After a busy Memorial Day weekend it seems that a lot of people are taking a breather, but enough happenings are on the calendar to stay entertained – or even get a little wild at Burning Can! Although generally more low-key, a number of breweries are also holding one-off releases. Finally, the Highlands Ranch Beer Festival hits south of town, although sadly for many Highlands Ranchers it has sold out.
Friday 1 – Saturday 2: Head to Lyons for a weekend of revelry at the Burning Can Festival sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery. There’s far too much to describe in a short blog, but highlights include a beer festival with 70+ breweries, music, sporting events, camping, and of course the keystone event: Burning of the Can! Check out the website for all of the happenings. Note: This is a ticketed event.
Saturday 2: Stop by the Fitzsimmons neighborhood and celebrate Ursula Brewery’s fourth anniversary with new beer releases, cellar releases, and live music.
Saturday 2: If West Wash Park is more your game, another brewery marks the big Oh-Four this weekend. Platte Park Brewing Company celebrates with a flood of flavorful-sounding brews and a keep-the-glass promotion for the first 200 celebrants.
Saturday 2: Loveland beer -drinkers will gain more brewery elbow-room when Crow Hop Brewing opens their new taproom across from their current downtown site. In addition to a larger indoor space, the location offers front and back patios. Crow Hop will supply music, games, and of course beer to christen the new facility.
Saturday 2 – Sunday 3:Crooked Stave hosts their inaugural Stone Fruit Harvest weekend with 22 stone fruit beers staging a tap takeover. Note: This is a ticketed event.
It looks like a rather slow weekend on the beer-events calendar but there are a few things to keep you busy. Sunday looks to have decent weather so checking out one of the many patio-equipped breweries could be an option.
Friday 13th – Sunday 15th: Hopefully the unlucky start date won’t weigh down Spangalang Brewery’s 3rd anniversary party. Join the crowd at the Five Points location to help celebrate, and if the weather’s nice you can piece together a nice RINO-area brewery walking tour.
Saturday 14th: The north suburbs gain another brewery with the grand opening of Primitive Beer in Longmont. The brewery produces spontaneous, barrel-fermented beers using only Colorado ingredients for a funky local flavor.
Saturday 14th: Go highbrow with a book signing at Baere Brewing Co. Dustin Hall will sign his book of Colorado craft brewery photos called Discovering Colorado Breweries from 3-5, and of course Baere will serve their tasty beer all day if you want to linger.
When you get the urge for some serious Belgian beer, it’s time to head north and catch River North Brewery at their sorta-new location near I25 and 58th. While the neighborhood won’t win any curb-appeal points, the inside of the brewery feels friendly and comfortable despite the minimalist design. The huge stacks of cans and kegs make it apparent that River North focuses primarily on distribution, but fortunately not at the expense of the taproom. River North rewards the journey up there and by providing a great place to hang out for an afternoon or evening – but watch the ABV on some of those delicious Belgian brews!
BEER LINEUP: River North is justifiably known for Belgians and their new facility has allowed them to branch out into IPAs and occasionally other styles. The taplist mixes about 65% Belgians with 30% IPAs and a little bit of “other”. The takeaway: come for Belgians and IPAs.
ATMOSPHERE: Although the taproom is really just a corner of a warehouse, the interaction between the patrons and the bartender makes for a relaxed and comfortable experience and encourages lingering for yet another beer. The back of the taproom opens to the brewery and warehouse and the front features a small patio and often a food truck.
SERVICE: Our bartender was very friendly and helpful in describing and recommending beers. He clearly knew all of their beers in detail and was able to compare and contrast them when providing suggestions based on our previous selections.
LOCATION: Really, seriously, in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by railroad tracks and storage yards there’s little reason why you’d happen upon River North unless it’s your destination. However, as a destination, it’s fairly easy-access from highways and downtown plus easy parking. Be sure to keep an eye out for the building as it is set back from the road with subtle signage.
STANDOUT BEER:White. Combining traditional Wit flavors with the same Belgian yeast used in their Farmhouse, River North created a truly interesting beer that has a lot going on. Ultimately the farmhouse yeast wins and provides the primary flavor, while the Wit provides subtle spicy notes and tones down some of the more intense farmhouse flavors. The medium-bodied White doesn’t provide the same hot-day refreshment that a Wit would, but is still light enough to quench your thirst.
On a recent visit to the Stapleton Tap House the bartender recommended the Little MachineSully Irish Red as a good medium-bodied beer and upon delivery it came across as a solidly-crafted brew. Stapleton Tap serves the Sully on nitro, giving it and exceptionally smooth and creamy body, with light malt and caramel flavors. Aside from these the beer contains no strong flavors or hoppiness, which makes it pleasant and quite sessionable, if unchallenging. Adding to the sessionability is the low (5%) alchohol content
If you have a long afternoon and want to get out of Denver – but not too far – there are loads of breweries in the small towns just north of the city that make for a nice driving/walking tour.
We started at The Post Brewing Company in Lafayette, primarily because they opened the earliest and have food. The feel is upscale old west – kind of like a pretty saloon, although on a nice day try to sit in the atrium beer garden. Unfortunately the food and beer didn’t match the skill of the decor. The beer was solidly average and the food not even that good. I tried the saison, which had typical barnyard flavors and smells, the maltier-than-expected ESB, and a rather bland red. According the waiter their fried chicken was a point of pride, but that day they seemed to have been a little overly-proud of the fryer and it came out dark, burned, and tough. Although I’ve included it in this tour as an option, you could realistically do better at dozens of other breweries.
Moving on from Post we headed to Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., about a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk, and that’s when the fun really started. Although located in a typical strip mall, Liquid Mechanics has a cave-like barrel room with games side-by-side with barrels and also an outdoor patio. The real stars are the adventurous beers. The chilly day lead me to favor darks which were all very complex and warming. My sampler featured a stout, three porters including coconut and peanut butter versions, and a red wine saison. All of them had great depth and balanced flavors but the red-wine saison was the clear stand-out. The typical yeasty and bready saison flavors were balanced by rich red wine flavors. If we hadn’t needed to keep moving I absolutely could have had another pour.
Following last week’s beer class – Belgians – it seemed like a good idea to give River North’s new location a try since they’re known for their Belgian beers. I tried a flight of those since they’re all high-alcohol, and in my opinion they ranged from good to great. I thought the Tripel was one of the more interesting ones because of the interplay between the carbonation, alcohol (9.2%), and slight bitterness. In many ways the flavors and body were reminiscent of champagne. Not to say it didn’t have the typical things you’d expect in a Tripel – primarily the yeasty and estery flavors – but the champagne-like characteristics added a whole new level of complexity. The color was a beautiful deep-golden with just a tiny bit of cloudiness.
If you’re a “more is more” hop-lover then just keep on scrolling. However if you’re up for disregarding strict style confines to focus on beer flavor, Creede Brewing Company’s8 Inch Hand Drill DIPA is kinda tasty. It may be “double” on the alcohol but it tastes like an IPA Lite – thin bodied and modest on the hops, but honestly a pleasant-drinking beer. If beer’s not your thing, Creede’s owner Jason certainly has a more-is-more attitude when it comes to drinking. Creede is one of the only craft breweries to have a full bar license so they have more, and stronger options than beer. To summarize, Creede’s in an electic area of town, with an unusual drink selection, and probably merits a try to decide if it’s your thing or not.