Reviews: Rally King Brewing, Ft. Collins, Lumpy Ridge Brewing, Estes Park and Skeye Brewing, Longmont CO


Frequent visitors to this blog may have noticed a pretty lengthy lapse in updates, and for that I apologize. Truth be told, I took a few months off from drinking beer (which is astoundingly helpful when attempting to lose weight). Also, (and I don’t know if this is unique to me or is a common occurrence) my taste buds are completely screwed up for beer now. It’s rather traumatizing: I’ve found that the more intense styles (such as IPAs) aren’t as easy to consume as they once were, therefore it seemed kind of ridiculous to review things that I couldn’t do proper justice. Like I said, it’s all very disturbing. I recommend that beer drinkers never, ever, EVER do something as foolish as I have. KEEP DRINKING YOUR BEER. Let this be a warning to you.

OK, now that that sad admission is out of the way I’d like to at least give some quick impressions of the atmosphere and ambience of a few new breweries along the northern front range.

Rally King Brewery


Rally King Brewing is located in a really nice strip mall in Ft. Collins. While that might strike some as an oxymoron, it’s true: the brewery is situated in an area with large, shady trees and huge planters overflowing with multi-colored flowers. As far as boring, suburban strip malls go, this is the Taj Mahal. Take that for what it’s worth, I guess.

rally king brewery logo rally king brewery inside


The inside is similarly pleasant. While it isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of decor or Feng Shui, it’s totally comfortable, clean and serviceable, like a P.F. Changs restaurant or some other totally decent casual establishment. It ain’t overflowing with character, but it serves its function more than adequately.

rally king brewery porch

The big trees make for a lovely porch.



rally king brewery usb outlets

Every brewery should have USB ports for charging your phone. This is actually a big deal. Kudos, Rally King.


rally king brewery taps


Our service was quick and friendly, and the beers were, as far as my damaged taste buds could discern, totally acceptable across the board. My favorite was the lager, thus proving I am now damaged goods and need to go to some kind of remedial beer camp.


Next up was Lumpy Ridge Brewing in Estes Park.

lumpy ridge brewery


I’ve gone on record as stating that resort and ski towns tend to be disappointing when it comes to breweries….and I shall now go on record in retracting that belief.

Lumpy Ridge Brewing is AWESOME.

lumpy ridge brewery 6


How many tourist-friendly mountain towns have breweries made out of converted gas stations? I’m guessing the number is now exactly one. And it’s AWESOME.

lumpy ridge brewery  4a

The porch/beer garden area is conveniently shaded by the remnants of the old pumping area. Did I mention that it’s AWESOME? I did? Well, it TOTALLY IS.

While I’ve seen quite a few breweries built into odd buildings, this one ranks near the very top in terms of inventiveness and fun. Plus, it’s actually quite lovely in appearance thanks to some quirky wall paintings and lots of wood-based handiwork.

lumpy ridge 3 lumpy ridge 2


….and hell, even if the brewery itself was of questionable attractiveness, it almost wouldn’t matter with the view on hand. Yep, the mountain range that’s visible through the bar window as well as from every outside angle is the eponymous Lumpy Ridge. As per usual, my amateurish cell phone photos do little justice to the wonderful mountain views that are inescapable no matter where you stand/sit around Lumpy Ridge Brewing.

Furthermore, our service was excellent and their rye pale ale beer had a wonderful bread-iness that even my obliterated taste buds thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Fat Tire then this is like the 5 star version of that 3 star beer.

Once more with feeling: Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company is AWESOME. Plan a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park just so you can drag your family up to this brewery, then spend a few minutes in the national park as an afterthought.


skeye brewery3


Finally, one our way home to Denver we stopped by Skeye Brewing in Longmont.

skeye brewery2

Live musics!

skeye brewery



I’m not even gonna try reviewing this place right now. Lumpy Ridge kinda ruined me for all other breweries (at least for an afternoon). It simply wouldn’t be fair to review a strip mall brewery in Longmont after drinking beer in a bad-ass brewery in one of the most beautiful towns in America. Besides, they were out of many of their brews, so we’ll have to go back to give them a try anyway.

Today’s lesson: go to Lumpy Ridge Brewery at the earliest possible opportunity.

Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)

Vail Brewing Company


It’s about time I adjusted my attitude toward ski town breweries. In the past I’ve been a bit harsh toward them — a few of my least favorite taprooms have all been located in touristy parts of the state and, for a while at least, it felt like investors were just throwing money at breweries for the sake of exploiting the ample tourist dollars. Many of these places felt devoid of the passion and drive a small-time homebrewer brings to a new business and more like soulless country clubs.

But those days seem to be over.


Vail Brewing Company


A string of up-and-comers have shown that ski towns are not the exclusive domain of million dollar taprooms as more and more “regular guy” businesses take root. A prime example of this is the brand-new Vail Brewing Company located on the outskirts of the valley (there’s no need to navigate a maze of gargantuan lodges when visiting these dudes as their building is nowhere near a ski run).

Vail Brewing Company

This tiny watering hole feels like a place for people who actually live and work in Vail to go to, as the constant barrage of customers greeting their friends would attest. It seemed virtually everyone in the place knew one another, and that’s cool.

So yeah, they’re small and local-friendly, and the taproom is perfect for hanging around the fireplace and killing time in a non-stuffy locale. But how’s the beer?

In a word: fantastic. The amber is among the best in the state, the brown is superb and the lime wheat would be perfect for those few and far between summer days devoid of any snow outside. Basically, if you’re a malt-forward beer lover like myself then Vail Brewing is a tiny slice of heaven. If you’re a hop-head you might want to head toward Edwards and hit up the wonderful Crazy Mountain Brewery. Either way, you’ve got a couple of excellent options relatively nearby, thus making the Vail valley a worthy beer destination and not just a skier’s mecca.

Roaring Fork Brewery


Continuing our trek to ski towns (while having no intention of actually skiing), we headed another hour or so west and hit the still-somewhat-new Roaring Fork Brewing Company in Carbondale.

Roaring Fork Brewery


Located in the bottom floor of what looked more like an apartment building than anything else, Roaring Fork’s diminutive tasting room certainly has the cozy-factor taken care of…and any place with random and bizarre paintings lining every wall earns a special place in my bitter, dorky little heart:

Roaring Fork Brewery

Darth Vader, kittens, velociraptors and lego men playing in front of the Maroon Bells mountains. Seems reasonable to me.


The tiny space was fairly packed, so we didn’t get much in the way of personalized service, but it was quick and got the job done. Plus, a flight of 5oz tasters was only $5, which appealed to my miserly ways. I wasn’t blown away by the beers on hand (I had a lager, a porter, a barrel-aged saison and an IPA), but all were perfectly adequate. Meanwhile, my girlfriend loved the wine-barrel aged saison, and it’s always a major plus when she’s happy after having been dragged halfway across the state for my beer obsession.

Overall, the taproom itself is worth checking out if you’re in the area, but I personally prefer Carbondale Beer Works. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have yet another option in the region.

Review: Spangalang Brewery, Denver CO

Spangalang BreweryDenver’s newest brewery has managed to become embroiled in an artificial controversy, one I’d like to dispel right up front. According to a reader published in the Denver Westword newspaper, Spangalang Brewery may very well be the “poster child for gentrification”.

I call bullshit.

Located in the historic, predominantly black neighborhood of Five Points, the new brewhouse does indeed attract a primarily white, middle class clientele (just like virtually any other brewery in existence), and may very well boost the property values in the area…but the stigma of gentrification should not be hurled in its direction (at least not the “poster child” epithet). Spangalang bought an old DMV. It’s not like they threw a Starbucks into a space where an 80 year old soul food restaurant once occupied. This was an unused civic building that some enterprising entrepreneurs purchased. No one was displaced, nor was there some devious corporate neighborhood planning involved. Furthermore, it’s not as if Spangalang is the first business of its kind in the area — Cervantes is across the street and it was once a 1930’s Jazz landmark that has become a haven for jam bands, dubstep and other anglo-centric genres.

Long story short, Spangalang may be a symptom of gentrification, but it is wildly unfair, inaccurate and narrow-minded to label them as the “poster child”.

End of rant.

…anyway, they opened on April 9th to massive crowds, but the service still managed to be quick and professional within this nicely decorated and inviting urban space. Boasting cool blue hues, soft lighting and a theme centered around jazz (with old jazz LPs lining the walls, free jazz playing from the sound-system and jazz influenced beer names like “Love Supreme”), the taproom seems in some ways more respectful of the area’s history than the music venue mere feet away.

Spangalang Brewery

We tried the IPA and the Imperial Stout and both were fantastic. The IPA was a huge, hop-intense monster without any hint of unpleasant bitterness, while the Imperial Stout had giant coffee and chocolate notes and a high ABV percentage while still being remarkably user friendly.

Since it was a grand opening we didn’t stay long due to the near-deafening volume and standing-room-only space available, but Spangalang left enough of a great impression due to fantastic beer, quality service and cool atmosphere that we feel determined to go back very soon.

So the debate may continue to rage about the perils and evils of gentrification, but it is in my estimation that Denver’s newest brewery is about as respectful of their place in an historic neighborhood as anyone could hope. This isn’t a stucco condominium, an Applebee’s or a Bed Bath and Beyond — it’s a place where people go to drink beer, and what ties a neighborhood together better than that?


Review: JAKs Brewing, Peyton CO




Peyton, Colorado, a suburb just northeast of Colorado Springs, now offers a craft beer option for prairie-living folk who don’t feel like venturing into town: JAKs Brewing. Located in a somewhat non-descript stripmall in a very wash-rinse-repeat area (think Wal-Mart/Taco Bell/Walgreens/McDonalds/etc), JAK’s is a beacon of happiness in an otherwise corporate-cookie-cutter neighborhood.


Jaks Brewing


The interior of JAK’s is all muted autumn colors and somewhat modern design, but it’s comfortable and pleasant enough to make anyone seeking a non-Starbucks hangout want to stay for a long while. Plus (and I hesitate to mention this because it’s shallow and somewhat sexist to even point it out) they have a mind-bogglingly attractive beertender there that looks like a cross between Megan Fox and “Kate” from the show Lost. I get the feeling that every red-blooded male within a 10 mile radius is going to have a crush on her within a few months….so yeah, JAK’s has that going for them as well. Furthermore, the corner they are located on is perfect for food trucks, and they take full advantage — there were two during our visit and both were bustling with business. Suffice to say, the taproom itself is probably the best place to spend an afternoon on the east side of the Springs.

Our service (by the aforementioned movie-star doppelganger) was friendly and attentive, and additionally, JAK’s does something we wish every brewery did: they offer (at least during the opening few weeks/months) a FREE flight of tasters of their flagship brews. How cool is that? While we’re not sure of the economics of it in the short run, it’s a fantastic way to introduce themselves to the locals and certainly endears them much better than charging $24 for a flight (yes, a recent Denver opening did charge that much).

While every one of the five brews on offer were more than adequate, we settled on pints of the Orange Hopper (a light, modestly hopped, orange-infused ale) and their awesome Peyton’s Porter on nitro, a creamy, dark and robust delight that avoided any unpleasant bitterness whatsoever.

Overall, JAK’s was a winner. While the area they’re located in isn’t necessarily a draw for brewery aficionados from as far away as Denver (like us), the drive there can be wonderfully scenic if you choose to take the 83 (Parker Road) and drive by Castlewood Canyon and the Black Forest area. As for beer drinkers in the Colorado Springs area, there’s no reason not to drive the 20 minutes or so out of town and give them a shot.



Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)

Today’s post will be a bit of a whirlwind journey through southern Colorado, so each review will merely be what I felt were the highlights at each stop.


Walter Brewery


First up was Walters Brewery in Pueblo. Now, for many people up north Pueblo has a bit of a mixed reputation: it’s an old steel town and has the look and feel of a place you’d see in the rust belt — lots of decaying industrial spaces, a web of railroad tracks and a fair amount of dilapidated and abandoned homes. For some people Pueblo is downright depressing. Between the industrial blight and its desert climate it lacks most of the things we in Colorado take for granted (mainly mountains, trees and abundant snow). But for the adventurous, Pueblo offers a taste of things that we’d normally have to travel far away to experience. The vibe is more New Mexico, for starters, and with that comes a love of chilies, namely the Pueblo Chili.

Wisely, Walters has chosen to capitalize on the things that make Pueblo unique in our state. It’s located adjacent to a railyard and a crumbling factory that would look completely at home in Pittsburgh or Detroit, so the atmosphere is about as blue collar and urban as one could ask for in this state, and it’s quite wonderful if you know what you’re getting into. There isn’t a hint of pretentiousness or snobbery to be found here.

Walter Brewery


The “Pueblo-ness” of Walters is perfectly expressed in their beer. The brand is a resurrection of a century old lager that was mass produced for the steel workers back in the day (much like Tivoli up in Denver), so their flagship beers are light and sessionable, not unlike other regional macros such as Lone Star or Rainier. What’s great, though, is this style matches perfectly with the addition of green chilies, making theirs an easy drinking masterpiece. If you want the absolute perfect “lawnmower” beer for a warm, sunny day, you couldn’t possibly do better than this. For the green chili beer alone, Walters is highly recommended, and for anyone seeking a rough-and-tumble “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” atmosphere the taproom is downright essential.

Walter Brewery


Now, since you’re all the way down in Pueblo, it’d be a shame if you didn’t drive the additional 45 minutes southwest into the mountains and up the gorgeous Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway to see Colorado’s greatest folk-art oddity: Bishop Castle.



Bishop Castle


Built entirely by one very obsessed man, this stone-and-mortal  colossus is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the continental United States and is very much worth the side-trip, if only for the majestic scenery on the way up the mountain. Just be forewarned: the owner, rather unsurprisingly, is, uh, eccentric to say the least. Anyone sensitive about political statements or prone to arguments about the subject would be well advised to steer clear as the property is covered in signs denouncing any and all government.


Gold Camp Brewery


On the return trip up I-25 we stopped at three breweries in Colorado Springs, two of which are still in their infancy and one that’s nearly a year old. First up was Gold Camp Brewery, a cute little place that takes its name rather seriously.

Gold Camp Brewing


Boasting decor not unlike you’d expect in an old west gold mine (exposed wooden slats as decorative ceiling supports and hanging light bulbs that you’d imagine suspended from a rocky tunnel), the atmosphere is a pleasant trip back in time (even while residing in a strip-mall). Plus, a local folk/bluegrass band practices there regularly, so the sounds truly transport visitors to a bygone era.

Gold Camp Brewery


The beer was rather standard fare (I settled on a satisfactory dry stout) and wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing, but the service and vibe were more than enough to make Gold Camp well worth a stop.


Fossil Brewery


Next came Fossil Brewing located on the west side of town heading toward Manitou Springs. These guys have wisely chosen to use the region’s abundance of paleontological wonders as their theme (what with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument just down the road) and it’s made for a delightful taproom you’ll want to bring your kids to….were this not a brewery. But for the kids-at-heart, this place is awesome. The walls are all adorned with giant dinosaur casts on loan from a local scientist, so stepping into the building is like a trip to a museum.

Fossil Brewery


What’s more, the beer is damned good. I had a salted coriander and dill Gose-style beer that was a fine follow-up to the green chili beer from earlier in the day and would also make a perfect summer sessionable.


Storybook Brewery


Lastly, I headed to the nearby (and brand new) Storybook Brewing Company. The stop was very brief (as it was the fourth brewery of the day), but in the short time I was there I got the sense that this is a true neighborhood gathering place — everyone seemed to know everyone else, so the atmosphere was cheerful, talkative and pleasant all around.

Storybook Brewery


Plus, the reading material at the bar was right up my alley…

Storybook Brewery


The service was exceptional and the view of sunset over Pikes Peak was stunning beyond words. If you have the opportunity I’d highly recommend giving them a visit around dusk, if only for the view (I couldn’t indulge in more than a mere taster of their Strawberry Blonde as I was getting ready to head back up to Denver). Nonetheless, Storybook Brewing felt like a place that warranted a more extended visit in the near future.


Storybook Brewery

Reviews: The Baker’s Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)

The Bakers Brewery


There’s an upside and a downside to putting your “claim-to-fame” right there in your businesses’ title. The upside, of course, is that your intended audience knows exactly what to expect from you, while the downside is that people will be expecting that thing emblazoned on your marquee to be your strongest selling point.

Unfortunately for The Bakers’ Brewery, the food portion of our visit was the focal point of our disappointment. While the beer was good, the atmosphere (in what appeared to be a remodeled Village Inn restaurant with a stunning view of the mountains) was OK and the service was absolutely fantastic, our meal left plenty to be desired. Sadly, it’s easy to forget all the things a business does correctly when they manage to foul up one integral part of the experience.


Bakers Brewery

So what went wrong? Well, we were the first customers in the door on a Sunday afternoon at 3pm and they were out of literally half of their menu. After a 90 minute drive to get there it was impossible not to be disappointed by such a glaring problem. And when I say half of their menu, I mean half of their menu. While it’s understandable that they’d be low on supplies and ingredients on their opening weekend at the end of a shift, I’m not sure how they could be out of everything at the beginning of a day (one that starts at three in the afternoon). Perhaps I don’t understand the food service industry or the availability of supplies in a mountain town, but it seemed pretty egregious, Secondly, even though our food was served quickly, it was somehow cold. And by cold I mean the previously melted cheese had congealed on the sandwiches and the shredded cheese atop my mac ‘n’ cheese wasn’t even melted at all. Now, I make no claims as to being a food critic (hell, I’m hardly a qualified beer critic), but I know a cold lunch when I eat one.


Bakers Brewery

So, after dropping nearly $50 for two cold sandwiches (that weren’t our first or even second choices) and two 10oz pours of beer we felt a bit cheated. Our experience was probably an anomaly and you’ll likely have a far better one than we did, but you know what they say about first impressions. Suffice to say, we won’t be making the road trip again anytime soon (at least not for them).


Broken Compass Brewery


Our trip to Breckenridge was not unsalvageable, though, as we had never been to the second newest brewery in town, Broken Compass.


Broken Compass Brewery


Although we were full from the mediocre lunch (I’m not one to waste a $12 sandwich even if it isn’t very good), we managed to squeeze in a pint of the kick-ass 5 chili beer they had on tap. With a bold intensity and lingering heat (but not uncomfortably so), theirs was a definite winner. Plus, the atmosphere was very much a “locals-only” kinda vibe that had a friendliness and intimacy so often missing from breweries in ski towns with a transient population. Of the two breweries now in the Breckenridge area, we would unquestionably choose Broken Compass over the old stand-by (Breckenridge Brewery, who has a Denver location anyway, making them less of a novelty and more of a crowded tourist-trap). Highly recommended for all you skiers out there.

Broken Compass Brewery

Reviews: Weldwerks Brewing Company and Brix Taphouse Brewery, Greeley CO

Weldwerks Brewery



It’s a lot easier to get loads of views on this site if I say a brewery is fantastic. When a review is glowingly positive the brewery in question will post it on their own website or share it on Facebook or tweet about it…but when the review is bland and forgettable people tend to stay relatively quiet about it.

Such is the case with breweries themselves: if a taproom is amazing people tend to tell their friends, but if it’s run of the mill it’s unlikely they’ll be spreading the word. Sadly, that’s the verdict (for now) on Weldwerks Brewing Company.


Weldwerks Brewery


There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Weldwerks. The building is acceptable — it appears to be a converted Discount Tire store or some other kind of former auto business, so it’s kind of a neat transformation, but really, there’s nothing terribly exciting or historic about a restored tire shop (if that’s what it indeed was). Furthermore, the paint, flooring and furniture are all quite nice — but are just kind of “there”. Nothing feels particularly personalized or exceptional about it.

Our service was similarly, well, serviceable. It was neither rude nor slow nor unpleasant in any fashion. They just got the job done, which is fine, I guess.

Lastly, the beer was totally alright. We settled upon a couple 20oz glasses of coffee stout that were absolutely quaffable, even outright good. But not wildly memorable. The prices, however, were more than fair: $6 for 20oz of good craft beer is a pleasant surprise for the pocketbook.

In the end, we had nothing bad to say about Weldwerks, but left feeling like there was no particular reason to make the trip twice. For Greeley locals it’s probably a nice addition to a small market, but for anyone considering road-tripping I’m not sure how we can recommend it. On the plus side, however, they aren’t even officially open until March 7th, so they still have time to personalize the taproom or add that je ne sais quoi that makes a place truly stand out. We wish them the best.


Brix Brewery


A short walk away lies the Brix Taphouse and Brewery, located in what to these uneducated, non-Greeley-local eyes appears to be part of an historic main street area. While obvious modern renovations have been done both inside and out, there appeared to be a sense of history to this building that immediately caught our interest.

Brix Brewery


The taproom itself has the long, narrow old-school bar/saloon-type vibe that not only feels less agoraphobic and more cozy, but is also more conducive to socializing and mingling. With exposed brick, early 20th-century style ceiling tiles and unique touches (such as a set of old apartment building mailboxes behind the bar being used for…I don’t know), the overall feeling was much more “urban meeting place” than “Jiffy Lube that serves beer”. So, for a town as decidedly rural as Greeley it’s a nice surprise.

While they had little in terms of in-house brew (just one collaboration beer on tap), they more than make up for it with a spectacular selection of Colorado craft beer — over 60 on rotation. What’s more, the ones they chose to serve were almost uniformly uncommon. Rather than the expected Breckenridges, Ska’s and New Belgium’s on tap, they had stuff from smaller breweries such as Broken Plow, City Star, Front Range, Pateros Creek, Horse & Dragon and 4 Noses. All told, their selection is comparable to any of the best taprooms in the state, including Falling Rock.

Lastly, our service was very fast, friendly and accommodating. We asked the beertender (who also happened to be the manager) when the building was built and she ran around for a good five minutes trying to ascertain the date. While she was ultimately unsuccessful, the fact that she put forth the effort was awesome.

When all is said and done, Brix Taphouse my well be THE new destination in all of Greeley. Highly recommended.