Denver, Colorado: Tapping into the ultimate beer vacation

Our Mutual Friend | Jason Heflin
Our Mutual Friend | Jason Heflin

DENVER, CO — When it comes to purpose-driven U.S. travel destinations, New York stands out for shopping. Foodies head to hot spots such as New Orleans, and beach-lovers trek to Florida. But where do beer lovers flock when they want to sample the hoppy goodness of their favorite brewed beverage? Denver!

Denver’s Deep Roots in Beer

Denver is no newbie to the beer scene. In fact, the mile-high city has been home to one of the country’s most prominent breweries since 1873. Adolph Coors learned the art of beer making in Germany. After immigrating to the U.S. and working in breweries in New York, he ventured west and founded one of the biggest beer empires in the world: Coors. The city of Golden, just west of Denver, is still home to the brewery that has the largest production of any single brewery on the planet. Brewery tours are conducted daily and, at the end, the visitor is nicely rewarded with samplings of their favorite Coors products.

The Rise of Craft

Anyone who didn’t notice the explosion of the craft beer business over the past decade has not been paying attention. Walk into any pizza joint, beer bar, or liquor store in the country and you are likely to see, alongside the old familiars, new labels and brands. Instead of the traditional 3-4 tap handles affixed to pub walls in the past, now patrons enjoy a selection often as wide as 100 varieties of beer. The demand for small batch beers has created an entire industry and the entrepreneurs of Denver didn’t just take notice, they took the reins.

Craft lovers visit Denver for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is range. There are more than 200 breweries in Colorado, and more than half of those are located in Denver.

Our Mutual Friend brewery creates batches on a four-barrel brew system (that’s only eight kegs at a time). The small size of this brewery allows them to brew experimental batches and keep new beers rotating consistently on their taps. Black Shirt Brewing produces a wide selection, but only using the “red beer style.” No matter which direction a beer lover’s beer palate leans, Denver is home to a brewery that produces something unique and satisfying.

The Golden Ticket: Great American Beer Festival

For those seeking to try as many beers as possible during their visit, the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver is the ticket — and not an easy one to snag. Self-proclaimed beer geeks typically buy them up within the first half hour they go on sale, but those who do get in will have access to hundreds of beers from around the U.S. Not only that, but they’ll have the opportunity to talk to the brewers themselves. These raucous sessions last only four and a half hours, and attendees must make the most of their time in the beer hall. Many map out their path to the exact breweries they want to sample before even entering.

For those who don’t get a ticket, there’s still plenty of reason to visit Denver during festival week. Outside the bustle of the convention center there are many worthwhile events that many beer fans consider to be better than the GABF sessions. The Oskar Blues brewery participates in these extracurricular activities. A tour to their farm offers views of the hops fields, mingling with farm animals, and sampling brew over a raging bonfire.

A Craft Beer Tour of Denver

The mere selection of craft beer in Denver can be overwhelming. The best place to start is the Colorado Brewers Guild. They track all new breweries in the state and can help with plans based on the styles of beer preferred and the types of breweries that might be of interest.

For a home-away-from-home, the LEED certified Embassy Suites downtown is centrally located to many breweries, beer bars, and next to the convention center itself.

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