25 Essential Colorado Breweries

Weldwerks (Greeley)
Photo: Courtesy of WeldWerks Brewing Co.

There are more than 5,000 registered breweries across the country and around 360 in Colorado alone — nearly 15% of the U.S. market. From tightly curated taprooms to well-stocked bottle shops, discerning drinkers are spoiled for choice in the self-proclaimed "State of Craft Beer," home to such beloved institutions as Avery, Left Hand, Oskar Blues, Great Divide, New Belgium and Odell. It makes you wonder: How does a market flush with fantastic beer show no signs of slowing down? Steve Kurowski, the operations director for the Colorado Brewers Guild — essentially a lobbyist for independent brewers — has some thoughts."It's a mix of many things — a perfect storm," he explained in the lead-up to Colorado's annual Craft Beer Week. "For one thing, I don't think Coloradans respond very well to big business. We like knowing who makes our bagels, and we like knowing who brews our beer." He continued, "It's also part of our DNA. We've got a handful of breweries that are over 20 years old, so there's people in their 20s who don't know what it's like to have a life without craft beer." If you're only in Colorado for a week and want to make sense of its massive craft beer scene, here's a start. We rounded up 25 can't-miss breweries in nearly every corner of Coors country.

01 of 25

4 Noses Brewing Co. (Broomfield)

4 Noses Brewing Co. (Broomfield)
Courtesy of 4 Noses Brewing

When the Bibliowicz family toasted their paterfamilias' 50th birthday in Ireland nearly a decade ago, they didn't just down a few rounds of Guinness. Everyone buried their faces deep within their drafts like wine connoisseurs, leading a friend to say, "Look at those noses go!" This gave the tight-knit family of four an idea: Why not start a craft beer company called 4 Noses? While it's only been around for three years, the Broomfield breakout is already known for experimenting with everything from cereal milk stouts (including one that crammed two pounds of Cinnamon Toast Crunch into every keg) to fruited pale ales aged in Napa Valley barrels. 4nosesbrewing.com

02 of 25

Bierstadt Lagerhaus (Denver)

Bierstadt Lagerhaus (Denver)
Erin Trigonoplos

Rather than worry about inventing the next great IPA in a state that's full of them, Ashleigh Carter and Bill Eye launched Bierstadt Lagerhaus last year with one simple goal — to get local bars to trade their Stella taps for the pair's pale Slow Pour Pils. The plan seems to be working. Much like the old Austin standby Live Oak Brewing Company, Bierstadt is a comforting reminder of what classic German beer tastes like when it favors tradition over trends. bierstadtlager.com

03 of 25

Broken Compass Brewing Company (Breckenridge)

Broken Compass Brewing Company (Breckenridge)
Pete Kail

Now that Breckenridge Brewery has joined the craft division of Anheuser Busch InBev — "selling out" in the eyes of some — it's easy to see why so many ski townies welcomed the arrival of Broken Compass with open arms in 2014. Having an award-winning, organic Coconut Porter on tap (one that rivals Oskar Blues' equally-awesome Death by Coconut) certainly doesn't hurt, either. Especially when it's aged on Breckenridge Distillery rum barrels and blended with cherries, as was the case with a recent limited She's My Cherry Pie release. brokencompassbrewing.com

04 of 25

Black Shirt Brewing Co. (Denver)

Black Shirt Brewing Co. (Denver)
Courtesy of Black Shirt Brewing Co.

Director Thomas Kolicko centered his entire Crafting a Nation documentary around the opening of Chad and Branden Miller's River North taproom. After a few false starts, the brothers quickly carved out their own corner in Denver's increasingly crowded market, distinguishing themselves for any beer loosely defined as a red ale, from an Ocean of Noise gose brewed with yuzu, lemongrass, and Hawaiian red sea salt to a blood orange double IPA that took a year of research and five months of manual labor to complete. blackshirtbrewingco.com

05 of 25

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (Denver)

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (Denver)
Courtesy of Black Project

Former Future Brewing Company co-founders James and Sarah Howat started Black Project as an outlet for their more outlandish ideas, like brewing sour beer with the gnarly microbes that naturally occur in Denver's air. When the Great American Beer Festival slapped a bronze medal on a fruity golden ale called Black Project #1, the couple decided to devote more time to their diffusion line and eventually reboot the brand from the ground up. Former Future officially became Black Project last summer, making it the Mikkeller of Mile High City. (Much like that cult Danish brewery, Black Project routinely draws hour-long lines for limited batches of Lambics that evoke fine wine, cider and beer in every sip.) blackprojectbeer.com

06 of 25

Cannonball Creek Brewing Company (Golden)

Cannonball Creek Brewing Company (Golden)
Courtesy of Cannonball Creek Brewing Company

Coors was the only game in Golden until 1993, when Golden City Brewery staked its claim as the area's "Second Largest Brewery." Fast-forward another 20 years, and GC now has a far craftier competitor in the form of Cannonball Creek. Co-founder Brian Hutchinson was the former head brewer for Boulder's popular Mountain Sun pub. Now that he's able to focus on pushing more adventurous palates, Hutchinson and his two partners (Jason Stengl and Jonathan Lee) have earned a cult following for such immediate standouts as their Project Alpha series, which is "dedicated to the never-ending pursuit of the perfect IPA." God’s work, really. cannonballcreekbrewing.com

07 of 25

Cellar West Artisan Ales (Boulder)

Cellar West Artisan Ales (Boulder)
Courtesy of Cellar West Artisan Ales

Now that barrel-aging has become an everyday occurrence in the craft beer universe, Zach Nichols decided to go even more niche with his devotion to a specific yeast strain: Brettanomyces. Why should you, the discerning-but-not- that-nerdy drinker, care? Well, since opening last year, Cellar West has rolled out revelatory 750-ml bottles of dry-hopped saisons, blonde/black ales and a little-known Bière de Mars (translation: "Beer of March") variety that tastes like spring in a glass. cellarwest.com

08 of 25

Casey Brewing & Blending (Glenwood Springs)

Casey Brewing & Blending (Glenwood Springs)
Courtesy of Casey Brewing and Blending

One of the cultiest cult breweries in Colorado, Casey draws a regular weekend crowd from as far as four hours away. Visitors are never in a hurry to leave, either, thanks to a tasting room that feels more like a laid-back winery. The specialty of the house is fruit-forward platforms for local produce that hold their own against just about any of the heavenly sours and wild ales that dominate the artisanal market these days. caseybrewing.com

09 of 25

Dry Dock Brewing Co. (Aurora)

Dry Dock Brewing Co. (Aurora)
Colin Bridge

While it's a little older than many of the newcomers on this list, Dry Dock deserves a round of applause for jump-starting Colorado's taproom scene in 2005. Back then, the idea of delivering fresh beer directly to the consumer in draft form was more unproven than opening a food-oriented brewpub or shilling bottles at local supermarkets. A slick business model doesn't sell itself, however; killer beer does. And Dry Dock's got that, too. In fact, co-owners Michelle Reding and Kevin DeLange won three medals and the Small Brewing Company of the Year award at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival. In the years since, they've led the state in GABF nods, showing little signs of slowing down. drydockbrewing.com

10 of 25

Bootstrap Brewing Company (Niwot)

Bootstrap Brewing Company (Niwot)
Courtesy of Bootstrap Brewing

Last summer, Leslie and Steve Kaczeus became one of the smallest clients in Coors' portfolio, putting the couple on the same metaphorical plane as heavy-hitters like Heineken, Lagunitas and Sapporo. They still own and operate Bootstrap without any outside investors, however, probably because their core duo of award-winning cans (Insane Rush IPA and Stick's Pale Ale) is as uniformly crushable as craft beer gets — bold without bashing you over the head. bootstrapbrewing.com

11 of 25

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver)

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver)
Dustin Hall / Brewtography Project

When Crooked Stave owner Chad Yakobson and the folks behind The Source — Denver's most buzz-worthy F&B hall — couldn't find a way for him to brew on site, Yakobson did the next best thing. He turned the small company's 2,900-square-foot space into one of the building's main draws, a veritable showroom for the state's leading sour beer specialists. Stop by for a flight of fancy barrel-aged beauties, featuring lip-puckering flavor profiles and fruit-forward finishes that bring out bursts of blueberries, apricots, blackcurrants, cherries, blood oranges and pears. csartisans.com

12 of 25

Elevation Beer Co. (Poncha Springs)

Elevation Beer Co. (Poncha Springs)
Beth Grimes

In keeping with its high-country locale, Carlin Walsh and Christian Koch break their beer down into categories that read like ski-slope rating systems: Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond, which is where barrel-aged beasts like the company's acclaimed Oil Man imperial stout reside. To give you an idea of how well Elevation has been received: they decided to double their brewing capacity just four months after they opened in 2012. Not bad for a brewery that's surrounded by mountain ranges and located in a town of less than 1,000 people. elevationbeerco.com

13 of 25

Mancos Brewing Company (Mancos)

Mancos Brewing Company (Mancos)
Rich Cleveland

Small-batch 22 oz. bombers are priced to move—$15 for three!—at Mancos Brewing Company, a welcome respite from the far-more-touristy nearby towns of Cortez and Durango. And guess what? It's even closer to Mesa Verde National Park—just a leisurely 10-minute drive. Better stock up on their Cliff Dweller red ale and Ruff Shot rye IPA before you roll out for a day of hiking, then. mancosbrewingcompany.com

14 of 25

Odd13 (Lafayette)

Odd13 (Lafayette)
Matt Peck

When Eric Larkin became the head brewer at Odd13's new 30-barrel operation in 2015, he was happy to hear about its reputation for robust IPAs, a style his previous gig (Portland, Maine's beloved Allagash Brewing Co.) skirted completely. What Odd13—and the rest of Colorado, for that matter—hadn't tackled yet was a riff on the rise of New England-style IPAs. Known more for its murky appearance and tropical-juice taste than incredibly high IBUs, Odd13's hazy IPA series has quickly become its biggest smash hit, a trendsetter in a state that's never short on inspiration. odd13brewing.com

15 of 25

Parts & Labor Brewing Company (Sterling)

Parts & Labor Brewing Company (Sterling)
Mandy Ritter Photography

As saturated as Colorado is on a statewide level, the Eastern Plains didn't get its own brewery until the end of 2016. That's when Dylan and Kimberly Harford flipped an old Cadillac dealership into Parts & Labor Brewing Company. (The name is also a nod to the time Dylan spent as a Nissan technician.) While Sterling—a town of around 15,000 people—is still in the early days of digging craft beer, Dylan is using vast amounts of wheat from a nearby farm to prove just how fresh and clean his offerings are compared to the beer collecting dust on the area's grocery shelves. facebook.com/partsandlaborbrewingco

16 of 25

Ratio Beerworks (Denver)

Ratio Beerworks (Denver)
Courtesy of Ratio Beerworks

Maybe it's because the Colorado Brewers Guild is located just a few blocks away, but the one taproom Steve Kurowski can't seem to get enough of is Ratio Beerworks. Who can blame him? Largely inspired by their community-based punk background, Jason zumBrunnen, Zach Lowery and Scott Kaplan have created a watering hole that's welcoming and full of musical winks, including a French saison named after a Jawbreaker album (Dear You) and an extra pale ale that references Fugazi (Repeater). ratiobeerworks.com

17 of 25

Ska Brewing (Durango)

Ska Brewing (Durango)
Scott Smith

If the checkered-skull branding and typography of Ska Brewing looks a little dated, it's because Bill Graham and Dave Thibodeau founded it in 1995, when Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt were racking up platinum records. And while most of us wouldn't be caught dead listening to horn-blasters like Reel Big Fish in 2017, Ska Brewing has aged quite well. In fact, it's one of Colorado’s biggest breweries. Check out their Modus Mandarina IPA if you're looking for a sip of spring, dry-hopped with heaps of Mandarina Bavaria and softened with sweet orange peels. skabrewing.com

18 of 25

Spangalang Brewery (Denver)

Spangalang Brewery (Denver)
Nathan Roberts

Austin Wiley spent seven years at Denver's own Great Divide, working his way up the ranks from the bottling line to lead brewer. He's joined by fellow GD vets Taylor Rees and Darren Boyd at Spangalang, a mellow Five Points find named after Kenny Clarke's signature jazz cymbal style. The trio's love of choice LPs carries over to their avant-garde brewing styles — you’ll find a Nightwalker stout doused with raspberries and aged on whiskey barrels and a sour ale spiked with blackberries and sage. spangalangbrewery.com

19 of 25

Station 26 Brewing Co. (Denver)

Station 26 Brewing Co. (Denver)
Hamlet Fort/Station 26 Brewing Co.

Remember when IPAs were bitter hop bombs, not partly cloudy nods to New England? Station 26 sure does; their Juicy Banger IPA is a joy to behold, clocking in at more than 100 IBUs and throwing down hints of tropical fruit, citrus and honey. If you're lucky, you might even find a small batch spiked with golden raisins, serrano peppers or peaches at their taproom, too. That, or one of their highly sought-after single hop cans, which equal imperial-pale awesomeness every time. facebook.com/S26BC

20 of 25

Telluride Brewing Co. (Telluride)

Telluride Brewing Co. (Telluride)
Joshua Johnson Photography

It took Chris Fish and Tommy Thacher less than a year to earn back-to-back gold medals at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Fest for its Face Down brown ale, a harmonious-but-rarely-seen blend of American and English styles. They've expanded their production four times since then, and padded their trophy case with a couple Whacked Out Wheat mentions thanks to its holy trinity of hops (Cascade, Tettanger and Saaz.) telluridebrewingco.com

21 of 25

Trve Brewing Co. (Denver)

Trve Brewing Co. (Denver)
The Brewtography Project

Ever since the early days of Sabbath, Priest and Maiden, heavy metal has gone hand-in-hand with beer. Not the good stuff, though; more like the Buds and Millers of the world. The classics. TRVE is on more of a death-metal tip—dizzying and dynamic, with wild ales like a golden sour brewed with ginger, pomelos and black pepper (Suffering Soul), or a mixed-culture menace aged on Colorado sweet cherries (Black Celebration). trvebrewing.com

22 of 25

Ursula Brewing (Aurora)

Ursula Brewing (Aurora) 
Agnes Tapolyai

Aside from the occasional dispute regarding overlapping beer names, Colorado has one of the country's most supportive drinking scenes. This is why the very public split of Coda Brewing's two co-founders (Luke Smith and Scott Procop) came as such a shock last year. While Smith plans on reviving the name in due time, Procop has already pressed his reset button with Ursula Brewing. Its tagline is a little trite — "rock 'n' roll with a twist" — but the beer here is not. Currently in the mix is a still Norwegian farmhouse ale steeped with Christmas-y bunches of juniper branches (Uncle Olaf), a blonde ale awash with vanilla wafers (Stop. Collaborate And 'Nilla!) and a Russian imperial stout cut with cherries and chocolate (180 Gram.) ursulabrewery.com

23 of 25

Verboten Brewing (Loveland)

Verboten Brewing (Loveland)
Darren Squashic

"Beer for All" is the modus operandi of Verboten Brewing, a fair and fitting goal considering they're constantly rotating 16 atypical taps. Current offerings include Run by Fruiting (an Omnipollo-esque "milkshake kettle sour" modeled after a passion fruit lassi), Killer Boots (an English-style porter infused with house-made caramel sauce) and Thinking of Something Orange (a crowd-pleasing American wheat clobbered with orange blossom honey and orange peels). verbotenbrewing.com

24 of 25

Visionquest (Boulder)

Visionquest (Boulder)
Dennis C. Jones

When beer nerds talk about "nano breweries," they mean living room-like spaces where everybody knows your name. VisionQuest is the Cheers of Boulder's craft beer cognoscenti—partly because it's located right next to the city's leading homebrew shop and partly because its three founders (Adam Kandle, Greg Foley and Greg Kallfa) excel at experimental fare you won't find at any local bottle shop. Morels, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, hibiscus: they're all fair game for VisionQuest's tightly-curated fermentation tanks. visionquestbrewing.com

25 of 25

Weldwerks (Greeley)

Weldwerks (Greeley)
Courtesy of WeldWerks Brewing Co.

Anyone still on the fence about the meteoric rise of New England-style IPAs needs to taste a big can of Juicy Bits at WeldWerks. Creamy and complex, it's like a fresh-squeezed carafe of OJ, if Tropicana started making the stuff with three kinds of hops and sweet, sweet alcohol. Juicy Bits isn’t the only draw at WeldWerks, either. As evidenced by their recent two-year anniversary — a party capped with the sale of nearly 4,000 crowlers — Greeley loves its hometown heroes. Not to mention other local favorites like a barrel-aged imperial stout brewed alongside cinnamon sticks and cayenne (Mexican Achromatic) or cacao, vanilla and marshmallow (S'mores Achromatic). weldwerksbrewing.com

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