Brewery Snapshot: Cheluna Brewing Co.

Brewery or cantina? Cheluna Brewing Co.’s beer list reads like a craft brewery but the taproom looks like an industrial cantina with steel, Mexican tilework, and Lucha Libre masks. With a beer list that goes far beyond Mexican-style beers and a location in the latest trendy Denver-area entertainment development, Cheluna seems poised to succeed once the buildout is complete. Even though many business are still under construction, the whole Stanley Marketplace complex was busy on a random weeknight. Parking was already becoming scarce, so if you want to check out Cheluna, now’s probably the time before the area becomes unbearably popular.

BEER LINEUP:  With more than just the light lagers you’d expect from a Mexican place, Cheluna covers a good chunk of the style spectrum by offering IPAs, a saison, a stout, a porter, and even an adventurous gose. Bottom Line: If you like more robust beers than Mexican lagers you’ll find them.

ATMOSPHERE: Like the Stanley Marketplace where it resides, Cheluna feels busy and vibrant but still trying to find its niche. The diverse crowd of young, old, singles, couples, and families seemed like they were checking out the next new thing and once the initial interest passes many will move on and leave Cheluna with a set of regulars. Cheluna’s space gives off a funky vibe that mixes modern touches with traditional Mexican decor (and some cheesiness). The taproom flows nicely into the larger building and has the obligatory brewery windows, but also features an ample balcony on the second floor. It seemed like one-beer place for most patrons, perhaps before or after dinner at one of the marketplace eateries (though you can bring food in too).

SERVICE: Cheluna is bar service only, and the bartender was reasonably efficient and friendly.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The neighborhood is a 20170719_195209_HDRstudy in contrasts. To the west lie new/pretty/expensive Stapleton suburban homes and to the south/east you’ll find old-school Aurora with a mix of smaller, older buildings, by-the-week motels, ethnic neighborhoods, and questionable-looking apartment complexes. Regardless, the marketplace is isolated in a field and not convenient to the surrounding area or transport.  I’m betting 99% of the visitors drive or uber in, do their thing, and drive out.

 

 STANDOUT BEER: Ok, not my absolute top taplist choice but seeing as how it’s a Mexican joint I feel the need to mention the very solid Lowrider Mexican Lager. The beer met my normal Mexican lager expectations but also contained a pleasant surprise with a bit of extra maltiness and a fuller body than you normally find – sort of a Mexican lager with a bonus (or maybe just a typical Vienna lager). Overall it’s a very smooth, easy-drinking beer especially on a 90-degree day.

Now Opening: Crazy Mountain Brewing Company Taproom!

20170526_192644_hdr.jpgIn a quick turnaround, the space in Glendale formerly belonging to World of Beer has re-opened a little over a week as the Crazy Mountain Cherry Creek Taproom. Given the fast re-open the space can’t have changed much but now the offerings feature Crazy Mountain year-round beers and Local Stash seasonals plus guest beers from other craft breweries. Still no food, but non-beer drinkers will appreciate the wine and cocktail options. Crazy Mountain also acquired the also-closed Lakewood World of Beer location in Belmar in Lakewood and plans a similar taproom shortly.

Brewery Snapshot: Lost Highway Brewing Company

It would be hard to come up with a more night-and-day relocation than the one Lost Highway just pulled off, moving from gritty, central E. Colfax to a quiet, obscure office park hidden deep in DTC. Earlier this year the owners of Lost Highway Brewing Company and Cheeky Monk sold their E Colfax building to move to greener pastures in the DTC. The brewery reopened a few weeks ago and their beers have lost nothing in the move. Lost Highway still offers high-quality Belgian beers with a few other styles mixed in.

BEER LINEUP: Belgian focus with a sprinkling of other styles like IPAs, a dark, and a light. Basically something for everyone.

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ATMOSPHERE: Much more chill than on Colfax. Mostly a younger crowd hanging out and kicking back with brews. The taproom is smaller than on Colfax, but uncrowded on a weekend evening and the new patio offers additional warm-weather space. Lost Highway doesn’t have a kitchen but does schedule an occasional food truck. Tucked way back in an office park there’s no other food in the area unless you’re into foraging in the nearby meadows.

SERVICE: Friendly and fast. The bartender was knowledgeable about the beers, engaging, and seemed to be having fun with the crowd.

NEIGHBORHOOD: None to speak of. Buried deep in anonymous office and industrial parks you’ll need a good map app to find it, and at night it’s the only light for miles around. You pretty much need a car to get there, but if you want to turn it into a pub crawl there are a few taprooms (Two Penguins Tap and Grill and Growler USA) 5-10 minutes away off Arapahoe Road.

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A beacon of light in the dark DTC night
STANDOUT BEER: Almond Coconut Porter. This beer will not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly qualifies in the “most interesting” category. The nutty almond flavors blend seamlessly with the slightly-sweet coconut flavors and the underlying roasted malt gives the beer depth of flavor and a full body. The dark color lines up with normal porters and there’s no discernable hoppiness.

Brewery Snapshot: 3 Freaks Brewery

Things are never boring at 3 Freaks Brewing. As a small-system brewer they constantly rotate new batches on tap, and the whole team enjoys experimenting with new recipes. Basically, you’ll always find something new and unusual (generally in a good way). This is also a great place to chat with your server, as they are probably the friendliest in Denver and can give you the lowdown on current pours or something interesting fermenting in the back. The only downside is the Park Meadows location, though I suppose if you’re up for some buzzed shopping afterward . . .

BEER LINEUP: Eclectic comes to mind. 3 Freaks has a relatively small number of taps and with the quick turnover and experimental brewing process you really never know what you’ll find. Generally the experiments turn out well, though, and they usually serve one or two traditional styles for the less-adventurous.

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ATMOSPHERE: Things seem relatively relaxed and low-energy in the taproom. The small interior features cool industrial décor while the pleasant front patio offers shade and comfy patio furniture. The surrounding strip malls offers several food options to bring back.

SERVICE: Super-friendly. It’s apparent from the start that everyone working there is passionate and informed about beer, and most, if not all of the staff takes a hand at brewing. Start chatting with a server and you’ll get a wealth of information.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Soulless Highlands Ranch Strip Mall best describes the scene. Unless 20170625_134437_HDRyou’re foraging for food or get a drunken urge for new jeans at the mall there’s little reason to explore the area. On the plus side,  3 Freaks has ample parking, which you’ll need since this is definitely a drive-to brewery.

STANDOUT BEER: Brad Pitt-less Watermelon Blonde. While chances are good this one’s gone already, if you see it you’ll want to grab a glass before the keg blows. An awesome light-bodied (but honey-colored) beer, this blonde offsets juicy watermelon flavors with a hint of saltiness and sweet maltiness, all riding on a backbone of a solid wheat beer. Truly a pleasant patio-sipping beer! If you miss it here, look for it as a 3 Freaks entry at GABF.

Brewery Snapshot: Diebolt Brewing

Diebolt Brewing takes a bit of effort to find, located in a neighborhood northeast of 38th & Pecos, but the effort is rewarded by tasty beer, and once you’ve been there it’s easy to return. No doubt Diebolt’s retro-industrial look will feel trendy when Highlands-level development moves to the area, but for now it just feels like a practical design for a relaxed neighborhood hangout that makes accessible beers without pretense. If you want to make a day or evening of it, you can easily wander down to one of the nearby restaurants or even visit Factotum Brewhouse for more variety. 20170624_203711_HDR

BEER LINEUP: French and American wheat styles predominate with a few IPAs and other one-offs. Even if you don’t find your favorite style, Diebolt offers enough tame beers that you could likely find something to chill with for one or two.

ATMOSPHERE: The small taproom in an old industrial building has a pretty bare-bones feel. The  laid-back vibe, where both servers and patrons seemed very chill and familiar, felt like there’s a lot of neighborhood traffic. Usually a food truck will pull up, and in warmer months Diebolt opens their patio/loading dock out front. They also offer space in the brewing area for private events.

SERVICE: Laid back and low-key. Business was relatively slow when we were there so ordering at the bar was fast and friendly.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Located just north of 38th Ave, the area hasn’t seen the Highlands-hype from further south and remains working-class. Diebolt sits between a quiet single-family-home neighborhood and 38th Ave., with its semi-seedy/newly-trendy mashup of restaurants, tattoo parlors, auto stores, liquor, etc. Access from I25 or I70 via 38th is quick and the neighborhood offers plenty of parking.

STANDOUT BEER: Anton Francois French Ale. The clear, straw/copper-colored beer delivers a pleasant balance of saison flavors (likely from the yeast) and a good hit of malt with some breadiness, without going too much into the Farmhouse realm, as can sometimes happen with these sorts of beers.

Great Divide Summer Block Party

If you’re looking for an outdoors beer-drinking experience this weekend, Great Divide Brewing Co. is having their Summer Block Party right outside the doors of their original taproom at 22nd and Arapahoe. They’ll have games, bands, and of course beer in a new urban greenspace. The party kicks off at 2:00 and they have different levels of tickets that get you different levels of beer – from the basics all the way to some of their pilot beers.