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.
Over the weekend a friend put together a nice route through some good RINO breweries that I’ve described below. However with such a heavy concentration of breweries in that area you can easily add or substitute other establishments to fit your beer tastes and/or your appetite for walking. Our 1.8-mile trip started in the heart of RINO, then crossed the train tracks down to Brighton Boulevard but you can definitely mix it up a lot of ways.
Our journey started at Epic Brewing Company on the corner of 30th and Walnut, which offers a bright and sunny taproom which opens to the brewing equipment and also accesses a spacious patio for sunny days. Epic was a great place to begin, because there’s usually plenty of free street parking within a block or two. The taproom was packed with a younger and energetic crowd that had streaks of hipster running through it. Mostly it seemed like just a bunch of people spending the afternoon with a tasty beer or two. The servers didn’t seem particularly organized and while they seemed to want to be able to keep up with the busy crowd, patience was required. As always, the beer selection was solid with a few lighter beers but a focus on the darker, barrel-aged, and more flavorful beers including a sour or two. Continue reading “Winter Rino Brewery Crawl”
What was originally supposed to be a bike tour to a number of far-flung breweries, quickly turned into a local walking tour thanks to last Saturday’s snowstorm. While we still started at Great Divide Barrel Bar and ended at Mockery Brewing as planned, we changed our transit mode to the safer choice of walking and reduced the midpoint stop to just one – Beryls Beer Co.
Starting at Great Divide Barrel Bar off 35th and Brighton offered everyone a reasonable place to park and a creative start to the day. Despite the snow, the intimate taproom was packed. The place feels like a mountain ski lodge and offers, of course, barrel-aged beers. You can of course get the Great Divide standbys but for me the point of coming here is trying out their latest experiment in a barrel. Given the higher alcohol and pricepoint half-pours usually feel right and that seems to put the patrons in a happy mood to despite the packed-in, standing-room-only taproom. Continue reading “Snowy Rino Walk”
This trip includes two breweries from the earlier January trip Pub Pairing but adds Brewery Rickoli to the mix. With the addition of Rickoli, a car or maybe bike becomes necessary vs. walking.
We started the afternoon at Brewery Rickoli, which is somewhat camouflaged in an old strip mall near Wadsworth & 38th. The brewery offers a homey atmosphere with very friendly service, a small patio, and a diverse and quirky selection of beers, which make it a comfortable place to park yourself for the afternoon and watch some sports or hang out with friends. The place generally seems to be busy hosting a neighborhood crowd, without being overcrowded, so the servers can still take time to explain their beers, make suggestions, and offer samples. The beers range the full spectrum from light to dark, along with some unexpected (but usually tasty) flavor combinations. For a full description, see the recentBrewery Snapshot.
Next we drove up to Olde Town Arvada to visit New Image. Because it’s at the edge of town, you can park pretty easily as long as you watch for the two-hour zones. New Image seems to try for the trendy/Highlands vibe, both in the décor and long-winded explanations of their philosophy and processes surrounding food and drink. Sadly these don’t seem to include key words like organized or tasty. Our group was disappointed by the way our server, occasionally carrying a random scrap of food or drink, would haphazardly pop out of the woodwork. That was compounded by the uninteresting flavors of whatever stray food happened to make it to the table. However this blog is about beer, so if you can get them to serve you one and like things in the sour, brett, and hoppy categories, you might be able to overlook the service. See the Brewery Snapshot for more info. New Image also has a full bar including guest brews if you New Images’ beer isn’t your style. Continue reading “Northwest Denver Afternoon”
Old Town Arvada has really filled in with small business over the past few years, and at least two of those are breweries. While this hardly qualifies as a walk, since the distance between the two is about as far as the restroom in either establishment, it’s still a pleasant pairing of breweries and an easy journey on a cold/snowy/ice winter day.
As one of the outposts of Grand Lake Brewing from Grand Lake, CO, the taproom/restaurant feels unsurprisingly like a divey mountain bar with lots of log-cabin and wood finishes. The cozy feel complements the long and diverse taplist of Grand Lake beers, guest beers, and full bar. The beer list consists mostly of typical styles like wheat, IPA, and brown with a few slightly adventurous beers in the mix such as a pumpkin beer and a chili beer. The beers I tried solidly represented their styles and had clean tastes, and amongst the friends in our group there were no complaints about any of the beers. The multiple tvs and comfortable atmosphere definitely encourage hanging out for few brews and watching a some football or hockey.
Heading out the door, taking a right, and walking 20 feet will bring you to New Image Brewing Co. and a totally different vibe. New Image feels much more modern and “city” rather than “mountain”. They describe their approach as focusing on non-traditional styles and blending, and the house-beer taplist represents this with sours/Bretts, cider, and various flavor combinations. Like Grand Lake the menu also lists guest brews and features a full bar. Between the beers I tried and the reaction of friends, the beers provided a combination of happy and not so happy experiences. Maybe some were a little too experimental for particular people. That said, perhaps the best plan would be to get a flight or some samplers before going all-in on a full pour. For the less-adventurous, the Old Town Regular offers a fairly uncomplicated pilsner/lager profile, and is an easy-drinker.
Both breweries serve food so if you want to make an afternoon of it you could have lunch in one and dinner in the other. Or you could go for an actual walk and grab dinner elsewhere in Old Town.
Recently some friends and I spent a chilly afternoon touring four RINO breweries on foot. Given the number of breweries practically side-by-side in RINO one could literally run them end-to-end, GABF style without any breaks. However in the spirit of getting a little exercise and not getting outstandingly hammered we threw in a few that required a walk.
We met at Epic Brewing Company, which usually offers decent parking if you choose to drive. The taproom sports the standard RINO-brewery decor – concrete & steel, lots of glass & garage doors, and an open brewing area. It also has the bonus of a cozy fireplace and a bunch of tvs with various games on. The beers lean toward barrel-aged and/or high-alcohol but there’s enough variety that anyone ought to be able to find something pleasing. Our group tasted some great IPA’s, an unusual lime lager, porters, fruit beers, and a barleywine. The Sage Saison stood out, seeming appropriately seasonal with light earthy flavors and strong sage, as did the Pumpkin Porter, with rich malty flavors and undertones of pumpkin spice.
A few Epic beers fortified us for the 20+ minute walk to the Great Divide Brewing Company Barrel Room on Brighton Blvd. Heading left from Epic you’ll walk down to 38th and go left, either up and over the tracks at the light rail station or under them on 38th itself. It’s definitely a developing area but seems more deserted than sketchy. The Barrel Room has a ski-bar vibe going, which would be cozy on a cold winter day. Even nicer are the warming high-alcohol barrel-aged beers. Great Divide seems to try different combinations and rotate frequently so it’s best to check out the chalkboard and chat with the bartender for the latest and greatest. Of course they also serve the traditional Great Divide offerings – Collette, Yeti, Claymore Scottish, etc. One caution is that their small space gets jammed if a bus or large group comes, which happened to us.
This walk near the Santa Fe Arts District visits one of the older craft breweries in Denver and one of the newer ones. It also has the option of tacking on a third brewery.
I started at Renegade Brewing on 9th between Santa Fe and Kalamath, but I’d suggest starting wherever you find a parking spot. Renegade has been around for a number of years and has the standard urban taproom vibe – lots of steel & glass, garage doors, a patio, and an open brewing area. Traditionally I’ve found them to be Pale Ale/IPA-focused but on this visit they had broadened their offerings to include things like Pancakes maple porter and Hummer imperial pumpkin spiced Oktoberfest . I mostly found their beers solid but not exceptional with a couple standouts. Despite being open many years Renegade still draws the crowds and has an energetic and hipster vibe. Like with past experiences, the service was very hit or miss.
With the beautiful fall weather,it’s a great time to take a brewery stroll in Idaho Springs between the new kid in town and an old standby! Earlier this year Westbound and Down Brewery opened up beside The Buffalo Restaurant at the east end of historic Miner Street. While The Buffalo Restaurant is all about old west with exposed timbers and dead animals on the wall, Westbound is sleek and modern with bar and table seating and an open brewing area.
Getting down to what’s really important, Westbound’s beers cover the spectrum from IPA to tripel to stout so everyone should find a style they like. As far as taste, the ones I tried were pretty good although some deviated from the “official” style that they proclaimed. However I’ll take a tasty beer any day and happily ignore rigid style limitations. The brewery is connected to the restaurant so you can get the beers with food in either location. The Buffalo focuses on hearty southwest/bar food. On the other hand, if you want to wait on food Tommyknocker Brewery is a short walk.
To get there, simply exit The Buffalo or Westbound and turn left (west) on Miner Street and walk about three blocks past loads of shops and boutiques to Tommyknocker Brewery (or shop along the way if that’s your thing). As the elder statesman in Idaho Springs (and one of the older craft breweries in Colorado at 20+ years old) Tommyknocker has the brewpub thing down – a mountain lodge with a pub menu and a wide variety of beers. While Westbound has the range of traditional styles, Tommyknocker leverages its history to expand on traditional beers with more experimental stuff like blood-orange IPA, oaked bock, oaked brown, and more. My recommendation would be a flight since there are so many appealing options. Overall, this brewery walk is short on the exercise/calorie burn, but if you’re already in the mountains for hiking or skiing and want an excuse to kick back with some comfort-food and comfort-beers it’s a great way to go.
The Tennyson neighborhood in northwest Denver has gotten more popular in the last few years and in 2015 gained a second brewery, Call to Arms, in addition to De Steeg Brewing. They each have different approaches to beer and fortunately a stroll of less than 10 minutes gives the opportunity to try both. First up: De Steeg. It’s a little hard to find, tucked in the alley off 43rd behind a yoga studio. Look for signs on the corner and once in the alley look for the barrels. Note: Due to ongoing construction only the south (43rd) approach from the alley is open – look for signs.
De Steeg makes French/Belgian-style beers and does a fair amount of barrel-aging so be prepared for heavy (but tasty!) high-alcohol beers. Generally their beers are full-flavored and not subtle. The tasting room is an intimate setting with numerous barrels on view, a small patio, and very friendly & helpful owners/brewers who happily explain their brewing philosophy and discuss upcoming releases. Continue reading “A Casual Neighborhood Stroll”