Denver Beer Trail — Suds in the Sky
John Denver got it right when he sang “Rocky Mountain high.” The city of Denver, Colorado sits on a plateau one mile above sea level. This may influence one’s taste buds but hasn’t noticeably slowed the consumption of beer. On the contrary, the Denver craft brew scene has been hopping, so to speak, since the mid 1990’s when it began a remarkable upward trajectory.
Stats indicate Colorado is home to more than 10% of all craft breweries in the USA. With only 2% of the nation’s population, there’s either some serious evaporation or Coloradoans like their beer. Even Rockies Stadium has its own brewery in right field, called Sand Lot. That’s a home run customer base, whereas most small breweries earn a living with over the counter sales.
Denver beer lover and author of Colorado Excursions with History, Hikes and Hops Ed Sealover gave a small group an afternoon tour of 3 city breweries as a tasting menu of what’s available in the city. I was impressed with the display of creative passion and dedication to quality that flows through the vats and veins of those in the business. Maybe it’s something in the mountain air.
It doesn’t get any better than a brewery partnered by a man named Good — John (Johann) Good, a German immigrant who arrived with the gold rush of 1859. He put liquid gold in them thar hills with the Tivoli Brewery which relocated to its original quarters in 2015.
Copper kettles worth a fortune and the second A/C generator built by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, installed in 1890, are part of the original paraphernalia mingling with state of the art equipment.
“We looked at the German Purity Laws and disagreed with all of them.” Jason “Woody” Woody, assistant brewer was explaining Mockery’s philosophy. Small brewery owner Zach Rubin has gathered an irreverent crew of beer aficionados who follow their taste buds instead of the books to brew bold beers they like.
The brewery may look like a designer garage for trucks, but don’t let that fool you. Inside is some serious stuff. We sipped and slurped our way through several samples at picnic tables in the front yard. Some I liked, some not so much, but I admired the quality, variety and finesse in all that foam.
The Great Divide artist series of labels reflects not only the variety of beers but also the brewery’s appreciation of landscape and local talent — the Colorado lifestyle of seriously casual caring. A Yeti Mafia newsletter keeps patrons in touch with brewery “shenanigans” too.
The brewery’s claim to fame is barrel aging. In fact, wood barrels give one corner of the warehouse (a former dairy) the look of a winery more than a brewery. Throughout the industry these days descriptive terminology leads from the palate, as with a Heyday Light IPA “catering to modern tastes with light, tropical notes.”
Forget the beer sodden carpets of yesteryear. As part of the community, breweries have become family-friendly places. The GD’s Tap Room Giving Program, for instance, plows money back into local non-profit organizations. “People come out here to raise families and have adventures.” Beer qualifies.
Denver is home to an astounding 119 breweries — more than enough flights of fancy for everyone who appreciates one of the oldest beverages on Earth, even when it's sky high.