I’ve written about beer snobs in the past, but did you know there are a number of other quirky beer drinkers out there? One of these is the snob’s adventurous cousin, “the ticker.” This is a beer guy or gal whose quest is to drink as many new and interesting beers as possible. They “tick” brews off their list, twelve ounces at a time. And while not all new beers are great, there are many breweries in Denver making beers that are absolutely list-worthy. Here are five best beers in Denver that every brew-lover should set their sights on as soon as possible.
Equinox Pale Ale by TRVE Brewing
I’ve covered TRVE’s synesthetic brews before, but I feel that this– and many of their other offerings–deserve special attention. With an aroma that combines fruit and citrus, Equinox has a “bready” malt flavor in a way that reminds me of toast and marmalade. The Equinox hops are certainly at center stage, but they don’t chew the scenery the way a lot of hops-forward pales do. Pick up a bottle or two as soon as you can, but I recommend hanging around TRVE to enjoy your brew–the music, the art, and the staff will not only make a great beer amazing, but they’ll make a decent Friday a memorable one.
Hop Syndrome Lager by Epic
No brew odyssey in Denver is complete without a stopover at Epic. While their origins lie in Utah, they’ve become a staple of the Colorado craft scene, and their Hop Syndrome Lager perfectly illustrates why that happened. It balances the refreshingly light body and hints of malt sweetness you expect from a lager with a hops profile you’d expect out of an ale. As you sip, you’re greeted with familiar lager flavors that quickly turn to notes of citrus.The finish leaves you with grassy bitter notes that dissipate. You may find this unexpected flavor profile unnerving at first, but give it time–its clean mouthfeel and unexpected flavors grow on you quickly. If you leave lagers off your list in lieu of more interesting ales, this beer will change your mind.
Chin Wag ESB by Hogshead Brewery
While not as prevalent as their Belgian counterparts, English-style “real ales” are making their mark on the American craft scene in a real way. Today there are a number of prominent breweries offering unfiltered, cask-aged brews that bring big flavor without a ton of alcohol to knock you off your feet. The best I’ve had is Hogshead Brewery’s Chin Wag ESB, which offers malty sweetness on the front end of your sip with some nice floral and citrus bitters in the back of your throat. It balances the hops and the malt so well that it belongs in textbooks, but doesn’t sit comfortably in the safely ho-hum stage of the beer balancing act. And best of all, with its low alcohol content, you can enjoy Chin Wag and then move on to other Real Ales on your list while at Hogshead without having to be carried home.
Belgorado Belgian-Style IPA by Wynkoop Brewing
Wynkoop Brewing is home to a number of amazing beers. I highly recommend ordering a flight as your first round and then sit down for a session. But if you’re not a sampler kind of person, order a pint of Belgorado. Bronze Medal Winner at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, this beer balances the best parts of an IPA with the best parts of a sour and avoids the pitfalls associated with both. A wonderfully yeasty nose held in place by at least a finger of foam (depending on the pour), this a brew you can almost use as perfume. It does brings more than just aroma, with bright citrus notes balanced by a light peppery flavor accenting a bread-like goodness that’s hard to resist. This evolves into pine-y hops that keep your palate interested but doesn’t overwhelm.
I detect a small hint of mint in the finish, but that could be my imagination. My only criticism is that the body is a bit lacking, but that only serves to make the beer more drinkable. There’s a lot going on in Belgorado, but if you’re looking to cross a unique Colorado brew off your list, this is the one to go for.
Zinfandel Ale by De Steeg Brewing
No ticker’s journey would be complete without a stop at De Steeg Brewing. Their brews are so unique, they could have populated this entire list. I settled on their Zinfandel Ale, which is the happiest marriage between beer and wine that you’re likely to find anywhere in the world. It fills your vision and nostrils with wine, but gives you enough malt in the flavor to remind you it’s a beer. The sweetness is rather light however, with the alcohol dryness cleaning out your mouth before the sugar starts killing your taste buds. It’s a wine with malt, it’s a lambic without the sour, it’s a beer with tannin. You’ll have to add a new category to your list to include this one, but it’ll be worth it.
Anyone who has spent any time in Denver enjoying a craft beer or two, knows that this list could go on and on. It’s no secret we have one of the best craft beer cultures in the world. What amazing beers have you ticked of your list? Tweet them to us and share the secret spots you’ve been hiding!