Running with the motto “Science Balanced With Creativity”, Grist Brewing Company strives to use science to make the best beer possible within a style and occasionally throw a little something into the mix for a slight variation. What you’ll find on tap are a number of style-fitting beers along with beers that make slight variations on those styles. Grist is not somewhere you’re going to find an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink beer combining multiple fruits, flavors and unusual production methods in a single glass. The taproom that opens to the brewery gives off a bit of a science-geek vibe that aligns nicely with their stated mission. Note: This review describes the Littleton taproom off Santa Fe; Grist recently opened another location near Park Meadows.
BEER LINEUP: You’ll find a lot of straight-shooter beer styles from light to dark, complemented by a few lightly-modified beers. Grist definitely uses a light touch when making alterations to traditional styles.
ATMOSPHERE: Grist’s trendy-looking taproom features a huge bar, industrial tables, and also a patio. One entire wall opens to the brewery and comfortably integrates the brewery operation into the taproom (or vice versa). The crowd seemed diverse in a suburban, Highlands Ranch way – young and old, couples and groups of singles, some bikers, a few people with dogs, etc. Overall it made for a very relaxed environment.
SERVICE: Bar service only and not particularly fast, but adequate.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Cookie-cutter suburban-brewery location in an office park. Finding the brewery shouldn’t be too hard, as it’s prominently located on the road that runs from Highlands Ranch to Santa Fe but you’ll need to rely on the food truck for eats since there’s not much else of interest in the area. Parking is, of course, plentiful.
STANDOUT BEER:The Belgian Strong Ale delivers the “strong” part in a lot of ways. You can taste the extra kick of the 10.5% ABV along with a strong farmhouse flavor and significant Belgian-yeasty tastes. Even the color is more intense than most Belgian strongs, with a medium-brown accented by red/copper colors. If you like Belgians this is essentially a super-size of everything you’ll like and if not then it probably swings just as intensely the other way.
With its location at the edge of the suburbs, Living The Dream Brewery may be a hard sell for city folk but the beer selection makes it worth the trip. It makes a great weekend afternoon destination, where you can grab something from the food truck and kick back on one of their patios with few beers. It also works well for a Littleton pub crawl, as there are at least four other breweries nearby along the Santa Fe corridor.
BEER LINEUP: Variety is the name of the game at Living The Dream. They put out styles ranging from a light Belgian wheat up through several IPAs to a dark, full-bodied coffee stout. Along the way they take some creative detours like a strawberry wheat and Belgian cherry.
ATMOSPHERE: This definitely seems to be the Highlands Ranch hangout. During our rainy visit the industrial-minimalist taproom was packed with families, large groups, and dogs, and light on the hipster crowd often found at downtown breweries. No doubt during nicer weather people spread out onto the patios and the taproom becomes much less chaotic. Living the Dream has a decent-sized front patio adjacent to the parking lot and food truck, and a large back patio with pleasant mountain views. I believe the back patio is also 21+ so maybe a haven for those looking to avoid the kiddos running around the taproom.
SERVICE: You’ll need to go to the bar for a beer and while not exactly speedy the servers are friendly.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Like many breweries, Living the Dream located themselves in an industrial park area. It can be a bit tricky to pick the correct turn off of Santa Fe and once you find it, it becomes apparent that Living the Dream the only retail business for far around. Fortunately they usually have a food truck. Most people would consider this a destination brewery and as such, it fortunately has ample parking in the lot and on the street.
STANDOUT BEER:Cherry McGuire Belgian cherry beer. Very few places make a Belgian kriek-style beer so I always enjoy running across one. With Cherry McGuire, cherry is pretty much all you taste – sweet on the front and a little tart/bitter on the back. While not the best kriek-style beer I’ve had, given the rarity of the style it puts on a good show and stands out from the standard beer styles.
Another long ride similar to the Southeast Ride, this one cuts through a state park with a reservoir, features scenic trails and mountain views, and for better or worse takes on some big hills. A couple of differences include a much more rural setting, some on-road stretches along high-speed Santa Fe, sections of gravel trail, and a railroad crossing.
The ride starts at the Breckenridge Brewery Farmhouse, where you can get primed for the long ride with both tasty homestyle food and beer served either in the farmhouse building, on one of its screened patios, or in the expansive beer garden. The Farmhouse is extremely busy but if you start early parking shouldn’t be an issue and the service is always efficient. The beer selection can be hit or miss, so maybe just have one before grabbing your bike, riding out the main entrance, and heading left to launch southbound on the South Platte River Trail(Mary Carter Greenway on some signs). Continue reading “Littleton – Highlands Ranch Loop”
Things are never boring at 3 Freaks Brewing. As a small-system brewer they constantly rotate new batches on tap, and the whole team enjoys experimenting with new recipes. Basically, you’ll always find something new and unusual (generally in a good way). This is also a great place to chat with your server, as they are probably the friendliest in Denver and can give you the lowdown on current pours or something interesting fermenting in the back. The only downside is the Park Meadows location, though I suppose if you’re up for some buzzed shopping afterward . . .
BEER LINEUP: Eclectic comes to mind. 3 Freaks has a relatively small number of taps and with the quick turnover and experimental brewing process you really never know what you’ll find. Generally the experiments turn out well, though, and they usually serve one or two traditional styles for the less-adventurous.
ATMOSPHERE: Things seem relatively relaxed and low-energy in the taproom. The small interior features cool industrial décor while the pleasant front patio offers shade and comfy patio furniture. The surrounding strip malls offers several food options to bring back.
SERVICE:Super-friendly. It’s apparent from the start that everyone working there is passionate and informed about beer, and most, if not all of the staff takes a hand at brewing. Start chatting with a server and you’ll get a wealth of information.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Soulless Highlands Ranch Strip Mall best describes the scene. Unless you’re foraging for food or get a drunken urge for new jeans at the mall there’s little reason to explore the area. On the plus side, 3 Freaks has ample parking, which you’ll need since this is definitely a drive-to brewery.
STANDOUT BEER:Brad Pitt-less Watermelon Blonde. While chances are good this one’s gone already, if you see it you’ll want to grab a glass before the keg blows. An awesome light-bodied (but honey-colored) beer, this blonde offsets juicy watermelon flavors with a hint of saltiness and sweet maltiness, all riding on a backbone of a solid wheat beer. Truly a pleasant patio-sipping beer! If you miss it here, look for it as a 3 Freaks entry at GABF.
On a sleepy summer Sunday we ventured out on bikes along the wooded Highline Canal to visit three great south suburban breweries. The ride was slightly longer than usual and we had to tackle a few big hills but the tasty beers made it all worthwhile! Most of the ride is on-trail, with much of it on the scenic canal, although part of the route uses the C470 trail, which currently has major construction. The trails switch between packed gravel and concrete so road bikes may find it challenging. A good map app is essential, as the route features loads of twists and turns.
Starting at Halfpenny Brewing Company near Arapahoe & Holly, we enjoyed the mostly American- and German-style beers in the new biergarden (out back past the brewing equipment). The patio can get hot since it’s really just a fenced-off section of parking lot with a partial sun shade, but hopefully when the hops grow up it’ll have more atmosphere. For beer, you’ll mostly find comfortable, traditional beers with a sprinkling of experimental stuff like Lichtenhainer smoked-sour (Seedstock collaboration) and a Cherry Cardamom Wheat. The staff was all super-friendly and helpful and our big group had no problem finding space in the large taproom amongst the regulars. If you get hungry, there are several food places in the strip mall, including a pizza joint.
Next we headed off to Three Freaks Brewing near Park Meadows. The ride was absolutely beautiful and very peaceful along the Highline Canal and local streams, with amazing voyeuristic views of swanky Cherry Hills Village mansions. The end turned somewhat less peaceful, as we navigated the sun-baked C470 trail with traffic whizzing by. Just past Quebec look for the strip mall on your right with Le Peep and Egg Roll King. Go past the building and you’ll find a trail into their parking lot.
So right off the bat, yes, Breckenridge Brewery is owned by Inbev so it rides the line between craft beer and big-bad-industrial-beer ownership. And frankly, it also feels rather mass-produced (though The Farmhouse was completed before the Inbev deal). Perhaps Breck intended for the suburban crowds of Littleton and Highlands Ranch to feel like they have a “craft brewery” in their neighborhood without actually having to travel or subjecting themselves to anything unfamiliar. Be that as it may, a friend suggested Happy Hour there so off I went and, as designed, had a pleasant and non-challenging experience. The Farmhouse serves all the Breck standards and happily seems to now use some of that added brewing capacity to make stuff you can’t find at the local liquor store. They also do have some pretty great comfort food. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a destination, and truthfully there are plenty of actual, great craft breweries within a couple of miles, but if you do go (perhaps with kids or grandparents) everyone will likely have a pleasant-enough time.
BEER LINEUP: Improved. Previously The Farmhouse offered the same old Breck brews you could get at any restaurant or liquor store (think Avalanche, Agave Wheat) but has since expanded into some one-offs like an orange chocolate stout and barrel aged beers. While not covering every style they have a broad selection from very light Kolsch to deep, dark stouts. Nothing way out there like sours, though.
ATMOSPHERE: Cracker Barrel on steroids – like a rustic building decorated by a midwest housewife with lots of tacky stuff to buy. It definitely has a family restaurant atmosphere, much like White Fence Farm in Lakewood and it almost seemed like more people came to eat than drink. I guess that’s not surprising considering the food was fantastic. During the summer the large patio and recreation area offers additional hangout options.
SERVICE: Fun, at least at the bar. The servers flirted and teased the customers and each other. It seemed like the servers actually enjoyed their job. When we needed anything or placed an order they were fast and attentive.
NEIGHBORHOOD: None to speak of. Breck sits on its own semi-rural campus between downtown Littleton and C470 on Santa Fe. The campus backs up the Platte River and trail, and features numerous production buildings for both Breckinridge and contract brewing along with an unrelated winery.
STANDOUT BEER:Dry Irish Stout on Nitro starts off thick and creamy with heavy roast malt and, as promised, a drying sensation on the tongue which left minimal aftertaste. Simple but pleasing.
Perhaps a C470 trail brewery bike tour on a 99-degree day wasn’t the wisest move. The trail is hot and exposed and has a couple of decent hills, although overall the ride isn’t that long – approx 7.5 miles. I’d recommend it as a good fall ride. Regardless, everyone survived and perhaps enjoyed the cold beers even more.
Our meeting point was Lone Tree Brewing across from Furniture Row right off C470 (exit Quebec and head east if driving). Their style is mostly what I’d call Colorado Brewery In A Box – taproom with lots of wood, exposed brew systems, patio. The key differences are the merch, which is definitely Highlands Ranch oriented (branded soaps and coasters), and the very-thoughtful “adults-only” section. I thought that was a nice and unique feature for people who may want a more peaceful drinking experience. As far as the beers, almost any beer-drinker, no matter how picky, will find something to his or her taste. Expect every major style to be represented along with more adventurous offerings like their Peach Pale Ale and a Dill Rye IPA. That’s not a typo Dill . . . Rye . . . IPA. Continue reading “Highlands Ranch Ride”