I had heard great things about Briar Commons Brewery’s food and mixed reviews about their beer, so I jumped on a friend’s suggestion to head up there over the weekend to see for myself. As promised, Briar Common cooked up some tasty food, and the beer also exceeded expectations. Situated between The Highlands and Mile High, Briar Common makes a great stop by itself, or a good place to refuel on a brewery walking tour that could include Zuni Street Brewing Company and/or Little Machine.
BEER LINEUP: Briar Common’s beer list seems to focus on Belgians and hoppy beers, along with a few experimentals like Kimchi-Inspired Sour Chili Ale. However if none of their offerings strike your fancy they also serve guest beers, wine, and hard liquor.
ATMOSPHERE: Located in a renovated old brick building, Briar Common seems both modern and cozy at the same time. The warmth of the brick combined with modern updates and brewing tanks at the edge of the taproom made for a low-key vibe. The brewery seemed to draw a younger, vibrant, neighborhood crowd meeting up for a beer, a bite, and some sports-viewing. Signage promised a rooftop deck coming soon.
SERVICE: Simply excellent. As soon as we walked in the door a server shepherded us to a table and after that a non-stop parade of servers checked in, answered questions, and was just generally friendly and attentive.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The area is a mix of new & trendy housing, old residences, and neighborhood businesses. You can easily park on the street and make a day of brewery-hopping or visiting local businesses, with the knowledge that the area gets nicer toward downtown/Highlands and a little less so toward Mile High Stadium and Federal Blvd. Access from downtown or the highway is easy, and I’d imagine RTD offers some public transit options too.
STANDOUT BEER: The golden-apple color of the Hobart Tripel promised great things even before the first smell or taste and it didn’t disappoint. Each sip offered up a wonderful Belgian with a tart apple and raisin component complemented by the breadiness of the Belgian yeast.
BEER LINEUP: BoB’s beers are not overly adventurous but each offers a generally pleasant experience of its style. The menu clusters around IPAs and fills out both ends of the spectrum with a few examples of both light and dark beers along with a few speciality beers like a sour, and imperial stout, and a seasonal Thanksgiving porter.
ATMOSPHERE: The good-sized taproom offers various seating options including couches and feels like an industrial/ rustic combination with lots of exposed brick and wood. Outside there’s a large patio with a firepit. The mixed crowd seemed neighborhood-based with families, couples, and friends kicking back on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. BoB also appears to be dog-friendly based on the number of pooches running around.
SERVICE: BoB offers bar service only and the staff was reasonably efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Englewood has focused on making the surrounding neighborhood pedestrian- and small-business-friendly so there are plenty of shops and restaurants to browse if you want to combine beer with other pursuits. The area has reasonable street parking and BoB offers a small lot in back.
STANDOUT BEER: Although it’s a bit gimmicky, the Thanksgiving Stuffing Spiced Porter was the most interesting beer I tried. Unlike some flavored beers, the spices were not overwhelming and provided a pleasant kick to a solid porter base with distinct malt and subtle chocolate flavors. The color and body were as-expected for a porter.
Locovore Beer Works bills itself as a small business, neighborhood brewery and that’s pretty much what you get when you visit. Friendly staff and customers, a comfortable taproom, and familiar beers. There’s nothing experimental or edgy here, but the large high-quality beer selection and low-key atmosphere make this a great place to hang out for an afternoon or evening.
BEER LINEUP: Diverse. The long taplist covers a lot of ground from light to dark and should satisfy most any taste from hophead to fruit-lover to high-gravity freak.
ATMOSPHERE: Locovore has the typical relaxed suburban strip mall taproom and crowd. On a weekday Happy Hour a number of people still worked on laptops while others met for a beer after work. The spacious west-facing taproom and outdoor patio fill with sun late in the afternoon and open to the brewing tanks. The brewery is dog-friendly and serves food from an attached catering kitchen (order from kiosk at front of brewery).
SERVICE: The service was hit or miss, but friendly when it happened. Occasionally a server would swing by the table but often the best bet was to go to the bar where the servers generally seemed to group up in a protective huddle. Once at the bar, the servers were efficient at dispensing beer.
NEIGHBORHOOD:The neighborhood about a mile west of downtown Littleton is the stereotype of suburbia, with a few strip malls and many spacious homes. There isn’t much to keep you in the immediate area but downtown Littleton is quaint and a several other breweries are closeby if you want to make a crawl of it.
STANDOUT BEER: Corker English Bitter. Locovore serves it on nitro so the mouthfeel is silky-smooth and thick-bodied, which seems a bit surprising for the golden-copper color. The beer gives off a slightly unpleasant nose at first that seems heavy on English hop flavors, but a taste gives way to a rich malt flavor with light bittering.
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”
Now that summer is finally in full swing I’m inspired to get outdoors at do a little brewery-hopping! Last weekend we took a bike ride on the southwest side of town, starting and ending at St Patrick’s Brewing, with a few planned and unplanned stops in between. We stuck 99% to trails and avoided street riding.
St Patrick’s has a great summer setup with a beautiful location in downtown Littleton right on the Platte River with a huge lawn for lounging or playing games. We enjoyed relaxing in the expansive outdoor area and fortifying ourselves for the ride with a few beers and food-truck eats. The current taplist at the lager-focused brewery features summer-friendly beers including multiple blonde styles like Strawberry, Luminosity (lemon & honey), and Peach Mango along with an Irish Berry Wheat and Fire Melon. All that I sampled had refreshing lightness and fruitiness for a hot summer day. As a starting point for a ride, St Patrick’s has the distinct advantage of a large parking area and direct access to the Platte River Trail.
From St. Patrick’s we went out the back gate and took a right onto the trail to head north for several miles. Pay attention as you pass the Overland Park golf course on the right because the end of the golf course is Florida where you’ll turn left for half a block, then cross Florida at Lipan and burn off some beer calories chugging uphill to Chain Reaction.