Denver’s premier sour beer purveyor Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project occupies a corner of The Source on Brighton Boulevard in Rino. The mixed-use development features a collection of artisan shops, food stores, restaurants and even a hotel in a former old factory, so visiting is somewhat of an immersive experience. On the beer side, Crooked Stave has expanded from typical sours and now serves several traditional styles for non-sour-drinkers along with even more experimental sour options.
BEER LINEUP: Crooked Stave now offers a lot of options going in all different directions. Originally the brewery featured only a small lineup of sours and bottle-aged beers, most which were made with Brettanomyces. Crooked Stave has gradually expanded those offerings with more experimental beers and the addition of spices and other flavors, but has also added non-sour beers for less-adventurous drinkers. In summary, you’ll find standard beers here but Crooked Stave is really a place to get your sour on.
ATMOSPHERE: Sharing a building with The Source creates an interesting traffic flow where people wander out with beers, bring in prepared food or even put together a little picnic from the gourmet food shops in the building. The old brick factory lined with stores and restaurants creates an intimate and dynamic atmosphere where you can leave the taproom to stroll around or lounge in the common area. On a weekend afternoon the taproom was full of a wide range of people just hanging out, from beer geeks to hipsters and even a few families. The sliding doors at the back of the taproom hide a huge stash of bottles and we noticed many people taking bombers to enjoy later.
SERVICE:This is the one area where Crooked Stave fell flat. Despite the three servers behind the bar, we watched a perpetual line of just six or eight people waiting (and waiting) for 15 minutes to get a beer. We tried to work out the cause – perhaps excessive sampling, nitro pours or quirky taps – but nothing seemed to account for the delays except simply massive disorganization from the (friendly) serving staff.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The brewery and The Source sit along the quickly-developing portion of Brighton Boulevard closest to downtown. In addition to exploring the businesses in The Source, several other restaurants/bars are within walking distance and a short drive will bring you to downtown in one direction or to a handful more breweries, restaurants or the Denver Coliseum in the other. Numerous transport options exist, including a nearby light rail stop, bus lines, and easy highway access. The parking lot is posted for 30-minute parking but longer paid street parking and lots are just across the street.
STANDOUT BEER: On this one I’m going to have to push. As someone who is not a sour fan I tried a couple of the traditional beers and while they were solid, at Crooked Stave the sours are going to hit the home runs. I’d encourage you to draw your own conclusions if you’re a sour fan, or want to get into that game.
Part of the RINO herd of craft breweries, 14er Brewing Company pretty much conforms to the standard plan: industrial space, bunch of IPAs, bar games. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area, but don’t expect anything ground-breaking.
BEER LINEUP: The small-ish tap list consists of four flagship beers and a number of rotating ones, tilted heavily toward IPAs. Virtually all of the non-IPA beers are lighter and many have a fruit component.
ATMOSPHERE: The taproom is divided into several small rooms providing a somewhat cozy feel, although the brick walls and minimal decoration detracts from that a bit. The warehouse/dock serves as a patio of sorts with outdoor bar games like cornhole. Indoor games are available in a lounge area. On the weekend afternoon when we visited the taproom was crowded with what seemed like a neighborhood crowd of hipsters and older couples; no families or kids. With the full house, the hard rock music playing and patrons constantly coming and going the bar felt vibrant and energetic.
SERVICE: The servers were chipper and efficient, and took the time to explain both their core beers and the rotating options. Bar service only.
LOCATION: Situated at 28th & Walnut in an old industrial building, 14er comes with all of the positives and negatives of any RINO brewery. The walkable district offers plenty of options for food, a pub crawl or other entertainment, however parking can occasionally be tricky. Fortunately the area is relatively convenient to public transit, pedicabs, and exploring on foot.
STANDOUT BEER:Rocky Mountain Saison. This 2016 GABF gold medal winner takes a typical saison and puts a Colorado spin on it by adding jalepeños, lime, and cilantro. The clear, yellow appearance aligns with the light flavor of the beer. The Belgian saison yeast and peppers give the beer a spiciness along the line of peppercorns without any jalepeño heat, and the yeast, lime and cilantro add a crispness and dry, refreshing finish.
Enjoy some of the last of the beautiful fall weather this weekend with all sorts of fun festivals, fall beer events and even a pet costume contest in addition to the usual anniversaries and grand openings.
Friday 19 – Saturday 20th: Multiple sessions of The Festival bring you dozens and dozens of small-batch and artisan beers from the United States and around the world. It would be impossible to try all these brews and meet so many brewers without breaking the bank and this weekend they all come together at The Rock Drill in RINO. Note: This is a ticketed event.
Friday 19: Get into the Halloween/Day of the Dead spirit at Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project by painting a sugar skull mug. The finished mugs will be taken to Potter’s Touch for firing and returned to you just in time for Halloween. Note: The cost for supplies and firing is $30.
Saturday 20: In preparation for Saturday sessions of The Festival, Freshcraft hosts a Fuel for the Fest brunch starting at 10:00 a.m. with special tappings to complement the tasty brunch food.
Saturday 20: Head down to Parker to check out the grand opening of Welcome Home Brewery. Details seem a little sketchy but it looks like they’ll be pouring some of their newly-crafted beers, along with having some food and a DJ.
Saturday 20: If you’re looking for somewhere more established, head up to Loveland for Crow Hop Brewing’s fifth anniversary party with at least ten wood-aged brews plus other specialty beers, a food truck and giveaways.
Saturday 20: Oktoberfest’s not done with us yet! The Real Oktoberfest takes over Glendale’s Infinity Park in combination with Olympic-qualifying women’s rugby. Starting at 1:00 p.m. grab samples from over 30 breweries before checking out the action on the field. Note: This is a ticketed event.
Saturday 20:The Brew Hutholds their annual home brew competition. Entry space is limited but they are looking for judging and stewarding volunteers.
Sunday 21: Pumpkin mayhem hits Station 26 Brewing Co. as they celebrate all things pumpkin with beers, pies, carving, and even a bit of smashing. The brewery will supply tools and pumpkins to carve up at outdoor stations.
Sunday 21: Dress your pet for success at Bruz Beers’ pet costume party. In addition to prizes there will be treats, swag, photos and it all benefits a good cause – MaxFund Animal Shelter. Note: This is a ticketed event for entrants.
Hopefully by now everyone has recovered from their Great American Beer Festival hangover and perhaps found a new favorite brewery or beer at the Fest. Life goes on, and this weekend offers up a number of fall-themed brewery events including several Oktoberfests across the metro area.
Friday 28 – Sunday 30: Munich comes to Boulder at Avery Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest, with a special beer menu and free Kaiser for anyone in a traditional German outfit.
Friday 28 – Sunday 30: If RINO is more your scene, Black Shirt Brewing Co. celebrates their sixth anniversary all weekend with special releases (actually starting Wednesday), creative beer slushies and cocktails, Beer, Bacon and Bluegrass on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday.
Saturday 29: Oktoberfest makes a stop at Seedstock Brewery from 5-11 p.m. with a special Hell tapping, plenty of Oktoberfest beer, polka music, contests and free mugs for those in traditional German attire. A meat-heavy food truck rounds out the Germanic picture.
Saturday 29: Join Brewability Lab in celebrating their second anniversary with music, a mobile cigar lounge, a yoga bus and a pop-up shop.
Saturday 29: Load up on numerous can and bottle releases at Fiction Beer Company’s fourth anniversary party. In addition to the takeaway options, enjoy special tappings, live music and limited-edition glassware on their special day.
Saturday 29: Howdy Fest Rides into Lafayette with music, food, and a special release from The Post Brewing Co. along with pours from a number of other area breweries.
Sunday 30: Enjoy a preview of Briar Common Brewery’s upcoming anniversary beers at their five-course beer-pairing dinner. The first seating starts at 4:30 p.m. but if demand calls for it they will add a later seating. Note: This is a ticketed event.
The explosive popularity of RiNo seems to be a mixed bag for craft beer lovers. While it first promoted a wave of breweries opening in the spacious warehouses with cheap rent, it has now boomeranged back and resulted in rising rents, redevelopment, and heightened competition. Already River North Brewery and Zephyr Brewing Co. have relocated to north Denver and now Beryls Beer Company is looking to sell.
The goal is to sell by the end of April and the list price is $195,000 if you happen to be in the market for a turnkey brewery. If the business doesn’t sell, the future appears a little murkey so if you’re a fan of their beer it might be best to plan a Beryls visit sooner rather than later.
This weekend is relatively quiet for events, aside from the two competing beer festivals on Saturday. However a number of local breweries are doing beer releases this weekend so perhaps it’s a good weekend to appreciate taprooms close to home.
Friday 2nd: Start your weekend early – REALLY early – with 4 Noses Brewing Company Night Shift Appreciation Party at 7 AM (yes, like the morning, at dawn). Technically it’s for shift workers but who says you can’t take the day off and get a jump on the weekend – and get $1 off beers. No judgment!
Saturday 3rd: Try some Colorado brews at the Mile High Beer Festival. Two sessions (afternoon and evening) will host over 25 Colorado breweries with about 70 beers at the Denver Rock Drill in RINO. Public transit is a great option, especially if you want to extend your day to some other RINO breweries. Note: This is a ticketed event.
Saturday 3rd: If you’re up north and the boozy logistics of returning from the Mile High festival sound too challenging, Boulder is hosting the Winter Craft Beer Festival starting at 1:00. The weather looks good (60s) for this outdoor-ish event and with a few dozen breweries pouring, who’ll notice anyway? Note: This is a ticketed event.
Sunday 4th: Recover from the beer fests or wherever your Saturday took you with Bloodys, Beers & Brunch at Peak to Peak Tap and Brew in Aurora. Starting at 11:30 the event features food and other breakfast drinks along with the beers & bloodys.
Over the weekend a friend put together a nice route through some good RINO breweries that I’ve described below. However with such a heavy concentration of breweries in that area you can easily add or substitute other establishments to fit your beer tastes and/or your appetite for walking. Our 1.8-mile trip started in the heart of RINO, then crossed the train tracks down to Brighton Boulevard but you can definitely mix it up a lot of ways.
Our journey started at Epic Brewing Company on the corner of 30th and Walnut, which offers a bright and sunny taproom which opens to the brewing equipment and also accesses a spacious patio for sunny days. Epic was a great place to begin, because there’s usually plenty of free street parking within a block or two. The taproom was packed with a younger and energetic crowd that had streaks of hipster running through it. Mostly it seemed like just a bunch of people spending the afternoon with a tasty beer or two. The servers didn’t seem particularly organized and while they seemed to want to be able to keep up with the busy crowd, patience was required. As always, the beer selection was solid with a few lighter beers but a focus on the darker, barrel-aged, and more flavorful beers including a sour or two. Continue reading “Winter Rino Brewery Crawl”
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.
You might think Mockery Brewing Co. would face stiff completion based on its location within view of Great Divide Barrel Bar and a couple blocks from Blue Moon. However the small taproom is always somewhere between full and insanely packed, probably owing to the diverse and interesting beers on tap. Getting there and parking can be a bit of a challenge at the moment, with major construction on Brighton and side streets, but if you can find a spot you’ll be rewarded with an interesting and tasty beer lineup.
BEER LINEUP: Mockery never fails to surprise, with a large taplist that includes traditional styles but primarily focuses on beers with their own unique spin. With offerings like a smoked wheat and a spiced imperial saison Mockery shows its willingness to push the envelope and generally succeed. This is somewhere I almost always get a flight because they have so many new brews that deserve a taste.
ATMOSPHERE: Very busy and energetic. In cold weather the taproom crowds could fill a place twice as big and in the summer often spill out onto the large sunny patio or into the game shed in back. The taproom offers just a few tables but outside has numerous benches and the game shed also has tables and bar games. The younger crowd appears to turn quickly and not make this a hangout place – people drop in for one or two and then move on. Without any restaurants in the area, Mockery brings in frequent food trucks for hungry drinkers.
SERVICE: The staff does their best to be attentive but when the taproom is standing room only it can take a few minutes to get their attention at the bar. However, no matter how busy they are the servers remain patient and friendly when you do get ahold of one.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely not a place you’d stumble upon by chance, Mockery is a bit buried one block behind Great Divide Barrel Room in an industrial neighborhood offering little besides breweries. However the advantage of this is generally easy parking and quick access from either downtown or I70 via Brighton Boulevard (when it’s not under construction).
STANDOUT BEER:Sweet Darkness Cocoa Coconut Porter. While I generally steer clear of candy-sounding beers I tried a friend’s and simply had to get my own. It seems like coconut beers often assault the palate with artificial flavors and gagging sweetness, or conversely with weak flavor. However the Sweet Darkness tasted perfectly-balanced with natural-tasting coconut flavors offset by a slightly-bitter dark chocolate flavor. Some additional woody oak and dark roast flavors provided even more depth. As you might expect, the beer is dark and dense.
I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but Beryl’s Beer Co. seems to be aiming for a wordplay with their focus on barrel-aged beers. Located in a cavernous space at current edge of RINO development, you may face challenges getting there through all the construction and closures, but once there you can easily park and try out their lineup of both barrel-aged and non-barrel-aged beers. Overall you’ll find a slightly less hipster vibe than a lot of RINO breweries along with a menu of standard beers styles that often have an extra ingredient or other twist to them.
BEER LINEUP: Hard to describe but maybe “eclectic” would cover it. Aside from the obvious barrel-aged offerings, Beryl’s gets creative with existing styles, for example a Strawberry Wit and Sour Saison. On our visit they offered a few “standard” styles along with a bunch of the creative ones. It seemed like some were hits and some missed a mark a bit (nothing, bad just uninspiring)
ATMOSPHERE: The space is typical RINO – a big shed-like taproom that opens to the production facility, with chunky seating and local art for sale . The crowd seemed younger and more like visitors than neighborhood regulars, and included some families so there was lots of activity going on. In warmer weather you can also take it outside to their front patio.
SERVICE: Very laid back.
NEIGHBORHOOD: In the depths of RINO at the edge of the brewery scene, Beryl’s sits in the midst of major road, residence, and business construction. Today it has a bit of an “out-there” feel in a semi-deserted neighborhood but this will surely change. Beryls is still close enough that you can walk to other breweries or restaurants and make it multi-stop visit. Depending on construction, parking is decent for the moment.
STANDOUT BEER:Donny Boy Doppelbock. This copper-colored, thick & syrupy beer packs a lot of intense flavors. From the predominant caramel to raisin and dried fruit, all the flavors have depth and intensity, giving it almost a savory quality. Although it only clocks in at 7.8% ABV the alcohol flavors occasionally poke through to make it seem even stronger. Definitely not one for the light-beer crowd.