Some thank the crystal clear Rocky Mountain water. Others claim it is the altitude. Or maybe everything goes down better when paired with mountain views. Whatever the reason, Colorado has some of the best tasting beers in the country, with 491 Brewers Association medals to prove it – more per capita than any other US state.
designated driver and a taste for beer before noon, it is possible to see some
of the best of Colorado’s 130 breweries on a long-weekend road trip.
Denver, the capital, at the Wynkoop Brewery in lower downtown. The state’s
current governor (and former Denver mayor) co-founded the sprawling two-story
brewpub in 1988, long before the LoDo area underwent a revitalization that made
it the trendy spot it is today. After sipping on a pint of the malty, amber
Rail Yard ale (named after the historic Union Station train depot across the
street), walk a few blocks east to Great Divide Brewing, housed in a former dairy
processing plant. The pub has landed on multiple “top brewery in the world”
lists for its barrel-aged brews. Saddle up to the bar in the newly expanded tap
room for a pint of the hoppy, yet caramely Yeti Imperial Stout that tops out at
9.5% alcohol by volume. Between April and July, try the Chocolate Oak Aged
version of the beer, which tones down the hops in favour of adding cocoa and
cayenne pepper. While the tap room does not serve snacks, Denver’s best food trucks
make regular stops here to nourish those who have a long day of drinking ahead.
sobering up, drive about 90 minutes north to the city of Ft Collins; then ditch
the car. The humble cruiser bicycle, —the
logo of the New Belgium Brewing Company and its most popular Fat Tire amber
ale --, is the best way to see this college town’s best breweries. The Fort Collins Bike Library
offers free bike rentals and a “Bike the Sites” brewery tour map, which guides visitors to seven
local breweries. Try the strangely spicy Green Chilli Ale at Coopersmith’s Pub in Old Town, the 90 Schilling Scottish-style ale at Odell’s and the you-will-never-guess-it-is-organic,
citrus-flavoured Mothership Wit at New Belgium.
Collins, head 60 minutes southwest to the hippie-turned-high-tech town of
Boulder. Board the funky Banjo Billy’s bus (equipped with sofas and
saddles as seats) for the Boulder Brew Bus tour, which runs on a regular
schedule every Sunday evening (advance reservations are recommended). The bus
leaves from the West End Tavern restaurant and makes stops through the night at
the Upslope, Twisted Pine
and Avery breweries. A West End bartender or manager serves
as the tour guide and shares the inside scoop on each brewery between stops. To
cleanse their palates, tour goers also get to sample the West End’s famous smoked
BBQ along the way.
shot 30 minutes south of Boulder sits the small, secluded suburb of Golden. The
original capital of the Colorado Territory, Golden also served as the 1873 birthplace
of the Coors Brewery (now Miller-Coors after a 2008 merger). Though the small
town looks nothing like the snow-capped mountains featured in Coors Light commercials,
the hovering mesas and rolling foothills are an equally beautiful backdrop to
the largest single-site brewery in the world. Free daily tours of the facility showcase the scale necessary
to produce 22 million barrels a year, and give visitors the chance to try
freshly brewed original Coors Banquet, Blue Moon wheat and other styles sold
nationwide. Unlike most other breweries which offer small samplings along the
tour or a chance to buy pints at full price, Coors offers three full glasses of
beer for free at the end of the tour in the lower-level tasting room.
minutes west into the Rocky Mountains, make a pit stop in the small mining town
of Idaho Springs to check out the Tommyknocker Brewery,
known for its smooth, maple syrup-infused Maple Nut Brown beer. Named after the leprechaun-like creatures who
would steal miners’ food and tools, Tommyknockers is a favourite among kids as
well for their home-brewed root beer and strawberry crème sodas.
Breckenridge Brewery in the eponymous
ski town serves up their not-too-sweet, not-too-smoky Vanilla Porter, which has
turned many light beer drinkers over to the dark (beer) side.
For a more
stationary sampling, hit up the annual Great American Beer Festival held every autumn in Denver’s
Convention Center, where these Colorado breweries (and 2,000 others from around
the country) serve up samples of their most innovative beers in one place.