I’m always one for making plans. Combining activities to make a larger agenda is even more down my alley, and I had the perfect opportunity when a friend was having an engagement party in Denver. It so happens that Denver has quite the array of activities to do, not the least of which is drinking copious amounts of beer from their ubiquitous breweries. Denver is also home to Danielle’s dad, and it was about time for me to meet her father. Oh, there are also mountains just outside Denver. I would probably need to strap some wooden slabs onto my feet and rocket myself down said mountains. With all these things on our agenda, we would make a full week out of our trip to Colorado.
We flew in on a Sunday afternoon, and I immediately got to meet Danielle’s dad and stepmom. We had a late lunch near the airport while exchanging pleasantries and breaking down the barely there ice wall. To prove my love of beer (and tangentially their daughter, perhaps?), I drank a local Dry Dock Double IPA. Our meals finished and a looming plane for them to catch, Danielle and I drove them back to the airport. I had survived my first encounter with the dad, and I don’t think he hated me yet. Things were going well so far on our trip.
With an open night in Denver before heading to the mountains, we dropped luggage off at a friend’s place and then headed to nearby downtown Arvada, a cute suburban town just outside Denver. Since I’m a great boyfriend (or just a smart man), our first stop was wine sampling at Silver Vines Winery. I admittedly know next to nothing about wine, but Danielle mostly approved of their offerings. The space was very nice and had some cool wine cork decorations. For me it was a nice palate teaser before moving on to some brewskis.
Brewery time! I discovered New Image Brewing when researching breweries near my friend’s house, and I was intrigued by their lineup of IPAs. I immediately went for broke with their DDH East Coast Transplant, a dry hopped to Hades version of their mainstay IPA. Tropical fruit creaminess exemplified this NEIPA, and I immediately knew I had made a good choice in brewery to visit. Their standard East Coast Transplant was no slouch in its own right, a very worthy flagship to define and carry a brewery. Single By Choice – Mosaic was a 5% Pale Ale showcasing the beauty of the Mosaic hop. Our engaged friends joined us at New Image, and we eventually decided for a change of scenery at the around-the-corner Kline’s Beer Hall.
Their draft list was very impressive, and I also ate one of the largest sausages of my life. Sadly evidence of said monster sausage does not exist, but I can run down the beers I sampled. Trellis Buster from Crooked Stave was a very legit DIPA. I knew they made amazing sours, but I had no clue their IPA game was on point as well. I tried a taster of the Citra version of New Image’s Single By Choice, and it was just as good as the Mosaic. Ecliptic Brewing brought some heat with their Bourbon Barrel Aged Third Orbit Imperial Cherry Porter, and the Chateau Racquette from Horse & Dragon was a funky Belgian-style golden strong ale. I finished the night with a Rye Barrel Aged Salyut from Odyssey Beerwerks, an awesomely smooth Russian Imperial Stout with some barrel goodness. Danielle and I headed in to get some rest before our drive in the morning.
We rented an Airbnb in Breckenridge walking distance from the Quicksilver lift, so that would be our mountain of choice for Monday and Tuesday. It was both of our first times on the mountain in the 2017-18 season, so we started off by taking things easy. We quickly worked up our nerves and started taking on Blues and even some Blacks. Breck is not a very steep mountain, so their Blacks in general aren’t that bad. While we did not have much powder, the conditions were still nice, and we barely ran into any ice on the mountain. However, there was a mishap during our mountain adventures. This is the part of the story where I brag a little about how badass Danielle is. While going down a Black, she caught an edge on her board and fell straight onto her knees and stomach. It knocked the wind out of her and gave me a good scare to see her lying on the ground. I suggested she lie down and take it easy for a while, but she insisted she was fine. She boarded the rest of the day with seemingly no issues and continued all day Tuesday. On Wednesday the pain caught up to her, but she still managed a half day when we switched over to Keystone. Judging by her pain, I suspected she had broke a rib or two, and this was confirmed by a doctor’s visit once we got back to New Orleans. Two days of snowboarding with two broken ribs and some gnarly bruises is pretty badass, and Danielle hardly complained about it. If you need some visual evidence of the injury, you should click over to Instagram for the carnage.
Besides the obvious skiing on the mountain, there was also obvious beering. Breckenridge had a decent selection at their various ski lodges. I mostly opted for IPAs, my favorites being Left Hand Extrovert IPA and Odell Rupture Fresh Grind Ale. Some of the bars only had AB InBev options, and none of their beers were memorable. They did however allow me to capture this sweet beer with a view shot.
In addition to the bars on the mountain, a great thing about skiing is that you can very easily bring your own beers! Stuff some cans in your ski jacket and you instantly have some dankness to drink on the lift or anywhere you want to stop while going down the mountain. I had a couple such stops and had to document how cool it is to be drinking a beer mid-ski run.
All the beer drank was not only had on the mountain. The town of Breckenridge is a cool place, and we checked out some of the local watering holes. Breckenridge Taphouse was warm and inviting, and our character of a bartender definitely kept us entertained. Always on the lookout for a good Black IPA, I tried a solid Goth IPA from South Park Brewing. I was blown away by my next beer, Sad Panda Coffee Stout from Horse & Dragon Brewing. The combo of coffee and vanilla hit all the right notes for me. We also snacked on some tacos which were quite tasty. Downstair’s at Eric’s was a restaurant / bar / arcade just down Main St from the taphouse. We sat at the bar and got sucked into the myriad large TVs playing sports. I enjoyed the Belgian DIPA Freaky Fish from Telluride Brewing while Danielle switched over to a very boozy whiskey and diet.
Tuesday was our 1 year meetiversary, and we went out for a very nice dinner at Relish. Their Colorado inspired food was incredible. Everything we ate was amazing, and even the cocktails were killer. If you want a great meal in Breckenridge, get a reservation at Relish well ahead of time. I will definitely be going back there.
On the brewery front, of course we did that. In the actual town of Breck there’s only the eponymous ABI owned place, and we did not waste our time there. About 15 minutes away was Outer Range Brewing which was on my map because of their hazy IPAs. I sampled all of their offerings and was very impressed by the hoppy stuff. My favorite was In The Deep Steep, a New England style DIPA exploding with juicy tropical flavors. Every single IPA I had of theirs (5 in total) was great, and they even had a heavily hopped funky saison that was awesome. If you ever go to Breckenridge, stop by this place on your way or when you leave for some phenomenal IPAs.
Another brewery on your way to or from the mountains is Westbound & Down in Idaho Springs. It’s housed in a nicely renovated old building, and the taproom has a very slick and modern feel to it. The brewery also had good beer to back up their excellent design. Their hoppy beers were good, my favorite being their Double IPA. Vers L’ouest was a very nice and boozy Belgian tripel. I made sure to stock up on some crowlers for the next two nights at Danielle’s dad’s house. This was our last stop before finishing our drive back to Denver. When we made it back to Littleton, dinner was served and some quality family time was had.
On Thursday, Danielle and I met up with her dad for lunch at Ale House. Even though her dad is not a beer drinker, he very graciously catered to my beer nerd needs. The restaurant had a very impressive draft list. To go along with my excellent food, I first had Departing Flights, a very nice coffee IPA from Great Divide. I think it’s great that coffee has moved beyond dark stouts and porters to add flavor and complexity to IPAs, kolsches, and even light bodied cream ales. I was delighted to see Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist on their draft list, and I had to give it a try. It won Best Beer of the Trip honors as it beautifully blended together whiskey, rum, coffee, and coconut in a boozy yet smooth 11% package. When you see a whale, you just can’t let it get away.
With our free afternoon, we decided to visit some Denver breweries. This decision was entirely Danielle’s even though she might tell it differently. In my previous Denver trips I had never made it to the Great Divide Barrel Bar, so that was our first destination. True to its name, they featured several of their barrel aged beers on draft. I tried a flight of barrel aged goodies including Red Wine Barrel Aged Hibernation, Barrel Aged Harvest Yeti, and the classic Barrel Aged Yeti which turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. I also tried Chai Yeti, Strawberry Rhubarb sour, and their Hazy IPA. They make a variety of styles and do it all well.
A block away from Great Divide was Mockery Brewing where I sampled a little bit of everything they had including IPAs, a sour, a porter, and an old ale. They were all very good, and in an odd move for me I’ll say my favorite was the Malt Licker old ale. Not a very common style, this version was aged in whiskey barrels which brought out some vanilla and caramel to go with its strong malt base.
After dinner back at her dad’s house, we caught the light rail into the city to meet up with one of Danielle’s friends. We went out in the RiNo (River North) neighborhood and first stopped at Finn’s Manor, a spot mostly known for their cocktails. However, I noticed that they had 2016 Fremont B-Bomb on draft, and I was NOT going to pass that up. The bourbon barrel aged version of Abominable, B-Bomb is heavy on the caramel and vanilla tones, and all of this wonderfully balanced the roasted coffee present in the base beer. Our next drinking locale was Ratio Beerworks. I started off way big with a 12.5% Bourbon Barrel Aged Genius Wizard. This Russian Imperial Stout was amazingly smooth, and while it was definitely a sipper it was surprisingly easy drinking. My slightly impaired state could have also perhaps contributed to its drinkability. I also had Antidote, a very well balanced IPA. Our last stop of the night was Bar Fausto, and this is where I started to fade. I was no match for their tasty cocktails. Rumor has it that I may have started to doze off at the bar. I refuse to believe it, but perhaps it’s true. Either way, it was obviously time for us to head home for the night, and that we did.
Friday would involve some suburban chilling before heading into the city for the remainder of our trip. I suggested to Danielle that we should visit another brewery, and she luckily obliged. Living The Dream Brewing was close to her dad’s place and looked like they had some good brews, so we headed that way. We found a quaint taproom in an industrial park and settled into our first beers. I opted for The Great Oatdoors Oatmeal IPA, their cleverly named take on a NEIPA. It possessed typical tropical hop notes but poured crystal clear. Danielle was adventurous in trying a Spicy Hawaiian which was essentially a pizza of the same name made into a beer form. I tried two other IPAs and a barleywine, and all beers were very solid. The vibe of the place and the outdoor picnic tables made for an enjoyable experience.
We headed into the city in the late afternoon and soon thereafter walked over to Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery to have some beers before the engagement party began. Although I don’t like gin on its own, I do enjoy a well done gin barrel aged beer, and Gin BA Cattywampus hit the right notes for me. The botanicals from the gin mixed very nicely with the grapefruit hop flavors. Also notable were the Rum Peach Cobbler and Waffle Stomp, a blonde barleywine with maple syrup and vanilla.
The most ridiculous and perhaps most fun of our trip was next on the agenda. I did not previously know that axe throwing was a recreational activity, but I was about to get my first taste of this seemingly dangerous party undertaking. Dagar was a large venue space complete with several cages for throwing axes. It’s made to be rented out, and that is what my friends had done for their engagement party. After signing the obviously required waiver, we were free to wait in line and enter the cage to throw some freakin’ axes! An employee helpfully instructed us on our technique, and in no time we were hitting the target with regularity. I even managed a bullseye or two in my attempts. After everyone had done some practicing, a team competition took place, pitting the bride’s side (my friend) versus the groom’s. I’m happy to report that our side was victorious, but when you’re drinking and throwing axes, everyone’s a winner.
Speaking of drinking, that definitely occurred during axe throwing. I had brought some Jester King goodies with me from New Orleans, and we cracked open some vintage Ol Oi! and Funk Metal, one of my favorite beers ever. I also had a taste of Woods Boss Brewing Company The Oswald (Full O’ Hops), a very nice NEIPA from a new brewery in Denver. Other booze was also had. We bar hopped a little bit post-axe throwing, and I devoured a tasty wiener from Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs while drinking a Titan IPA. The full day of drinking had caught up to me, and I called it a night.
Saturday was our last full day in Denver, and I was determined to hit a couple heavyweight breweries. I had yet to visit TRVE or Black Project, and this fateful Saturday would quickly change that. Both of these breweries are well known for their world class sours, and I was so excited to finally get to try them. After a nice long walk through the city, we made it to TRVE. Located in a narrow building, the dark lighting appropriately matched the metal music constantly playing over their speakers. Like all my favorite breweries, everything is in sync at TRVE: the atmosphere, decor, vibes, artwork, and beer all work in tandem to create a complementary and cohesive experience. I sampled 9 of their beers, rating none lower than 3.75 on Untappd and giving an average rating of 4.14. IPAs, sours, and stouts, all of them expertly crafted and supremely delicious. My favorite of the bunch were Ecate and Xenolith. The former a sour aged on grapes and the latter a dry hopped saison, these beers showcased the awesome things TRVE could do with sour beer. Because I’m not a fool, I bought a couple bottles to take home with me.
We grabbed some lunch at Historian’s Ale House and then moved on to Black Project. Unlike TRVE, Black Project only makes sour beer with their bacteria coming naturally through spontaneous fermentation or nature foraging. This was my first time trying their beer, and I was blown away by how awesome they were. Their house golden sour, DREAMLAND, is crazy complex. Though no fruits are used, there are definite fruity notes of peach. MAGIC LANTERN dials it up a notch with the addition of peach, tangerine and soursop, creating a delightful melange of sour fruit salad. Because I’m a sucker for hops, I really loved JUMPSEAT, a funky Brett saison generously dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Equinox. I could have spent all day at Black Project, but alas it was progressing into the late afternoon, and we had a sushi dinner planned with Danielle’s dad and stepmom.
The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful. A heavy coating of snow fell overnight, leaving a beautiful winter wonderland for us to enjoy on our way to the airport. I had gone pretty hard most of the week, so I was content to lay off the booze before our flight. We had a great time in Denver and the mountains, and it made me wish I lived in a place with easier access to nature. I would totally become a ski bum if it was convenient to do so. In the meantime, I’ll just have to take memorable trips to the mountains and throw in as many craft breweries as I can. Until the next beerventure…