Located squarely in the middle of South Metro, Halfpenny Brewing Company offers a large and comfortable taproom with a wide selection of beers for watching the game, playing darts, or hanging out on the patio in nice weather. It’s also conveniently-located for DTC workers to enjoy after-work Happy Hours.
BEER LINEUP: Halfpenny offers up a fair mix of standard styles and does frequent releases of tweaks to those styles, particularly in the stout realm. You’ll generally find a few hoppy beers, something light, and a few darks. Overall, Halfpenny seems to favor the stouts so take note if that’s your thing.
ATMOSPHERE: On a weekday evening Halfpenny seemed particularly relaxed, with a couple dozen people hanging out in the large taproom at tables and the bar. It appeared like there were lots of regulars and folks dropping in for a quick one after work. The taproom offers plenty of space to spread out, including a summertime patio out back, and also a few dartboards if you want to sharpen your skills.
SERVICE: We sat at the bar and the service was excellent. The bartender was on top of his game and made thoughtful recommendations based on our previous orders and what was getting close to kicking.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Located about halfway between DTC and Littleton in a strip mall, it doesn’t get much more suburbia than this. Halfpenny is clearly a driving destination, with plenty of parking. There are places to order takeout to eat in the taproom, and a visit to Halfpenny could certainly be combined with running errands to the many businesses in the area.
STANDOUT BEER:Werewolves London Brown Ale helped warm me up on a cold winter day with a dark, almost black color, a thick body, and a robust roasted malt taste that was balanced by the perfect amount of hop bitterness.
Even though it’s 20 minutes from Denver, Golden City Brewery makes you feel a little like you’re in a small mountain town. Set in a neighborhood of old houses with a large patio and foothills views, Golden City offers a bit of an escape from hectic city life for a few hours. Of course, knocking back a few of their solid beers doesn’t hurt either!
BEER LINEUP: The menu features all the standards from golden to stout with everything in between, plus a few more adventurous beers like a sour and saison. All the beers I tried were enjoyable, though maybe not 100% true to style.
ATMOSPHERE: The overall atmosphere was really chill and given the proximity the the School of Mines there was a big college crowd. The indoor taproom is very tiny but fortunately when we were there it was nice enough to relax on the huge dog-friendly outdoor patio. The patio offers great views and also some gas fireplaces to take the chill off. If you are hungry, Golden City offers a very limited menu consisting of brats and chips.
SERVICE: Very friendly but not terribly efficient. Customers line up at a single counter to order so if someone is sampling or getting chatty it can take a while. One nice feature is the outdoor ordering window for those on the patio. Note: For a brewery Golden City closes rather early – 6:30 or 7:30 depending on the day.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Golden City resides just a few blocks away from Golden’s main business district in a sleepy residential neighborhood of Victorian homes. It makes for a great afternoon to combine a few beers with a stroll to do some shopping or grab a bite to eat. If you only have time to pop in for a quick one, though, the neighborhood also has plenty of free parking.
STANDOUT BEER: Lookout Stout. I really couldn’t ask for a better winter beer. The beer was so dark it was almost black and offered up strong rich malty flavors backed by some cocoa. Definitely something to cozy up with on a chilly day. The only (slight) disappointment was that for such a dark and intense beer the consistency was thinner than a typical stout.
When some friends scheduled a Happy Hour at the Coors-owned Blue Moon Brewing Company taproom in RINO I tried to keep an open mind, but unfortunately the experience confirmed my worst fears and in some areas lowered the bar to surprising depths. On the positive side the exquisite space shows what Coors-level money can buy. On the downside the beers were generally bland and the service was abysmal. Given that Great Divide Barrel Bar,Mockery Brewing, and numerous other RINO breweries are a short walk away, if you come to this area for craft beer you can do much, much better.
BEER LINEUP: Blue Moon offers a range of styles, including a number of barrel-aged options. However our group’s consensus was that most of the beers were washed-out versions of their advertised style. The only exceptions were a few of the barrel-aged and high gravity brews that exhibited some sparks of taste.
ATMOSPHERE: Trendy-industrial. The indoor and outdoor spaces were definitely the high point of the visit. Blue Moon offers a spacious patio along with a modern-industrial take on a brewery space. Like many taprooms there are lots of hard surfaces, which are offset with colorful, quirky décor. The circular central bar looks like it could have great service potential and the taproom has a full kitchen (see service below). The patrons looked to be an upscale mixture of tourists, business people, and families.
SERVICE: Truly awful. When table service proved rarer than Haley’s comet, a trip to the bar was met with workers who shuffled past waiting patrons in a seemingly zombified state. Even getting their attention didn’t generate much reaction as they very slowly got around to providing service. The server who eventually cruised by the table compounded the disappointment with a scolding for those thirsty few who had the nerve to walk to the bar, then proceeded to ignore half the table, and delivered the requested beers at a snail’s pace.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Blue Moon occupies the fast-developing Brighton Boulevard portion of RINO. While street work currently causes some headaches in getting around, once complete the area will no doubt have a long-overdue facelift with even more convenient access. The surrounding area offers only a few retail business today but with the development slowly creeping out from downtown it will no doubt pop in the near future. In addition to some street parking, Blue Moon offers a decent-sized lot as well.
STANDOUT BEER: None, really, although I had a sip of one of their high-gravity beers that seemed to have some potential.
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.
With two walls of open garage doors and a fantastic view of Sloan’s Lake, Joyride Brewing Company’s taproom almost feels like the outdoors. The busy location in downtown Edgewater offers a fair number of beer choices, which you can enjoy in their small backyard beer garden or sitting at the counter while enjoying the great view and watching life pass by on the busy street corner.
BEER LINEUP: Much of the lineup looked fairly standard, though favoring lighter, summery brews – a couple IPAs, a Kolsch, a lager, a cream, and a dark beer. They also spice up the mix with seasonals and specialty beers so you might luck into something a little offbeat as well, like my friend did with a mango IPA.
ATMOSPHERE: Busy on a summer Saturday. All of the communal tables and street-facing counters were full of a variety of people from hipsters to families to neighborhood regulars. Even the small outdoor space in back was packed, even in iffy weather. Joyride is most definitely a summer stop, with two walls of the taproom open to the heat and outward-facing counters for lake views and people-watching. It seems like they always have a food truck, but there are plenty of neighborhood restaurants too.
SERVICE: Despite the busy Saturday afternoon the bartenders seemed in a good mood and happily provided samples and reasonably quick service. It seemed like there was sort-table-service if one of them could work his or her way out from behind the bar, but I wouldn’t count on it.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Old-town Edgewater feels like a small town despite the close proximity to Denver. There are small shops and restaurants to peruse along with Sloan’s Lake for recreation. It’s definitely a place where you could hang out vs. just hitting Joyride. Joyride seems like another small business bringing a key piece of the puzzle to make the neighborhood whole instead of just a hit & run visit.
STANDOUT BEER: So it sounds strange for a summer, but the day had unexpectedly cooled and the Bear Paw Oatmeal Milk Stout really hit the spot. The beer offered a smooth and balanced experience combining forward coffee and chocolate flavors with a more subtle milk flavor. As one would expect, Bear Paw has a thick body and dark color.
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.