by: Drizly Staff
Denver, Colorado and its surrounding towns have been well known for their love of hops for as long as we can remember. There is a reason that the Brewer's Association is happily located in Boulder and that the country's largest beer festival, GABF, takes place at the Denver Convention Center every fall. This is a place where mountain bikes, snowboards, and recreation as an attitude reigns supreme, so it's no wonder that some of the world's best beer is made here as well. There are quite honestly too many great breweries to mention in a quick roundup and there are far too many brand new breweries speckled around town to try them all, but this roundup might give you a spot to start if you're trying to choose a couple of six packs for the upcoming weekend.
In a world overdosed with newfangled variations of the classic American-style IPA that use hop hybrids, special yeast strains, or bizarre mashing techniques, Odell Brewing keeps it real. Unpretentious and unrelenting, this is what a Colorado IPA is supposed to taste like. Big citrus and pine coming from the gregarious use of hops, but balanced with just a hint of burnt caramel in the finish. Odell creates a timeless IPA that we can all agree is one of the absolute best. Take a step back from the hazy or brut and dive back into the sort of flavor that started it all. Keep the food pairing simple and enjoy it alongside a pair of carne asada tacos.
Another local brewery making an IPA? Yup. Nearly every brewery has one on their tap list these days, but not everyone can do it this well. Station 26 does a great job recreating the flavors that made the West Coast style IPA so popular a decade ago down in San Diego or up in Portland, but with a bit of Colorado flare. The local water balances the blend of hops quite astutely, showcasing some great fruit flavors, revealing hits of pineapple and nectarine. The beer is rather dry in the finish, allowing the hop flavor to dominate the palate, and it comes in at a pretty potent 7.4% ABV, which some might consider a double IPA, but we'll just call it delightful. Enjoy a can with a warm plate of mac & cheese, perhaps with a bit of roasted jalepeño mixed in for good measure.
Located right downtown, Great Divide is probably better known for their big IPAs and intensely flavorful stouts, but Colette is a sleeper that shouldn't be passed up. During the warm months, when the flowers are blooming and the Rockies are playing ball, this locally made Belgian-style saison is a simple pleasure. The floral, herbaceous hop notes perfectly complement the soft, almost hay-like malt bill in a perfect way, showcasing a uniquely refreshing yet dry mouthfeel. If you're a fan of complex flavors that aren't overly intense in any one direction, this is the ideal beer. Try it with a salad topped with freshly grilled vegetables and an herb crusted chicken breast.
Left Hand Brewing, right out there in Longmont, has been making some fine beers for a long time, but none is finer than their rather ubiquitous Nitro Milk Stout. The concept is somewhat simple, take a base beer similar to a classic Irish Stout, dark and roasty, rich and creamy, but add a bit of lactose to the beer. This unfermentable sugar finishes the beer with a luscious sweetness that rounds out any burnt roast from the malt, adding a silky smoothness to each sip. This is an ideal beer for those colder days when you might be craving the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk of your youth. Pair this with a barely baked brownie and you're in for a real treat.
A relative newcomer to the Denver beer scene, Good River has been putting out some very solid brews as of late and Gunny is certainly one of our favorites. Named for the Gunnison River, it's based on the classic German Schwarzbier style, in other words, a black lager. Think the cold, quenching taste of your favorite beer that you might drink by the side of the river, but finished with a slightly smokey, cacao-like quality from the use of dark roasted barley. Somewhere between a pilsner and a porter, it's a beer that can be the perfect match for a day on the slopes just as much as a day on the hiking trail. Try it with a buffalo burger topped with a thick slice of cheddar and you'll most likely be a happy camper.
Colorado is a state dedicated to hops, or even more recently that cousin of hops that is used for other recreational reasons, but locally based Crooked Stave turns things on it's head with a dedication to yeast and souring bacteria as a primary source of flavor and character. Their Petite Sour Rose is a prime example of what such micro-organisms can contribute to beer, taking a malty, oak aged beer and giving it a bright floral quality with a tangy acidity that plays with the sweetness of the mountain raspberries and blueberries. This is a beer for celebration, or at least for sipping. Pour it into your finest glassware and enjoy it with a slice of cheesecake.
We just had to do it. Oskar Blues is one of the big boy breweries out here, so maybe they don't get all of the love that an upstart neighborhood taproom might get, but there is a reason for their success: they make really good beer. Death By Coconut can only be described as “ridiculous." It's so decadent that nobody quite understands how they pack this stout with all of that chocolate and so much coconut. It's like drinking carbonated candy, but is somehow not overly sweet. Something about the flavor combination on top of the carbonation and dark malts makes for a drink that is just, well, deadly. Pair it with vanilla ice cream or just enjoy it as a treat in itself.