After visiting Colorado Plus Brew Pub I developed a keen sense of envy of folks living in Northwest Denver. Colorado Plus combines a solid brewing operation of their own with a well-curated menu of Colorado beers, plus a full kitchen, all presented in a comfortable taproom.
BEER LINEUP: Colorado Plus has a limited menu of their own beers plus dozens of guest beers and cider from across Colorado. Colorado Choice’s brews are all on the lighter side (Cream Ale, IPAs, Saison) but the guest beer collection appears to be thoughtfully put together with some of the usual suspects and many truly unique one-offs. There’s something for every taste. Finally, this is one of the rare craft breweries that offers Happy Hour!
ATMOSPHERE: The taproom feels like it used to be a local hole-in-the-wall bar that’s had a quick makeover. The interior is dark and comfortable, with the low-key vibe of a neighborhood joint populated by diverse groups of all ages and numerous families. There’s also a small patio out front.
SERVICE: Colorado Plus is one of the few breweries with table service, and in our case it was a mixed blessing. Our server was super-friendly, knowledgeable about the beers, enthusiastic, and on top of our orders . . . when we could find him. The bar seemed to have a abundance of equally friendly and efficient servers so perhaps we just had bad timing when needing a refill.
LOCATION: Tucked off 38th Ave in Wheat Ridge, Colorado Plus fits nicely into the working-class neighborhood of main street small business and small homes on side streets. While there may not be many reasons to linger in the immediate area, 38th Ave features numerous restaurants and other business if you want to hang or need to run errands. Parking is ample, both onsite and on the street.
STANDOUT BEER: Skalds, Colorado Plus’ saison, displayed a golden-orange color and the first sip offered a full-bodied beer with light farmhouse notes and spicy/savory flavors as well. While not as adventurous as some of the guest beers, Skalds proved an interesting and pleasant offering.
When you get the urge for some serious Belgian beer, it’s time to head north and catch River North Brewery at their sorta-new location near I25 and 58th. While the neighborhood won’t win any curb-appeal points, the inside of the brewery feels friendly and comfortable despite the minimalist design. The huge stacks of cans and kegs make it apparent that River North focuses primarily on distribution, but fortunately not at the expense of the taproom. River North rewards the journey up there and by providing a great place to hang out for an afternoon or evening – but watch the ABV on some of those delicious Belgian brews!
BEER LINEUP: River North is justifiably known for Belgians and their new facility has allowed them to branch out into IPAs and occasionally other styles. The taplist mixes about 65% Belgians with 30% IPAs and a little bit of “other”. The takeaway: come for Belgians and IPAs.
ATMOSPHERE: Although the taproom is really just a corner of a warehouse, the interaction between the patrons and the bartender makes for a relaxed and comfortable experience and encourages lingering for yet another beer. The back of the taproom opens to the brewery and warehouse and the front features a small patio and often a food truck.
SERVICE: Our bartender was very friendly and helpful in describing and recommending beers. He clearly knew all of their beers in detail and was able to compare and contrast them when providing suggestions based on our previous selections.
LOCATION: Really, seriously, in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by railroad tracks and storage yards there’s little reason why you’d happen upon River North unless it’s your destination. However, as a destination, it’s fairly easy-access from highways and downtown plus easy parking. Be sure to keep an eye out for the building as it is set back from the road with subtle signage.
Even with the great diversity in the Denver brewing scene Brewability Lab stands out for its unique mission and concept. Designed to provide job opportunities and work experience for special needs individuals, Brewability also strives to create an inclusive environment for everyone, particularly special-needs patrons. While the location is a bit of a stretch for many, it is well worth checking out both for the tasty beer as well as the super-chill atmosphere and friendly patrons and employees.
BEER LINEUP: Brewability’s supply was a little low when we were there, with only five beers on tap, but normally they feature eight or more. The beers cover the spectrum from a light strawberry wheat to a dark coffee porter and are pleasant and solid examples of their styles – nothing too experimental.
ATMOSPHERE: Brewability is open relative short hours – evenings and weekends – and the evening we were there the taproom filled early with local workers then broadened into a more diverse mix. The small café-like taproom opens to the parking lot and includes all sorts of games, toys, and accessibility features. Tiffany, the owner, goes out of her way to create a welcoming and open space and there was a lot of mixing and friendly chatting amongst random strangers. She also schedules lots of special events like Batchelor-watching nights, fundraisers, and parties so the crowd – and energy level – changes along with the event.
SERVICE: Fast and friendly. Brewability’s unique color-coded ordering system (order green for IPA, purple for Porter) helps the bartenders keep the beer flowing fast. Tiffany constantly circulates throughout the taproom keeping patrons engaged and having fun by suggesting games, bringing out science kits (below), and explaining the brewery’s unique goals and operation.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Brewability replaced Caution Brewing in a hard-to-find storefront in an anonymous industrial park just off I70 and Peoria. While they’ve added signage to make it easier to find, you still have to pay attention. Parking is ample, although food is in short supply since the area is just one industrial building after the other. If you’re hungry, Brewability has snacks or you can BYO. Unless you work up there, there’s nothing going on for miles around!
STANDOUT BEER: The Science Kit, because it can be any beer you concoct. In my opinion this is such a fun and cool idea. Brewability has trays that outfit you with beer samplers and flavor-modifiers like peach and woodruff so you can experiment and create your own favorite flavor profile. Our group had loads of fun and put together some great – and some kinda awful – combinations by mixing beers and additives.
When some friends scheduled a Happy Hour at the Coors-owned Blue Moon Brewing Company taproom in RINO I tried to keep an open mind, but unfortunately the experience confirmed my worst fears and in some areas lowered the bar to surprising depths. On the positive side the exquisite space shows what Coors-level money can buy. On the downside the beers were generally bland and the service was abysmal. Given that Great Divide Barrel Bar, Mockery Brewing, and numerous other RINO breweries are a short walk away, if you come to this area for craft beer you can do much, much better.
BEER LINEUP: Blue Moon offers a range of styles, including a number of barrel-aged options. However our group’s consensus was that most of the beers were washed-out versions of their advertised style. The only exceptions were a few of the barrel-aged and high gravity brews that exhibited some sparks of taste.
ATMOSPHERE: Trendy-industrial. The indoor and outdoor spaces were definitely the high point of the visit. Blue Moon offers a spacious patio along with a modern-industrial take on a brewery space. Like many taprooms there are lots of hard surfaces, which are offset with colorful, quirky décor. The circular central bar looks like it could have great service potential and the taproom has a full kitchen (see service below). The patrons looked to be an upscale mixture of tourists, business people, and families.
SERVICE: Truly awful. When table service proved rarer than Haley’s comet, a trip to the bar was met with workers who shuffled past waiting patrons in a seemingly zombified state. Even getting their attention didn’t generate much reaction as they very slowly got around to providing service. The server who eventually cruised by the table compounded the disappointment with a scolding for those thirsty few who had the nerve to walk to the bar, then proceeded to ignore half the table, and delivered the requested beers at a snail’s pace.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Blue Moon occupies the fast-developing Brighton Boulevard portion of RINO. While street work currently causes some headaches in getting around, once complete the area will no doubt have a long-overdue facelift with even more convenient access. The surrounding area offers only a few retail business today but with the development slowly creeping out from downtown it will no doubt pop in the near future. In addition to some street parking, Blue Moon offers a decent-sized lot as well.