With a new patio this spring and some interior renovation the Crazy Mountain Brewing taproom has more on offer this summer as a place to kick back with a beer from their wide-ranging taplist. An outpost of the Edwards, CO-based brewery, the S. Santa Fe location seems to be steadily building their clientele, particularly as a happy-hour/early-evening stop. With solid beers the central-ish location, Crazy Mountain lends itself to a quick stop on the way to or from other events around town.
BEER LINEUP: With over 20 beers on tap Crazy Mountain offers a little bit of everything. They have about a dozen “year-round” beers served in 16 oz pours and then another dozen or so “Locals Stash” beers that are barrel aged or otherwise unique and served in 10 oz pours. Generally all of their recipes play nice with one’s taste buds.
ATMOSPHERE: Energetic with a younger and somewhat hipster crowd cycling through for a beer or two before moving on. The large patio hosts live music with lots of activity swirling around both inside and out. The industrial taproom is rather dark and rundown-looking but the beer makes it worthwhile. As part of the recent renovation Crazy Mountain removed the kitchen and now has food trucks.
SERVICE: While at times a bit spacy, the servers really seemed to know their beer and weren’t shy about sharing their beer-related opinions. They generally took the time to learn our preferences and offered appropriate beer suggestions.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The immediate surroundings on semi-industrial South Santa Fe aren’t much to look at, but with the arts district and two other breweries a few blocks away (Renegade and Black Sky) it’s easy to make this part of a bigger plan to get some culture, grab some dinner, or just brewery-hop. The area offers easy highway access and parking.
STANDOUT BEER: The Cara De Luna Black Pale Ale contains a few surprises, starting with the toffee color and moving on to the initial maltiness that buries the hops and forces them to fight their way out in your mouth. You still get a hit of hops, though, but they’re on the bittering side vs. floral. Although it has a heavier body than most pale ales, the great balance makes it a relatively easy-drinking beer.
One of the older Denver craft breweries, Strange Craft Beer has remained tucked away below I25 for seven years in its industrial location near Mile High Stadium. Despite being off the beaten path, Strange draws a mixed crowd of regulars and visitors from throughout the city with its cozy taproom and eclectic beer lineup offering both traditional styles and interesting new brews. The central location makes it easy to head down for an evening or stop by on the way to another event.
BEER LINEUP: Strange offers a diverse and always-changing lineup from IPAs to stouts to farmhouse and fruit. They generally feature a few standbys like Cherry Kriek and Breakfast Grapefruit IPA combined with rotating favorites like Big Malty and a few new brews. Although the menu is unpredictable it would take an awfully picky drinker to not find something to like.
ATMOSPHERE: The taproom has a very intimate feel and it seems like many patrons are regulars and know each other and the bartenders. The familiarity is good since the small taproom practically requires sharing tables and making new friends. During warmer weather the Biergarten behind the brewery opens with tons of seating and outdoor games which include raising a toast to each light rail train that passes by. Strange seems to always have a food truck out front.
SERVICE: Always super-friendly. While the bar can get jammed up and appear hopeless for getting refreshment, the bartenders do a great job of managing traffic while still offering samples and friendly chitchat about the beers.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Strange sits right below the 13th street bridge under I25 and next to a power plant in an industrial strip mall so the neighborhood offers little else of interest aside from maybe the distillery next door. Although within walking distance of Mile High Stadium you really need a good map app to navigate the twists and turns to find it. The area has a slightly sketch feel but it’s really more deserted than unsafe. Parking in the strip mall lot is usually available.
STANDOUT BEER:Big Malty. In an IPA-crazed world it’s refreshing to break the mold with this medium-dark beer combining the slightly sweet and roasty flavors of malt with essentially no hops bitterness. Best of all, it’s surprisingly light-bodied, unlike many stouts and other malt-forward beers. Better get it fast, though, as I think its season’s about ending.
Based on the name alone you should guess that Prost Brewing is all about German-style beers, but a taproom visit will strongly confirm that. From their German-themed Highlands taphouse to the strict Germanic brewing process and seasonal beer rotation, Prost stays true to all things German. Traffic and parking in the area can be challenging but Prost distributes most of their beers locally so if the taproom seems too much trouble, you can get many of their beers at bars and liquor stores.
BEER LINEUP: German and, well, more German. That’s their thing and they’re proud of it. The seven standards and seasonal rotaters all conform tightly to their styles.
ATMOSPHERE: The indoor taproom sports a Bierhall theme with German decorations and communal tables. The cavernous space can get loud, but during warm weather you can opt for the outdoor tables, although they lack any German charm. You won’t mistake the roar of I25 for a relaxing German Biergarten, but the spectacular views of downtown help compensate. Prost usually has food truck and if not Avanti is 5 minutes away.
SERVICE:Overstaffed, so excellent. With true German efficiency one server poured and another rang the transaction to deliver beer in near-record time. Staff also usually rotates around the indoor tables if you want to skip the trip to the bar.
NEIGHBORHOOD:The red-hot real estate market in Prost’s I25 & 20th St. location causes the area to change monthly. The immediate neighborhood is developing quickly and you can now incorporate Prost in a bar- and restaurant-hopping walking tour. Or you could keep it simple and combine Prost with the Avanti complex across the park for an afternoon of sipping and sampling food. The major downside of the development is the utter lack of parking. Between new apartments, Avanti, and Prost’s loss of their parking lot you may have to search a while for a spot.
STANDOUT BEER: I can’t pick just one. Having spent lots of time drinking German beers in Germany I can say that that Prost nails each and every style. If you have a vision of your favorite German beer then that’ll be your standout. However if you don’t like the German style, then you should probably take a pass on Prost.
West Colfax has long sat in the shadow of popular East Colfax, but several breweries including Seedstock Brewery now provide some entertainment options along that stretch. Located at Colfax and Lowell, Seedstock focuses on German and Czech styles served in a comfortable taproom or on their patio.
BEER LINEUP: The menu definitely leans toward Czech and German beer styles, but also offers other options including at least one IPA for the hopheads. Seedstock brews a good balance of traditional styles, lesser-known old-world styles, and experimental twists on tradition such as Vanilla Espresso Stout.
ATMOSPHERE: We happened to visit during a boil so the air was thick with tempting malty smells. Aside from that, Seedstock felt chill and the taproom looks like your typical brewery with sturdy seating which opens to the production facility. The good-sized patio feels relatively insulated from Colfax and offers sun during the day and a firepit for chilly evenings.
SERVICE: The service was very relaxed. Despite a rather large crowd the single bartender took everything in stride and provided friendly and efficient service. It seemed like bar service only.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gritty section of W. Colfax. Seedstock straddles the neighborhood between N. Federal and Casa Bonita so you can observe all kind of randomness . . . or not, depending on the hour and day. For most people this will be a drive-to brewery, which fortunately sits close to major thoroughfares like I25 and features at least some parking.
STANDOUT BEER:Lichtenhainer – This smokey/sour German style was supposedly popular over 100 years ago. While I wouldn’t rate this my favorite beer by any stretch, it stands out as a very unique beer and a pleasant offering for some tastes. The light-bodied beer contains medium sourness and a smoky (think smoked cheddar) flavor. I say contains vs. combines because the two flavors seem to fight it out in your mouth; one minute sour, the next smoky. It makes for interesting drinking and should you decide on more than one, the 3.8% ABV won’t sneak up on you. Even if it doesn’t sound like your thing, you ought to try a sample.
This RINO brewery is the Colorado outpost of Utah-based Epic Brewing Company. The location in brewery-dense RINO makes Epic a great stop on a brewery crawl or a destination in its own right. The ultra-modern taproom seems to be hit or miss as far as crowds, but the beer is always solid and plentiful. You could easily order off the expansive menu all afternoon without doubling up, as the list covers virtually every style plus multiple variants of the same base beer. Street parking is usually easy but if you’re pub crawling or intent on running the Epic menu, consider Uber or public transit!
BEER LINEUP: Epic covers the spectrum and then some with their generous menu of over 20 beers. In addition to the expected, Epic does experimental beers, barrel-aged, sours, fruit beers, and more. Nobody should come away disappointed.
ATMOSPHERE: Epic has a relaxed vibe with a diverse crowd of hipsters, couples, older people, and others. The only un-represented group was families – not surprising given the RINO location. It definitely seemed like a place people stopped by for one, with quick turnover. The modern industrial taproom opens to the brewery on one side and a small patio on another. Some days they have food trucks.
SERVICE: Generally good, though we were there on a slow night. When it gets busier there tend to be traffic jams at the bar
NEIGHBORHOOD: Rino – need I say more? Epic is located far enough out to have ample street parking (for now).
STANDOUT BEER: The Santa Cruz Brown IPA stands out for its balance. The medium reddish-brown color and medium body serve up a good shot of hop bitterness with a bit of floral essence that is brought back to center by the solid malty foundation. All of the flavors intertwine to produce a complex and enjoyable beer.
With its quirky space-based theme, Launchpad Brewery offers a chill and comfortable vibe with a diverse beer selection including a good representation of higher-gravity Belgians. Many folks would consider the far-east Aurora location a downside, but for those living in that brewery-deprived area Launchpad must be a blessing. Regardless of your starting point, it’s worth the drive to give Launchpad a try.
BEER LINEUP: Launchpad offers a diverse array of beers, many of which are experimental versions of traditional styles. In general I’ve found them well-executed, and not too “out-there” but I think it pays to sample before you buy. Though well made, beers don’t always taste the way you’d imagine from the descriptions.
ATMOSPHERE: The space-themed taproom displays model rockets, tvs showing launch video, space-themed beer names, and other launch memorabilia. The crowd seemed friendly and mixed – professionals, families, old, young, etc. – as well as more regulars than visitors. The taproom is rather small and fairly standard with rows of stout tables and chairs. It expands a little during warm weather when the small patio opens. Also, look out back for a food truck. We were hungry and puzzled at first but quickly figured out you have to walk through the production facility to get food. The bar is also dog friendly.
SERVICE: Efficient. Despite the busy evening and crowded bar, the bartenders kept everything moving quickly in a friendly manner.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Buried in a strip mall far out in Aurora, there’s little charm here so unless you are in the neighborhood you’ll need to make this a destination bar. On the positive side, suburbia offers plenty of parking.
STANDOUT BEER:Key Lime Saison. This light and slightly cloudy beer offered a well-balanced combination between sweet, lightly-acidic key lime and farmhouse flavors. The flavors blended well without any unpleasant takeover by one or the other
In the sun, St Patrick’s Strawberry Wheat almost looks like a Bloody Mary, with a distinctly red color. It appears thick and cloudy but when actually sipping the beer it’s much lighter-bodied. Flavor-wise it’s fruit-forward, with a heavy strawberry flavor capturing the sweet essences of the berry vs. the sometimes bitter elements that berry beers can pull out. I’m a huge fan of strawberries so it was perfect for me, but perhaps starting with a taster would be your best bet if you’re on the fence about strawberries. The icing on the cake is St Patrick’s awesome backyard located right on the Platte River Trail – definitely a place to combine into a future ride with other near-trail breweries. And a great way to spend a hot July 4th afternoon under the gazebo!