GUIDES

Edible Aspen's Colorado Craft Brewery Guide

By Laurel Miller | Last Updated May 31, 2016
0 Shares
Share to printerest Share to fb Share to twitter Share to mail Share to print

COLORADO BOASTS OVER 300 LICENSED BREWERIES in what’s become a billion-dollar industry, so it’s not surprising that the Denver Post recently noted we “consume craft beer at twice the rate of the rest of the nation.” Since 1859, Colorado has been at the forefront of the craft brewing movement—the result of thirsty miners, a pure water supply and favorable post-Prohibition state legislation. Combined with our love of outdoor adventure and related tourism industry, it’s no wonder a cold one is so intertwined with the high-altitude lifestyle.

 

Thanks to our sponsors for supporting the Colorado Craft Brewery Guide in print and online. Their support helps to promote our thriving, and innovative, craft beer community.

                                   

 

 

(Scroll down for the listing of Colorado breweries)

WHAT DEFINES CRAFT BEER?

According to Steve Kurowski, marketing director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, “It’s a self-regulated term within the brewing industry that’s replaced ‘micro.’” The Boulder-based Brewers Association further defines American craft brewers as “small, independent and traditional,” with an annual production of less than 6 million barrels. From farm-to-keg, barrel-aging and wild yeast fermentation to sourcing fruit, grain and hops from Colorado family farms, our craft brewers meld Old World production methods and styles with a progressive ethos that’s pushing boundaries. We’ll drink to that.

                

                 Coors Brewery workers in the old basement bar area, 1894.                                      

A BRIEF HISTORY OF COLORADO BREWING

Our first breweries were established before the territory became a state. In the Denver area, Rocky Mountain Brewing Company (est. 1859) and Sigi’s Brewery (1864; it later evolved into Tivoli Brewing) supplied beer to miners, cowboys and pioneers; by the time statehood was granted in 1876, there were 36 breweries, including industry giant Coors. Prohibition temporarily halted production, but by the 1970s the craft revolution had begun. Boulder Beer, Carver Brewing, Wynkoop Brewing and Odell Brewing Co. put Colorado on the burgeoning American craft beer radar thanks to diversifying styles and more complex flavor profiles. It wasn’t so long ago that Fat Tire was an obscure brew found only in a handful of locations; today, New Belgium and other Centennial State success stories like Oskar Blues, Ska Brewing, Left Hand Brewing Co. and Avery Brewing Company distribute nationally, in addition to some international export.

Craft beer has become an economic juggernaut in Colorado, instrumental in building jobs, revitalizing communities and creating opportunities for farmers. Does this mean our craft beer market is saturated? Absolutely not, says Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild. “Are there too many restaurants or bars?”


                      High Wire Hops, Paonia.

HOP TO IT!

The Pacific Northwest is the nation’s hop-growing epicenter, but hop farms have quietly been gaining traction on Colorado’s Western Slope and Front Range. While yields are small—the perennial climbing plants are slow-growing, labor-intensive and expensive to cultivate, requiring specialized equipment like drip irrigation systems, trellises, picking machines, drying rooms and pelletizers—farms like High Wire Hops and Rising Sun Farms (Paonia), Misty Mountain Hop Farm (Olathe), LaRusso Hop Farms (Welby), Voss Farms (Arvada) and Niwot Hops are finding a niche with select Colorado craft breweries (even Miller-Coors subsidiary AC Golden has gotten in on the act, using local hops for its Colorado Native amber lager). Then there’s High Hops Hop Farm in Windsor, which produces farmstead brews from their 54 varieties of hops.

Want to try a craft brew made with Colorado hops? Here are a few to check out: Colorado IPA Nouveau (Tommyknocker Brewery), Colorado Wild Sage Mountain Saison (Crooked Stave), Wet Hopped American Summer (Telluride Brewing Company), Colorado Stock Ale (Little Machine Beer) and anything by Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company and High Hops Brewery.


                                        New Belgium Brewing's wood-aged beer.

DOES SIZE MATTER?

Confused by terms like nano, micro and macro? Not to worry: They’re not regulated. Nano refers to a very small brewery; macro denotes industry giants like Coors. “There’s a misperception that quality can suffer as a brewery grows, but we’ve experienced the opposite,” says Bryan Simpson, New Belgium Brewing’s media relations director. “Growth allows you to invest in your quality programs, give back to communities and be more diverse with production. Having scale [New Belgium produced just under 1 million barrels in 2015 and sells less than 1 percent of the beer consumed in the U.S.] allows you to do meaningful work in an impactful way.”

The bottom line? Don’t get hung up on marketing hyperbole, just drink what you enjoy. If you want to support Colorado’s craft beer industry, your options are ever-expanding whether it’s picking up a sixer of Oskar Blues or patronizing a neighborhood brewery that produces a barrel a week.


                      Telluride Blues & Brews

BEST BEER FESTIVALS

Snowmass Craft Beer Rendezvous | The Roaring Fork Valley’s inaugural beer festival will feature a Grand Tasting with 50 Colorado breweries, as well as homebrew workshops and a concert.
June 11, GoSnowmass.com

Boulder Craft Beer Festival | This late-summer event brings together breweries from Boulder County and beyond. August 20, BoulderDowntown.com

Telluride Blues & Brews | In a town known for festivals, this is one of the best. The Grand Tasting features suds from over 50 breweries throughout the Southwest. Major national artists provide a soundtrack to all that sipping. September 16–18, TellurideBlues.com

What the Funk, Denver | The folks at Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project are the force behind this celebratory tasting of “wild, sour, funky barrel-aged beers, cider, wine and spirits.” October 4, WTFInvitational.com

Great American Beer Festival, Denver | Named “one of the top 1,000 places in the U.S. to visit before you die,” GABF, now in its 34th year, is the premier gathering of American breweries. Get your tickets ASAP. October 6–8, GreatAmericanBeerFest.com

Big Beers Festival Belgians & Barleywines, Breckenridge | This winter event features world-class international breweries, as well as seminars, dinners and more. January 5–7, 2017, BigBeersFestival.com


             Denver's Union Station bar.

TOP TASTING ROOMS, BEER PROGRAMS & BOTTLE SHOPS

Some of our favorite spots to taste (and buy) beer, Colorado craft et al: We love the friendly, small-town, jam band vibe at Telluride Brewing Company and the punk rock ethos and urban industrial tasting room at Ratio Beerworks; the plentitude of brews by the tap, can and bottle at Falling Rock Taphouse, Terminal Bar, The Kitchen Next Door and HOPS Culture (the latter boasts 230 offerings, many of them esoteric); the abbreviated but thoughtful draft selection at sister establishments Meat & Cheese Restaurant•Farm Shop and Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar (both of which exclusively feature the exquisite, smallbatched, hoppy ales from newcomer Idylwilde Brewery); the hard-to-find Colorado brews sold at retailers Mr. B’s Wine & Spirits and Four Dogs Fine Wine & Spirits; at Sundance Liquor & Gifts you can assemble your own Colorado craft brew six-packs.


                                The iconic bicycle outside of New Belgium Brewing.

BIKES BREWS & THE BEERMUDA TRIANGLE

Cities including Boulder have created dedicated bike-to beer trails (BoulderColoradoUSA.com), while Denver and Fort Collins have organized walk- and bike-to-brewery tours via various outfitters (EatDrinkDenver.com;  BeerAndBikeTours.com), as do mountain towns like Telluride (BootDoctors.com) and Durango (AtYourPaceBiking. com). There’s also the three-mile “Beermuda Triangle” that spans Denver’s RiNo to Westside neighborhoods and includes Wit’s End Brewing, TRVE Brewing Co. and Renegade Brewing Co. Even hotels are getting in on the beery bike action. Denver’s Hotel Teatro, for example, offers a Craft Beer Concierge service to guests, which includes a brewery map and free cruiser bikes. Whether you hoof it or pedal, there’s a tap in just about every town.


COLORADO CRAFT BREWERIES

Please note: We would have liked to include what we love about every Colorado brewery in this guide but it simply wasn't possible for our writer, Laurel Miller, to visit them all. This listing begins with a curated cross section of 30 breweries to illustrate the range of brewery sizes, geographic locations and types of beer, and follows with a comprehensive listing.

Asher Brewing Company

Why We Love It: From their location in a Boulder subdivision, Chris Asher and his crew produce excellent, high-octane, hop-forward organic ales like Greenade Double IPA, utilizing environmentally friendly practices...
|4699 Nautilus Ct., Boulder, CO, us
|303.530.1381

Aspen Brewing Company

Why We Love It: In 2008, co-founder/manager Duncan Clauss launched Aspen’s first contemporary craft brewery (the Roaring Fork Valley’s first was established in 1885). Specializing in barrel-aged brews like...
|304 E. Hopkins Ave., Aspen, CO, us
|970.920.2739

Avery Brewing Company

Why We Love It: The recent relocation to a larger, state-of-the-art “brewing campus” (a 3-minute walk from Asher Brewing) means there’s more of founder/brewmaster Adam Avery’s delicious, full-flavored beer to...
|4910 Nautilus Ct., Boulder, CO, us
|303.440.4324

Black Bottle Brewery

Why We Love It: Hometown boy/founder/brewmaster Sean Nook took his homebrewing obsession commercial in 2012. Diverse, off-the-cuff offerings (from sours and kolsch to breakfast stout) are made with distinctive...
|1611 S. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO, us
|970.493.2337

Black Shirt Brewing Co.

Why We Love It: Brothers Chad and Branden Miller opened their nano-brewery on the fringe of the hip RiNo ’hood with the goal of becoming what they call the “Red Ale Project.” They’ve succeeded and then some,...
|3719 Walnut St., Denver, CO, us
|303.993.2799

Bootstrap Brewing Company

Why We Love It: Super-small-batch, award-winning beers from an exemplary neighborhood brewery. You’re drinking piney, citrusy Insane Rush IPA or quintessential session beer Stick’s Pale Ale.
|6778 N. 79th St., Niwot, CO, us
|303.652.4186

Boulder Beer Company

Why We Love It: Colorado’s first modern craft brewery got its start in 1979, and is still going strong with in-your-face profiles like Shake Chocolate Porter and Sweaty Betty Blonde.
|2880 Wilderness Pl., Boulder, CO, us
|303.444.8448

Bull And Bush Brewery

Why We Love It: Twin brothers Dean and Dale Peterson grew up in Denver, and opened their brewery/carefully curated British-style pub in 1971. Their sons now run the business, aided by master brewer Gabe Moline, and...
|4700 Cherry Creek Dr. South, Glendale, CO, us
|303.759.0333

Casey Brewing & Blending

Why We Love It: Troy Casey opened the doors to his “blendery” (the beer is brewed at a nearby facility; Casey blends, ferments and ages it) in 2013. He relies on 100 percent oak barrel fermentation for his...
|3421 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO, us
|970.230.9691

Comrade Brewing Company

Why We Love It: Small production can mean big things. From the well-balanced, multi-time GABF winner Superpower IPA—what head brewer Mark Lanham calls a “new school” style that doesn’t smack you in the face...
|7667 E. Iliff Ave., Denver, CO, us
|720.748.0700

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Why We Love It: We have only admiration for this brewery located in The Source marketplace. Owner/brewer Chad Yakobson is the master of sours—specifically, saisons and lambics. Small-batch, limited release...
|3350 Brighton Blvd., Denver, CO, us
|720.550.8860

Elevation Beer Company

Why We Love It: Just four years out of the gate, this brewery near Salida has made a name for itself with experimental brews like Apis IV—a high-ABV Quadrupel made with honey from a local fourth-generation...
|115 Pahlone Parkway, Poncha Springs, CO, us
|719.539.5258

High Hops Brewery

Why We Love It: On the cutting edge of Colorado’s “farm-to-keg” movement is this multi-generational, family-owned and -operated hops farm and brewery. The Weakland family—patriarch Pat was an avid homebrewer...
|6461 CO-392, Windsor, CO, us
|970.674.2841

Left Hand Brewing Co.

Why We Love It: There’s no disputing the influence—both from a craft and a technology standpoint—this Boulder County brewery has had on the national level. Co-founders Dick Doore and Eric Wallace opened for...
|1265 Boston Ave., Longmont, CO, us
|303.772.0258

Little Machine Beer

Why We Love It: From their 10-barrel system in Jefferson Park come well-crafted, diverse offerings, from oatmeal stout and Scotch ale enhanced with muscovado sugar and charred oak to the refreshing Razz Against the...
|2924 W. 20th Ave., Denver, CO, us
|303.284.7893

Mockery Brewing

Why We Love It: A focus on “bold flavors” and passion for diverse styles are the hallmarks of this RiNo brewery. Props to summery offerings like Rye Saison, an effervescent, bone-dry sour that will have you...
|3501 Delgany St., Denver, CO, us
|303.953.2058

New Belgium Brewing

Why We Love It: Where would Colorado craft brewing be without Fat Tire? Happily, New Belgium keeps on producing innovative beers geared toward diverse tastes. We love La Folie, a clean-tasting sour brown ale aged in...
|500 Linden St., Fort Collins, CO, us
|970.221.0524

Odell Brewing Co.

Why We Love It: Since 1989 Odell has been at the forefront of the domestic craft movement, and their beer archive is staggering. The company boasts a diverse selection of styles and seasonals. Try the 2016...
|800 E. Lincoln Ave., Fort Collins, CO, us
|970.498.9070

Oskar Blues

Why We Love It: When Dale Katechis started his modest brewpub in 1997, few suspected Oskar Blues would change American beer history. Dale’s Pale Ale was the first canned craft beer; today it’s emulated by craft...
|303 Main St., Lyons, CO, us
|303.823.6685

Paradox Beer Company

Why We Love It: This green brewery (a Clean Energy business and EPA Green Power Partner) is dedicated to producing only barrel-aged, bottleconditioned beers, and they do it right. High-altitude (9,000 feet) terroir...
|10 Buffalo Ct., Divide, CO, us
|719.686.8081

Ratio Beerworks

Why We Love It: There’s so much to admire at this RiNo newcomer rooted in punk rock ethos. Since opening in early 2015, Ratio—founded by former musicians Jason Zumbrunnen (brewer), Zach Lowery and Scott Kaplan—...
|2920 Larimer St., Denver, CO, us
|303.997.8288

Revolution Brewing

Why We Love It: Housed in a former church, this offbeat brewery is making a name with its canned brews made sans pasteurization, filtration or additives. Hops come from the region, and visitors can help mill grain by...
|325 Grand Ave., Paonia, CO, us
|970.260.4869

Roaring Fork Beer Company

Why We Love It: This industrial park-based brewery is a hub for community events of the eating and drinking kind (partnerships with local chefs, farms, restaurateurs and distilleries are hot tickets); brewer/co-owner...
|1941 Dolores Way, Carbondale, CO, us
|970.963.5870

Ska Brewing Company

Why We Love It: When co-founders Bill Graham and Dave Thibodeau started Ska in 1995, they drew upon their love of indie-minded music to create “a difference between the faceless machinations of a corporate beverage...
|225 Girard St., Durango, CO, us
|970.247.5792

Strange Craft Beer Company

Why We Love It: Denver’s first nano brewery, established in 2010 by Tim Myers, was the very definition of, producing one barrel at a time (six years later, that heritage is honored with “one-barrel Wednesdays...
|1330 Zuni St., , Denver, CO, us
|720.985.2337

Telluride Brewing Company

Why We Love It: Co-founder/brewer Chris Fish has a distinguished Colorado craft brew pedigree; TBC is his and business partner Tommy Thacher’s tribute to all that is great about our state. Belly up to the tasting...
|156 Society Dr., Telluride, CO, us
|970.728.5094

Tivoli Brewing Company

Why We Love It: It’s changed hands multiple times since its inception in 1859, and shut down in 1969 (at the time, Tivoli was the second-oldest continuously operating brewery in the nation). In 2012, new owners...
|900 Auraria Parkway, Denver, CO, us
|720.458.5885

Trinity Brewing Company

Why We Love It: All manner of sours rule at this boundary-pushing, eco-minded brewery that values relationships with local farmers and reducing carbon footprint via composting, recycling and using reclaimed and...
|1466 Garden of the Gods Rd., Colorado Springs, CO, us
|719.634.0029

Verboten Brewing

Why We Love It: Josh and Angie Grenz and Jason Bower own this community-centric “boutique” brewery and have reaped accolades for their barrel-aged beers made whenever possible with local ingredients (fruit plays...
|127 E. 5th St., Loveland, CO, us
|970.775.7371

Wild Woods Brewing

Why We Love It: A neighborhood nano brewery in an industrial ’hood? Sure. It’s where off-duty workers and other savvy folk go to savor owner/brewer Jake Evans’s laboriously crafted, distinctive beers. Don’t...
|5460 Conestoga Ct., Boulder, CO, us
|303.484.1465

MORE COLORADO CRAFT BREWERIES

    Thirsty for more? Colorado boasts over 300 licensed breweries so chances are good that there's one near you. ...
Subscribe
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60