Drinking (responsibly) is a favorite pastime in Denver. You can hardly go five blocks without passing a brewery or distillery, or three. Some focus on a particular style, while others are generalists. The only commonality: There’s really good booze coming out of the Mile High City.
10 Best Denver Breweries and Distilleries
Whatever your drink of choice, you’re sure to find it at one of these 10 Denver breweries and distilleries.
Great Divide Brewing Company
You can’t talk about Denver beer without mentioning Great Divide. The company was one of the Mile High City’s first craft breweries; it was founded in the Ballpark neighborhood in 1994 by Brian Dunn. Great Divide is known for its higher ABV yet well balanced brews, and it now has two locations—the OG taproom and the Barrel Bar in RiNo (which doubles as a packaging and canning facility). For classic Great Divide, order a Denver Pale Ale or Yeti Imperial Stout. For fun—and if they’re available—give the Strawberry Rhubarb Sour or a barrel-aged release a try.
Denver Beer Co.
Denver Beer Co. won Denverites’ hearts with its logo alone, which mimics the Colorado flag in color and design and features hops hanging before mountain peaks. But the beer is great too. Everything is brewed in small batches, and DBC’s commitment to fresh ingredients is laudable. The brewery is known for its Graham Cracker Porter and Incredible Pedal IPA, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try whatever’s just been tapped. Inspired by Bavaria’s beer gardens, co-founders Patrick Crawford and Charlie Berger created an indoor-outdoor space on the edge of downtown with garage doors running the length of the taproom. Consequently, it’s the Denver brewery with one of the city’s busiest patios on a sunny day.
Call to Arms Brewing Company
Call to Arms’ Berkeley taproom, which opened in 2015, is reminiscent of a British pub thanks to its handcrafted wood bar. The taproom brews old-school ales with precision—try the Oats and Hose oatmeal porter or Clintonian Pale Ale—and taps as many as three new beers each week. Check the digital menu to see what’s on tap at one of the best breweries in Denver when you visit.
At Ratio, as at most Denver breweries, it’s all about having fun. The RiNo beer maker’s 20-barrel system means there are always plenty of pint options—and there are also plenty of things to do while drinking them down. You could grab a seat at one of the handcrafted community tables in the industrial taproom. Or head outside for a game of cornhole on the large, mural-walled patio. Or hit up the food truck (there’s a regular rotation out front) so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Ratio’s lineup is varied, from an American standard ale to a chocolate rye Scotch ale to an IPA. The beer here is good—the setting even more so.
Little Machine Beer
Among the vast number of Denver breweries, Little Machine manages to stand out. There’s the unique circular bar in its Jefferson Park taproom and the robot theme, of course. But, truly, it’s about the beer: The Colorado Stock Ale is made from all Colorado ingredients. (The brewing system itself is all-Colorado-made also.) Faulty Wire is a dessert barley wine aged in Caribbean rum and Mexican port barrels for 11 months. The Gaffer is a London-style porter. You won’t find these brews anywhere else, and that’s saying a lot in a state that considers itself the Napa Valley of Beer.
American single malt whiskey may be gaining in popularity, but it’s nothing new for Stranahan’s, Colorado’s first whiskey distillery. Stop by the Baker tasting room to give its three varieties a try; enjoy them neat or in a well-balanced cocktail. Or, book a spot online for one of the hour-long tours. While you’re there, see if you can get your hands on a bottle of Snowflake. The annual December release is master distiller Rob Dietrich’s unique blend (it changes every year) made from different cask-finished barrels, and it’s only available in Colorado.
It’s all about options at Leopold Bros. The family-owned and operated, small-batch distillery in northeast Denver produces vodka, whiskey, gin, fernet, liqueurs, absinthe, and aperitivo. Everything is distilled on-site and bottled by hand. While Leopold’s spirits attract most of the attention, the line of liqueurs, particularly the Rocky Mountain Blackberry, are especially tasty; they’re great for cooking with as well as drinking. Sign up for a tour—a portion of your ticket price will benefit four local nonprofits.
Laws Whiskey House
The best bars in town carry Laws because its bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes are rich, smooth, and carefully crafted. Laws’ spirits are aged in charred American White Oak barrels; the grain and corn are from Colorado suppliers; and all production is done at the distillery. For an authentic taste, stop by the tasting room to sample A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon, the distillery’s original offering, as part of a whiskey flight. Tours (register online) are also available.
Bear Creek Distillery
“Small-batch” is a trademark of Denver distilleries, and Bear Creek is among the city’s best examples. Its rums (try the cask-strength version, aged in barrels from Laws Whiskey House), vodkas, and whiskeys are handcrafted using local ingredients and materials as often as possible. Proof that the product is good: The distillery has won three American Craft Spirits Association Awards. Co-founders Jeffrey Dickinson and Jay Johnson met at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, about 10 miles from where their distillery now sits. Schedule a tour online or stop by the industrial tasting room (the wood detailing comes from reclaimed rail cars and Wyoming snow fencing) for a taste.’
Rising Sun Distillery
Certified organic spirits are the focus at Rising Sun Distillery. Pedal there for a free tour (the distillery is located just off the South Platte River bike path) and to taste the vodka, gin, and peach brandy, which is made with fruit from Colorado’s Western Slope. Rising Sun’s most unique offerings are its Colorado Chili Spirit and Colorado Chili Liqueur, both of which incorporate Anaheim chilis grown in Pueblo. Add them to a margarita or Bloody Mary for a Centennial State kick.
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– Original reporting by Daliah Singer