Brewery Snapshot: Wynkoop Brewing Company

One of Colorado’s craft beer pioneers, Wynkoop Brewing Company offers an extensive list of brews in an old warehouse space in lower downtown. The large restaurant/bar has been a LoDo staple for years as the neighborhood grew around it and is still a go-to place for many people who find themselves in the area and want some beer or grub or just a place to hang out.

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Main Bar

BEER LINEUP: Given its long history, Wynkoop naturally covers all the bases as far as beer styles, from light wheats through IPAs, ambers and all the way to stouts. While not as trend-focused as some breweries (i.e. few sours, barrel-aging, etc.) Wynkoop does produce its share of seasonal and one-off experiments. Probably the oddest one I’ve seen is the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which is surprisingly good even with the knowledge that it’s aged with three bull testicles per barrel. Between the variety of beers and the full bar everyone ought to be able to find a beverage they can enjoy.

ATMOSPHERE: Wynkoop takes full advantage of its large historic warehouse building and both floors are left open to show off the worn brick and iron structure. The place has a comfortable, unpretentious feel with a bar area and restaurant section on the main level along with a second bar, more dining and pool tables upstairs. Depending on the time of day and any downtown events the place can range from virtually empty to packed and the vibe can also vary from very chill to high-energy. Wynkoop is one of the few breweries to serve food.

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Upstairs Pool Room

SERVICE: The service is generally fast and friendly and the servers can provide in-depth information on their beers, even the rotating/temporary ones. When there’s a large event downtown the downstairs bar can get crammed, which understandably slows things down.

NEIGHBORHOOD: As one of the first businesses to participate in the revitalization of LoDo, Wynkoop remains in the center of it all with restaurants, bars, shops, and activities in every direction and the recently-rebuilt Union Station just across the street. Parking in that part of LoDO can be challenging but there are metered spots and lots, though public transit or ride-sharing might be the best option. Wynkoop is within walking distance of Coors Field, The Convention Center, and lots of other downtown venues so it’s an easy pre- or post-event stop, part of a brewery crawl, or a destination in it’s own right.

STANDOUT BEER: Maybe it’s the recent cold weather, but I really enjoyed the Shadowmere American Stout. At first glance it appears very dark and thick but a sip tells you it’s just medium-bodied. The true appeal is in the complex and changeable flavors of this unique beer. Uncharacteristically, this stout presents hoppy notes up front along with raisin, plum, and dark fruits which then fade as a chocolate and coffee finish takes over.  If it sounds appealing get it fast, as this is one of their one-off beers!

Brewery Snapshot: Cerveceria Colorado

Although it shares a location, owner and brewer with Denver Beer Co (DBC), Cerveceria Colorado offers a night and day experience in both atmosphere and beer. Cerveceria Colorado grew out of the brewer’s experiences in Mexico where he discovered unique ingredients and found personal connections and collaborations. The colorful and festive taproom serves up a tap list that showcases unusual and flavorful Mexican ingredients in inventive beers.

BEER LINEUP: Don’t expect to find a menu full of plain-Jane Mexican lagers, or really traditional styles of any form. You’ll certainly encounter stouts, lagers and IPA’s but they’ve all been enhanced with unique ingredients like pineapple, horchata, fruits, pepper, and even nopales (cactus leaves). Many of the beers on the adventurous menu result from Cerveceria’s collaboration with Mexican brewers.

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ATMOSPHERE: The taproom provides a strong contrast to typical industrial-style craft beer locations, with vibrant, bright colors and decorations reminiscent of a Mexican fiesta, complete with bowls of candy. Slightly larger and calmer than DBC next door, the taproom offers a nice place to relax and the spacious patio looks like a great warm-weather hangout.

SERVICE: Both servers who helped us were friendly, 20190109_182239_hdrattentive, and chill. They seemed to have a reasonable knowledge of the beers they poured, along with an enthusiasm for sharing the history and inspiration for the brewery.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Sitting directly on Platte Street, the brewery stands in the thick of a lively neighborhood with restaurants, bars and shops in case you want to go for a stroll, grab some food (Cerveceria has no kitchen) or do some buzzed shopping. It’s also within walking distance of downtown, close to the Platte River bike trail and easily accessed off the highway and major roads. Parking is so-so but usually a handful of 2-hour metered spots are open, and there’s a pay lot beside DBC.

20190109_182233_hdr.jpgSTANDOUT BEER: In the past year I’ve noticed a distinct upgrade in pineapple beers served at craft breweries (yeah, hard to imagine til you try one) and Cerveceria’s offering is no exception. The slightly-cloudy, honey-orange-colored Señor Piña offers a distinct pineapple aroma with a taste that alternates between pineapple sweetness and a straw-like dryness from the mosaic hops. I found the balance very pleasant and every sip was different; sometimes the pineapple predominated, other times the hops.

Brewery Snapshot: Spangalang Brewery

Located in the heart of the quickly-developing Five Points neighborhood, Spangalang Brewery brings some unique beers to the area. The transitional location also seems to provide a far different experience on each visit. Sometimes I’ve seen it packed with RINO hipsters, other times with Happy Hour downtown office workers, and other times . . . very, very dead. Point being, there’s not really a “typical” experience to expect, aside from interesting beers.

BEER LINEUP: At first glance Spangalang’s tap list 20181207_174103_HDRlooks fairly standard – a few light beers, a couple IPAs and some darks – but if you dig in you’ll realize that Spangalang takes creative license with most of those beers to add fruitiness, sourness, unusual hop applications or some combination of those. As a result, most of the beers are complex and somewhat challenging “thinker beers” such as their Salted Plum Table Beer. Like most breweries that push the envelope, sometimes it results in something magical and sometimes it falls flat. Definitely sample before ordering a full pour.

ATMOSPHERE: On a recent Friday night Spangalang was kind of dead and the atmosphere felt rather flat, although on other visits the taproom has been packed with after-work downtown professionals, RINO hipsters or a random mix and felt very energetic. Coming off a long work week we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in the basic taproom that offers a view into the brewing area.20181207_173640_hdr.jpg

SERVICE: The server was fast & friendly and seemed knowledgeable about the beer. Bar service only.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The rapidly-revitalizing Five Points neighborhood serves up numerous options for eating, shopping and entertainment that you can combine with a visit to Spangalang. Although in the past the area was rather sketchy it now feels safe walking around and provides good transportation access including street parking, an adjacent parking lot accessed off of 27th Street, a light rail stop in front of the 20181207_173738_hdr.jpgbrewery and bike lanes within a couple of blocks.

STANDOUT BEER: Prince Puckercup tart farmhouse ale. While it sounds like much could go wrong with this beer, Spangalang managed to create a light-bodied beer with a mild crisp tartness balanced by traditional farmhouse flavors. The genius of the creation is that neither flavor overwhelms, making for an easily-enjoyable brew. The heavy cloudiness was a bit disconcerting but didn’t really detract from the experience.

Brewery Snapshot: Jagged Mountain Brewery

At the corner of Lawrence Street and 20th Street, Jagged Mountain Brewery occupies an enviable spot as one of the only breweries in the downtown business district. As you would expect, that keeps the place busy with a diverse mix of customers. However Jagged Mountain doesn’t just count on their location to drive business; they brew up a very broad and adventurous taplist that justifies a visit no matter the neighborhood.

BEER LINEUP: Jagged Mountain offers a large and diverse 20180919_164149_hdr.jpgmenu consisting of a few traditional styles augmented by a lot of beers tweaked with fruits or other additions plus a small high-gravity selection. Overall there’s enough diversity that almost any beer-drinker should find something enjoyable.

ATMOSPHERE: On a mid-week, pre-GABF evening the mixed downtown crowd created a lively and energetic atmosphere. It seemed like a lot of folks were dropping in for one or two after work or between other activities and there was a lot of turnover in the clientele of young hipsters, professional office workers, older tourists, and even the occasional family. The tasting room offers up the standard taproom look with exposed brick, steel & wood, a view of the brewery, and a small patio.20180919_164156_HDR

SERVICE: The bar-only service was reasonably quick and efficient, although the busy servers were not overly chatty about their beers.

LOCATION: The prime spot on the corner of two busy downtown streets makes Jagged Mountain easy to find, and a great stop before or after a ballgame, work, or other downtown entertainment. The brewery offers offers easy access on foot, via public transit or by car, although the parking situation varies depending on what’s going on downtown.

20180919_171052_HDRSTANDOUT BEER: Playin’ Hooky Cherry Wheat. At first look, the amber-colored beer is darker than a typical wheat, likely due to the cherry addition. After a nice noseful of cherry, the first sip brings a little bit of the malt peeking through the medium-sweet cherry flavor.  Nobody would mistake this beer for anything complex but it makes for a refreshing light, fruity beer that drinks nicely in this unseasonably warm weather. I made sure to finish mine while it was cold, as I do suspect that when it warms the cherry could lead to medicinal notes as often happens with these beers.

Brewery Snapshot: Tivoli Brewing Company

Located in the CU Denver student union across from the Pepsi Center, Tivoli Brewing Company has a lot going for it with an innovative taproom design, a patio with spectacular views, wonderful service and a German-inspired taplist. The only downside is that it seems kind of stranded, bordered by major streets and highways, far from other entertainment venues and lacking any sort of energy once students go home for the day.

BEER LINEUP: The German-themed beers cover a broad range from traditional German styles to other styles that the brewery has given a German flair with specific hops, yeast, or additives.

ATMOSPHERE: The steampunk-style industrial taproom located in the former Tivoli Brewery features a unique seating area spread on several levels among brewing 20180719_200319_HDRequipment, exposed pipes, and other industrial artifacts. However the real star of the show is the patio, which faces the downtown Denver skyline and offers beautiful views, particularly at sunset. On a weeknight the vibe quickly drops off from busy student/staff happy hour time to a virtually deserted taproom with an empty and slightly sad feel after 7 p.m. I would expect that nights of Pepsi Center events present a totally different feel as well. Fortunately Tivoli has a full kitchen so you do not have to forage across campus for food.

SERVICE: Even though we were seated at the far end of the patio, our servers showed up frequently and delivered our food and drink orders very quickly. The servers for both our table and the bar were exceptionally friendly and helpful with beer and food information and recommendations.

LOCATION: Tivoli seems stranded in the middle of the campus and heavily trafficked roadways. It’s really not very walkable to anywhere else unless you happen to be going to a Pepsi Center event. You can access it via light rail and a short walk from either of the Pepsi Center or Colfax at Auraria stops, or pay for parking in the nearby garage or at meters. Realistically, unless you happen to be a student on campus this is a destination brewery.

STANDOUT BEER: Sigis Wildhorse Bock Style Ale. This is 20180719_192320_HDRone of the German-inspired beers and not 100% true to style but still very tasty. The thick-bodied, opaque, reddish/copper beer offered up heavy roasted malt with no noticeable hop flavors. While it is a little darker, heavier, and maltier than I’ve ever tasted in a German beer, it managed to pull through the yeast flavors, carmel sweetness and alcohol of a typical bock. While perhaps this beer would be most enjoyable on a chilly fall evening, it also works reasonably well as summer sipper given the moderate ABV.

Beryls for Sale

The explosive popularity of RiNo seems to be a mixed bag for craft beer lovers. While it first promoted a wave of breweries opening in the spacious warehouses with cheap rent, it has now boomeranged back and resulted in rising rents, redevelopment, and heightened competition. Already River North Brewery and Zephyr Brewing Co. have relocated to north Denver and now Beryls Beer Company is looking to sell.

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Barrels of Beryl’s

The goal is to sell by the end of April and the list price is $195,000 if you happen to be in the market for a turnkey brewery. If the business doesn’t sell, the future appears a little murkey so if you’re a fan of their beer it might be best to plan a Beryls visit sooner rather than later.

Brewery Update: Strange Craft & Wits End

This was my first visit to Strange Craft since they merged with Wits End and I’m happy to report there’s been little change since my original post. Strange is still the same quirky, cozy taproom in an industrial park, with friendly staff and satisfying beers.

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BEER LINEUP: Little difference from the original post, with the addition of a limited selection of Wits End beers. There are definitely fewer than were on tap at the old Wits End.

ATMOSPHERE: Pretty much the same, although Strange has reconfigured their main taproom and added some tables in the space next door to offer more indoor seating. The biergarden is still a rather depressing gravel patch next to the railroad.

20180331_151504_HDRSERVICE: Unchanged

NEIGHBORHOOD: Unchanged, naturally

STANDOUT BEER: Good old Cherry Kriek. Thinner than most Belgian’s I’ve had, the red-colored beer still offers a good hit of sweet cherry with strong Belgian yeast flavors. A lot of krieks tend toward the sour side but this one only gives a hint of that.