You didn't hear it from us.
Great Divide, Wynkoop, Dry Dock, the Great American Beer Festival—at this point, Denver is perhaps the least underrated beer city in the country, a place where even the been-there-done-that brews easily put the smackdown on some of the best that other destinations have to offer. With all of the talent flying around here, and all of the attention paid to the scene by visitors, it makes sense that in-the-know locals would have long ago leveled up to the lesser-known.
Not that the smaller outfits have any trouble winning awards, mind—for the most part, however, they keep a lower profile, offering their product mostly in their own taprooms. Distribution is minimal, perhaps to a nearby liquor store or two, maybe a handful of bar accounts. It's not that nobody wants the beer—it's just that these breweries haven't yet scaled up to meet the off-the-charts, mostly-local demand. Looking to get a real sense of Denver's beer prowess? Once you're done tasting the beers you've heard of, set aside some time for the ones you haven't—yet. Start by visiting these three locally-favored breweries.
Baere Brewing Company
Brewers Kevin Greer and Ryan Skeels have quietly made a name for themselves with a rather exciting sour series—a version of their easy-drinking Berliner Weiss just took home a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. "We started out very small with a focus on making sure that when we were open, we had a variety of great beers to choose from—since those early days, we've tried to maintain the focus on serving the local community that frequents our tap room," says Greer.
"We are very proud to be part of the amazing craft beer culture that is so strong and diverse in Denver. We're proud to be recognized. However, the best compliment we can receive is when someone comes back with friends. They want to show off this little place they found in a strip mall on Broadway and help us to disprove any preconceived notions of how big a brewery should be or what a brewery should look like to make great beer." Tip: Don't overlook their IPA's.
Banded Oak Brewing Co.
The clue's in the name—here, founder and owner Will Curtin ages his beers in oak barrels. "We blend classic styles and wine barrel aging with more of an American take," says Curtin, who broke away from Great Divide to start his own thing. "It’s all about creating an atmosphere where people can try new beers, have a good time, and not take yourself too seriously." They're one of two breweries (the other is the world-renowned Russian River Brewing, in Santa Rosa, Calif.) that's been lucky enough to snag sought-after barrels from a prized source in the Napa Valley. "The craft brewing community in Denver is such an open-minded, inclusive group—during our opening day, all the breweries in our neighborhood came by to grab a beer and wish us luck," Curtin recalls.
Head brewer Sean Buchan has received a good deal of attention for his insanely hoppy, hazy, Rare Trait IPA—it's an exceptional take on the cult fave, New England style of IPA that has fans making pilgrimages to Vermont. You'll have to make a pilgrimage to Denver to try this one—Cerebral's beers (and there are plenty of them) are still only available locally.