The weekend was finally here and my wife was going to get into town early in the morning so that I would have someone to accompany me on some of the taproom ventures. What better way to enjoy the 4th of July weekend than hitting taprooms, Euclid Hall and one of my all-time favorite places to grab a pint, the Falling Rock Taphouse?
I set my alarm for the butt-crack of dawn so that I could retrieve my better half from the Denver airport. If you think that the demonic red eyes of the horse sculpture on your way into the arrival and departure gate look scary in the daytime, they are that much more unsettling at 6:30 am. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder as I was happy to see my lovely lady again. I told her that we had a full day ahead and we started talking about the ambitious itinerary.
The first stop of the day was Strange Brewing Co. Located just on the outskirts of downtown Denver, this small space has some very cool art on the walls. As we walked in, we could barely find a place to sit and the place was packed. We figured that we would have to try all the beers and being that my wife’s cousin and his wife were along for the ride, we split the 8 beer flight and got to it. The range of beers and flavors was as wide as the gap in Letterman’s teeth. Belgian, German and English styles from IPAs to a Kriek made this drinking experience memorable. We were also dazzled by the male cyclists that were wearing some NASA-grade pelvic padding that really didn’t leave much to the imagination. I guess it speaks to the high caliber craft beers at Strange that we were even able to focus on beer after such stirring images.
What was exciting about being with three other people and drinking our way through the beer flight was to hear the different impressions of each flavor. At the heart of enjoying craft beer to me is the dialogue about the beer. Good beer should be a conversation starter and a backdrop for laughs and memories. I was grateful that my compatriots were open to the task of trying as many beers as we could. The other great thing about tasting beer with a crowd is that each person will have a different palate and what I might not necessarily think is great, another person might rave about. The beer was flowing and the laughs were plentiful. While we all agreed that this brewery was well above average, not everyone had the same favorite. Out of the 11 beers that we had, I really liked the Cherry Bomb Stout, the Belgian Tripel, the Maibock and the Cherry Kriek.
The next stop was the Denver Beer Company due to its closer proximity to where we were. Denver Beer Co. did not show as well as some of the other places on my trip as far as ratings and reviews, but I was up to give it a try. It has a sizable patio and since it was Friday with a lot of people off of work, the place was slammed. We opted for insideand luckily found a place at the bar. We ordered a flight of all 11 of their beers. I have to say that for me, many of these offerings were just ok. My favorite beer, by far, was the Graham Cracker Porter and the Coconut Graham Cracker Porter. These beers offered the most flavor and depth when paired with the other beers.
For our next location, I was really excited. I had heard great things about their beer and was told that their taproom has a very distinct character. Trve Brewing Company is a craft beer experience. You need to understand that they do not really brew to style and, in fact, are self-professed style blasphemers and category agnostics. If Surly and Hammerheart had a taproom love child, Trve (pronounced true) would be it. The space is very narrow and long; think galley kitchen. The lights are low and the artwork is macabre. The brewing equipment is located at the far end of the space with a railing separating it from the rest of the place. The brewer was hard at work and the delicious brewing aromas filled the atmosphere. A large rectangular table was set as the main seating area and since the bar was packed, that is where we set up camp. Unique wooden fixtures hung from the ceilings containing edison bulbs that provided just enough light to see, but not too much light to detract from the ambiance. The 8 beers they had on tap were all flavorful and unique. A very nice change from the previous place where everything seemed to blend together. These beers were special in the way that they challenged my palate and forced me to wonder how the flavors were working so well together. Praise be to Loki that Trve casts styles and categories aside, freeing themselves up to blaze a trail into the uncharted reaches of flavor and aroma nuance. My favorites from Trve were the StoutO))) because of its velvety smoothness and depth of flavor. The Black Cascade’s malt aroma was so intoxicating and the contrast of the almost stout-like mouthfeel and bittering hops created a superb balance. The Belgian Golden Strong Ale Atma was smooth and had a delicous presence of Belgian Candi sugar. This was a tricky one because it did not drink like an 8% beer. Too many Atmas and you will find yourself on a one-way trip to bad decision town. The rest of the beers we had here were great. I think that if you are going to Denver, you need to make Trve a destination for sure.
It was on to a place called The Source, located in the RiNo neighborhood of Denver. The RiNo neighborhood has tons of great restaurants and breweries. At the time of our visit, the new Great Divide Brewing Company’s production facility complete with tasting room was about a month from opening. The Source houses a wine bar, coffee shop, liquor store, butcher shop and one of my favorite places to drink in all of Denver, the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. I should be a little more clear, the location at the Source is only a taproom and they brew their beer at a different space. They also only brew beers with wild yeast strains and so it is a very specific taste. I would venture to say that if you were going to dip your toe in the pool that is sour beer, this would be the place to do so. We ordered six of their beers and they were all tremendous. The two favorites of the six were the Progenitor and the St. Bretta Late Spring, a version of St. Bretta with a really grassy and citrus bend to it. We met up with another one of my wife’s cousins and decided to head across the street to a brewery that had beers other than sours so that everyone had something that they liked.
Everyone kept asking me if I had a favorite brewery in Denver. That is such a loaded question because some of the places I went are almost incomparable due to the type of beer and vibe of the place. However, Mockery Brewing Company provided an answer to that question. I say that because it is something that completely took me by surprise from the space all the way to their beer, they were heads and shoulders above a lot of the breweries I have ever experienced. The taproom is really cool and although I didn’t use the bathroom there, my wife could not say enough good things about their bathroom. I am actually worried that she might decide to have her mail forwarded there, she liked it so much. Their beer was great. I was so blown away by each one I tried and I could not believe that this place has only been open since November. I asked the gentleman pouring beer to give me their best 8 beers and he did not disappoint. The Lemon Pils, Japanese Extra Pale Ale, Rye Saison, Red IPA, Salted Scotch Ale, Schwarzbier Pink Peppercorn, Dark Ale and Oaked Southern Hemisphere Black Pale Ale were the craft beers that wowed me in a way that could only compare to a twitterpating game of Twister involving myself, a coked-up Alaskan King Crab and Sophia Vergara. My palate was amazed and energized with a barrage of flavors and sensory reactions that would put a lesser man in a catatonic state of bliss. We enjoyed our beer flight on a taster tray made up license plates on a patio that connected the main taproom to a game room that looked like your best friend’s garage from growing up. I was kicking myself for not stopping here sooner in the trip so that I could have spent a lot more time reveling in the glory that is Mockery Brewing Company. However, we had to head to dinner and I had to say goodbye to what I can honestly say is one of my favorite breweries in Denver.
Euclid Hall is a fabulous place for food and beer. Their menu is inventive and diverse. The make food that is similar to many of the craft beers that they have on tap from the standpoint of really making you think about flavors and combinations. I also love anyplace that has named every cocktail on their menu after a Seinfeld reference. I had the pork belly ramen and my better half had the beef stroganoff with beef tongue. We both absolutely loved our dishes. The flavors and textures were on-point and it was really nice to come back to this place that we found by accident our first time around in Denver. After dinner, it was on to the Falling Rock Tap House, which is right down the street from Coors Field and has a tap list that puts many other places to shame. I was so excited about the menu because I saw that they had Russian River Blind Pig, which is a world class IPA. My better half ordered the Horse and Dragon Sad Panda, an amazing stout from an amazing brewery in Fort Collins. We enjoyed the nice evening and I also enjoyed a pint of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, a DIPA. Being able to order these beers that we cannot get back in MN is one of the biggest reasons why Falling Rock is a must if you are in Denver. Their food is also decent and the wait staff is beyond knowledgeable about beer. There was a country concert at Coors that night and when it got out, the place was slammed. We enjoyed people-watching and chatting about beer and politics. My wife was starting to fade after being up for almost 24 hours and we decided to call it a night.