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.
Now that summer is finally in full swing I’m inspired to get outdoors at do a little brewery-hopping! Last weekend we took a bike ride on the southwest side of town, starting and ending at St Patrick’s Brewing, with a few planned and unplanned stops in between. We stuck 99% to trails and avoided street riding.
St Patrick’s has a great summer setup with a beautiful location in downtown Littleton right on the Platte River with a huge lawn for lounging or playing games. We enjoyed relaxing in the expansive outdoor area and fortifying ourselves for the ride with a few beers and food-truck eats. The current taplist at the lager-focused brewery features summer-friendly beers including multiple blonde styles like Strawberry, Luminosity (lemon & honey), and Peach Mango along with an Irish Berry Wheat and Fire Melon. All that I sampled had refreshing lightness and fruitiness for a hot summer day. As a starting point for a ride, St Patrick’s has the distinct advantage of a large parking area and direct access to the Platte River Trail.
From St. Patrick’s we went out the back gate and took a right onto the trail to head north for several miles. Pay attention as you pass the Overland Park golf course on the right because the end of the golf course is Florida where you’ll turn left for half a block, then cross Florida at Lipan and burn off some beer calories chugging uphill to Chain Reaction.
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.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get out and drink beer this Saturday June 3, head down to Ursula Brewery in Aurora and help them celebrate their 3rd anniversary starting at 11:00 am.
They’ll have live bands and a pig roast, along with (of course) new beers on tap and a special release. At 11:00 am they plan to release Angel of the Odd, their new sour
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.