Brewery Snapshot: Iron Mule Brewery

After purchasing Castle Rock Beer Co. over the summer, Iron Mule Brewery held their grand re-opening in late October with a completely redesigned beer menu and totally new taproom vibe. The tap list now features a wider range of styles and the taproom has a completely different energy, both of which encourage checking out Iron Mule if you find yourself in Castle Rock.

20181215_150357_HDRBEER LINEUP: While still a bit limited at six beers, the tap list covers far more territory than the British-style brews of the previous owner. It sounded like beers rotate on and off fairly quickly so it’s hard to make a full assessment of what you’ll encounter at any given time. However between what was on tap and what the owner said they had brewing it appears that Iron Mule will usually have a decent variety of brews: a light, some IPAs, and a dark at least.

ATMOSPHERE: On a Saturday afternoon the small, round taproom was packed and energetic with a diverse crowd including older couples, young families, groups of friends and several dogs. A display of several live birds of prey from a local raptor non-profit rounded out the mix. For food, Iron Mule has some pre-packaged snacks but also hosts frequent food trucks. It appears that the outdoor space is still in flux but perhaps by the time warmer weather arrives this will be fully sorted out.

SERVICE: The bar-only service was enthusiastic and friendly, 20181215_163953_HDR.jpgwith the owner joking with patrons as he poured beer while the brewer roamed the taproom and chatted. Both seemed excited to talk about their beers, the changes that have come with the new brewery, and upcoming plans.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Just a block off Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, Iron Mule provides a pleasant diversion while strolling downtown and visiting restaurants, stores, or one of the many festivals Castle Rock hosts. You could easily double your brewery experience by walking one block to Wild Blue Yonder on Wilcox. There’s also easy highway access for a five-minute detour if you’re heading either direction on I-25. Clearly, Castle Rock is 20181215_151552_HDR.jpga driving destination for most people and fortunately the surrounding area has plenty of free parking.

STANDOUT BEER: The Ears to You Champagne beer stood out as a truly unique beer.  The light-golden, slightly-hazy beer hides a surprisingly full body with lots of biscuit and malt. The beer also exhibits a dry crispness, likely from Belgian and/or Champagne yeast. The overall experience is an interesting contrast to typical craft beers.

Brewery Snapshot: Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co.

Occupying the old Victorian space of the former Augustine Grill, Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co. takes its place as Castle Rock’s newest and possibly busiest brewery. Offering up huge indoor and outdoor spaces plus food, a full bar and a variety of beers, Wild Blue Yonder was packed when I visited just before Halloween on their second day of business.

BEER LINEUP: While limited at this early stage, the taplist of seven beers hits most popular styles and will likely let any beer lover find something appealing. The styles that our party tried all tasted great and true to style. Additionally, there are guest ciders and a limited bar.

ATMOSPHERE: On their second day of operation the atmosphere was buzzing with energy and even a little chaotic. The mostly adult, professional crowd packed the indoor taproom and spilled onto the large front patio and huge rear beer garden. The industrial taproom has a slight aviation theme in keeping with the brewery’s name and the owners’ Air Force roots, and opens nicely to show off the production area. While the beer garden is a bit roughly-finished at the moment the plan is to upgrade the landscaping and make it a multi-functional space. The kitchen offers a full food menu.20181026_174018_HDR

SERVICE: As one might imagine for a brand-new operation that was suddenly packed to capacity, service was a little confused but overall the friendly crew did a pretty good job of keeping the drink and food flowing.

LOCATION: Situated on a corner of busy Wilcox Street at the edge of downtown Castle Rock, Wild Blue Yonder makes a great stop while strolling around the main street shops and businesses, as part of a brewery-hopping tour, or as a destination its own right. There’s decent street parking and the Douglas County School District building across the street has plenty of spots in off hours.

STANDOUT BEER: Napoleon’s Conquest French Saison showcases virtually everything I love about saisons. The orange-amber, medium-bodied beer puts forward a medley of spice flavors balanced by a little bit of breadiness and the crispness that comes with Belgian yeast.

Patio Weather in the Springs

The patio-drinking season is winding down so a friend and I decided to take a trip to Colorado Springs for a short hike and a few patio beers.

After a morning hike we stopped at Cerberus Brewing Company 20181026_125401_hdr.jpgto enjoy their expansive patio/beer garden and some lunch. Cerberus serves up what I’d call “gourmet pub food”, which seems like overkill for a brewery, but was certainly tasty. They specialize in smoked brisket and our hunger was piqued when we smelled the smoker as we pulled into the parking lot. As far as the beer, my friend went light and I went dark and we both enjoyed all of the beers that we tried. They offer a varied selection for all tastes and exceptionally friendly and efficient servers. The overall atmosphere definitely encourages lingering, chilling, eating and drinking – especially on a warm sunny day.

From there we headed 10 minutes through downtown Colorado Springs to Goat Patch Brewing Co., which looks like a dated strip mall from the outside but inside is an old 20181026_142228_HDRschoolhouse converted to retail with businesses in the old classrooms and gym. The taproom offers up the standard craft-brewery experience; light-industrial design, garage doors opening to a patio, and a handful of beers that stay reasonably true to style and cover the full spectrum. The brewery offers up a pleasant experience but nothing about it would make me go out of my way to visit. In the context of this little tour, it’s a fine drop-in between Cerberus or Atrevida but you could easily substitute one of the other downtown breweries and not miss out on anything.

Our last stop in The Springs was Atrevida Beer Co., which was  a spur-of-the-moment choice but a fortuitous one. Located in a depressing-looking industrial park/strip mall, the exterior did not inspire confidence. However the indoor Mexican-themed taproom felt warm and cozy, enough so that we didn’t even bother with the small front patio. The 20181026_154621_hdr.jpgbeers mostly focused on traditional styles with interesting additions such as the Fresas con Crema strawberry cream ale and Boriqua Belgian blonde with pineapple and citrus. Based on all the brews we sampled, Atrevida has that approach dialed-in. We greatly enjoyed the creative beers, the friendly server, and checking out the tiny production units that make these small-batch creations.

Finally it was time to head back to Denver but not without a mid-way refreshment stop in Castle Rock at Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co., which had just held their grand opening the previous day. We expected a quiet environment20181026_173437_hdr.jpg to wind down our day but it seems like the place has already become the go-to stop for Friday Happy Hour. The trendy-industrial taproom, front patio, and huge beer garden were packed and buzzing with energy. Although I didn’t try any of their food, the two beers I enjoyed while playing cornhole outdoors were absolutely fantastic. It often seems to take time for a brewery to settle into  their recipes and equipment but Wild Blue Yonder appears to have hit the ground running. It’s definitely worth the short drive from Denver.

From there it was back to the city and on to other Friday night Halloween-ish fun. Despite the fact that we packed in a drive, a hike and four breweries this day trip didn’t seem at all rushed and would also make a great weekend excursion. And if hiking isn’t your thing, Colorado Springs offers up a bunch more breweries that could give you an early start! Note: The earliest-opening brewery we found was 11 a.m.

Route Map and Directions:


Brewery Snapshot: Castle Rock Beer Co.

UPDATE: Apparently the English-style strategy was NOT a viable one. As of mid-Sept 2018 Castle Rock Beer Co. was sold and began the process of becoming Iron Mule. The taproom remains open and Iron Mule will be doing an official Grand Opening late October 2018.

Opening a brewery that produces only English-style beers in Castle Rock may seem like a stretch, but that’s exactly what Castle Rock Beer Co. (CRBC) did. Time will tell whether that’s a viable strategy of course, but meanwhile they serve up a broad and tasty (if you like that style) taplist from a location one block off Castle Rock’s main street.

BEER LINEUP: The menu contains only English and Irish-style ales, but offers a large range from cream ale and wit, through IPAs, all the way to a dark stout. As expected, some are rather plain but most all are pleasant and very sessionable. 20180811_133110_HDR

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom sits in one half of a big circular building and thus has unique architecture and lots of windows, but aside from that is your standard build. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and the place was very quiet with just a handful of customers and without much energy. Some might say relaxed, others dull. They have a small heat-and-serve food menu. The taproom is dog friendly, though there’s no patio.

SERVICE: The service was ok. The bartender/brewer/ 20180811_141524_HDRowner offered plenty of information on the beer and seemed friendly enough, but at times seemed more interested in the baseball game than monitoring customers’ empty glasses.

LOCATION: Just a block off Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, CRBC allows for a short (or long!) stop while strolling around downtown visiting restaurants, stores, or one of the many festivals Castle Rock puts on. There’s also easy highway access so you make it a stop on the way back from Colorado Springs or other southern destinations. Clearly it’s more of a driving destination for most people, but the surrounding area has plenty of free parking.

STANDOUT BEER: The Sea Queen  Irish Stout didn’t seem like a logical summer brew but was much lighter- and thinner-bodied than one might expect from that style and the dark mahogany color. The body took nothing away from the typical malty and roast flavors that one would expect in a stout and the end effect was a surprisingly refreshing dark beer.

Weekend Beer Update

It’s a smaller list of ideas this weekend, but I figure in a town like Denver there are plenty of opportunities to make your own fun at your local brewery or try something new! Check out the Brewery Guide page for some ideas.

Friday 24 – Saturday 25: Glendale host Bruises and Brews at Infinity Park featuring about 20 breweries each day along with a few ciders and liquor. The fest dates coincide with Rugbytown 7’s matches but the site makes it tough to tell whether games will take place during the fest or not. Note: This is a ticketed event.

Friday 24: Mark Halfpenny Brewing Company’s 20170315_185333_HDRhalf-anniversary with beer releases, bands, food and giveaways. They’re rounding the corner to a full three years in February!

Saturday 25: The fourth annual Colorado Plus Brewfest BBQ Bash brings tastings from around 20 breweries plus live music and lots of pork-based goodness. Note: This is a ticketed event.

Saturday 25: Get your crowler on at the Big Can Jam in Littleton. Over 15 breweries will crowler-up their beers for your drinking pleasure, including some rare and unusual offerings. Note: This is a ticketed event.

Saturday 25: Enjoy an evening outdoors at the Castle Rock Brewfest Under the Stars, serving up pours from a number of Colorado breweries along with light food and music  from 4 to 10 p.m. Note: This is a ticketed event.

Brewery Snapshot: 105 West Brewing

For a remote brewery hidden in a quiet industrial park, 105 West Brewing Company packs in some happy surprises. On our visit, crowds of all types filled the taproom and gave it an energetic feel, while the comprehensive beer list delivered both variety and flavor. It’s a bit of a drive from Denver but well worth a stop if you find yourself in Castle Rock or commuting to Colorado Springs, since it’s less than five minutes off the highway.

BEER LINEUP: 105 West sticks to traditional styles and has great coverage from a light wit to a dark stout and high-gravity Tripel. All the beers I tried fit squarely (and tastily) into their named style category so count on getting you ask for.

ATMOSPHERE: Despite the lack of any discernible neighborhood the place was packed with energetic people (and dogs) of all ages including families with kids. The actual space shows an attempt to dress up a basic industrial park box with some rustic wood and an open brewery, but in the end you’re not coming for the pretty decor. There’s also a small patio out front and they seem to regularly have either a food truck or someone squished in between fermenters dishing out grub.


SERVICE: This one cut both ways during our visit. While the servers helpfully chatted up customers, poured samples, recommended other beers, etc. (+), this tended to jam  up lines at the bar (-). It wasn’t the biggest deal but be warned if you are beer-desperate. One interesting note is the no-tipping policy; any tips go to charity.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Industrial park with few attractions around other than a brew shop two doors down. Given the Castle Rock location this one’s definitely a driving destination and thankfully features ample parking.

STANDOUT BEER: Belgian Tripel. This beer blended great Belgian yeast flavors with a little bit of farmhouse for an extremely balanced and flavorful Tripel having just the slightest bit of sweetness. The beautiful golden color made it even more appealing, and the slight cloudiness visually reinforced the yeast and farmhouse flavors.