If you love craft beer, there’re few better cities in the US to visit than Denver. Denver’s beer scene is amazing and the many Denver breweries in downtown Denver and in its surrounding neighborhoods brew tastebud-tickling beer of all kinds that beer lovers from the world over will rave about.
From small-batch brews to unique brews to national brands that started here to award-winning beers known worldwide, there are great beers for every taste in Denver, CO. It’s likely that you’ll even discover your favorite beer of all time among this city’s offerings.
There’s nothing wrong with planning an entire vacation that’s focused around beer tastings, you know.
If you’re going to take the leap and do so, then Denver’s craft beer scene should be the first stop on your list.
Here are the 10 best breweries in Denver for you to visit next time you’re in town – trust me; you’ll love Denver beer!
Table of Contents
- The History of Craft Beer in Denver
- The Ten Best Breweries in Denver
- 1. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
- 2. Great Divide Brewing Company
- 3. Odell Brewing Company
- 4. Cerebral Brewing
- 5. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
- 6. Bierstadt Lagerhaus
- 7. Tivoli Brewery
- 8. The Wynkoop
- 9. The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery
- 10. New Belgium
The History of Craft Beer in Denver
Beer and Denver have a long and beautiful relationship. As you may already know, Denver was founded in 1858 for one primary reason: mining; specifically gold and silver.
Although indigenous Native Americans, trappers, and even some European settlers had lived in the area much earlier, the city of Denver was established to be a support city for the influx of miners and other adventurers who planned to explore the mountains.
Many of the first rough and tumble folks who moved to Denver wanted one thing at the end of a long day – a beer. Unfortunately, most good beer at the time was brewed in Europe, and transporting it to the center of the North American content before it went bad was impossible.
As a result, a few wise business owners began to brew beer in Denver as soon as they got settled. You’ll read more about one of them, German immigrant John Good, later on in this article. Soon, saloons were commonplace in downtown Denver and Denver’s beer scene was born.
Denver continued to be a Mecca for beer brewing and drinking over the following decades. Coors Brewery opened in nearby Golden, Colorado in 1873, and today, it is the largest single brewing facility in the whole world.
It wasn’t until much later, though, that Denver became the craft beer hub that it has become over the past few decades. In the late 1980s and especially in the early 1990s and beyond, Denver breweries started to open up everywhere.
Now, you can find one on almost every corner. Each brewery has its own personality and style, and each and every one of them deserves a visit.
Of course, every Denver beer drinker has a local brewery that they love above the rest, but as a visitor, you’ll have to make your own decision. Read on to learn about some of the best breweries in Denver in our opinion.
The Ten Best Breweries in Denver
According to estimates, there are somewhere around one hundred fifty breweries serving craft beer in Denver.
That means if you visited one a day every day, it would take you roughly five months to visit them all – that sounds like a fun challenge many might like to try! (Send us an email if you manage to!)
To create this list, we thought long and hard about the best breweries in Denver. It wasn’t easy to narrow the field down to ten and this list could have been much longer.
However, if you have a weekend in Denver that you’d like to dedicate to visiting Denver breweries, then this list should give you a great head start.
Good luck, and enjoy!
1. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
A great first stop on your personal brewery exploration adventure is one of Denver’s most well-known.
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project was founded in 2010 by owner/brewmaster Chad Yakobson; he’d just completed his Master’s thesis on the use of Brettanomyces yeast species in beermaking. His entire life is dedicated to brewing with Brettanomyces yeast and he’s a scientist as much as he’s an artisan.
Crooked Stave, which has a second location in Fort Collins, is located near the junction of I-70 and I-25 so it’s easy to access from any direction. This brewery specializes in fruity, sour craft beers, but patrons also love their barrel-aged stouts.
Love in Every Barrel
Wooden barrels are the heart and soul of this brewery. Its name refers to the wooden slats that, when bound by a metal ring, create a barrel; it’s a metaphor for the amount of love and care that the Crooked Stave staff puts into the creation of their beers – you’ll taste it in every sip, too.
See Related: Best Things to do in Denver, Colorado
2. Great Divide Brewing Company
Great Divide Brewing Company is another of Denver’s most popular breweries and with good reason – it offers a wide variety of great beers and has for decades. This is one of the breweries that started the craft beer scene in Colorado back in 1994.
Where to Drink Great Divide Brewing’s Beers
The brewery’s first location, in the Ballpark neighborhood, is small and often busy; if you prefer more space, you might like their larger Barrel Bar in RiNo instead.
You can also check out one of the best Denver brewery tours daily at the latter. And, if you find that you fall in love with Great Divide Brewing Company during your visit, you can also hit the Denver International Airport location on Concourse C on your way out of town.
What to Expect
Great Divide is known for offering flavorful beers in many categories, although this brewery is perhaps best known for its seasonal Yeti Clan Imperial Stouts; there are eight, and they change every few months with some overlap. Visitors also greatly enjoy their IPAs – Titan, Hercules, Hazy, and Fastpack – and their American Lager as well.
The number of awards that Great Divide has won for their beers is impressive; they’ve earned eighteen Great American Beer Festival medals and five World Beer Cup awards so far. They also take great pride in their dedication to sustainability – something that’s very important to Denver locals.
See Related: 12 Best Breweries in Austin, Texas
3. Odell Brewing Company
Odell Brewing Company is the twenty-third largest craft brewing company in the United States, according to the Brewers Association.
Although it was founded in Fort Collins in 1989 and its primary location continues to be located there, it is, without a doubt, one of the best breweries in Denver as well. It’s best known for hop-forward beers and IPAs.
Doug, Wynne, and Corkie Odell – a man, his wife, and his sister – initially started brewing their beers in a 915-grain elevator and in doing so became the second packaging craft brewery to open in all of Colorado; they built and opened the 8,000 square foot Fort Collins location in 1994. Today, their beer is distributed in nineteen states.
Where to Enjoy Odell
You don’t have to go up to Fort Collins to enjoy Odell beer brewed at the source, though. You can visit either of their Denver locations or both if you choose.
The Odell Five Points Brewing House in the historic Five Points neighborhood is inside a building built in 1917; there’s outside patio seating with fire pits to keep you warm on cooler days.
Alternately, you might enjoy the newer Sloan’s Lake Brewhouse, which offers views of the Denver skyline and Sloan’s Lake – it’s one of the very best breweries in Denver with a view. Both locations offer sixteen Odell beers on tap and ten barrel pilot system for brewing beer on-site.
See Related: Best Breweries in Charleston, South Carolina
4. Cerebral Brewing
Brewing beer is a science as much as it’s an art, and Cerebral Brewing embraces this fact every step of the way.
Their taproom is science-themed and owner and head-brewer Seth Buchan puts a little science and a little love into every tank of beer he makes with his friends and co-owners Chris Washenberger and Dan McGuire. Although this brewery only opened in 2015, it’s quickly become a favorite of Denver locals.
Where to Enjoy Cerebral Brews
Located on the eastern side of town just south of City Park in the Congress Park neighborhood, Cerebral Brewing still considers itself, first and foremost, a neighborhood brewery. However, they’ve visited many international beer festivals around the world and are starting to become known on a worldwide scale.
At this brewery, you’ll find IPAs, Saisons, barrel-aged stouts sours, and Saisons, lagers, ales, and the New England IPA that started it all. They’ve just recently opened a second location – an 18,000-square-foot space in the arts district of Aurora, a Denver suburb.
A large, open, indoor area and a broad, breezy patio space make Cerebral Brewing a great place to gather with friends. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon any time of year, especially if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver.
5. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
Coloradans love being as close to nature as they can as often as they can, and because of that, many are drawn to Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales because of their close ties with the natural world.
Ninety-nine percent of the world’s beers are brewed with lab-cultured yeast, but Black Project Beer instead chooses to source its yeasts from wild, natural yeast and bacteria.
James Howat, founder & blender, has been brewing beer since 2013, but Black Project Beer – named such due to its initial beginnings as a secret project while Howat worked for another brewery – opened this first tasting room in 2016.
Black Project Taproom
Since then, this brewery has developed a very loyal following with the locals. On an average day, this spot, located a bit south of downtown on South Broadway, offers eight sour/spontaneous beers and three non-sour wild ales.
Further, it offers a few taps of beers brewed by other breweries around Colorado and elsewhere in the country and the world, to round out their offerings and promote their friends in the industry to their guests.
The interior is dark but welcoming and it is decorated with brick and metal, yet it somehow offers a feeling of coziness at the same time. Also, upon entering, you’ll immediately know you’re among folks that know beer well – both patrons and staff alike.
6. Bierstadt Lagerhaus
If you’re someone who likes things simple and traditional in the world of beer, then don’t hesitate and rush on over to Bierstadt Lagerhaus. This brewery focuses on old-style, authentic traditional German lagers.
How authentic, you ask? They brew their beer in an eighty-four-year-old kettle from Germany, and they adhere completely to a traditional Reinheitsgebot brewing process – a Bavarian beer purity law dating back to the early 1500s.
Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ tagline is “No flair, no twist, no added things. Just tradition,” and it suits this establishment perfectly.
They take pride in the fact that their beer has just four ingredients: water, yeast, malt, and hops – just like the traditional German lagers they’re replicating here. However, they do cater to other tastes, by offering ciders, wine, and cocktails for guests who (for some odd reason) don’t like lager.
Relax at Bierstadt Lagerhaus
Thanks to garage-style doors that the staff opens wide in warm weather, the space inside this brewery is open and is very bright.
Ample couch seating is welcoming and comfortable for groups of any size. You’ll find adult-sized yard games outside to pass the time and live music on Thursdays and Saturdays. Once you step into this spot, you’ll want to stay awhile.
7. Tivoli Brewery
Tivoli Brewery is the oldest brewery in Denver by quite a length, but there are admittedly several decades over the past century when it wasn’t operating.
Founded in 1859 by German immigrant John Good to serve the miners pouring (no pun intended) into the area, this brewery grew to be one of the largest beer producers in the nation by 1950. Unfortunately, a flood in 1965 impacted Tivoli Brewery so immensely that it was forced out of business – that is until it was revitalized in 2012.
A Return to the Source
Today, Tivoli Brewery continues to brew beer in its original building on Auraria Parkway. In the forty-seven years that Tivoli did not exist, the building was abandoned, then transformed into a shopping mall, and then it became the Tivoli Student Union on the shared Auraria Campus of three local colleges.
When the brewery was revived, an agreement was made for it to exist in the same space as it did long ago. In addition to brewing beer and serving patrons, it serves as a lab for brewing and beer industry classes for the colleges.
Historically, Tivoli Brewery was known for its lagers, but today, the hard-working staff tries to excel in all areas and succeeds. They offer year-round brews as well as seasonal beers and limited releases. And, if you’re looking for a brewery that offers tours, Tivoli is a great choice; they offer two different tours daily on weekdays.
See Related: Best Breweries in Charleston
8. The Wynkoop
The Wynkoop is Denver’s oldest craft brewpub – it’s even older than Great Divide Brewing. It was founded in 1988 by four friends, Russell Schehrer, Mark Schiffler, Jerry Williams, and John Hickenlooper, the latter of who went on to be the state’s forty-second governor, and who currently serves as Colorado’s junior state senator.
Where to Enjoy Craft Beer by The Wynkoop
This establishment offers both public and private tours, a robust menu of tasty pub food, a large billiards hall on its upper level, and a vast number of beers on tap. Their flagship brew is the Railyard Ale, an American Amber/Red that is smooth and fruity, yet malty at the same time. They also offer cocktails and wine.
Located between Denver’s historic Union Station and the Colorado Rockies stadium, Coors Field, this is a great place to spend an afternoon in the city’s beautiful and lively LoDo neighborhood.
See Related: Best Breweries in Minneapolis
9. The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery
The newest brewery on this list is also perhaps the most unique due to the inclusion of a deli. The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery opened in 2018 but it is already a popular spot for Denverites, particularly those living in the hip area around Tennyson Street.
Owner and operator Dan Appell grew up working in his family’s sandwich shop and deli in Parsippany, New Jersey. After graduating from college and working at several bars in his home state, he relocated to Denver where he continued his education in brewery management at a number of local establishments.
Try the Sandwiches
The Grateful Gnome has twelve beers on tap; most are its own, but this brewery sometimes rotates in beers from other breweries as well.
It also offers brewed cider and a non-alcoholic root beer. This place is family-friendly, so feel free to bring the kids, and there are impressive hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and soups on the menu to please every palate.
10. New Belgium
When New Belgium founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch biked through Belgium in 1988, they were inspired to bring Belgian beer to their home state.
A few years later, in 1991, they hiked into Rocky Mountain National Park to determine their new brewery’s core values as they began brewing in their basement in nearby Fort Collins. One of the two beers they brewed there, Fat Tire, is today known around the world.
Over the subsequent years, New Belgium Brewing has grown into one of the nation’s best-known beer producers. Some of this brewery’s beers are even sold in places as distant as Sweden and Peru. However, although the company is now owned by the Australian subsidiary of a Japanese beverage group, its home is and always will be Colorado first and foremost.
Where Enjoy New Belgium Beers
Kim and Jeff’s original location in Fort Collins still stands and serves, and there’s a New Belgium Brewery in Asheville, North Carolina, and one in San Francisco, California, too.
The Denver location, located in The Source Hotel, brews a few beers that guests can try, but it’s not considered one of the company’s main locations.
However, if you travel to The Woods on the building’s eighth floor, you’ll find the barrels in which New Belgium ages their beers, and you’ll get a fantastic view of the Rockies, and you’ll be able to enjoy some great food pairings that match perfectly with New Belgium brews, too.
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