Brewery Snapshot: Jagged Mountain Brewery

At the corner of Lawrence Street and 20th Street, Jagged Mountain Brewery occupies an enviable spot as one of the only breweries in the downtown business district. As you would expect, that keeps the place busy with a diverse mix of customers. However Jagged Mountain doesn’t just count on their location to drive business; they brew up a very broad and adventurous taplist that justifies a visit no matter the neighborhood.

BEER LINEUP: Jagged Mountain offers a large and diverse 20180919_164149_hdr.jpgmenu consisting of a few traditional styles augmented by a lot of beers tweaked with fruits or other additions plus a small high-gravity selection. Overall there’s enough diversity that almost any beer-drinker should find something enjoyable.

ATMOSPHERE: On a mid-week, pre-GABF evening the mixed downtown crowd created a lively and energetic atmosphere. It seemed like a lot of folks were dropping in for one or two after work or between other activities and there was a lot of turnover in the clientele of young hipsters, professional office workers, older tourists, and even the occasional family. The tasting room offers up the standard taproom look with exposed brick, steel & wood, a view of the brewery, and a small patio.20180919_164156_HDR

SERVICE: The bar-only service was reasonably quick and efficient, although the busy servers were not overly chatty about their beers.

LOCATION: The prime spot on the corner of two busy downtown streets makes Jagged Mountain easy to find, and a great stop before or after a ballgame, work, or other downtown entertainment. The brewery offers offers easy access on foot, via public transit or by car, although the parking situation varies depending on what’s going on downtown.

20180919_171052_HDRSTANDOUT BEER: Playin’ Hooky Cherry Wheat. At first look, the amber-colored beer is darker than a typical wheat, likely due to the cherry addition. After a nice noseful of cherry, the first sip brings a little bit of the malt peeking through the medium-sweet cherry flavor.  Nobody would mistake this beer for anything complex but it makes for a refreshing light, fruity beer that drinks nicely in this unseasonably warm weather. I made sure to finish mine while it was cold, as I do suspect that when it warms the cherry could lead to medicinal notes as often happens with these beers.

Brewery Snapshot: Castle Rock Beer Co.

UPDATE: Apparently the English-style strategy was NOT a viable one. As of mid-Sept 2018 Castle Rock Beer Co. was sold and began the process of becoming Iron Mule. The taproom remains open and Iron Mule will be doing an official Grand Opening late October 2018.

Opening a brewery that produces only English-style beers in Castle Rock may seem like a stretch, but that’s exactly what Castle Rock Beer Co. (CRBC) did. Time will tell whether that’s a viable strategy of course, but meanwhile they serve up a broad and tasty (if you like that style) taplist from a location one block off Castle Rock’s main street.

BEER LINEUP: The menu contains only English and Irish-style ales, but offers a large range from cream ale and wit, through IPAs, all the way to a dark stout. As expected, some are rather plain but most all are pleasant and very sessionable. 20180811_133110_HDR

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom sits in one half of a big circular building and thus has unique architecture and lots of windows, but aside from that is your standard build. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and the place was very quiet with just a handful of customers and without much energy. Some might say relaxed, others dull. They have a small heat-and-serve food menu. The taproom is dog friendly, though there’s no patio.

SERVICE: The service was ok. The bartender/brewer/ 20180811_141524_HDRowner offered plenty of information on the beer and seemed friendly enough, but at times seemed more interested in the baseball game than monitoring customers’ empty glasses.

LOCATION: Just a block off Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, CRBC allows for a short (or long!) stop while strolling around downtown visiting restaurants, stores, or one of the many festivals Castle Rock puts on. There’s also easy highway access so you make it a stop on the way back from Colorado Springs or other southern destinations. Clearly it’s more of a driving destination for most people, but the surrounding area has plenty of free parking.

STANDOUT BEER: The Sea Queen  Irish Stout didn’t seem like a logical summer brew but was much lighter- and thinner-bodied than one might expect from that style and the dark mahogany color. The body took nothing away from the typical malty and roast flavors that one would expect in a stout and the end effect was a surprisingly refreshing dark beer.

Brewery Snapshot: Renegade Brewing Company

As the oldest of the four breweries in the busy Santa Fe Arts District, Renegade Brewing Company helped set the standard for the Denver taproom experience with an industrial space that opens to brewing operations, a small patio out front and frequent food trucks. This history, plus the longstanding taplist of flagship beers and steady neighborhood crowd gives Renegade the feel of a comfortable, established neighborhood business.

BEER LINEUP: Renegade has always featured a modest, hop-heavy menu and even styles that are not normally hop-focused usually end up with a noticeable hop presence. Not to knock any of the beers, just know what you’re getting yourself into whether you’re a hophead, malt-head, or otherwise.

ATMOSPHERE: The small, basic industrial taproom opens to an equally-sized patio via garage doors. The space has a lot of energy with a younger crowd, people constantly coming and going, and the activity of the surrounding area.  Renegade certainly feels like a neighborhood spot where many customers knew each other or stop in for a pint while walking the dog. Note: It can occasionally get crowded, particularly at Happy Hour. Renegade almost always has a food truck.

SERVICE: On the most recent visit our server was attentive and friendly, although on previous visits service has sometimes been less efficient. Bar service only.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The active Santa Fe Arts District area offers plenty of opportunities for strolling and shopping, eating, drinking, or taking in some cultural sights. It seems perpetually lively and offers relatively easy access from downtown and other parts of the city via highways and thoroughfares. Renegade has no parking but street parking 20180804_160644_HDRis usually available if you don’t mind a short walk, and light rail is walkable as well. The neighborhood includes three other craft breweries within just a few blocks so it’s a great area for a brewery crawl!

STANDOUT BEER: Who Runs This Mother. This Belgian tripel with plums delivers a thinner-than-normal body but an unbelievably complex flavor mix. Sitting on a traditional slightly bready/malty base, numerous flavors layer on top including plum, raisin, tea, and even something slightly floral (lavender, perhaps). At 8.6% it’s definitely a great sipper with which to end the evening.

 

 

Brewery Snapshot: Tivoli Brewing Company

Located in the CU Denver student union across from the Pepsi Center, Tivoli Brewing Company has a lot going for it with an innovative taproom design, a patio with spectacular views, wonderful service and a German-inspired taplist. The only downside is that it seems kind of stranded, bordered by major streets and highways, far from other entertainment venues and lacking any sort of energy once students go home for the day.

BEER LINEUP: The German-themed beers cover a broad range from traditional German styles to other styles that the brewery has given a German flair with specific hops, yeast, or additives.

ATMOSPHERE: The steampunk-style industrial taproom located in the former Tivoli Brewery features a unique seating area spread on several levels among brewing 20180719_200319_HDRequipment, exposed pipes, and other industrial artifacts. However the real star of the show is the patio, which faces the downtown Denver skyline and offers beautiful views, particularly at sunset. On a weeknight the vibe quickly drops off from busy student/staff happy hour time to a virtually deserted taproom with an empty and slightly sad feel after 7 p.m. I would expect that nights of Pepsi Center events present a totally different feel as well. Fortunately Tivoli has a full kitchen so you do not have to forage across campus for food.

SERVICE: Even though we were seated at the far end of the patio, our servers showed up frequently and delivered our food and drink orders very quickly. The servers for both our table and the bar were exceptionally friendly and helpful with beer and food information and recommendations.

LOCATION: Tivoli seems stranded in the middle of the campus and heavily trafficked roadways. It’s really not very walkable to anywhere else unless you happen to be going to a Pepsi Center event. You can access it via light rail and a short walk from either of the Pepsi Center or Colfax at Auraria stops, or pay for parking in the nearby garage or at meters. Realistically, unless you happen to be a student on campus this is a destination brewery.

STANDOUT BEER: Sigis Wildhorse Bock Style Ale. This is 20180719_192320_HDRone of the German-inspired beers and not 100% true to style but still very tasty. The thick-bodied, opaque, reddish/copper beer offered up heavy roasted malt with no noticeable hop flavors. While it is a little darker, heavier, and maltier than I’ve ever tasted in a German beer, it managed to pull through the yeast flavors, carmel sweetness and alcohol of a typical bock. While perhaps this beer would be most enjoyable on a chilly fall evening, it also works reasonably well as summer sipper given the moderate ABV.

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.

20180527_170949_HDR

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.