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.
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.
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.
With its quirky space-based theme, Launchpad Brewery offers a chill and comfortable vibe with a diverse beer selection including a good representation of higher-gravity Belgians. Many folks would consider the far-east Aurora location a downside, but for those living in that brewery-deprived area Launchpad must be a blessing. Regardless of your starting point, it’s worth the drive to give Launchpad a try.
BEER LINEUP: Launchpad offers a diverse array of beers, many of which are experimental versions of traditional styles. In general I’ve found them well-executed, and not too “out-there” but I think it pays to sample before you buy. Though well made, beers don’t always taste the way you’d imagine from the descriptions.
ATMOSPHERE: The space-themed taproom displays model rockets, tvs showing launch video, space-themed beer names, and other launch memorabilia. The crowd seemed friendly and mixed – professionals, families, old, young, etc. – as well as more regulars than visitors. The taproom is rather small and fairly standard with rows of stout tables and chairs. It expands a little during warm weather when the small patio opens. Also, look out back for a food truck. We were hungry and puzzled at first but quickly figured out you have to walk through the production facility to get food. The bar is also dog friendly.
SERVICE: Efficient. Despite the busy evening and crowded bar, the bartenders kept everything moving quickly in a friendly manner.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Buried in a strip mall far out in Aurora, there’s little charm here so unless you are in the neighborhood you’ll need to make this a destination bar. On the positive side, suburbia offers plenty of parking.
STANDOUT BEER: Key Lime Saison. This light and slightly cloudy beer offered a well-balanced combination between sweet, lightly-acidic key lime and farmhouse flavors. The flavors blended well without any unpleasant takeover by one or the other
At almost six years old, Copper Kettle Brewing Company finds itself as one of the elder statesmen of Denver breweries and has a fairly well-established lineup of beers and regulars at the taproom. Full disclosure: They’re my local brewery and I started going there about a week after they opened so I might be a tad biased. Over the years Copper Kettle has always offered a welcoming staff and solid beers. Depending on where you live the location on the edge of southeast Denver may seem far but it’s well worth a summer visit for the patio, and you can easily make it a two-fer with Comrade Brewing Company right down the street.
BEER LINEUP: Copper Kettle classifies its beers into three categories – regular, barrel-aged, and seasonal. Between the regulars and seasonals most beer-drinkers will find something to like, although the lineup typically goes light on IPAs. The barrel-aged and certain seasonals offer adventure if you want to go off the beaten path.
ATMOSPHERE: Outside it’s light-industrial office park, with the addition of a nice patio for warm weather drinking. Inside it’s a small-ish space with cozy wood and industrial furnishings. At times it can get crowded and hard to find seating, especially when it’s too cold for the patio. However the large contingent of friendly regulars will generally share tables. It definitely seems like everyone, including servers, knows each other and is happy to chill over a beer or two. Copper Kettle is great about scheduling food trucks and has local menus too.
SERVICE: Expect reasonable bar service but iffy table service when things get busy. Regardless, the servers are always very friendly and more than happy to offer samples or opinions to help you decide on a beer or several. If you plan to come back ask about their Beer bucks Brogram to earn free beer.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely nothing to get excited about (but you’re here for the beer, right?). Expect light industrial with attractive views of a gas station and body shops.
STANDOUT BEER: I’d probably get crucified if I didn’t pick Mexican Chocolate Stout, the beer that won a gold at GABF right after Copper Kettle opened and became the mainstay of their operation. It’s been much-imitated since then but still has a pleasant warming effect on a cold winter day with the combination of light chocolate and cinnamon flavors combined with a couple varieties of peppers, which vary in hotness by batch. If that’s not your thing, give Belgian Blond a try – just trust me.
Depending on where you live, Two22 Brew is a bit of a ride, located deep in SE Aurora, but usually good for an adventurous/experimental beer or two. However on my most recent visit I steered away from experimental and tried the Reformation Scottish Ale which I wouldn’t call particularly adventurous, or even that typical of a Scottish. The beer showed the typical reddish-carmel color and had a Scottish-level ABV but lacked the sweeter malty and carmel flavors that I’m accustomed to in Scottish ales. What did come through loud & clear were the dark-roast malt flavors and an unusual bitterness, almost like an English-style mild or bitter. Overall I’d call the beer pleasant but lacking in the “Scottish” part of the ale