When John Hickenlooper and his buddies opened the Wynkoop Brewery back in 1988, they probably had no idea how their little brewing operation would not only help change the landscape of Lower Downtown but lay the foundation of how great beer should be brewed.
Of course, it's also doubtful he ever imagined himself as a U.S. Senator.
In addition to brewing its own beer, Wynkoop Brewery helped change the language and definitions of the beer brewing process. According to the Brewers Association:
- There are more than 400 breweries in Colorado. Of those, around 70 are microbreweries (producing no more than 15,000 barrels/year).
- Colorado ranks 4th in the nation in the number of craft breweries (433).
- "Craft" beer refers to a brewery that produces no more than 2 million gallons of beer/year and is independently owned.
- Production of craft beer in Colorado ranks 7th in the nation (940,843 barrels).
Last summer, five Colorado cities were among the top 20 in the nation in breweries per capita, according to a study by C+R Research. The marketing firm ranked more than 500 cities across the United States by the number of breweries, and Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, Denver, and Longmont all made the top 20. Denver was 18th.
The proliferation of breweries has extended beyond little wannabe startups and has become a major driver of Colorado’s economy. According to the Brewers Association, in 2018 Colorado's small breweries and craft brewers lead the nation in per capita economic impact among 21+ adults, with each person spending $780 for a total of $3.3 billion (2018).
With the impending warmer temperatures, there is no better time to start exploring the top breweries in Denver. Below is a very biased selection in no particular order by some of the Usaj Realty staff members of Denver’s best suds stops.
Picked by Jenny Usaj, Employing Broker
As the head honcho of Usaj Realty, Jenny Usaj names this iconic brewery as her favorite. Jenny's husband Anton is a former Denver firefighter so it's only appropriate that Station 26 is close to her heart. Situated in a former firehouse, this truly unique brewery has an amazing ambiance and a delightful menu of beers.
It’s a pretty simple philosophy from this Park Hill brewery. “Serious beer, not people. We love to drink beer – all types of beer. When it comes to good beer, we don't discriminate. Light, dark, hoppy – there's a time and a place for them all. We also love making beer. So much so, that we decided to start making it in an old Denver fire station. We're making all sorts of beer. Come taste for yourself. We'll pour you some tasters in our fancy cups. We have a cool space for drinking beer with friends. Ride your bike. Bring takeout. Whatever, man."
People arrive by car, bike and foot to enjoy the chill vibe. There's a great patio and a small side yard, perfect for families. Try the Tangerine Cream and find yourself transported back to the days of enjoying creamsicles as a kid (but even better now that you're an adult!).
Picked by Jenny Usaj, Employing Broker
You absolutely cannot go wrong with a visit to Denver Beer Company. We swear all of their beers were specifically designed to be crowd-pleasers so if you have some picky drinkers in your bunch, this is the place to go. Their new Downing Street location features a magnificent patio, perfect on a warm day and very family-friendly. Play some lawn games, sit by a firepit, or snuggle with your dog on the spacious grounds. Check out their locations at 1695 Platte Street, 5768 Olde Wadsworth Boulevard (Old Town Arvada), and 44th & Jason (Sunnyside -- temporarily closed due to construction), too!
Kristin Boritzke, Broker Associate
Their food might be just as good as their beer so come here hungry. Located at 3750 Chestnut Place in the RiNo neighborhood, this spot has quickly become a neighborhood staple with its event space, 20+ rotating beers on tap and open concept seating. The Blue Moon story began back in 1995 at the Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field. Founder Keith Villa had returned to the United States after earning his Ph.D. in brewing from the University of Brussels and pursued his goal of brewing well-crafted beers inspired by Belgian styles, with a refreshing twist. Not only are the brews truly remarkable, but the surroundings are also fabulous. From the delightful patio to the huge bar to the unique seating, you're sure to return time and time again. Usaj Realty associate broker Kristin Boritzke encourages you to try the Mango Wheat.
Kristina Casinelli, Broker Associate
In 2013, Epic Brewing Company adventured to the RiNo district of Denver, Colorado. In doing so, Epic Brewing expanded its reach to better serve the Rocky Mountain region. The River North district has been made famous for its artistic diversity and maintained its status with an influx of breweries, restaurants, and coffee houses alike. It's no wonder, Usaj Realty's associate broker Kristina Casinelli is drawn to this brewery. Epic boasts two spacious patios; one on the left, guarded by an olive green fence, and the other taking over the sidewalk right along Walnut Street. You can often catch a ton of sun in the morning, a beautiful sunset at night, and a terrific Denver skyline at night.
Tori Casella, Broker Associate
Ready for some incredible views? There no better rooftop patio than Odell Brewing's second Denver location site in Edgewater. Tori Casella enjoys a "Sippin' Pretty" draught while taking in the gorgeous vistas of Sloan's Lake and the Rocky Mountains. The brewhouse features a 10-barrel R&D system where we brew experimental beers available exclusively at Sloan’s Lake. Founded in 1989, Odell Brewing was started by Doug Odell, his wife Wynne, and his sister Corkie. Over 30 years later, the culture of family and collaboration still thrives, fostering a brewery full of beer-centric people. It is this passion for beer that inspires Odell Brewing to create quality, hand-crafted, innovative brews. We think you'll adore their brews!
Andrea Henderson, Broker Associate
A brewery with an unusual name but boasting lots of character. Andrea Henderson gives this brewery based in Lafeyette a big thumbs up. If you're looking for ultra-cool names for their brews along with incredible graphics on the bottles, Odd 13 will not disappoint. Enjoy their inviting patio and outside heaters while drinking their tasty array of IPAs, ales, sours, stouts, and lagers. The trip up to Boulder County will be worth the
Amy Pobar, Employee
This gem displays a trendy vibe but serves up traditional German Beers. Prost Brewing Co. is a Colorado craft brewery focused on crafting only the finest German-style biers. They honor German heritage by sourcing only the highest quality ingredients directly from Germany and by following traditional brewing practices and lagering techniques. The results? A cleaner, more refined bier that is approachable, yet layered with complexities. These are biers that taste like bier. Here’s to a fresh taste of tradition. Prost! Usaj Realty staff member Amy Pobar enjoys sitting on the fabulous patio with either a Weissbier or Kolsch. "Take in the amazing views of Denver while sipping an equally amazing beer."
Other Staff Favorites
Located at 2210 California Street, Woods Boss is centrally located and within walking distance of downtown and RiNo. It's the perfect destination for a day out in Denver. Their taproom definitely hits the "woodsy" theme on the head, and they are hopeful to restart their live events soon.
According to their website, this Slo-Hi location near Sloan’s Lake was developed to provide a local clientele, beer aficionados and lovers of good times a central spot in Denver to enjoy a proper pint and have a chat. You will find three to four great beers on tap via CO2 pressurized kegs and properly conditioned real ale from naturally carbonated casks.
They specialize in cask beer, which offers less carbonation. One of the favorites is the Chin Wag (the brewery cautions that one too many may cause you to talk smack). It combines a chewy malt, forward mouthfeel, balanced by a moderate hopping rate delivered by challenger golding and fuggles hops. Dangerously quaffable at 38 IBU. It's a beer to savor over the good conversation on their great outdoor patio.
Here’s the lowdown on 10 Barrel: Originated in 2006 with three guys in Bend, Ore., who shared one simple mindset; brew beer, drink beer, and have fun doing it. Since then the brewery has grown but will always stay the same… Rough morning? Grab a beer. Big powder day? The “Gone Skiing” sign goes up. Too hot to work? Mandatory company float. You get the picture… Here’s to living it up with a beer in hand. Cheers!
10 Barrel boasts a huge space for lots of people or events, which is a rarity in Denver and even more so in the RiNo neighborhood. So many delicious beers (cucumber sour is awesome for summer!), a kitchen for your hunger pangs, and a wonderful outside patio. We also highly recommend following them on Instagram for some super lively and entertaining photos.
Here are the accolades of Ratio: Located in RiNo, this microbrewery has a state-of-the-art 20 barrel system and more than enough beer to go around. And the taproom will be as eclectic as the community that it's built to support. The scene at Ratio is all about beer, but they also host special events that will ensure all of the senses are stimulated.
The outdoor space is dog-friendly and perfect for a game of bags on a sunny day. The mural art outside also provides for a great ambiance. We must give them props for having some of the best food trucks to be found in Denver routinely parked outside the brewery in case of hunger strikes while you are sipping their top-notch beer.
This Highlands Square gem is definitely worth a visit. Their beer selection is unique and delicious, the outdoor patio is great, and the indoor space is full of architectural details. Take a walk around Highlands Square after to top off a great evening or afternoon!
The skinny on Our Mutual Friend: An award-winning brewery and taproom located in RiNo. "Brewing beer began as an excuse to gather with our friends and ruminate on life, philosophy, music, food, and of course, beer. Once they got started, they grew more curious about the brewing process, honing the craft and experimenting with different methods and techniques. Along the way, a fundamental question to the process was, 'How can we do more of this ourselves?' " The desire to participate in every step of the grain to glass process led them to open Our Mutual Friend. Part of what they love about beer is its power to bring people together (hence the name!). They are happy to be a gathering place in the RiNo neighborhood where locals and visitors alike can meet in camaraderie alongside a quality pint. They believe in the power of neighborly acts and the spirit of neighbors taking care of one another within the local community. This spot features a great atmosphere and vinyl music on the airwaves.
The Granddaddy of them all is still an epic sudsy place. Beer drinkers across the state braved the sketchy ghost town that was LoDo in the late 80’s for billiards and pints of unexpected beer styles. Thirty years later, Wynkoop is a Denver institution, still known for innovative concoctions, and brewers who put just about anything in their beer, including Rocky Mountain oysters, gummy bears, and green chiles. From the novice to the expert connoisseur, they view patrons as friends and aim to provide an open, carefree environment for all to enjoy.
Located at 2924 W. 20th Ave., you may not necessarily stumble upon this brewery due to its location but it's definitely worth the intentional visit. In close proximity to Broncos Stadium, Little Machine offers up some incredible brews. We'll let them sum it up, "The raddest brewery in Denver. Right by Mile High Stadium. Two dog-friendly patios, local art, awesome round bar, a Colorado-built brewing system and something for everyone on tap and to-go."
Overlooking Sloan’s Lake from the northwest corner, Joyride is one of those breweries that lands a special place in your heart. Not only are their beers delicious but their rooftop is one of the best in town. Located in Edgewater, just 3 miles from Downtown Denver, this spot should make your list of places to visit. According to their website, "Our downstairs taproom is around 1600 sq ft and can hold about 95 people. Our upstairs rooftop patio is around 2400 sq ft and can hold an additional 150 people. Please join us and enjoy the majestic views of the lake with some of the finest beer in town."
Specializing in Belgian style beers, this industrial style brewery has two Denver locations to visit. Their friendly staff will help you pick out a flight so you can try them all! Their flagship taproom is located at 2400 Blake Street.
(Editor's note: This blog was originally published in March of 2019, and has been revised and updated).
Posted by Pat O'Connor
Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys hanging out with her three kids and assortment of family pets, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. As a mother to two (at one time three) competitive swimmers, her favorite fragrance is eau de chlorine. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs on Saturdays and screaming when the Packers score on Sundays. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter