A Girl's Guide to Denver's Craft Breweries
By Wendy E. Simmons
I love beer. If it's a Corona poured over ice with a squeeze of lime juice.
Over the years, many a bartender has visibly cringed at my request for any beer that tastes "like a Corona" or "like water with a dash of beer in it" whenever Corona isn't available. It's not that I'm not a beer girl; it's just that I'm not a beer girl.
So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to a craft brewery tour of Denver, where I was visiting Laura, one of my very best friends, for the weekend. She decided I'd been to the city one too many times without doing so.
Colorado has no shortage of craft breweries. According to the Brewers Association, the state is ranked third in the nation, with its 235-plus craft breweries producing more than 1,673,686 barrels of beer annually. That's 13.6 gallons for every adult resident age 21 and older. It's impossible to find an accurate count of craft breweries in the city of Denver, our intended target, since it sees a new one open every day. But clearly, I had some catching up to do.
Beer has evolved to a connoisseur-level pursuit in the Mile High City. The jargon employed by craft brewery purveyors and those who consume it is every syllable as grandiloquent and esoteric as their wine industry brethren's. (Read: I don't understand a word of it.) In earnest, and exceptionally passionate fashions, kind beer masters/beer enthusiasts/people who really like beer (?) proffered shot glass after shot glass of yellow, red, tan, brown, or near black-colored liquid while saying things like, "This is a complex and full-bodied, yet approachable, saison, with noble hops and a strong influence of fermentation from aged Belgian yeast that exhibits notes of cocoa bean and esters of raisins that produce a spicy, satisfying finish." (Me: does it come with a lime?)
Denver's brewpubs are as varied and creative as the beers they produce. Each one is different in terms of vibe, decor, and food served--or in lieu of a kitchen which food truck parks on premises. Whether you want an Imperial Red Rye Stout at a heavy metal-themed brewery, or a Smoked and Oaked Belgian-Style Ale at one that transports you back to your grandma's house, Denver has it.
Having both worked in marketing for over 20 years Laura and I quickly anointed the day's outing "The Over-47-Year-Old Girl's Guide to Denver's Craft Beer Bars." After enlisting her very nice and patient husband to be our designated driver, we were on our way.
We made it to four breweries before deciding it was time for a cocktail. You can take the girl out of the martini, but you can't a martini out of the girl... or something like that.
Here are my findings:
Beertenders (?) Sarah and Laurel are quite possibly the best employees on the planet, and the space is really cool. The decor is a mix of Meatpacking District-style "industrial sparse" circa the early aughts, with the spirit of a 1960s diner, only cleaner with less fuss and kitsch. And it works.
Drenched in sunlight with high ceilings, it's open and airy, with a super causal vibe and great music. (Ratio is closely aligned with the neighborhood's music scene and its owners are former musicians.) I could have sat outside on its porch all day. That it also offers a wide variety of beers that all tasted good was a bonus.
Here I learned French Saison smells like pot (coincidence?), and that coffee and beer taste better mixed together than apart (Coffee Domestica). Favorite beer tasted: Domestica.
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