Brewery Snapshot: Briar Common Brewery

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.

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.

Wits End Moving to Strange

Reminder that this coming weekend Wit’s End Brewing Company will be closing their 2nd Ave location to move in with Strange Craft Beer. They anticipate celebrating the completion of the move the following weekend. Given Strange’s already-cramped taproom I have difficulty envisioning how the combination will play out, but I suppose that’s just one more excuse to stop in and enjoy a few beers!

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Brewery Snapshot: Wit’s End Brewing Company

UPDATE: As of the end of late 2017 Wit’s End has combined forces with Strange Craft Beer Company. The flagship beers and brewer are the same but now produced and served at Strange’s location near 13th and Zuni.

A lot has changed at Wit’s End Brewing Company since my last visit a couple of years ago. On the positive side they have broadened and deepened their beer menu by adding a number of darker beers, high gravity beers, and barrel-aged beers. They truly offer a curated menu where most beer drinkers will find a sweet spot. On the other, bittersweet, side they will shortly be closing their brewery/taproom and moving in with Strange Craft Beer Co. so while they will continue to brew and pour, they won’t be doing it in their own unique space. In recognition of that I’ve truncated the review below to focus mainly on the beer.

BEER LINEUP: Very broad and comprehensive with good variety of light, medium, dark, IPA, and barrel-aged. All the beers I tried were very smooth and easy drinking, sometimes dangerously-so on the high-gravity beers. Everything seemed very solidly-produced and true to style.

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ATMOSPHERE, SERVICE, and LOCATION:  Wit’s End is currently buried deep among growhouses in an industrial park off of 2nd and Federal, which may contribute some to its sleepy vibe. The small taproom sits in the same space as the brewery, giving the whole place a stripped-down industrial look. The service was great and the bartender happily guided our party through the variety of selections to help us make our selections. If you want to visit this location, you better hurry and get there before Thanksgiving!

STANDOUT BEER: Scotchy Scotch Scotch – 2015 and 16. You really need to have both of these Scotch Ales to appreciate them, although I would heartily recommend either on their own. Obviously from the dates they have been barrel aged, though surprisingly the 2016 has a much smokier and Scotch-like flavor.  Both beers have a thick consistency and very smooth, sweet, and syrupy base. They feature big, intense hits of roasted malt and almost woody flavors. In the 2015 the sweetness wins out to the point that I got some marshmallow undertones occasionally. In contrast, the woody and smoky flavors dominate the 2016. Scotch-lovers would be all over 2016.

Brewery Snapshot: Little Machine Beer

Little Machine Beer aims for the unique, from a taproom decorated with unusual mechanical devices (yeah, yeah, they do have ‘machine’ in their name) to interesting takes on some traditional beer styles. Unless you’re going to a Broncos game you’re unlikely to stumble upon it, but since it’s located right behind Mile High it’s a relatively convenient stop on the way to a lot of places. Or you could make an evening of it as a destination brewery. The relaxed seating, laid-back vibe, and numerous board games certainly lend themselves to kicking back over some interesting brews.

BEER LINEUP: Good coverage from light to dark with a lot of interesting twists and turns like a coffee oatmeal stout and a mezcal smoked lager made with agave and South American barley

ATMOSPHERE: Little Machine had a very chill vibe on a Saturday night, with about half the seats occupied by people hanging out, playing games, and chatting. The bartenders were equally relaxed and seemed to be having a good time. The space itself feels like some kind of old inventor’s lab filled with random machinery and knickknacks – tending toward Steampunk but without the funky clothes. The best part is the ingenious bar-in-the round, which is surrounded by plentiful tables and couches, and promotes fast service, keeping traffic jams to a minimum

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SERVICE:  Friendly and quick. The bartenders also have strong personal opinions about their beers that they are happy to share.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Hard to define. At 20th & Federal, Little Machine is sandwiched between Mile High Stadium, a traditionally sketchy part of town, and the southward expansion of The Highlands. While Federal Blvd. is heavily trafficked, the immediate area around the brewery seems quiet and doesn’t feel like a cohesive neighborhood. It seemed like most of the patrons were drop-ins rather than neighborhood regulars. That said, Little Machine offers decent parking and easy access from I25, Colfax, and Federal (except perhaps on Cinco de Mayo and Broncos home games).

STANDOUT BEER: La Perla Mezcal-Inspired Smoked Lager. Being a fan of the rich smokiness of mezcal, this beer had immediate appeal for me. At first pour La Perla showed wonderful copper color, followed by a lightly smoky/tequila nose. Upon tasting, La Perla replicated mezcal flavors perfectly, while complementing them with a malty Vienna Lager taste. Even if you are not a tequila/mezcal fan this one’s worth at least a sample for its uniqueness.