After spending over ten days in Denver looking for every great beer I can find, it is time to depart from the Mile High City. My last day in Denver brings a sense of completion to the journey. I am not sad to be leaving because I am heading to Fort Collins for a week. However, before I arrive at my favorite beer city in the country, I set a course for Greeley, Colorado.
Just like R2-D2 questioned Luke Skywalker’s choice of the Dagobah system in Return of the Jedi, you are probably wondering why I need to stop in Greeley. Greeley, Colorado, is home to Wiley Roots Brewing Co. and WeldWerks Brewing Co., two of the most popular breweries in the state. I want to see for myself whether or not the beer lives up to the hype.
Following the robotic voice of my Google Maps, I am definitely taking the scenic route. Mostly county highways and side streets comprise the route from Denver to Greeley. It is not that far, but it really isn’t on the way to anything else. However, that does not stop ravenous craft beer enthusiasts from staying away.
Driving through Greeley feels like an illustration of a Bruce Springsteen song. It is gritty and definitely has an edge to it. It seems like strange bedfellows to have two of the hottest breweries in Colorado housed in a ranching town. However, I have learned through many beercations that some of the best brewery gems reside in the places you would least expect.
WeldWerks Brewing Company
I first sampled WeldWerks beer at the Beer Now Conference in Milwaukee, WI. Some folks from the Brewers Association brought crowlers of this sought after IPA. I remember being impressed and this was back in 2017. Several months later, at I had their barrel-aged Medianoche at What the Funk in 2017 before GABF and it was phenomenal.
I have tried 15 WeldWerks beers total. Until this beercation, that number was three. I mentioned in an earlier article that I stayed at my cousin-in-law’s house for a week while I was in Denver. Well, her significant other, Chad, is a huge WeldWerks Brewing fan and has boxes in his beer cellar. He offered to crack several as we would unwind and watch baseball and Seinfeld in the evenings while I was there. Thanks to Chad, I became more familiar with what WeldWerks is all about. Chad even accompanied me to WeldWerks for one last hurrah before I moved on to Fort Collins.
Chad and I park and walk across the hot parking lot into the cavernous air-conditioned beer oasis that is WeldWerks Brewing Company. This place is bigger than it looks from the outside. Lots of space allows people to sprawl out comfortably amidst a variety of different seating. It is impressive how busy it is for early afternoon on a Sunday.
Chad grabs a flight while I walk around and get my bearings. I look at the merch and snap some pictures. They have quite a few offerings on tap and it takes me some time to figure out what I want to drink. Chad also orders a flight and so we are able to cover quite a bit of ground at this beercation stop. Aside from a traditional Hefeweizen, everything else is either a hazy IPA, stout, or a kettle sour. Not much variety, but I guess that is the way of things in this strange era of craft beer we are in the midst of.
A Beercation Flight of Fancy
Speaking of the Hefeweizen, it is absolutely perfect. Big ester aromas of bubblegum, bananas, and clove waft out of the glass. In the flavor, there is bubblegum at first, but then a lot of refreshing citrusy lemon brightness. After drinking the Hefeweizen, I am almost emotionally downtrodden by the fact that they don’t have any more traditional styles of beer on tap. The Hefeweizen is a wonderful iteration of that style and I can only imagine what they could do with a pilsner or a brown ale.
The Gold Dust Waves is a hazy IPA with ripe mango and pineapple aromas. Grapefruit pith bitterness in the back of the tongue balances the juicy tropical fruits. The finish is a little dry with some bitterness. This is a great hazy IPA. The Guava Lime Gose has wonderful tartness and salinity. The fruits are balanced to make each sip satisfying. I like that I can pick out the salt in this beer because it shows the brewer’s chops.
The Evil Pastry Stout Factory Strikes Back is a motor oil-looking concoction. Peanut and coconut in nose. It drinks thick and with quite a viscosity. There is graham cracker, maple syrup, and marshmallow that almost gets cloaked by the sweetness of the beer. This beer tastes good, but it would be better with just a little less sweetness.
The Bourbon Brandy Medianoche is a work of genius. This is absolutely dialed in with balance and nuance. Wonderful and familiar notes of molasses, vanilla, and booze are all perfectly harmonious in the flavor. There is a sensational bourbon aroma in the beer. I wish I was sitting in a big leather chair next to a roaring fire because this would be the perfect beer to just sip for an evening. If frankness, this beer is damn near perfect. I am not the only one at the table who feels that way. Chad quips, “This might be ‘rip your tits off good!'”
How the Magic is Made
As I am wandering around trying to get some shots of the brewhouse through the glass, a gentleman asks if I want to step in back to get some better pictures. I happily oblige him. As much beer as WeldWerks is able to release, it is all done on a 15 BBL system. This is crazy to me. I learn that they brew 6 days a week to make that happen and that are kicking out around 6,000 BBLs of beer a year. We walk through the brewhouse and see everything there is to see.
When we step into the climate-controlled barrel room, the hairs on my neck stand up. 174 barrels of goodness are resting comfortably in here. The aroma is unlike any barrel room I have seen before. It is like a boozy humidor and I want to live here. We meander our way around and come out in the taproom. I am impressed by the efficiency of WeldWerks. They have created something unique and wonderful in Greeley, of all places!
Is it a Trend or a Mirage?
Their frequent releases have provided a blueprint for others who want to create a buzz around their trendy beers. I am curious to see if this strategy has staying power. While they pump out pastry stouts, fruited sours, and hazy IPAs, they leave little room for much else in their portfolio. What happens if the current trends are replaced by lagers as I believe they will? How will WeldWerks pivot? It is an interesting gambit to throw all your eggs in the trendy beer basket. No matter what the future holds, WeldWerks is making incredible beer that is satiating the beer geeks of Greeley and beyond in a tremendous way, and they show no signs of slowing down.
As we finish our flights, it gets awkward as I lick the glass of my Bourbon Brandy Medianoche. While my moobs stay intact, the partnership of beer drinking is breaking apart until next time. Chad is headed back home, and I am headed to Fort Collins. All the beercation taproom stops and beers cracked in Chad’s basement were good, but I will treasure the experience of spending time with a great friend even more. One last bro-hug before we go our separate ways.
Wiley Roots Brewing Company
Wiley Roots Brewing Company is spearheading the beer slushy movement in Greeley, Colorado. From a popularity standpoint, Wiley Roots Brewing is akin to WeldWerks. They jumped on the trendy beer train and are known for thinking outside the box regarding what beer can be. I will admit, I am not sure I understand the beer slushy thing. This drink definitely blurs the lines between beer and other drink, but Wiley Roots is incredibly successful with them. On a day like today where the heat is beating down on me like the Harlem Globetrotters clobber the Senators, perhaps a beer slushy will be refreshing.
Located down at the end of a large building, Wiley Roots Brewing company is right off the railroad tracks. I walk in and find that that most of the people are seated outside. Not nearly as packed as WeldWerks, I pretty much have the place to myself. This is not a bad thing because it allows me to chat with Chris who is working behind the bar. Chris has the requisite facial hair and friendly demeanor of most of the bartenders at the breweries in Colorado. Chris also assists with brewing tasks and is abundantly knowledgeable about beer. I know I am in good hands at my last beercation stop of the day.
As I peruse the menu, Chris brings me over a sample of the last beer slushy that they have on tap. Due to the heat and ravenous beer slushy drinkers, the Hot Tamale Candy-inspired beer slushy is the only one they have left. Throwing caution to the wind, I take a sip of this frozen concoction that, no doubt, will someday have a song written about it by a Jimmy Buffet cover band.
I can appreciate creativity and wanting to push the envelope when it comes to flavors and concept. However, this Hot Tamale-inspired beer slushy is not for me. At first, there is an almost Robitussin artificial cherry quality to it. That is followed up by hop bitterness that is earthy and bitter. Finally, the cinnamon comes in and lingers on the palate in an off-putting way. I am sure that the 3 other beer slushies that were on tap earlier tasted better than this one. The frozen nature of the drink is refreshing, but the flavors are not harmonious at all.
What a Wiley Flight of Beers!
Thank goodness that there are also a myriad of beers to choose from. I start with the easy drinking Helles Lager. This is much more enjoyable and familiar. This Helles Lager is crisp and refreshing-a perfect defense for the oppressive Colorado dry heat. After quenching my thirst with a lager, it is onto the Super 77, a 2-time GABF award winning American Wheat beer. This is vibrant and well-made beer. The softness on the tongue from the wheat is pleasing. The orange peel aroma is also really refreshing. This beer back to back with the Helles are making me forget about the heat.
Now it is time for Swatches: National Grasslands. This is a fantastic NEIPA. The hops are grassy with a bit of tangerine. The beer has incredible body to support the flavors from the hops. It finishes with some nice bitterness and is definitely a memorable beer. After that, it is Swatches: Galaxy Blue. This has a big cantaloupe aroma. In contrast to National Grasslands, Galaxy Blue is much more on the sweeter side and has virtually no bitterness in the finish. If I lived in Greeley, I would love to see all their iterations of the Swatches series because they are so different and really show how hops can change the flavor profile of a beer.
Before I delve fully into the pastry stouts, I stop off at another familiar style and have the Robust Chocolate Porter. The roasted malt aroma delivers rich coffee and dark chocolate perfection. The flavors are also chocolate, coffee, toasted dark bread, and slight molasses. I like the bitterness and the balance in this beer makes it very drinkable.
The Breakfast Strudels: Nutella is something out different. A wheat wine with chocolate and hazelnuts. The nutty aroma is so inviting. There are flavors of dough, buttery pastry crust, and brown sugar. The body of the beer is hefty enough to support a lot of richness. I feared that there would be a cloying sweetness, but instead, it is all a rich combination of goodness that seems to stay within the confines of balance. The Wooden Spoon & Whisk Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie is exactly as advertised. This beer is sweet and tastes exactly like brownie batter. The body is big and velvety. The flavors of dark chocolate balance out the fudge sweetness.
Chris invites me on a tour of the place so I can get some pictures. They have a ton of space and are experimenting with some barred aged sours in a separate part of the brewery. They are brewing on a 7 barrel brewhouse with 9 fermenters. Chris didn’t have the total amount of barrels that they brewed last year, but after looking on Untappd, it is clear to me that they brew a lot of different beers here.
After getting back to the barstool I am thinking about getting going when I hear a train roar by the brewery. That means that I can get a beer for 2.00! So, it is another Super 77 for me! When the beercation gods give you a sign to have one more beer, you are a fool to ignore them. As I am sitting there, a local group of people come in and we have a wonderful conversation about the local beer scene. They are impressed that I am spending so much time in Colorado for beer. I tell them that I am impressed that the beer is so good in this state that it makes me want to keep coming back here for beer. I love getting to know fun local people to get their take on the beer scene. They are retired and clearly enjoying their golden years.
Speaking of retiring, it is time for me to pack up my gear and head to Fort Collins. I purposely saved the best for last and I am giddy as a school boy to be able to spend a week in my happy place. I say good bye to Chris and thank him profusely for the tour and wonderful conversation. Good beer will get you in the door, but people like Chris make you want to become a regular.
I can see now why so many people put on the miles to travel to Greeley, Colorado, for beer. Solely based on my positive experiences at WeldWerks and Wiley Roots, I will gladly come back here. I also understand that the hype behind these breweries is real because they deliver on quality. Greeley has an embarrassment of craft beer riches. I am happy that I got to discover that firsthand. Prost!
If you want to hear more about Dan’s beercation to Colorado, below is the link to his podcast, A One Pint Stand, where he chats about it!
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 .