If you have a long afternoon and want to get out of Denver – but not too far – there are loads of breweries in the small towns just north of the city that make for a nice driving/walking tour.
We started at The Post Brewing Company in Lafayette, primarily because they opened the earliest and have food. The feel is upscale old west – kind of like a pretty saloon, although on a nice day try to sit in the atrium beer garden. Unfortunately the food and beer didn’t match the skill of the decor. The beer was solidly average and the food not even that good. I tried the saison, which had typical barnyard flavors and smells, the maltier-than-expected ESB, and a rather bland red. According the waiter their fried chicken was a point of pride, but that day they seemed to have been a little overly-proud of the fryer and it came out dark, burned, and tough. Although I’ve included it in this tour as an option, you could realistically do better at dozens of other breweries.
Moving on from Post we headed to Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., about a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk, and that’s when the fun really started. Although located in a typical strip mall, Liquid Mechanics has a cave-like barrel room with games side-by-side with barrels and also an outdoor patio. The real stars are the adventurous beers. The chilly day lead me to favor darks which were all very complex and warming. My sampler featured a stout, three porters including coconut and peanut butter versions, and a red wine saison. All of them had great depth and balanced flavors but the red-wine saison was the clear stand-out. The typical yeasty and bready saison flavors were balanced by rich red wine flavors. If we hadn’t needed to keep moving I absolutely could have had another pour.
Next we headed north to Erie, driving through fields and new suburbs for about 15 minutes. Erie is an old-fashioned small town that seems unaffected by the exploding developments enveloping the area. Conveniently-enough, Echo Brewing sits at one end of Briggs Street, the main thoroughfare. With its big patio and bar that opens to the street,Echo welcomed us as the afternoon warmed up. I ordered a sampler and found all the beers to be better than average, with a standout milk stout. Echo originated in Frederick and opened a second Erie location. With its full kitchen and relaxing patio I could envision spending a summer afternoon relaxing and watching life go by on the main street.
Taking a short walk up Briggs and a left on Cheesman Street brought us to Industrial Revolution Brewing Company. By this point twilight was falling so we opted to skip the pretty outdoor biergarten for the cozy mountain-lodge style interior. The place was packed with locals, which is always a good sign, and we quickly found out why. Despite the busy happy hour our friendly and knowledgable server took time to discuss the tap selection and upcoming releases so we really knew what we were getting. I ordered a flight of almost all their beers, which ranged from standard styles to adventurous brews. Short version of a long tasting session: they were all really darn good, even the styles I don’t generally favor.
Overall, this trip confirmed what I’d heard from friends – that venturing north for breweries has its rewards. While I can’t exactly recommend Post, it would be easy enough to substitute Odd 13 in Lafayette, and realistically there are dozens of breweries up north so it would be easy enough to roll your own itinerary with good old Google Maps.