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How To Experience Denver’s Local Craft Beer Culture
April 3, 2023 By CityPASS
Nearly three-quarters of a million people call Denver home and millions more visit Colorado's capital city each year. It's not hard to understand why — nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver has a plethora of natural areas to explore. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, climb, or ski, you can enjoy virtually every outdoor activity in this vibrant city.
The city of Denver also promises an energetic and exciting time; it's renowned across the United States for its thriving street art scene, nationally recognized attractions, incredible restaurants and food trucks, and for being home to some of the country's best breweries.
Any true beer lover should experience the Denver craft beer scene at least once in their lifetime and take an educational journey on what separates the Denver beer scene from other craft brew capitals in the country and the world.
Continue reading to learn when and how Denver's rich beer culture started and which breweries in Denver, Colorado, you should prioritize stopping by when visiting the Mile High City.
The History of Denver's Beer Culture
Denver has a vibrant craft beer scene that was well established before other front-running beer cities like Portland gained steam. However, to fully understand how entrenched beer culture is in Denver's history, you must first look at the mid-1800s.
Quenching the Thirst of 19th-Century Gold Rush Miners
Although you may think the craft beer scene originated in the last 50 years on the east and west coasts of the United States, you'd be mistaken. Colorado has had a longstanding relationship with breweries since before the state was founded in 1876.
Colorado was one of the biggest states for gold mining during the gold rush, which meant there was a growing population moving to the area in the late 1850s. With this expanding population came the first Colorado brewery, Rocky Mountain Brewing Company, which opened its doors in 1859.
After Rocky Mountain Brewing Company, many other breweries opened in Denver and other mining areas in Colorado, which serviced local mining camps and served the beer in local taprooms.
Brewery Expansion Throughout the 20th Century
After decades of profitable local consumption, the beer industry in Denver and greater Colorado hit a speed bump when alcohol prohibition was enacted in 1916; this was four years before the federal prohibition took hold, and it lasted for nearly 20 years, until 1933. During this period, no beers were legally allowed to be sold, and the state had a lull in the general sale and public consumption of alcohol, beer included.
However, once the prohibition era ended, the craft beer scene began trickling back into Colorado culture but didn't truly revive until the 1970s, when a teacher named Charlie Papazian moved to Boulder.
In addition to being a local elementary school teacher, Papazian taught homebrewing classes with several notable graduates, including some of the founders of New Belgium Brewing and Boulder Brewing Companies. Although it took the entire community embracing the local craft beer scene, Papazian helped the brewing industry take flight once more by the 1980s.
Growing Selection of Craft Beer Today
Denver's beer scene has grown significantly from its humble beginnings, offering a more comprehensive selection of craft beer today than ever before in the city's history.
Furthermore, because beer has become so ingrained in the city's culture, you can find activities centered around sampling the local fare with ease. Whether you choose to go on a South Broadway Pub Crawl or hop in a beer bath at the Beer Spa, there's a plethora of beer-related activities to experience in Denver.
Best Breweries and Spots in the Denver Craft Beer Scene
Considered one of the best beer cities in the United States, Denver has a seemingly endless supply of breweries to explore. Consider stopping by some of these top Denver breweries to enjoy some of the best beer therapy in the state.
High-Quality Seasonal Favorites at Denver Beer Co.
Denver Beer Company is a local favorite brewery that's appreciated for its rotating tap selection and down-to-earth charm. Enjoy a relaxing evening with friends at the South Downing location's more intimate taproom, or host your next corporate team-building event at the company's original Platte Street location.
At Denver Beer Co., you can rely on classic favorites like the Denver Gold Amber Lager, a rotating seasonal beer like the Peanut Butter Graham Cracker, or the Maui Express.
A Wide Range of Sour Beers at the Great Divide Brewing Company
With three locations in Denver and another in nearby Castle Rock, Great Divide Brewing Company is a household name in the Colorado beer scene.
Featuring high-quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations, you can find some of the best sours in the state at Great Divide. Soak up the sun on the outdoor patio and tour the brewery's flagship taproom in the Ballpark District.
The Nation’s Most Popular Craft Beers at Blue Moon Brewing Company
If you live in the United States, chances are you've seen Blue Moon beer in the grocery store, but the bottled beer doesn't hold a candle to what you'll taste at the Denver brewery.
With a vast rotating menu of beer, you can rely on the tried and true Blue Moon® Belgian White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale or branch out to one of the brewery's current offerings.
Tasty Experimental Beers at 14er Brewing Company
Founded in 2016, 14er Brewing Company has some of the best and most interesting beers on tap you'll find in the city. Furthermore, you can feel good about supporting this local spot, as they're committed to giving back.
One percent of the brewery's sales are donated to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a local nonprofit devoted to the preservation of the state's environmental welfare.
Grab a spot on the brewery's spacious patio and enjoy some of the experimental beers on tap, like the Key Lime Pie Cream Ale or the Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Stout.
Try Tasty Authentic Beers and Incredible Attractions on Your Trip to Denver
Denver is home to a rich craft beer scene and over 100 local breweries. Although this makes visiting every brewery within the city limits challenging to do in a single trip, it also means you're probably within a few short miles of some of the best Denver breweries as you navigate your way through all the city has to offer.
Grab a beer (or two) after you save on some of the Denver's biggest attractions with Denver CityPASS® tickets, including:
- Denver Botanic Garden
- Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
- Denver Art Museum
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science
To get the most out of your stay in Denver, we recommend finding lodging near Denver's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you: