Brewery Snapshot: Ursula Brewery

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.20170527_141525_HDR

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.

Brewery Snapshot: Resolute Brewing Company

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.

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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.

20170428_211601_HDRNEIGHBORHOOD: 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.

 

Brewery Snapshot: Mockery Brewing Co

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. 20170429_161109_HDRHowever 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.

Brewery Snapshot: Beryl’s Beer Co.

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.

 

Brewery Snapshot: Strange Craft Beer

One of the older Denver craft breweries, Strange Craft Beer has remained tucked away below I25 for seven years in its industrial location near Mile High Stadium. Despite being off the beaten path, Strange draws a mixed crowd of regulars and visitors from throughout the city with its cozy taproom and eclectic beer lineup offering both traditional styles and interesting new brews. The central location makes it easy to head down for an evening or stop by on the way to another event.

BEER LINEUP: Strange offers a diverse and always-changing lineup from IPAs to Strange-Cherry-Kriek-Labelstouts to farmhouse and fruit. They generally feature a few standbys like Cherry Kriek and Breakfast Grapefruit IPA combined with rotating favorites like Big Malty and a few new brews. Although the menu is unpredictable it would take an awfully picky drinker to not find something to like.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom has a very intimate feel and it seems like many patrons are regulars and know each other and the bartenders. The familiarity is good since the small taproom practically requires sharing tables and making new friends. During warmer weather the Biergarten behind the brewery opens with tons of seating and outdoor games which include raising a toast to each light rail train that passes by. Strange seems to always have a food truck out front.

SERVICE: Always super-friendly. While the bar can get jammed up and appear hopeless for getting refreshment, the bartenders do a great job of managing traffic while still offering samples and friendly chitchat about the beers.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Strange sits right below the 13th street bridge under I25 and next to a power plant in an industrial strip mall so the neighborhood offers little else of interest aside from maybe the distillery next door. Although within walking distance of Mile High Stadium you really need a good map app to navigate the twists and StrangeBigMalty-Labelturns to find it. The area has a slightly sketch feel but it’s really more deserted than unsafe. Parking in the strip mall lot is usually available.


STANDOUT BEER:
 Big Malty. In an IPA-crazed world it’s refreshing to break the mold with this medium-dark beer combining the slightly sweet and roasty flavors of malt with essentially no hops bitterness. Best of all, it’s surprisingly light-bodied, unlike many stouts and other malt-forward beers. Better get it fast, though, as I think its season’s about ending.

Brewery Snapshot: Prost Brewing

Based on the name alone you should guess that Prost Brewing is all about German-style beers, but a taproom visit will strongly confirm that. From their German-themed Highlands taphouse to the strict Germanic brewing process and seasonal beer rotation, Prost stays true to all things German. Traffic and parking in the area can be challenging but Prost distributes most of their beers locally so if the taproom seems too much trouble, you can get many of their beers at bars and liquor stores.

BEER LINEUP: German and, well, more German. That’s their thing and they’re proud of it. The seven standards and seasonal rotaters all conform tightly to their styles.

ATMOSPHERE: The indoor taproom sports a Bierhall theme with German decorations and communal tables. The cavernous space can get loud, but during warm weather you can opt for the outdoor tables, although they lack any German charm. You won’t mistake the roar of I25 for a relaxing German Biergarten, but the spectacular views of downtown help compensate. Prost usually has food truck and if not Avanti is 5 minutes away.

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SERVICE: Overstaffed, so excellent. With true German efficiency one server poured and another rang the transaction to deliver beer in near-record time. Staff also usually rotates around the indoor tables if you want to skip the trip to the bar.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The red-hot real estate market in Prost’s I25 & 20th St. location causes the area to change monthly. The immediate neighborhood is developing quickly and you can now incorporate Prost in a bar- and restaurant-hopping walking tour.  Or you could keep it simple and combine Prost with the Avanti complex across the park for an afternoon of sipping and sampling food. The major downside of the development is the utter lack of parking. Between new apartments, Avanti, and Prost’s loss of their parking lot you may have to search a while for a spot.

STANDOUT BEER: I can’t pick just one. Having spent lots of time drinking German beers in Germany I can say that that Prost nails each and every style. If you have a vision of your favorite German beer then that’ll be your standout. However if you don’t like the German style, then you should probably take a pass on Prost.

Snowy Rino Walk

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.

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Barrels of Beryl’s

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”