Lowry Beer Garden

Sunday Funday South Suburban Ride

On a sleepy summer Sunday we ventured out on bikes along the wooded Highline Canal to visit three great south suburban breweries. The ride was slightly longer than usual and we had to tackle a few big hills but the tasty beers made it all worthwhile! Most of the ride is on-trail, with much of it on the scenic canal, although part of the route uses the C470 trail, which currently has major construction. The trails switch between packed gravel and concrete so road bikes may find it challenging. A good map app is essential, as the route features loads of twists and turns.
Starting at Halfpenny Brewing Company near Arapahoe & Holly, we enjoyed the mostly American- and German-style beers in the new biergarden (out back past the brewing equipment). The patio can get hot since it’s really just a fenced-off section of parking lot 20170315_185333_HDRwith a partial sun shade, but hopefully when the hops grow up it’ll have more atmosphere. For beer, you’ll mostly find comfortable, traditional beers with a sprinkling of experimental stuff like Lichtenhainer smoked-sour (Seedstock collaboration) and a Cherry Cardamom Wheat. The staff was all super-friendly and helpful and our big group had no problem finding space in the large taproom amongst the regulars. If you get hungry, there are several food places in the strip mall, including a pizza joint.
Next we headed off to Three Freaks Brewing near Park Meadows. The ride was absolutely beautiful and very peaceful along the Highline Canal and local streams, with amazing voyeuristic views of swanky Cherry Hills Village mansions. The end turned somewhat less peaceful, as we navigated the sun-baked C470 trail with traffic whizzing by. Just past Quebec look for the strip mall on your right with Le Peep and Egg Roll King. Go past the building and you’ll find a trail into their parking lot.

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Brewery Snapshot Banded Oak Brewing Company

Even though it sits on a brewery-heavy part of South Broadway, Banded Oak Brewing Company has found a way to differentiate itself from the pack on a few levels. Starting with their barrel-aged focus and moving on to their large patio and enthusiastic service they make a great impression. In my opinion they ought to be part of any food or beverage-related visit to the neighborhood, or as in my case an excuse by itself to visit the area.

BEER LINEUP: Small but deep. Most of the 6-8 beers on tap are barrel-aged and/or high gravity with lots of depth and complexity. With their style-specific focus, Banded Oak doesn’t have a broad range of styles but what they do have is rewarding.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom is tiny, holding maybe 20 people if they want to get intimate. The patio, on the other hand, can accommodate maybe 70 and is set back from Broadway traffic so it feels chill. The overall mood was energetic and upbeat, with people popping in for a beer or two and moving on to other activities. Nearby restaurants can provide food as needed.

SERVICE: Energetic. The bartender was clearly having a great time cranking the music, flying around in a whirlwind serving multiple people simultaneously, and sweeping glasses off tables. There wasn’t a lot of time for idle chitchat so we were somewhat left to our own devices in selecting beers.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Pretty much a known quantity – South Broadway. Banded Oak is in the section populated with lots of restaurants, breweries, and other business so it’s easy to make a few stops while in the area. Street parking can be hit or miss but Banded Oak actually has a substantial parking lot that’s hidden from the street.

STANDOUT BEER: Although the Bock was my favorite, with all the traditional bocky goodness, I thought Ye Olde Ale was the most interesting, mainly because of what it wasn’t. Ye Olde Ale’s steadiness provided a pleasant counterbalance to some of the more intensely-flavored beers that Banded Oak serves and offers a nice simple malt flavor with some caramel sweetness. But be careful, though, as this simple pleasure provides no escape from the high-gravity of Banded Oak’s brews, clocking in at 9.2%.

West Side Beer Bus This Weekend

Brewery Snapshot: Dry Dock North Disc Golf

While I’ve been to Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s South Dock in Aurora dozens of times over the years, this past weekend I finally made it to the Canoe Room at the North Dock, partly to check out their taproom and partly to try their disc golf course. The taproom side was much less busy and and more laid back than South Dock but the beer selection didn’t seem to be much different, despite what I had previously heard. The disc golf course was fun but a little rough, located on an old industrial site filled with prairie dogs. If you golf, grab a map from the taproom before starting, since some of the hole alignments are hard to decipher. We didn’t fully realize that until we got back to the taproom and realized we missed an entire hole. There are some challenging placements right on the edge of a ditch that runs through the site, but overall the course is on the short side.

BEER LINEUP: From what I could tell the lineup looked much like South Dock, ranging from light Pilsners through the IPA and Amber range up to a couple stouts and their famous Vanilla Porter. Basically they offer something for 20170610_195333_HDRabout every taste, generally solidly-made.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom had a chill, fun vibe going on in with a graduation party happening as well. Aside from the wood-paneled taproom, the Canoe Room has an industrial back room in the production area featuring couches and games like air hockey.  People kept drifting in and out of the different spaces and the brewery so the whole thing seemed a little more like a college party than people trying to make a scene, as in some breweries in town.

SERVICE: Reasonable. We asked for beer; the server delivered. Not much chitchat but after a hot day of disc golf we happily settled for an efficient beer-delivery mechanism.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Kansas, basically. Clearly a production facility vs. retail, the industrial location east of the airport puts function over form. Don’t count on any food or other local businesses to visit. However it is easy to find on Tower Road just south of I70, with clear signage and ample parking. The truly cool thing about the remote location is that it leaves room for the disc golf course, which is a pretty unique amenity for a brewery.

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STANDOUT BEER: Maybe it was disc golfing in 90-degree weather but the Wheat offered a refreshing and satisfying experience. Normally I wouldn’t get too excited about a wheat but this packed more complexity than your stereotypical light-yellow beer. The maltiness on the front provided a  unique surprise for such a light beer, but then some hefeweizen-like banana esters kicked and pulled it back in the wheat direction. The end result was a beer with a lot going on but ultimately a refreshingly balanced and satisfying beverage.

Southwest Ride

Now that summer is finally in full swing I’m inspired to get outdoors at do a little brewery-hopping! Last weekend we took a bike ride on the southwest side of town, starting and ending at St Patrick’s Brewing, with a few planned and unplanned stops in between. We stuck 99% to trails and avoided street riding.

outdoor-games-at-st-patricks.jpgSt Patrick’s has a great summer setup with a beautiful location in downtown Littleton right on the Platte River with a huge lawn for lounging or playing games. We enjoyed relaxing in the expansive outdoor area and fortifying ourselves for the ride with a few beers and food-truck eats.  The current taplist at the lager-focused brewery features summer-friendly beers including multiple blonde styles like Strawberry, Luminosity (lemon & honey), and Peach Mango along with an Irish Berry Wheat and Fire Melon. All that I sampled had refreshing lightness and fruitiness for a hot summer day. As a starting point for a ride, St Patrick’s has the distinct advantage of a large parking area and direct access to the Platte River Trail.

From St. Patrick’s we went out the back gate and took a right onto the trail to head north for several miles. Pay attention as you pass the Overland Park golf course on the right because the end of the golf course is Florida where you’ll turn left for half a block, then cross Florida at Lipan and burn off some beer calories chugging uphill to Chain Reaction.

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Brewery Snapshot: Boggy Draw Brewery

Boggy Draw Brewery is all about personality – primarily that of Beef, the owner. The name comes from his favorite hunting area in Southern Colorado and the rustic taproom is filled with outdoorsy memorabilia. If you’re lucky enough to be there when Beef’s working you can’t miss him and his outsized enthusiasm. Of course atmosphere is only one part of a brewery and fortunately it doesn’t get in the way of good beer. It’s hard to categorize Boggy Draw’s style other than saying it’s worth stopping in to try. Oh yeah, and for bonus points – they’re one of the few breweries to have Happy Hour!

20170601_173056_hdr.jpgBEER LINEUP: The day I visited, the taplist tilted toward English-style beers, pale ales, and IPAs but Boggy Draw frequently rotates in new and interesting beers and only has a few standard beers. It’s unfair to set a specific expectation other than they always have a good number of beers that cover a reasonable spectrum so everyone ought to find something interesting.

ATMOSPHERE: Boggy Draw definitely has a good ‘ol boy theme and, unique among craft breweries, seems to draw more of that crowd than the hipster hordes. Starting with Beef and working on down, the staff and regulars seemed very relaxed and outgoing. The taproom has a hunting-lodge feel with lots of wood including tree-trunk tables and hunting trophies on the wall.

SERVICE: Enthusiastic. The staff was super-happy to promote their beer, give information, and explain a manner of things beer-related or otherwise. The bartender went out of his way to create a personalized tasting list 20170601_173357_hdr.jpgand explain in detail why he organized it as he did.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Tucked in an office park behind the River Point development at Hampden and Santa Fe, Boggy Draw is easy to see from Hampden but relatively challenging to get to (though efforts WILL be rewarded!). You can easily walk from the Regal Theater and other closeby businesses and there’s plenty of parking. River Point is definitely not an exciting area and if you’re there it’s probably for a specific destination. Additionally, if you want a break while biking the Platte River Trail a visit only takes you a couple minutes out of the way.

STANDOUT BEER: Stuck Truck Dunkelweizen. For a darkish beer, it drinks unexpectedly light. With an almost opaque reddish-toffee color I didn’t expect something similar to a Hefeweizen (even though the bartender specifically mentioned it). The banana esters were forward and backed by a solid malt base touched by a small bite of hops. Even on a hot day there’s no need to be scared of this dark.