Colorado Beer Quest

January 14th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Beer Travels

Cask IPA at Bristol Brewing. Click on this photo to see the rest of my images from the trip.

Other than the Northwest, my favorite place to visit for beer touring is Colorado. I have a few friends to visit out that way, and trips to the Great American Beer Festival offer opportunities for some epic long weekends. So, when my “real job” told me I was headed to some meetings there last month, I made sure to schedule my flight a bit early to give me time to enjoy the scenery.

I’ve done about five or six “beer trips” to Colorado now, and I’ve visited quite a few places in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, as well a few places up in the mountain towns. This time, in addition to hitting a couple favorite locations in Denver, I wanted to explore some new spots.

Arriving around midnight on a Friday didn’t allow for too much drinking time that night, but we made the most of it and headed straight to the famous Falling Rock Taphouse after leaving the airport. Falling Rock is easily the most well-known beer bar in Denver, and some people consider it one of the best in the country. They have a whole wall full of taps, and it isn’t hard to find something interesting to try. As it was just a few weeks before Christmas, the Falling Rock had a selection of fresh and vintage winter ales on tap. My favorite of what we tried was the 2007 vintage of Great Divide Hibernation; I was amazed with how well that beer had aged. One thing I love about Falling Rock is that they seem to have Russian River Blind Pig IPA on tap every time I have ever been there. It’s a great session IPA and impossible for me to pass up when I see it on tap. I just wish Russian River would start shipping it to Washington again. Our market received it when they first started distributing to us, but now they can’t come close to meeting the demand for Pliny the Elder and send us primarily that (in addition to their Belgian-style ales). We do see an odd keg here and there, though. If you’ve never been to the Falling Rock, it is a must-hit on your next trip to CO. Expect good beer, and nothing more. The place itself is large and the patio outside is fantastic for warmer evenings, but inside the layout is odd and people don’t go there for the décor; they could stand to clean the place up and invest in some new furniture, tables, etc…Whatever, though. They have great beer, and that’s the point, right?

Bristol Brewing tap list.

As we were looking to try some places I had never been, the next morning we drove down to Colorado Springs, home of more churches than I’ve seen in a long time. Our first stop was a visit to Garden of the Gods, a free, public park with some pretty cool rock formations. It’s a beautiful spot, and we did a nice, short walk to soak it in before starting our drinking for the day. For the first brewery of the day, we rolled into Bristol Brewing. Bristol has been around since 1994 and is an old favorite of many beer-drinking locals. The brewery taproom is fairly large, and on this early Saturday afternoon there was a crowd of around 20 enjoying beers and filling growlers. I grabbed a pint of their Compass IPA on cask to kick things off, which was a solid session beer with good balance. I also sampled their Winter Warlock Stout poured through a nitro tap, the Old #23 barleywine, and a beer from Black Fox Brewing called Shyela, which is a red saison brewed with willow bark and sage that was interesting and unique. Overall, it’s a relaxed spot for beers, and the shuffleboard table kept us busy while enjoying our drinks. They have a limited food selection (tacos?), but we did not partake.

Trinity Slap Your Mammy Double IPA

Next up was a place my friends had never been to but had heard great things about, and we were all excited to visit. Trinity Brewing is located in a nondescript strip mall on what seems like the edge of nowhere, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. This little brewery was launched in 2008 by a former head brewer at Bristol, and the brewery is making a name for itself with adventurous beers that span a wide array of styles. I’m a sucker for hops, and their 10.5% ABV Slap Your Mammy Double IPA was pretty intense. We also sampled all of their house beers, and a few other special releases. The Chilly Water Baltic Porter was solid, and Kiwibunga!, a Kiwi Wit brewed with Brett, was funky and refreshing at just 4.8% ABV. From their regular lineup, the Awaken Coffee Stout and Farmhouse Saison were the standouts for me. All of them were pretty solid, though. Trinity also had a small selection of special beers for sale in 750ml bottles. The only problem was their price. The one that I really wanted, The Flavor Triple Cherry Dark Sour, was $34.99. Too rich for my blood for something I’ve never heard of or sampled. They had four other bottles for around $20/each that I decided to pass on as well. The bar itself was fantastic. The food we had was tasty, the layout was welcoming, the service kind, and they had a pretty kick-ass guest tap selection as well. Probably 20 total taps of guest beer, including some real gems, such as Avery Fumator (awesome) and Blackfox Brewing La Noche del Diablo, which I regretted only having a taste of. After just one visit, I’d have to say this might be one of my favorite breweries in Colorado, and I can’t wait to visit again and see what’s brewing.

Next on the agenda was a drive back to the Denver area and a stop in at Dry Dock Brewing Company. I had never visited, but after they won big at GABF the past couple of years they have been high on my list. The taproom was cozy and packed, but it’s a nice spot for some drinks. I went with a sample paddle and thought the beers were mostly solid, while a couple were nothing to write home about. The Bismark Alt, U-Boat Hefeweizen and German Helles were the standouts for me, while the funky-tasting Breakwater Pale Ale I could have done without. They had a Belgian-style Quad that I thought about trying, but I was trying to prolong my soberness as long as possible. Overall, Dry Dock was enjoyable and I’d definitely stop in again in the future.

For dinner, we headed off to Bull & Bush Pub & Brewery, which was a welcome sight after all of the malls and big box stores we passed on the way there. The pub is quite cozy and very family-friendly. I had the Patio’s Vat Dunkelweiss, which was light in color and taste for a traditional dunkel, and I think I even asked the waitress if she had brought me the wrong beer…nope. After that I downed a Yule Fuel Holiday Ale, which was much more to my liking. The food didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but I wouldn’t hesitate to head back for a meal and beers.

We had hoped to visit the new Strange Brewing Company in Denver after that, but they were closed for a private function. So, it was then on to the taproom at Great Divide Brewing, which makes some fantastic beers. In addition to their normal lineup, they were pouring Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, which is tough to pass up. While I love the beers at Great Divide, they’ve gotten too popular for their current space and seem to be in need of expansion. It seems like just about every time I go there with a group, we end up hanging out in the hallway space by the bathrooms, which seems a little creepy. If they want to keep the retail portion small, though, that’s understandable. I still love the beers and the brewery, and this is another must-hit place when visiting Denver. After some of us couldn’t finish our beers, we figured it was about time to call it a night. We retreated back to the hotel not long after.

Later during the work week, I was able to fit in visits to Wynkoop Brewery and a new bar called Freshcraft. I can’t say I enjoyed my beers at Wynkoop too much (lots of butter in my porter), but I like the place itself, and the food I had was enjoyable. I was only able to have a couple quick drinks at Freshcraft, but I was impressed by the tap selection (20 beers) and atmosphere of the place. I had an Apex Double IPA from Bear Republic that we don’t see up in Seattle very often, and it was fantastic. It’s nice to have another bar near Falling Rock to put on the list for the next time I visit! Plus, they had a big Chicago Bears flag outside and show games on their big screen on football Sundays.

To sum it up, Colorado rocks. I really enjoyed checking out some new places on this trip, and I can’t wait till I can return next.

Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Dean Ruffner

    Thats my memory of Great Divide as well; busting back several Espresso Yeti’s while being slammed into the wall by the bathrooms.

  • Angelo

    Looks like you hit some spots I missed on my last trip to CO. Bristol, Trinity, and Dry Dock all make great beer. Good read, bro.

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