My Beercation To Beer Mecca & Beyond: Denver Part 2
Today is a great day to beercation. The previous evening’s stop at River North Brewery really primed the pump for more beercation fun. Waking up in Denver is a reality that I can get used to. Despite the constant dry mouth due to elevation and lack of any semblance of humidity, I am enjoying the sun shining and the mountains in the distance. I am also excited to head to the airport to pick up a good friend who has graciously decided to take a little trip to accompany me to some brewery visits.
Friendship Makes The Beercation Better
My beercation buddy for the next 4 days is a friend I have known since freshman year of college. I recall meeting this tall, lanky, and soft-spoken individual the very first week of college. Marty lived down the hall from me in Ireland Hall at the University of St. Thomas.
Were it not for his lively and unpredictable roommate, BJ, I am not sure we would have become friends right away. However, he shared a dorm with a red-headed, wrestling-obsessed, eccentric chap from Loretto, MN. BJ would wander around the dorm shadow boxing and talking to whomever crossed his path like they were long-lost friends. Being a wrestling fan, BJ really got into Monday Nitro. He would blare the sound on his big screen as the ring generals would jump from the top-rope to wild yelps of glee.
The Good Old Days
One the first Monday Nitro of the school year, everyone had their doors open because it was quite warmish. I remember trying to study and get my room in order. I was still adjusting to college life and being in a dorm offered a plethora of distractions. My roommate was in the library and I was just putzing around in my room. All of the sudden, I heard a loud, “Oh, hell yeah!” from down the hall. This exclamation of joy was followed immediately with a sudden crashing sound and a follow up exclamation of, “Aw, dammit!” Well, like a bunch of prairie dogs, a bunch of us popped our heads out into the hall to see what the ruckus was.
The wrestling-obsessed, shadow-boxing, ginger from Loretto emerged from his room topless. His chest was bleeding like he had just suffered the repercussions for giving Freddy Kruger a wet willy. Apparently, Marty’s roommate, BJ, had precariously perched his bicycle atop his dresser in the room. The spasmodic burst of joy in reaction to Monday Nitro had caused enough of a shockwave to cause the bike, like the wrestler he was watching jumping from the top rope, to land on BJ and scratch him up something fierce. Later on, I asked Marty about how things were going with BJ, he just laughed.
From that day on, we have been good friends. We have traveled to Mexico together in an ill-advised college spring break tour. He and I have remained close over the years while other college friendships have drifted apart. We love talking baseball, drinking beer, and eating wings. We live five minutes away from each other and his wife and my wife are also good friends. He has two lovely daughters who thankfully inherited their mother’s looks and sense of sarcasm.
We both turned 40 this year, and I am ecstatic to have him as a beercation companion for a few days. He is definitely a beer fan, but not as obsessively so as me. That being said, he loves learning about new styles and appreciates exploring new taprooms.
When I get the text that his plane has landed, I beeline it over to the arrivals zone of the Denver International Airport. He flags me down with his lanky arms, and I see his grin as he approaches the car. I just laugh. There is something special about all the memories we have shared over the years and each of us have different mannerisms that can easily coax a laugh or a guffaw out of the other.
We are now on a beercation mission of fun, food, and beer. We decide to start with the food and find a burger place to provide a base for the day’s brewery jaunt. It is nice to be able to fly by the seat of our pants in Denver. We can almost pick any brewery and we are going to find good beer. That is the biggest difference between the Denver beer scene and the Twin Cities. There is such a high bar set for quality and consistency here.
Living The Dream
After lunch, we decide to head down to Living The Dream Brewing. This brewery is located south of Denver in Littleton. Living The Dream has been recommended to me before, but I never got there. So, today is a good time to check them off my list. The taproom is colorful and there is a throng of fervent US Soccer fans watching the game.
I order up a flight of beers that are on the lighter side of the malt spectrum to start the day. The wooden taster trays are sturdy I carefully bring it back to the high top where Marty has secured our spot. As we taste our way around the flight, there are some good beers. Our favorite beers are definitely the cream ale and the Living The Dream Lager.
The cream ale has a lot of vanilla aroma and drinks crisp and light. The Living The Dream Lager is along those same lines. However, in place of vanilla, there is a hint of lemon in the aroma and a pleasing bready note from the malt.
Being that the taproom is not air conditioned and it is definitely a hot one, we decide to move on. As we walk to the car, we are reminded of why it is important to hydrate when you are on a Denver Beercation. In the taproom, there was a slight breeze and the heat was far from oppressive. However, out here on the blacktop surface of the parking lot, you could grill a yak.
I am happy to check Living The Dream off of my list, but it certainly is not an upper-echelon Denver brewery. Their beers are alright. However, after tasting the amazing ales at River North Brewery the night before, they probably aren’t a must-stop.
Our next beercation stop is a bit of a controversial one considering that they used to be a craft brewery. However, several years ago, Breckenridge Brewery was acquired by AB-InBev, AKA The Evil Empire. Not long after that, Breckenridge moved from the outskirts of Denver and built a huge brewery in Littleton.
I have mixed feelings about supporting this place. One one hand, I prefer to spend my money where I know it makes a difference to the local community. On the other hand, I also want to see what AB-InBev money can do for a place. So, we head into the restaurant and taproom. It is nice to be in the air conditioning. This place is huge and packed. We luck into two seats at the bar. We split another flight and see amazing food being delivered all around us.
The beers come on a fun wooden taster tray. The fusion of the craft and big money is an interesting thing. The beers are all stylistically perfect. The quality and consistency are top-notch.
I feel a little guilty to be enjoying them as much as I am. The Bocks Machina is a flawless and malty wonder. The notes of caramel along with the perfect crispness of the beer are fantastic. If the Summer Pils didn’t belong to the Evil Empire, I would stock it in my fridge religiously. Marty and I agree that the beers are really good. The soccer game concludes and people are still reveling in the patriotism, beer, and fun that this massive environment provides. It is getting to be time to get into Denver for a special beer experience.
We bid farewell to the best beer setting that money can buy and set our GPS for Hogshead Brewery.
Hogshead Brewery is a Denver favorite of mine. In 2015, my eyes opened wide to the wonderful world of cask ales. Since then, I have been several times. I had to take Marty here and he thoroughly enjoyed it!
Of course, I luck into finding 3 bitters on cask and I try them all. We enjoy the patio and the Denver sunshine. Cask ales, being low in alcohol, are the perfect accompaniment to conversation about baseball and life. This is how we spend the next few hours.
Once it is time to leave, we set our course for some food. One of the recommendations that I got from several locals was the Fire on the Mountain wing joint a few blocks away. The wings are pretty good, but they also pack quite a punch on the heat scale. The sun is setting and we have the option of going back to the hotel or checking off another new brewery on our trip.
We head over to Oasis Brewing which is just a couple blocks away from the wing joint. The only seating is on the patio thanks to some live comedy going on in the taproom. Thankfully, they have an ESB on tap and that is what I have. Marty gets a red ale. Instead of taking any beer notes or photos, we just enjoy the patio and talk.
The comedy inside is loud enough for us to hear but not funny enough to laugh at. We resort to our own jokes and rehash some old tales from college and our younger spry 39 year-old days that now mock us from the rearview mirror of the life mobile. As we sip away at our beers, we both agree that if this is getting older, it is not too shabby. We packed a lot into our first full beercation day in Denver and early indications from Marty are that this is a place worthy of more exploration.
We bid farewell to the Rodney Dangerfield wannabe comics and the nice malty beers that we had at Oasis and make our way back to the hotel. It is not even 10:30, but the old farts have to a big day tomorrow when they venture up to Boulder. Prost!
Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer. Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged. If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org .