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.

Brewery Snapshot: Platt Park Brewing Company

Set in a walkable residential neighborhood, Platt Park Brewing Company always seems busy. The pleasantly-large taproom along with the small outdoor seating offers a comfortable space to stop by for a quick beer or two. I find most of their beers pleasant but not exceptional, however the central location makes it easy to stop in and decide for yourself.

BEER LINEUP: The menu features a broad range of styles from pilsners to stouts, with a few forays into interesting territory like sours and flavored beers. I’ve found their beers a little on the bland side but every time I visit they seem to have upped their game a bit more so there seems to be lots of potential.

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ATMOSPHERE: Platt Park offers a busy, high-energy urban taproom, populated by a younger, neighborhood crowd that seems to be constantly circulating in and out as they drop in for a beer or two.

SERVICE: While the busyness of the taproom slowed things a bit, the servers were extremely friendly and did a great job of keeping things moving, at times even wading into the waiting crowd to take orders.

LOCATION: The Platt Park area is the epitome of local, with lots of quiet single-family homes from which you can walk to small shopping clusters containing businesses like Platt Park. You’ll need to look for street parking, but once 20180217_200507_HDRyou have a spot the area is great for strolling around and visiting the shops or grabbing some food to take to the brewery.

STANDOUT BEER: Belgian Ambassador Dubbel. This beer lays on the heavy raisin and bready tastes common in many Belgians, though normally at a lighter level. I really enjoyed this unique interpretation and happily was able to have a second because despite the heavy flavor and darkish color the body remains medium and the ABV only hits 6.6%

Brewery Snapshot: Kokopelli Beer Company

Depending on where you live, Kokopelli Beer Company is either a go-to brewery and restaurant easily accessed off main roads, or a frustrating grind through city traffic to the old Westminster Mall. Regardless, if you make the journey you’ll find the ample & diverse beer selection combined with the great food make it worthwhile.

BEER LINEUP: With a menu listing over two dozen 20180212_171117_hdr.jpgbeers it would be difficult not to find something in your style. The taplist ranges from very light to very dark & boozy, with detours through fruit beers and even some guest ciders and sours. Kokopelli does seem to favor flavored beers like Leia Lime Lager and Razzmatazz Chocolate Raspberry Stout but you’ll find standard IPAs, reds, and ales too.

ATMOSPHERE: The atmosphere tends toward a more relaxed family environment than many breweries. Perhaps because of the focus on both food and beer, the taproom has more of a quiet restaurant feel with an older crowd, as well as some kids. Kokopelli has taken over the storefront next door so combined with the existing patio there’s plenty of space for larger groups to spread out and play some of their bar games. Kokopelli’s kitchen also turns out highly-rated food from a rather extensive menu for a brewpub.

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SERVICE: Kokopelli offers both bar and table service, which we found efficient, friendly, and very knowledgeable. After a few tasters the server seemed to drill into our preferences and started suggesting appropriate next-beers, and even mixed a couple of beers to get a flavor profile that one of our party liked.

LOCATION: Like many in the Denver area, the taproom is tucked into a strip mall, right 20180212_175021_hdr.jpgacross from the flattened Westminster Mall. Aside from convenience to major roads and ample parking there’s nothing compelling about the suburban location.

STANDOUT BEER: The Sassy Saison was spicy and heavy on the coriander and orange peel, but balanced by the dryness that the Belgian yeast provided. According to the server, that unique variety of Belgian yeast does all the flavor work; the brewer added no spices to the beer. The saison has a typical rust-orange color and medium body that keeps the focus on the flavor.

Brewery Snapshot: Lone Tree Brewing Co.

One of the many south-suburban breweries, Lone Tree Brewing Co. serves up a wide selection of traditional and unique beers, plus activities like fitness classes (with cool-down beers of course) to the Highlands Ranch crowd.

BEER LINEUP: Lone Tree offers an interesting menu that contains a few standard styles like red, IPA, and lager but mostly offers unusual variants and flavors of beer such as pumpkin, horchata, vanilla-caramel and even a dill IPA (tastier than it sounds – seriously). Traditionalists might not be happy here but if you are into mixing it up with beer flavors than give Lone Tree a taste.

ATMOSPHERE: The spacious taproom opens to the brewing tanks and features woodsy decor and plenty of places to gather with friends including a patio and pet/child-free zone. On a weeknight the quiet atmosphere was only broken by the boot-camp workout taking place in a side room of the facility. Other than the boot-campers the crowd seemed to be a mellow, suburban, older, after-work crowd. I’d expect on a weekend you’ll find more Highlands Ranch families and a different vibe, along with more dogs since Lone Tree is dog-friendly.20180129_163411_hdr.jpg

SERVICE: The bartender was reasonably efficient and friendly but really stood out when it came to beer knowledge. Ask a few questions and you’re liable to get some truly in-depth explanations of each ingredient in each beer, why it’s there, and what it does.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The area has a few small businesses but is a typical light-industrial park packed in close to the highway. You can order out for food or visit the food truck, but unless you decide to do some tipsy-shopping at nearby Furniture Row, Lone Tree is pretty much a destination point. As expected, parking is ample.

20180129_172049_hdr.jpgSTANDOUT BEER: Lone Tree’s Nelson Sauvin Lager is one of the most interesting and complex beers that I’ve encountered in a while. Made with New Zealand hops (thanks informative bartender!) the light-colored and light-bodied beer has a lot going on. The color and body are all pilsner but the flavor serves up white wine crispness and champagne dryness, with only mild hop bitterness, followed by some grassy and mineral undertones.