Brewery Snapshot: Two22 Brew

Normally I’m a little suspicious of any business that leads their sales pitch with a cause, versus their products or services. Happily, Two22 Brew in Aurora stands as a clear exception to that guideline and offers great beer in a friendly atmosphere. Two22 donates $2.22 of every $10 in profits to a foundation started to honor the father of one of the owners, and which makes grants to nonprofits focusing on the environment, education, and “whole person” enrichment. But enough about the cause; on to the beer!

BEER LINEUP: Two22 serves a wide range of beer styles. The menu covers the traditional spectrum of light-to-dark with a blonde, hefeweizen, several IPAs, a porter, and a stout, but also branches out into some adventurous territory with peach-flavored beers and a gose. Short version: something for everyone.

ATMOSPHERE: The decent-sized taproom and 20180601_174220_hdr.jpglarge, shady patio offer plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable. The Friday-evening crowd was a mix of after-work beer drinkers and young families with small children and dogs (patio-only). It seemed like many customers were regulars and the comfortable chairs and patio games gave the entire place a very relaxed feel and encouraged kicking back and having one more beer on a pleasant summer evening.

SERVICE: The servers occasionally make a loop of the taproom to take orders but for immediate refreshment head to the bar. Attentiveness was hit or miss but once we had a server engaged they were very friendly and helpful in discussing the beer and providing samples. 20180601_173812_hdr.jpg

NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a love it or hate it proposition. Those in south Aurora, Centennial, and the like will probably enjoy the convenient location and comfortable suburban strip-mall feel, but access is difficult from other parts of the Denver metro. 20180601_174236_hdr.jpgOnce there you will find convenient parking and several food options by way of a food truck and local restaurants with takeout and delivery. Aside from that the area is mostly residential.

STANDOUT BEER: Watermelon Gose. The delicate balance of sour and fruity/sweet watermelon accented by hints of savory and salt make this beer a delicious easy-drinker on a hot summer day. The light body and slightly-hazy golden color also contribute to the refreshing experience.

Brewery Snapshot: Denver Beer Co. Arvada Taproom

Similar to the Highlands location, the Arvada outpost of Denver Beer Co. (DBC) boasts a trendy look & location but comes out bland where the beer is concerned. Although DBC Arvada has its own brewing system, I didn’t notice an appreciable difference in the style or taste of the beers vs. the Denver location.

BEER LINEUP: On our visit the tap list trended lighter with plenty of wheats, kolsches, and IPAs plus a handful of slightly darker and specialty brews. Dark-beer-lovers will find a limited selection but DBC has options for most every taste. As always, the beers seemed pleasant but plain and stripped of flavor. Although many have ambitious names involving pretzels or graham crackers, everything I tried had only the faintest hint of those flavors.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom and large, pleasant patio20180527_170906_HDR on the corner of Olde Wadsworth and Ralston Road encourage relaxed lingering, particularly in the summer. A food truck parked inside the taproom serves tasty burgers and similar fare. It’s clear that a lot of design and thought went into equipping the taproom with a  combination of modern and retro for a trendy feel. The overall vibe seemed relaxed, with a younger crowd chilling in hang-out mode on a pleasant weekend afternoon. The taproom allows dogs and, on our visit, even a local pig (seriously).

SERVICE: The Arvada location beats its Denver sibling hands-down. The bar-only service was very fast, friendly and without attitude.

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NEIGHBORHOOD: The taproom location at the corner of Old Wadsworth and Ralston Road offers a convenient starting, ending, or midpoint for a day spent wandering Olde Town Arvada or cobbling together a brewery/taproom crawl. Olde Town offers convenient street and lot parking (watch the time limits) along with great bike and public transit connections.

STANDOUT BEER: Nothing I tried really jumped out.

Brewery Snapshot: SomePlace Else Brewery

If you’re not familiar with Arvada, the effort of finding SomePlace Else Brewery can leave you jonesing for a beer, and fortunately Someplace Else stocks a wide variety of styles to satisfy your craving. The inviting interior offers a haven for Star Wars lovers with character cutouts lording over the taproom and themed beer names like Darth Saison.

BEER LINEUP: Someplace Else features a diverse lineup from light pilsners to dark stouts. Some track closely to the advertised style while others add subtle new flavors. Regardless, all of the beers I tried were flavorful and tasty.

ATMOSPHERE: Fun and quirky. The brewery crams a lot into the narrow industrial space including a rustic bar, pinball games, popcorn, and their tiny brewing system, while Star Wars characters observe the action from the balcony. The indoor space offers decent seating and also hosts unique events, such as the Intro to Sewing class the day we visited. Although the parking lot doesn’t really allow a patio, the open garage doors help bring the outdoors in.20180527_143822_hdr.jpg

SERVICE: Our server offered friendly and knowledgeable bar service while deftly serving the beers with an ironic, or perhaps thrifty, spin. All the beers 20180527_134925_hdr.jpgcame in glasses with major-label logos corresponding to the beer style (i.e. my stout came in a Guinness glass).

NEIGHBORHOOD: The industrial surroundings won’t win any charm awards, sandwiched between railroad tracks and I-76. Because of the limited access, getting to SomePlace Else takes decent navigation skills and parking is kind of scattered around, but available. Additionally, I didn’t see any food places nearby and there was no food truck so if you think you’ll want food, it’s probably best to BYO. Bottom line: this is a destination brewery, not a neighborhood one.

STANDOUT BEER: Padme Pilser. This light-colored and light-bodied beer offered perfect refreshment after biking to the brewery on a sunny 80-degree day. The crisp, fresh flavor with light hopping and a mild malt aftertaste might not be an all-weather choice but it surely hits the spot on a summer day.

Brewery Snapshot: Briar Common Brewery

I had heard great things about Briar Commons Brewery’s food and mixed reviews about their beer, so I jumped on a friend’s suggestion to head up there over the weekend to see for myself. As promised, Briar Common cooked up some tasty food, and the beer also exceeded expectations. Situated between The Highlands and Mile High, Briar Common makes a great stop by itself, or a good place to refuel on a brewery walking tour that could include Zuni Street Brewing Company and/or Little Machine.

BEER LINEUP: Briar Common’s beer list seems to focus on Belgians and hoppy beers, along with a few experimentals like Kimchi-Inspired Sour Chili Ale.  However if none of their offerings strike your fancy they also serve guest beers, wine, and hard liquor.

ATMOSPHERE: Located in a renovated old brick building, Briar Common seems both modern and cozy at the same time. The warmth of the brick combined with modern updates and brewing tanks at the edge of the taproom made for a low-key vibe. The brewery seemed to draw a younger, vibrant, neighborhood crowd meeting up for a beer, a bite, and some sports-viewing. Signage promised a rooftop deck coming soon.

SERVICE: Simply excellent. As soon as we walked in the door a server shepherded us to a table and after that a non-stop parade of servers checked in, answered questions, and was just generally friendly and attentive.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The area is a mix of new & trendy housing, old residences, and neighborhood businesses. You can easily park on the street and make a day of brewery-hopping or visiting local businesses, with the knowledge that the area gets nicer toward downtown/Highlands and a little less so toward Mile High Stadium and Federal Blvd. Access from downtown or the highway is easy, and I’d imagine RTD offers some public transit options too.

STANDOUT BEER: The golden-apple color of the Hobart Tripel promised great things even before the first smell or taste and it didn’t disappoint. Each sip offered up a wonderful Belgian with a tart apple and raisin component complemented by the breadiness of the Belgian yeast.

Brewery Update: Strange Craft & Wits End

This was my first visit to Strange Craft since they merged with Wits End and I’m happy to report there’s been little change since my original post. Strange is still the same quirky, cozy taproom in an industrial park, with friendly staff and satisfying beers.

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BEER LINEUP: Little difference from the original post, with the addition of a limited selection of Wits End beers. There are definitely fewer than were on tap at the old Wits End.

ATMOSPHERE: Pretty much the same, although Strange has reconfigured their main taproom and added some tables in the space next door to offer more indoor seating. The biergarden is still a rather depressing gravel patch next to the railroad.

20180331_151504_HDRSERVICE: Unchanged

NEIGHBORHOOD: Unchanged, naturally

STANDOUT BEER: Good old Cherry Kriek. Thinner than most Belgian’s I’ve had, the red-colored beer still offers a good hit of sweet cherry with strong Belgian yeast flavors. A lot of krieks tend toward the sour side but this one only gives a hint of that.

Brewery Snapshot: Ironworks Brewery & Pub

A visit to Ironworks Brewery & Pub offers a breakout from the typical Denver brewery. Perhaps it’s because they’ve been around  since last century (1989) and before there was  “typical” for a brewery. Regardless, the bar/brewery/grub setup and dive-bar feel provide a refreshing change from the overused urban “mountain-rustic-meets-modern + food-truck” brewery model.

BEER LINEUP: The in-house beer list is limited but covers the standard bases – wheat, IPA, amber, stout, and a few variants on those styles.  While none of their beers get too crazy, all the ones I tried were pleasant and enjoyable, and they did win a GABF silver for their Kentucky Common (not currently on tap). Additionally, as a pub, Ironworks pours beer from the mega-breweries for your non-crafty friends.

ATMOSPHERE: Ironworks has a full-on dive bar feel, from the dark & worn dining area to the pool & video games, to the hard rock music.  You’re not in hipster-brewery country any more! The crowd seemed really genuine and local with a few families and small groups of friends getting together for beers and munchies. The bar food was decent and the prices for both food & beer are extremely reasonable.  On nicer days customers can enjoy a view of Green Mountain from the front patio.

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SERVICE: As a pub, Ironworks offers both bar and table service. The place was busy when we arrived and the single server hustled to keep beer and food flowing. Despite the rush he gave us friendly and prompt service, and when things slowed down was super-informative about the background of their beers and their upcoming releases.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Just in front of Green Mountain, the neighborhood has the typical suburban mix of homes, big box retailers, strip malls, and apartments. In other words, nothing special to draw you to or keep you in the area. You definitely need a car to visit. Fortunately, since Ironworks sits in one of the aforementioned strip malls there’s plenty of parking, although due to frontage roads the brewery is easier to see than to access from Alameda.

STANDOUT BEER: Choco-latte Stout. Yeah, it seems a bit cliche but after a hike and paired with a burger this hearty thick & creamy stout hit the spot. The slightly dry maltiness & mild coffee bitterness balanced out the robust chocolate sweetness and hint of cherry in this dark beer. One of our party drank a great hoppy beer (straw/earthy – not citrus/floral) but since there was some confusion on what they ordered vs. received I’m reluctant to guess at the name – hopheads will just need to try a few samples!

Brewery Snapshot: Alternation Brewing Company

Although open a relatively short time (Dec ’17), Alternation Brewing Company has established a presence on South Broadway with a large and solid taplist and active taproom. One would think that South Broadway already has more than enough breweries, but Alternation has staked out their own neighborhood and filled a gap between Black Project and Grandma’s House, making them perfect for a Broadway brewery crawl.

BEER LINEUP: For a relatively new brewery, Alternation offers 20180317_171056_HDRa broad taplist of approximately 10 beers ranging from hefeweizen on the light end, through IPA, all the way to stout on the dark end. There is a definite Belgian focus – saisons, farmhouses, dubbels. All the beers I tried were solid and tasty, though perhaps not 100% style-specific.

ATMOSPHERE: Given that we visited on St Patrick’s Day things may have been a little crazier than usual. The narrow taproom features three small sections: a bar area, a seating area in the brew tanks, and a newly-opened outdoor patio with games. All three areas were  energetic on St Pat’s, with people spilling onto Broadway for the food truck and heading to the patio for the bands. Overall, Alternation has a friendly vibe and we watched as the afternoon family crowd gave way to the younger brewery-hopping crowd in the evening.

SERVICE: Hard to judge, given the holiday crowds but overall the servers were efficient and pleasant even in the face of green-clad, beer-loving hordes.

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Tanks, Band, Patio

NEIGHBORHOOD: Parked right in the middle of Antique Row, Alternation lends itself to a leisurely few hours of shopping, dining, or brewery-hopping at nearby establishments. The area is most definitely pedestrian-friendly, transit-friendly, and even has reasonable street parking options.

STANDOUT BEER: Cooper Approved Oatmeal Stout. C’mon, could there be anything else on St. Pat’s? Seriously, the deep chocolate and roasted malt flavors in this beer would be good any day and were enhanced by the low carbonation. The typical dark-brown color gave way to a thinner body than might be expected, but not that unusual.