Colorado is teeming with so many breweries that it’s nearly impossible for an outsider to know which ones to visit. Self-proclaimed “Colorado Beer Geek” Stephen Adams has visited every brewery in the state and has plenty of great recommendations.
Adams, who compiles craft brewery data for his Facebook page and the Colorado Brewery List website, says there are currently 420 breweries in the state. He also visited 117 others that are now closed.
“Burns Family Artisan Ales is the hidden gem of Denver!” Adams exclaims. “Tucked away in an industrial area of Denver, Laura Worley and Wayne Burns make everyone feel part of their family in a comfortable taproom serving amazing beers. “High-octane Wayne is known to serve some big beers with a good portion of their taps over 10% ABV. My favorites are the quad and their various barrel-aged stouts.”
River North Brewery is a favorite because of its “super-friendly” staff, imperial stouts, saison and other Belgian-style beers. Launch Pad Brewery offers 32 taps with numerous styles of beer, and “every one is done with excellence,” Adams says.
Of course, there are so many others he loves.
“I am very happy to live among the more than 160 breweries in the Denver metro area, including 78 in Denver, with so many fabulous people making awesome beer,” says Adams, whose day job is working on a government satellite program for a defense contractor.. “A few more favorites are Woods Boss Brewing, Goldspot Brewing and Bruz Beers.”
His favorite styles are Belgians and stouts.
“I have grown to appreciate a well-crafted IPA, but it isn’t the style I reach for first,” Adams explains. “Mainly, I prefer the flavors and varieties of malts over hops. I like all Belgian styles — from a sessionable single to a flavorful saison, a rich golden strong or a full-bodied quad. As for stouts, rather than a double fudge strawberry pastry stout, I prefer porters and stouts with a nice touch of something interesting like a spice or a non-adjunct stout nicely aged in whiskey barrels until it is super smooth.”
Outside Denver, there are more Colorado breweries dear to Adams’ heart.
“My best friend, who got me started visiting breweries, lives in Fort Collins, home to 22 breweries,” Adams says. “Our favorite place there is Purpose Brewing & Cellars, which was opened by Peter Bouckaert, a legend in the brewing industry who retired from a little brewery called New Belgium. He is making some beautiful barrel-aged beers!”
In Loveland, about an hour’s drive north of Denver, Verboten Brewing “makes some of the best stouts I have ever had,” says Adams, who is also an organizer of an LGBT+ group of craft beer enthusiasts called the Denver Beer Queers.
Colorado Springs is home to 31 breweries, and Adams’ favorite is Local Relic Artisan Ales.
“It is housed in a beautiful old church,” he says. “It’s known for making a multitude of small tasty batches and never brewing the same beer twice. It also has a wine bar, a cocktail bar and an amazing kitchen serving some delicious food.”
Another favorite brewery is Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs, about a three-hour drive southwest of Denver. Poncha Springs is in Colorado’s central valley at an elevation of 7,465 feet, surrounded by the scenic San Isabel National Forest.
“Elevation makes great beer, and my favorites are the red wine barrel-aged quad and the imperial stouts,” Adams says. “The brewery is conveniently located in the center of the state for trips to the southwest corner.”
Besides discovering many tasty beers, Adams’ brewery trips have enabled him to see Colorado’s beautiful mountains and geographic wonders.
“One of my greatest joys in traveling to all the great Colorado breweries is simply the journey itself,” he says.