Stuck in a somewhat inconspicuous location in Wheat Ridge, Brewery Rickoli
nevertheless seems to work on a lot of levels. Maybe the modest location gives it that comfortable neighborhood/community vibe, or perhaps it’s the heavy presence of owner/brewer Rick Abitbol’s personality in the brewery – from tweaks to traditional recipes to the quirky beer names. Rickoli keeps a good rotation of the old standbys on tap and adds new creations to keep things interesting. In my book, Rickoli gets extra credit for making gluten-free beers without making a big deal of it, likely because their beers actually taste really good and don’t need the “gluten-free” tag to draw customers. Although Rickoli may sound a little out of the way, it’s really just minutes from downtown and well worth the drive.
BEER LINEUP: Rickoli covers the spectrum of traditional styles from cream ale to imperial stout and also ventures into experimental beers like a barrel-soured red. Even the traditional styles often have a slight twist – an extra ingredient or different brewing process – like their vanilla rye. Best of all, the changes generally seem to enhance the beer rather than detract (unlike some places around town).
ATMOSPHERE: Given the location in a strip mall the physical space is unsurprising and boxy containing a bar, some basic tables and chairs, and a popcorn machine. The vibe is very community-oriented with the bartender seeming to know most of the crowd and families stopping by. The place felt very relaxed like a neighborhood hangout. Rickoli also furnishes a small patio out front.
SERVICE: Outstanding. The server was extremely friendly and welcoming. He went out of his way to make personalized sampling suggestions based on beers we previously tried and admired.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Rickoli is located in a tired strip mall next to a pot shop in a neighborhood of similar buildings. Not really walking territory. Near the corner of 38th & Wadsworth, driving or Uber may be the best transportation option and happily Rickoli features plenty of parking, along with easy access to I70 and Wadsworth.
STANDOUT BEER: In keeping with the “beer with a twist” theme, the two standout beers for me were McGoats, which adds oats to their regular rye beer, and the aforementioned vanilla rye. McGoats has a medium body and the oats serve to mellow out some of the potential rye harshness for a roasty, malty beer giving hints of chocolate, smoke and a mild rye bite. The real twist is a yeast that adds an herbal, minty flavor and aftertaste. The Vanilla in yo’Rye was a pleasant surprise with a solid rye base and a good dose of vanilla flavor. The flavor goes light on rye with just enough to add structure, and heavy notes of vanilla to make for a comforting winter beer.
Located right off the DU campus on Evans, Fermaentra Brewing has a true neighborhood-bar feel with little of the college party vibe one might expect. It seems like more of a place where neighbors drop in for one or two than a hangout destination, perhaps because of the residential, high-traffic neighborhood. The cozy space provides a chill, relaxing spot to enjoy the rotating beer list and weekday afternoons they offer Happy Hour – a rarity among breweries.
BEER LINEUP: The beers tilt toward Belgian and high-gravity, although on this visit there were a couple of IPAs. If you’re a picky drinker check out the tap list before you go as Fermaentra does not always have broad style choices, although there’s enough variety you should be able to find something enjoyable.
ATMOSPHERE: The space offers a warm, friendly vibe featuring
brick covered with modern art for sale. The crowd appeared to be grad students and neighborhood residents, so perhaps the undergrads were next door at Stadium Inn sucking down budget-friendly Buds. The taproom is on the small side and there’s no patio. Fermaentra doesn’t seem to have food trucks but there are a number of takeway places nearby.
SERVICE: Friendly and fast. They like to explain their beer
NEIGHBORHOOD: Fermaentra sits on the commercial strip of Evans just a couple blocks from DU. You can easily combine a brewery visit with dinner elswhere or bring food in. Parking is generally good and there’s a lot of activity and people on Evans, while the side streets are quieter and heavily residential.
STANDOUT BEER: Meristem Russian Imperial Stout falls squarely into the high-gravity Belgian-leaning category that Fermaentra excels at. You immediatly notice the thick and syrupy body, then the rich, slightly sweet chocolate/roasty flavors hit your mouth accompanied by a hint of raisin. Definitely don’t leave there without at least sample!
Station 26 Brewing Co. occupies an old fire station (#26 actually) in an under-breweried part of northeast Denver at the edge of Stapleton. It has awesome outdoor spaces and a very energetic crowd, combined with a good-sized taplist . It might not be convenient to all parts of Denver but is worth a destination-trip for an afternoon of patio sipping.
BEER LINEUP: A diverse spread of beers ranges from ultra-light cream ales to high-gravity, syrupy quads. They cover most traditional styles so you will likely find your comfort zone. They also have a few non-traditional beers like Tangerine Cream, which is their Colorado Cream ale aged with tangerine zest.
ATMOSPHERE: The fire station has a funky mid-century institutional feel, starting with the colored, glazed cinderblock that should be familiar from old school buildings. It draws a younger, vibrant crowd and hits its stride on warm days, due to the huge fire-engine-sized garage doors and dual patios with games. I imagine that indoors gets pretty packed in bad weather. They regularly have food trucks and score extra points for having a barrel of pretzels for snacking (back corner, left of bar).
SERVICE: Not particularly attentive on a busy Friday but if you get their attention the servers are very passionate about their beers and will give loads of information.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Transitional, perhaps? It’s sandwiched between the quiet, older Park Hill neighborhood and the old Stapleton airport hotels. The immediate area of the brewery is residential, with plenty of street parking. The location also puts it right across Quebec from the pretty new Stepford neighborhoods of Stapleton..
STANDOUT BEER: People rave about the Tangerine Cream so I’ll mention it. My take is that is smells like a creamsicle but the taste picks up bitter elements of the tangerines (rind, maybe?). I found the Foreign Extra Stout compelling, with a solid body and notes of coffee and smoke, finishing with some coffee/roast bitterness.
A relative newcomer to the RINO neighborhood, Bierstadt Lagerhaus offers an interesting destination concept by pairing with C Squared Ciders and the newly-reopened Rackhouse in an old industrial space. Bierstadt’s brewing talent comes from Bill Eye (formerly of Dry Dock and Prost Brewing) along with Ashleigh Carter (also formerly of Prost), both of whom are aficionados of German beer styles. The overall package makes for a convenient meeting place for friends with diverse tastes, as it offers a full bar in addition to the beer and cider options plus of course the Rackhouse food.
BEER LINEUP: German: that’s all
ATMOSPHERE: Bierstadt features a trendy, industrial vibe with the dining area elevated over the production facilities of the brewery and cider company. The three business have definitely configured the space for maximum impact, including mountain views out the back. If I had to name the atmosphere I’d call it “upscale industrial” compared to many breweries that jam taps into an old warehouse or strip mall and call it good. Business was a little slow the weeknight I visited, but it seems like a chill place to linger over beers and food.
SERVICE: Very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful in weighing beer choices. However the timing seemed a bit hit or miss. Perhaps they were understaffed that night or something else was going on, but from the looks of it efficiency wasn’t a strong point.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Stereotypical RINO. The area has lots of warehouses, many of which are being converted to trendy restaurants, bars, and galleries. There are also loads of other breweries in the area if you want to have a proper pub-crawl. You can generally find free parking, and best of all Bierstadt Lagerhaus has it’s own decent-sized lot.
STANDOUT BEER: All – or none – depending on your taste. All of the beers stood out equally for me as a German beer lover, but they would all probably have equally low appeal for someone who doesn’t like German styles. The beers I tried had the characteristic crisp and clean reinheitsgebot presentation of authentic German beers, and a hallmark of Bill Eye’s style
At almost six years old, Copper Kettle Brewing Company finds itself as one of the elder statesmen of Denver breweries and has a fairly well-established lineup of beers and regulars at the taproom. Full disclosure: They’re my local brewery and I started going there about a week after they opened so I might be a tad biased. Over the years Copper Kettle has always offered a welcoming staff and solid beers. Depending on where you live the location on the edge of southeast Denver may seem far but it’s well worth a summer visit for the patio, and you can easily make it a two-fer with Comrade Brewing Company right down the street.
BEER LINEUP: Copper Kettle classifies its beers into three categories – regular, barrel-aged, and seasonal. Between the regulars and seasonals most beer-drinkers will find something to like, although the lineup typically goes light on IPAs. The barrel-aged and certain seasonals offer adventure if you want to go off the beaten path.
ATMOSPHERE: Outside it’s light-industrial office park, with the addition of a nice patio for warm weather drinking. Inside it’s a small-ish space with cozy wood and industrial furnishings. At times it can get crowded and hard to find seating, especially when it’s too cold for the patio. However the large contingent of friendly regulars will generally share tables. It definitely seems like everyone, including servers, knows each other and is happy to chill over a beer or two. Copper Kettle is great about scheduling food trucks and has local menus too.
SERVICE: Expect reasonable bar service but iffy table service when things get busy. Regardless, the servers are always very friendly and more than happy to offer samples or opinions to help you decide on a beer or several. If you plan to come back ask about their Beer bucks Brogram to earn free beer.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely nothing to get excited about (but you’re here for the beer, right?). Expect light industrial with attractive views of a gas station and body shops.
STANDOUT BEER: I’d probably get crucified if I didn’t pick Mexican Chocolate Stout, the beer that won a gold at GABF right after Copper Kettle opened and became the mainstay of their operation. It’s been much-imitated since then but still has a pleasant warming effect on a cold winter day with the combination of light chocolate and cinnamon flavors combined with a couple varieties of peppers, which vary in hotness by batch. If that’s not your thing, give Belgian Blond a try – just trust me.