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

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


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.


vailbrew2 Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)


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).

vailbrew3 Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)

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.

roaringfork1 Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)


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.

roaringfork2 Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)


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:

roaringfork3 Reviews: Vail Brewing Company (Vail, CO) & Roaring Fork Brewery (Carbondale, CO)

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

20150409 201013 e1428638380582 Review: Spangalang Brewery, Denver CODenver’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.

20150409 200144 Review: Spangalang Brewery, Denver CO

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

20150329 140719 e1427679826144 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.


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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.


20150326 140008 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.

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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.

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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.



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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.


20150326 173958 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.

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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.

20150326 174122 1 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.


20150326 182458 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.

20150326 183236 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.


20150326 191802 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.

20150326 192001 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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

20150326 194248 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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.


20150326 191824 Reviews: Walters Brewery (Pueblo CO), Gold Camp, Fossil and Storybook Breweries (Colorado Springs, CO)


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

20150308 144717 e1425876353687 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)


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.


20150308 144709 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)

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.


20150308 145255 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)

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).


20150308 162504 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)


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


20150308 162543 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)


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.

20150308 163019 Reviews: The Bakers Brewery (Silverthorne, CO) and Broken Compass Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)

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

20150228 161959 Reviews: Weldwerks Brewing Company and Brix Taphouse Brewery, Greeley CO



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.


20150228 162024 Reviews: Weldwerks Brewing Company and Brix Taphouse Brewery, Greeley CO


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.


20150228 171141 Reviews: Weldwerks Brewing Company and Brix Taphouse Brewery, Greeley CO


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.

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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.

Reviews: Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse, Denver CO

20150220 190151 Reviews: Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse, Denver CO


I’ve written more than a few times about market saturation and breweries that simply don’t stand out from the massive crowd of over 230 Colorado taprooms.  I’ve also complained about recent openings that felt rushed or premature. Hell, I’ve even expressed a small amount of burnout at having to describe hundreds of breweries and not repeating myself.

Well, last night’s visits to the two latest additions to the Denver beer scene completely revitalized my enthusiasm for this whole enterprise. There IS plenty of life left in this market and there ARE new and exciting ways to serve up the world’s greatest beverage, and both Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse proved it in different ways.


20150220 192101 Reviews: Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse, Denver CO


First off, Goldspot doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but they certainly gave it some street-hugging tires and some fancy rims.

Perfectly encapsulating the concept of the “neighborhood pub”, this new watering hole adjacent to Regis University is the kind of warm, inviting and friendly environment you’ll want to spend more than a few snowy days within. In direct opposition to the cold and sterile warehouse vibe that seems to be plaguing many recent openings, Goldspot feels small (without being cramped), softly lit and surprisingly quiet. Meanwhile, the service (on what was essentially their grand opening weekend) was lightning fast and amiable. After attending two openings in the last month where the wait for a single beer stretched into the better part of an hour, this was an absolute gift from the heavens.

Lastly, the beer was ready. All the taps were pouring and the ones we tried were excellent. There was no indication that the brewer was still figuring out how to brew on a large scale, nor were there any hints of plastic-y lines or metallic weirdness that often ruin a new batch of brew.

In a neighborhood that still feels like a genuine neighborhood (and not a collection of modern apartments and cookie-cutter business franchises), Goldspot proves to be an awesome highlight. Absolutely recommended.


20150220 195035 Reviews: Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse, Denver CO


Next up was Factotum Brewhouse, who are quietly opening to the public after seemingly decades of frustration in acquiring a suitable business space. While it’s unfortunate that they suffered so many set-backs, it seems that the end result justifies the wait: Factotum may very well be the most innovative and exciting new brewery to hit Colorado in years. Years.

20150220 195656 Reviews: Goldspot Brewing and Factotum Brewhouse, Denver CO


Focused almost exclusively on allowing home brewers access to their industrial-sized equipment and professional facilities, Factotum is an experiment gone wild. Quite literally anything can be on tap at any time, and the possibilities are endless. Yet, miraculously (perhaps due to their mentoring of home brewers or their impeccably good taste) everything they have on tap is fabulous. Plus, the sense of community fostered by this groundbreaking approach is palpable. We were introduced to several local brewers who were on hand and it felt much more like a collection of friends and family than anything one would typically associate with a dollars-and-cents business. The energy is so positive that it isn’t fathomable that this brewery will be anything other than a resounding success.


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Tank lights and upper loft area.

But brewing comraderie and collaboration do not automatically make a taproom worth visiting. Wonderfully, though, the building they ended up in after all the previous rented space debacles is fantastic. The design is the kind of industrial-cool that so many places aim for but fail to achieve, with custom lighting and recycled construction materials adding personality in abundance. Furthermore, the service is among the best ever. I’m not saying the service is among the best this year, or the best in Colorado. I mean the best ever. From the beer-tenders to the owners (who introduced themselves to us and chatted enthusiastically) this place is staffed by supremely bad-ass people who have such an obvious love for beer and community that you can’t help but love them immediately.

Just go. Go now. Go often. Leave gigantic tips. You can thank me later.