Top 10 Rocky Mountain Breweries – Colorado, Wyoming, & Texas, September 2020

Top Ten Breweries: Mockery Brewing, Hogshead Brewery,  Lady Justice Brewing Company, Cerebral Brewing, Funkwerks, Jessup Farm Barrel House, Weldwerks Brewing Co., Bootstrap Brewing Company, 300 Suns Brewing, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales

Honourable mentions: Reservoir Brewing, Raices Brewing Co., Wild Provisions Beer Project, Odell Brewing Co x2, Spice Trade Brewing, Coal Creek Tap, Grand Adventure Brewing Company, Outer Range Brewing Company, Trve Brewing Company, Dos Luces Brewing, Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery

With brewery taprooms on every corner, the Rockies was an amazing spot to beercation, but also a confusing one – where to start, what not to miss, what to tie in with our sightseeing trips and of course what the hell is even open with Covid still rearing its ugly head? We managed to pack in a mighty 47 taprooms in 13 days – an impressive haul even for us, and here are my top don’t-miss destinations. Huge thanks to PorchDrinking’s Tristan Chan for his fantastic local guide which really helped us prioritise our choices but also left us wanting more as there were so many places on the list we didn’t get to – but next time! Many of the largest, best-known names are missing – not because they aren’t worth visiting but because you’re going to visit them anyway. Be sure to check and double-check opening times, wear your mask, sanitise your hands and drink as much beer as you can!

Mockery Brewing (RiNo, Denver CO)

I fell in love with Mockery immediately. Super-high-quality and brilliantly innovative, I wanted to order everything on the menu but was sadly constrained, as ever, by the dual pressures of time and money. We arrived close to last call but were able to squeeze in a magnificent five-beer flight, the highlight of which was the absolutely exceptional Professor Plum – a red wine barrel-aged delight fusing bright plum and warm cinnamon into a tongue-tingling epically moreish sweet-sour piece of genius. This was one of the best beers that we had on our whole trip. I was also very impressed with the clever and extremely satisfying Tamarind Whiskey Sour, gorgeously cherrywood-smoked Hollow Prince Porter and delicate umami Saffron Crispy Boy – a Japanese Rice Lager made with fragrant jasmine rice and gently infused with Saffron. These are intelligent, imaginative beers that deliver on their promises. One not to miss.

Hogshead Brewery (West Highland, Denver CO)

We were promised a taste of home at Hogshead and that is exactly what we got. We might be pining desperately for the soft dreamy warmth of a pint of cask ale, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll settle for any old attempt at it – we want the real deal, but fortunately Hogshead don’t mess around. We have both been craving the taste of an English Mild and Hogshead’s deliciously smoky Barge’s Mild really hit the spot. I also loved the excellently named Window Licker English Barleywine, all badass 9.8% of it, and the happily on-point Chin Wag ESB, full of creamy-smooth dried fruit and caramel malt. The roasty, peppery Gilpin Black Gold Porter also went down a treat, as did the citrusy Hog Wild English IPA. We reveled in the firm foamy heads on our beers and the intricate lacing lining the glass as they went down. Visiting on a brisk drizzly day was absolutely perfect – nothing like a pint of ale in the rain to alleviate the homesickness of an expat Brit, and Hogshead even serve their beer in 20oz pints – what a treat.

Lady Justice Brewing Company(Aurora, Denver CO)

Where to start with Lady Justice?! I’ve been stalking these awesome brewsters on Instgram for a while now, and was absolutely tickle pink when I realised we’d be able to drop by so that I could fangirl them in real life! And there is so much to fangirl – Lady Justice not only brew top-notch beer but they support their community by funnelling their profits into grants for charities, support networks and outreach programmes, with a strong focus on women, girls and minorities. Their fabulous taproom is full of inspiring quotes and beautiful murals to remind us of what women can achieve – it’s a genuinely empowering space. And Lady Justice take kindness down to the last detail. I was expected and warmly welcomed, having messaged in advance with my plans to visit, and had a fantastic chat with lovely co-owners Kate Power and Betsy Lay about all things beer-lady – what a wonderful afternoon! I enjoyed everything I tried, but especially loved the Chosen Family ESB – such a great name with a flavour to match, the super-crushable Sunday Best IPA and bright, crisp and super-fresh Lewinski Pineapple Kolsch. I could happily move in to Lady Justice – brilliant people, brilliant beer.

Cerebral Brewing (City Park, Denver CO)

There’s a lot of hype about Cerebral, which is usually a guarantee that I’ll either be annoyed or disappointed, but I’m pleased to say that didn’t happen with Cerebral. This was another one of those menus where I just wanted to try everything, and I was really hard pressed to select just five beers to sample. The fact that Cerebral have four different foeder-aged lagers had me practically standing on my head with excitement! Where to begin? I went with a cross-section of styles and oh my, Cerebral got everything right – boom. The Noble Lineage Wild Ale is an absolute masterclass in complexity and depth of flavour, with Viognier grapes, apricots and nectarines beautifully complementing and rounding out the hop profile, and I adored the woody, aromatic Inhabited Form foeder-aged Oat Lager. The Eclectic Potion TIPA was another win – the addition of Gewurtaminer smoothed the hoppy sweetness beautifully, and it was great to try the warm deeply coffeed Black Is Beautiful. A buzz-worthy class act all round.

Funkwerks (Fort Collins CO)

I’ll be straight with y’all – I wasn’t super-psyched about hitting up Funkwerks. Not that I didn’t want to go or that I dislike their beer, I was just a little ambivalent – but the element of surprise only added to the very high quality of our experience there. Unlike the other ‘big name’ Fort Collins taprooms, Funkwerks is small and unpretentious, without queues, wait lists or other humble-brag faff. We ordered a flight of all four of their funky taproom specials and were blown away by the quality, complexity and general brilliance of each one – all totally different but utterly delightful. Their Wood Knot collaboration with the fab folks at Jessup Farm was rich, decadent whiskey-boozy joy, and the Wild #1 foeder-aged Wild Ale with passionfruit had an incredibly impressive crunchy passionfruit-seed texture. The Level 13 Belgian Strong Ale was super-moreish, full of sweet boozy honey, and the Oud Bruin spoiled us with gorgeous firm aromatic, buttery, biscuity flavours. We were extremely jolly indeed by the time we left, and awfully glad not to have slacked this one off!

Jessup Farm Barrel House (Fort Collins CO)

We visited the beautifully rustic 140 year old barn that houses the Jessup Farm Barrel House rather late in the evening and had to practically be shoe-horned out of there (sorry) as I was so excited by their fun, inventive and awesome-tasty barrel-aging combinations. Jessup do not limit themselves – they are all in, all barrels, all flavours and all excellent. We worked our way through a delicious and extremely pretty four-beer flight and would happily have hoovered up everything else available had the bell not rung most insistently demanding our departure. The oak BA cherry-boysenberry Hurry Up and Wait was a particularly fine tart-juicy zinger, and POG version had a smooth tropical lilt to it. I also loved the Feel The Peel – a complex creation mixing lemon peel, ginger and thyme for an unusual woody citrus-spice result, a surprising combination of flavours I would not have thought to try. We focussed on the Sours, but the menu ranged from German Pilsner to BBA Stout and I fully anticipate that they are all of the same high standard – we shall have to return, ideally at a more sociable hour, to find out.

Weldwerks Brewing Co. (Greeley, CO)

We had a bit of a drama at Weldwerks, as Mr Google had informed us that the taproom would be open for drink-in. It was not. Having driven for an hour all the way out to Greeley with the expressed purpose of visiting Weldwerks, we were understandably somewhat put out. Enter an extremely helpful and solicitous staff member who clearly values the brand’s integrity and was also just an excellent human being, who helped us select to-go beers, answered all my questions and even allowed us to sample a few things. – what a hero. We left with a decent whack of what have proven to be really excellent brews and a positive feeling of being valued as a customer. Weldwerks will be high on our priority list next time we’re in the area as the taproom looked really cool too. Of the beers we’ve tried so far, my top picks are the very exciting New Hops, Who Dis? Vol 3 IIPA, a crackin blend of lush stone fruit hops, coconut and vanilla, and the sublime guava-margarita-esque Tequila BA Guava Lime Gose – I feel like a right wally for not buying more of both! The DDH Advanced Fluid Dynamics is another winner – all intense, potent dry-hop, and their flagship Juicy Bits is rightfully a bit of a local classic. Double-check opening times but definitely worth the trip.

Bootstrap Brewing Company (Longmont CO)

I had my first taste of Bootstrap’s phenomenal Insane Rush IPA at the rather fabulous World Famous Dark Horse in Boulder – a super-cool beer-n-burger joint kitted out from head to toe with antiques and movie memorabilia – absolutely worth a visit. The Insane Rush went down such a treat that I made a visit to the Bootstrap mothership a priority, and we were able to swing by their Longmont taproom as we drove between Denver and Fort Collins. We hit up Bootstrap at the end of a long and very beery day, and it’s testament to how good both the beers and the taproom are that we proceeded to embark on a seven-beer flight and finished the lot. As well as the dank-piney-citrus yum of the Insane Rush, I was also all over the lip-tinglingly spicy Backfire Chilli Beer and juicy-moreish Lush Puppy NEIPA as well as the warm, bready Cabana Boy Vienna Lager. Bootstrap is the kind of taproom I’d be a regular at if I lived locally – friendly, fun, unpretentious and oozing with great beer, and very decently priced compared to most CO taprooms we visited. Really recommend stopping by.

300 Suns Brewing (Longmont CO)

Lovely JB found this excellent under-the-radar taproom just outside Longmont where we enjoyed a flight of six splendid beers and a monumental Colorado-style poutine with deep-fried cheese curds and spicy pork green chilli. This was a meal I shall be dreaming of for a while. Our flight came in a cute little lunch tin complete with tasting notes, and everything from the rich, sweetly smoky Salted Caramel Imperial Brown Ale to the light, zesty-fresh Blood Orange Kolsh went down a treat. Other highlights included the lovely pine-malt West Coast IPA, nicely spiced Luminous Monk Belgian Strong Ale and very exciting Summer Sour – a blend of hazy IPA and Belgian Dubbel served on cask – a real treat. Service at 300 Suns was excellent and I’m looking forward to returning for more of everything.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (South Broadway, Denver CO)

We drove back to Denver from Colorado Springs specifically so that we could squeeze in a trip to the hallowed Black Project taproom the day after they re-opened their doors. Expectations were high, and we approached with a degree of reverent trepidation, keeping all fingers and toes crossed that it really would be worth the fuss. Spoiler alert – yes, it is. If you’re a spontaneous-ferment nerd like me this is a very very exciting place to be. Black Project are masterful controllers of yeast, they are microbe-magicians, and my lil old palate was absolutely delighted with all the super-funky Black Project excitement. These small-batch offerings of brilliance are so delicately crafted that there is something rather cocktail-esque about them – the sublime Absalon Sour Golden Ale with blueberry and mint in particular. The lush intensity of the honey, blackberry and raspberry Kingbolt reminded us both of sloe gin, and the mighty Condor was positively champagnoise – at least to me (nb, this may not be a real word but I like it anyway). Taproom hours are restricted to Fridays and Saturdays at present but it is really worth making the effort (and spending the money – this stuff does not come cheap) if you can. A proper sour-beer-mecca.





Honourable mentions:

Reservoir Brewing (West Pueblo CO): Cute, super-friendly taproom in a strip mall in West Pueblo with a crackin Lizard Elixir chilli-mango Blonde Ale – expect your lips to tingle!



Raices Brewing Co. (Sun Valley, Denver CO): Top-notch community-focused Latin-American brewery taking inspiration from traditional ingredients and recipes to create some first-rate brews. Don’t miss the super-intense Cafecito Coffee Ale and beautifully complex and rustic Armonia wine-beer hybrid.



Wild Provisions Beer Project (Fort Collins CO): The cool new side project from 4 Noses Brewing, these small-batch spontaneous-ferment foeder-aged creations are utterly luxuriant in their depth and complexity and their sleek modern taproom has a lovely mountain view.



Odell Brewing Co x 2 (RiNo, Denver and Fort Collins CO): It’s definitely worth taking the time to visit both Odell locations – Denver’s RiNo small-batch brewhouse and the Fort Collins mothership as they have different delights to offer in terms of both beer and atmosphere. Great people and classic brews fresh from the source!



Spice Trade Brewing (Aurora and Arvada, Denver CO): Don’t miss Denver’s very own South Asian owned brewery! Visit their Aurora taproom or Arvada restaurant for great food and beers – check out the Himalayan IPA and Chai Milk Stout.



Coal Creek Tap (Larimie WY): A fab spot in downtown Larime, Coak Creek has a lovely glazed-wood taproom and a wide range of tasty brews. The intense, deep Belgian Coffee Stout and super-authentic Queen’s Lunch English IPA on cask (yes!) come highly recommended.



Grand Adventure Brewing Company (Kremmling CO): Out in the mountainous wilds of Kremmling sits a very cool taproom serving up bonkers high-octane cask-conditioned brews. The Tunnel Falls Wheat Wine and Shadow Mountain IIPA are brilliant albeit super-boozy, but use your sobering-up time to take in the tremendous scenery.



Outer Range Brewing Company (Frisco CO): World-class IPAs in high up in the Frisco mountainside, Outer Range’s reputation precedes it and the lush, juicy brews do not disappoint. A sunset visit guarantees a view to remember.



Trve Brewing Company (South Broadway, Denver CO): Metal and Sours in a super-hip downtown location. Even if the Goth beer names make you cringe, it’s worth visiting for the spectacular Spirit Ritual brewed with Colorado Plums. Expect London pricing.



Dos Luces Brewery (South Broadway, Denver CO): This airy plant-filled taproom specialises in traditional South American Chicha and Pulque. I loved the soft soy-umami of the blue-corn Lulo Chicha and the light, bright Pineapple Tepache.



Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery (Amarillo TX): While I acknowledge Big Texan is not for everyone, I absolutely loved it. Think of a Disneyfied version of the Old West except they brew their own beer and most of it is pretty good. The food is great too – and don’t miss the stupidly moreish Whiskey BA Stout – yee-ha!