Ask travellers to name the best places to sink a beer in the world and a slew of familiar names will naturally spring forth. Colorado's charming capital Denver is unlikely to be among them, but this amber-loving city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is well-deserving of a place in the pantheon of great beer drinking cities.
Lying a mile above sea level in the shadow of the Rockies, Denver may not seem like the ideal drinking environment. While the risk of altitude sickness is minimal, the effects of alcohol are more keenly felt in the thin mountain air. Yet, with some sensible planning and plenty of sips of water in between, you can enjoy one of the best beer drinking jaunts anywhere in the world.
"The Napa Valley Of Beer"
America's bars were once a wasteland of mass-produced lagers and questionable 'lite' beers. However, the emergence of multitudes of microbreweries, gourmet-influenced gastrobubs and dimly-lit hipster hangouts means beer drinkers are now spoiled for choice.
That's especially the case in Denver, where no less than 200 beers are crafted in the city each and every day – leading the city to earn the sobriquet, "The Napa Valley of Beer."
The trend for combining delicious food with great beer began in Denver's first so-called 'brewpub' in Lower Downtown, the impressive Wynkoop Brewing Company. With its rotating cast of cask-conditioned ales, hand-crafted microbrews and a youthful, cosmopolitan vibe, it's often the first stop for many on Denver's lovingly designed Beer Trail.
The Denver Beer Trail
In a city that boasts the Great American Beer Festival, it's little wonder Denver is also home to its very own beer trail. Conceived as a joint enterprise by tourism bureau Visit Denver and some of the city's most popular local establishments, the inaugural Denver Beer Trail contained 14 breweries stretched across several city blocks.
The concept's immediate success has seen the Denver Beer Trail expanded to 20 breweries, with the likes of Colorado favourite Breckenridge, fledgling upstarts Denver Beer Co and the award-winning Great Divide now joined by newcomers such as Former Future Brewing Company and Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery – among others – to create an even more comprehensive list of Denver breweries.
Passport To Good Times
The main aim of the Denver Beer Trail is to showcase the unique local beers on tap throughout the city. The task of sampling the local wares is made all the more gratifying by the accompanying passport-style publication which lets you tick off the various brews as you try them. It even boasts a map of the participating breweries, allowing you to navigate the trail with ease.
With some seriously venerated ales to sample, the rewards are more than satisfying for Denver's dedicated beer drinkers. From the Great Divide's classic Denver Pale Ale to Prost's self-explanatory Pils, Denver Beer Co's explosive Graham Cracker Porter and Epic's whimsical Escape To Colorado IPA, the flavours sloshing around each new beer glass are as dramatic as they are diverse.
More Than A Beer Town
While Denver is rightly proud of its status as a beer-producing town, there's more to this eclectic city than crowded bars and microbreweries. A natural gateway to the surrounding snow-capped Rockies, Denver is just as renowned for its bountiful outdoor spaces and picturesque landscapes.
In fact, this eminently navigable city is a great place to get outside and enjoy the scenery, with many of Denver's most popular attractions located within walking distance of its 16th Street downtown core.
Denver's restaurant scene is equally noteworthy; ranging from casual barroom-style eating a la the decidedly down-to-earth Euclid Hall to the very best in Mediterranean-inspired fare at Rioja.
You could even say that when it comes to drinking and dining, Denver does it better than most. But perhaps that's a statement you'll need to investigate yourself.