When it comes to beer, Colorado doesn’t mess around: the state consistently tops the charts for the number of breweries and microbreweries per capita. Plus, it’s home to the Denver Beer Triangle: the Rocky Mountain front range between Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver, where you’ll find more than 72 breweries, including Coors Brewing Company.
As the state’s capital, Denver sits at the heart of the brewery action. Every fall, the city showcases more than 3,000 beers at The Great American Beer Festival—dubbed the world’s largest beer event by Guinness World Records. Colorado’s craft beers also deserve a mention—killer in taste, trade and eco-minded production—they regularly win national and international awards.
Thirsty yet? Here’s our list of the top watering holes and craft favorites in the Mile-High City.
Photography By Breckenridge Brewery
Breckenridge Brewery was founded in the 1980s by Richard Squire, a ski bum with a knack for home brewing. His ales and porters soon became the town of Breckenridge’s après ski drink of choice for athletes after a long day on the mountain. And in the 1990s, this little brewpub migrated into Denver. It now has 5 locations and ships to 32 states, but retains its integrity as one of Colorado’s most interesting producers of a pint.
Must Try: The heavier Nitro Vanilla Porter combines hints of chocolate, caramel and coffee.
2. Great Divide Brewing Company
Photography By Megan Rosenbloom, Flickr
Both brewery and taproom, Great Divide has been a staple of Denver’s beer scene for 20 years. It’s one of the most decorated breweries in the nation, winning 18 awards at the GABF. Great Divide specializes in strong beers with alcohol content greater than 7 percent, making it the place to drink for customers who want pints to pack a punch. You can tour the brewery floor to witness the brewing process firsthand, and afterward taste 9 year-round and 12 seasonal brews.
Must Try: The Hercules Double IPA isn’t for the faint-hearted. Its hoppy zing and nutty undertones surprise your palette from start to finish.
Photography By Crooked Stave, LLC
Known for its outlandish take on experimental brewing, Crooked Stave fits right in with Colorado’s quirky, hipster stereotype. The brewery recently relocated to The Source, a massive warehouse-like artisanal marketplace. Inside, the brewery and taproom lies adjacent to a bakery, coffee roaster and art gallery. Crooked Stave specializes in sour ales, bringing a refreshing twist to Denver’s beer scene. You can’t go wrong trying any brew from its signature Wild Wild Brett series.
Must Try: The Wild Wild Brett Rouge—a tart red—has traces of hawthorn berries, rosehips and tropical fruit, with an earthy finish.
Photography By TRVE Brewing Company
Trve (pronounced "true") has one clear mission: to provide "a rad place to hang out and drink killer beer." Our verdict? Its chaotic, heavy-metal atmosphere will leave you feeling anything but ordinary, and its beer is far from boring. It doesn’t take brewing too seriously, adhering to Colorado’s laid-back vibe.
Must Try: The Hellion not only has a cool name, but its bitter oat base with strawberry and blueberry flavors make it super easy to drink.
Denver Beer Co. is all about brewing the perfect seasonal beer. Dialed into creative recipes and small batches, Denver Beer Co. uses local ingredients and switches out most of its taps on a weekly basis. This artistic approach ensures you’ll rarely get the same pint twice. The brewery draws its inspiration from Bavaria’s beer gardens and in spring, summer and fall visitors can enjoy a brew outside.
Must Try: The Smoked Lager, available during summer, is a woody, malty brew with a crisp finish.
Photography By Bull & Bush Brewery
A blend of Wild West and English tavern, the Bull & Bush has been serving Denver pints for 43 years. In the 1990s, it added a brewery adjacent to its pub and in 2013, it started bottling and distributing its ales to select locations throughout Colorado.
Must Try: Yule Fuel, limited edition spiced holiday ale with gingerbread undertones.
7. Renegade Brewing Company
Photography By Renegade Brewing Company
Renegade doesn’t have TVs at the bar -- a reflection of its philosophy that the taproom is about good friends and good beer only. No distractions. Living its motto of "bring a friend or make a friend," Renegade's inviting atmosphere is the perfect place to sip a pint and play a board game. But don’t let the casual atmosphere fool you. Renegade is no-nonsense about brewing. It’s a youngster in Denver, having opened in 2011, but it has already won a bronze at the GABF for its imperial stout.
Must Try: The Wheat Wine is a complex rich beer that’ll turn any beer lover’s palate. It starts with zesty hops and blends into a caramel earthy malt.
8. Dry Dock Brewing Company
Photography By Dry Dock Brewing Company
A brewing company founded only 9 years ago, Dry Dock’s spike in production and award for "Small Brewing Company of the Year" in 2009 at GABF are pushing its reputation on the Denver beer market. Located on the outskirts of northeast Denver, Dry Dock’s taproom with 180 seats and 16 taps make this little startup competitive with downtown’s most popular brewpubs.
Must Try: The Dry Dock Hefeweizen is a dry, light-bodied wheat beer with hints of clove, banana and lemon.