtown Boulder, gets a little swankier, with posh rooms for $200 and up. However, these include a wine and cheese hour, wireless internet, access to a fitness center, and a hearty breakfast. Plus, if you hit every watering hole in this article, you won’t even remember swiping your card at checkout.

Community Connection

Other beer-based content to be had on Matador includes Beer Quest 2008: The Search for America’s Best Microbrew, 20 Best Beer Towns in America, and The Top 20 Microbrews in America.

Also, make sure to check out Katie’s 10 Spots in Chicago for BYOB Dining and How to Drink on the Reykjavik Rúntur.

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