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 about 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.
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.
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!
BEER 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 and 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.
Tucked away among old army buildings, new hospitals, and big apartment blocks, Ursula Brewery serves up creative beers in a friendly taproom. Ursula seems to focus on experimenting with new ingredients and different production methods to create beers that range from slight variations on typical styles like Renata Passionfruit Kolsch to beers that go completely off-reservation like the Crustless Peanut Butter and Jelly Porter. For me these kind of breweries are hit or miss – you may find great beer combos, or you may leave feeling like you are overstuffed with too many flavors.
BEER LINEUP: The lineup covers the full light-to-dark spectrum from Helles to Russian Imperial Stout, but don’t expect to find a straight-up version of your favorite style. From the Brett Saison aged in red wine barrels to the bourbon barrel aged imperial stout most, though not all, styles have a unique twist.
ATMOSPHERE: We visited on a rainy afternoon and Ursula had a chill vibe and a familiar comradery between regulars and the bartender. The taproom looks part industrial, part rustic, with a sprinkle of a music theme which makes for a relaxing place to kick back with a few beers. You can order food from the restaurant across the street and have it delivered.
SERVICE: The bartender was friendly, fast, engaging, and knowledgeable.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Deep in the Fitzsimmons construction zone, the area doesn’t have much vibe yet other than “work in progress” so a trip to Ursula is pretty much a destination event. The area offers plenty of two-hour parking amidst the new apartment buildings, vacant lots, and huge hospitals.
STANDOUT BEER: Hope Sour Tart Wheat With Guava. Ursula throws a lot at you with some of their beers and this one came off pretty well. The initial grapefruit nose and sourness gets balanced by the sweetness of the guava and results in mid-range tropical sourness, which is a lot friendlier than many sours. Overall I’d call it an accessible and interesting sour that will please a wide range of palates.
Hidden in the midst of DTC office parks near I25 and Arapahoe, Resolute Brewing nonetheless manages to draw crowds to its taproom and patio. Perhaps it’s the lack of breweries in the area but more likely because Resolute makes solid beers which are served by friendly and knowledgeable staff in a comfortable taproom.
BEER LINEUP: Solid if not overly adventurous. Resolute brews a wide variety of styles without a lot of experimentation so generally what you see is what you get, and the beers conform to the styles listed. Resolute’s beer list covers the spectrum so most everyone ought to be able to find a brew in their favorite style.
ATMOSPHERE: The taproom feels like a community gathering place, with groups of friends clustered at communal tables surrounding a circular bar showing off numerous taps. If the modern taproom gets too loud or crowded, you can also move out to the shady deck this time of year. Resolute is also dog-friendly.
SERVICE: Depending on how busy the taproom is, you may get table service or you might have to go to the bar. Either way, the very attentive servers provide personal insights and observations to help select beers.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Tucked into a strip mall with limited parking surrounded by office parks, there’s little ambiance in the surrounding neighborhood. However for those in the DTC it offers a convenient craft-beer stop, usually with a food truck if you get hungry.
STANDOUT BEER: Wee Heavy. On a chilly night this beer hit the spot. Swirling the dark-copper, opaque beer in the glass shows off its heavy body and prepares you for what’s ahead. The first sip hits with a thick and lingering sweet caramel/molasses taste, interspersed with light hints of raisin and alcohol. While not an everyday beer (at least for most people!), the Wee Heavy fills a great niche when you want a sipping beer to relax with.
You might think Mockery Brewing Co. would face stiff completion based on its location within view of Great Divide Barrel Bar and a couple blocks from Blue Moon. However the small taproom is always somewhere between full and insanely packed, probably owing to the diverse and interesting beers on tap. Getting there and parking can be a bit of a challenge at the moment, with major construction on Brighton and side streets, but if you can find a spot you’ll be rewarded with an interesting and tasty beer lineup.
BEER LINEUP: Mockery never fails to surprise, with a large taplist that includes traditional styles but primarily focuses on beers with their own unique spin. With offerings like a smoked wheat and a spiced imperial saison Mockery shows its willingness to push the envelope and generally succeed. This is somewhere I almost always get a flight because they have so many new brews that deserve a taste.
ATMOSPHERE: Very busy and energetic. In cold weather the taproom crowds could fill a place twice as big and in the summer often spill out onto the large sunny patio or into the game shed in back. The taproom offers just a few tables but outside has numerous benches and the game shed also has tables and bar games. The younger crowd appears to turn quickly and not make this a hangout place – people drop in for one or two and then move on. Without any restaurants in the area, Mockery brings in frequent food trucks for hungry drinkers.
SERVICE: The staff does their best to be attentive but when the taproom is standing room only it can take a few minutes to get their attention at the bar. However, no matter how busy they are the servers remain patient and friendly when you do get ahold of one.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely not a place you’d stumble upon by chance, Mockery is a bit buried one block behind Great Divide Barrel Room in an industrial neighborhood offering little besides breweries. However the advantage of this is generally easy parking and quick access from either downtown or I70 via Brighton Boulevard (when it’s not under construction).
STANDOUT BEER: Sweet Darkness Cocoa Coconut Porter. While I generally steer clear of candy-sounding beers I tried a friend’s and simply had to get my own. It seems like coconut beers often assault the palate with artificial flavors and gagging sweetness, or conversely with weak flavor. However the Sweet Darkness tasted perfectly-balanced with natural-tasting coconut flavors offset by a slightly-bitter dark chocolate flavor. Some additional woody oak and dark roast flavors provided even more depth. As you might expect, the beer is dark and dense.
I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but Beryl’s Beer Co. seems to be aiming for a wordplay with their focus on barrel-aged beers. Located in a cavernous space at current edge of RINO development, you may face challenges getting there through all the construction and closures, but once there you can easily park and try out their lineup of both barrel-aged and non-barrel-aged beers. Overall you’ll find a slightly less hipster vibe than a lot of RINO breweries along with a menu of standard beers styles that often have an extra ingredient or other twist to them.
BEER LINEUP: Hard to describe but maybe “eclectic” would cover it. Aside from the obvious barrel-aged offerings, Beryl’s gets creative with existing styles, for example a Strawberry Wit and Sour Saison. On our visit they offered a few “standard” styles along with a bunch of the creative ones. It seemed like some were hits and some missed a mark a bit (nothing, bad just uninspiring)
ATMOSPHERE: The space is typical RINO – a big shed-like taproom that opens to the production facility, with chunky seating and local art for sale . The crowd seemed younger and more like visitors than neighborhood regulars, and included some families so there was lots of activity going on. In warmer weather you can also take it outside to their front patio.
SERVICE: Very laid back.
NEIGHBORHOOD: In the depths of RINO at the edge of the brewery scene, Beryl’s sits in the midst of major road, residence, and business construction. Today it has a bit of an “out-there” feel in a semi-deserted neighborhood but this will surely change. Beryls is still close enough that you can walk to other breweries or restaurants and make it multi-stop visit. Depending on construction, parking is decent for the moment.
STANDOUT BEER: Donny Boy Doppelbock. This copper-colored, thick & syrupy beer packs a lot of intense flavors. From the predominant caramel to raisin and dried fruit, all the flavors have depth and intensity, giving it almost a savory quality. Although it only clocks in at 7.8% ABV the alcohol flavors occasionally poke through to make it seem even stronger. Definitely not one for the light-beer crowd.