Having escaped for a weekend to the U.S. craft beer capital of Portland, Oregon months earlier I was curious to visit Denver to see how it compared and while it doesn’t boast the same number of craft breweries within its city limits as Portland the “Mile High City” still boasts an impressive array of microbreweries, taprooms, brewpubs and taverns to keep thirsty visitors and locals alike happy.

In fact, the Colorado capital is home to the so-called “Denver Beer Triangle” which runs between Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins housing over six dozen breweries which run the gamut from the giant Coors brewery in Golden – the world’s largest single-site brewery  – to renegade brewers working on specialty small batch craft beer.

One of the most decorated breweries in the U.S. Great Divide Brewing Company has been a staple of Denver’s beer scene for 20 years expanding in recent years to two locations: the original “Ballpark” brewery and taproom and a newer outlet in the RiNo (River North) neighborhood.

The original brewery and taproom in Denver’s LoDo (Lower Downtown) neighborhood is a short walk from Coors Field, home of MLB’s Colorado Rockies and what’s cool about this site is the  sturdy brick building and gleaming giant stainless steel tanks used to house a dairy processing plant but now brew memorable beers.

Great Divide offers free daily 30-minute tours of their Ballpark location on a first come, first served basis.

A different food truck is park outside around 3 PM every day offering an assortment of good pub grub from pizza to burgers and tacos. There’s a schedule of food trucks here but note it’s subject to change.

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For my visit to the taproom a few hours ahead of a Rockies game I opted for the Collette Farmhouse Ale which is brewed with barley, wheat and rice so is heartier and more complex than most wheat or Kolsh beers and at 7.3% alcohol by volume (ABV ) this beer is also a bit stronger.  Strong beers however aren’t unusual as Great Divide has become known for higher alcohol content beers over 7% including the Hercules Double IPA which at 10% ABV isn’t for the faint of heart.

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Steps from Union Station is Wynkoop Brewing Company, Colorado’s first brewpub co-founded in 1988 by former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper who is now Colorado’s governor. Since its founding the area around Wynkoop has changed a great deal as the historic red brick warehouses that served Union Station in the 19th century have been preserved and restored to serve modern businesses.

The feeling of the original warehouse has been retained as the taproom has a grey pressed-tin ceiling, arched windows and hardwood floors.

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Wynkoop brews more than 40 beers so selecting just one isn’t easy but I opted for the Wixa Weiss Pale Wheat Ale which is an unfiltered Bavarian wheat ale style beer that’s much like others of this kind I’ve sampled except for the very subtle banana flavor.

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Literally around the block from Wynkoop Brewing is the smaller scale Falling Rock Tap House whose slogan is “No Crap On Tap” and backs that up with a staggering 91 beers on tap and another 300 in bottles, including what is likely the largest selection of Colorado-brewed beer under one roof in the world.

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Falling Rock’s extensive selection of Colorado craft beer is augmented by outstanding brands from around the U.S. and Europe.

This microbrewery has served as the unofficial headquarters for the Annual Great American Beer Festival held in Denver every Fall since 1997 and features an indoor/outdoor loading dock taproom has a very loyal following of regulars who appreciate the quality beers and founder Chris Black’s 2200 beer bottle collection that adorns almost every square inch of the wall above the bar.

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Black is very particular about not only the beer he brews but how it’s served.

An easy amble from Falling Rock  is Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, an outdoor adventure themed brewery almost in the shadow of Coors Field as it’s located a scant 3-blocks from the ballpark.

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I tried the ‘Common Roots ‘which is another Belgian saison style beer but brewed with spruce tips and pink peppercorn adding  a hint of spice to what is a nice light summer beer.

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Open June through October is the Skyline Beer Garden which is a 40,000 square foot outdoor seasonal beer garden steps off Denver’s mile long pedestrian promenade 16th Street Mall complete with Oktoberfest-style picnic tables, ping pong tables, a 9-hole miniature golf course as well as live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

The beer garden focused on hand crafted Colorado brews so I sampled the Odell Brewing ’90 Shilling Ale’ which as the name implies is a British style amber ale. Being mid-day on a Sunday morning the venue was quieter than on a weekday when office workers fill it up for lunch and after work drinks and light bites.

Food trucks are on hand with street tacos but note that payment for both food and beer is by plastic only, no cash.

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Behind right field at Coors Field is the Blue Moon Brewing Company at the Sandlot which has unique set-up for a brewery since it’s founding in 1995 as it’s only accessible to ticket holders on game days during the major league baseball season. Originally called ‘Bellyslide Belgian White’ the Belgian-style witbier is often mistaken as an import beer but has always been owned and operated by Coors which has in recent years merged with Miller and Molson to form a giant international brewing conglomerate that’s at least part Canadian.

Blue Moon is an unfiltered Belgian-style wheat ale with deep flavor and a uniquely cloudy appearance and is served with a slice of orange to bring out the natural spices and subtle fruit flavor.

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I arrived early for the game to check out this and other ballpark attractions and grab a hot dog before game time.

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The beautifully restored century old historic landmark Union Station still serves as a Denver rail terminus but also houses boutique shops and the Crawford Hotel along with the Terminal Bar in what was the station’s ticketing office.

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The bar has a time capsule feel to it with the retro black & white tile floor tiles, wood chairs, and draft beers posted on faux trains destination boards above the bar.

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Rock Bottom Denver location on the 16th Street Mall is one of many in the brewpub chain however that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a generic, bland franchise outlet as all of its beer, some 40,000 barrels per year, is handcrafted on-site.

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I checked in at Rock Bottom around Noon the day I was catching a flight home and thanks to a weekday special caught a flight of beer as well. Here’s the before photo showing the variety of light ales, amber beers and darker porter beers.

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And the after photo.

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I liked everything on this flight except the sour ‘How Gose It’ beer. Gimme an IPA over a sour any day but it wasn’t so horrible I couldn’t drink all that came in the glass so take that for what it’s worth.

The last stop was unplanned but the neon sign at Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House caught my eye as neon is sadly become more rare.

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A relatively new tavern – opened in 2014 – in a heritage building Lucky Pie offers a beer connoisseurs haven with some pizza pie on the side and after all what could be better than pizza & beer?

Denver tourism has produced a “Beer Trail” PDF which is here and it highlights many of the breweries I visited but I only scratched the surface of the many quality breweries in and around Denver so a return visit seems in order.