Jonathan Castner / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Boulder works hard and it plays hard, and when it plays hard it doesn’t have to work hard to find good beer.
Boulder Beer Co., founded 36 years ago, is one of the oldest craft breweries in the nation. The city’s brewers have had a lot of practice, and it shows in the award-winning concoctions they come up with.
Craft brewers and their tasting rooms dot the city. If you like to stick to traditional flavors, they have you covered. But beer enthusiasts who crave adventures in flavor will find endless opportunity to fulfill their desires.
Here’s a list of some of the city’s top beer makers:
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
1690 28th St.
BJ’s may be a corporate brewery, but the suit brews its beer on site and churns out several house crafts. It earned a handful of honors, including three golds, during the 2015 North American Beer Awards in June. The brewpub/restaurant is family friendly and approachable for out-of-town guests, but the bar area is a good spot to kick back and watch the game.
What to try: The Brewhouse Blonde won gold in the Kolsch category at the 2015 North American Beer Awards.
Boulder Beer Co.
2880 Wilderness Place
The history of beer goes back maybe 10,000 years, and the history of craft beer in Boulder goes back to 1979, when Boulder Beer was founded. It’s the oldest craft brewery in Colorado and one of the oldest in the nation. The brewhouse was originally on a farm northeast of Boulder and shared a shed with goats. But today the brewery offers a brewpub and patio in the city. Boulder Beer still likes to experiment with new brews, so ask about the brewer’s special.
What to try: For the adventurous — the Dude Series of brews, including The Dude’s Bane, Scourge of the Dude, and The Dude’s D’Spare.
BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats
5290 Arapahoe Ave.
They call their brewer a “beer chef” here, and, in case the point is lost, BRU takes it’s beer-making very seriously. The brewpub is tucked away near The Video Station in east Boulder. And while it’s certainly a little more on the fancy side, its daily happy hour is a good opportunity to get a pint for $3 and a taste of the handcrafted, seasonal fare for a few bucks.
What to try: Obitus American Brown Ale.
Fate Brewing Co.
1600 38th St.
One of Boulder’s newer brewers, Fate offers a more upscale beer experience at its attractive brewpub, which features a spacious patio. House drafts and rotating guest beers pour from its 30 taps, with new beer releases appearing Sundays and Mondays.
What to try: Laimas Kolsch Style Ale, which earned gold honors in the German-style Kolsch category during the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.
J Wells Brewery
2516 49th St.
Tucked in a warehouse suite along east Pearl is a gem of a brewery run by homebrewer Jamie Wells. Wells’ operation is the self-professed “smallest nano brewery in Boulder,” and its small-batch approach lends to a feeling of having a pint with your good-natured neighbor who is skillful and passionate about making beer. Plus, it’s got great views of the Flatirons from its porch.
What to try: Niad Northern English Brown ale, Wells’ fall seasonal.
Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery
1535 Pearl St.
Southern Sun Pub and Brewery,
627 S. Broadway
It seems like the places that make up “old Boulder” keep closing every day, but Mountain Sun and its sister brewpub Southern Sun are staying strong. The brewpubs have a variety of beer that can suit any taste and a food menu that remains reasonably priced and friendly to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike. The downtown brewery has the history and the south Boulder brewpub has a bit more space.
What to try: Mountain Sun has a reputation for being hops-crazy. If you’re into hops like they are, try Mother Lode Lager.
Sanitas Brewing Co.
3550 Frontier Ave.
That owl on the Sanitas logo? That represents the owls that, according to company lore, the Sanitas co-founders kept seeing during their planning of the business. Weird, right? Well, who cares, the beer’s working. This expansive, industrial-modern brewery, which includes a three-season outdoor beer garden and a taco cart, celebrates its two-year anniversary in September.
What to try: If the Bird of Prey Double IPA is on tap, get it. If not, go for the Black IPA
Shine Brewing Co.
Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place, 2027 13th St.
The trio of sisters behind Boulder’s old Trilogy have created a brewpub, restaurant and event space in downtown that is geared toward celebrating and building community. It’s one of only a few women-owned breweries in the country. And, if after drinking a Shine brew, you just feel better in your soul, it’s because it’s made with a special ingredient, Rose Quartz Essence, “a homemade infusion of the energies of compassion, harmony and unconditional love.”
What to try: Seva Imperial Stout is one of the brewer’s favorites. Why argue with that?
Twisted Pine Brewing Co.
3201 Walnut St.
One of Boulder’s oldest breweries, Twisted Pine was started by the late local beer legend, Gordon Knight, namesake of Oskar Blues’ G’Knight beer. It expanded its tap room in recent years, and the brewery has a good rotation of taproom-only selections.
What to try: The Hop Zealot, the Razzy Xpress and the Big Shot Espresso Stout.
Upslope Brewing Co.
Flatiron Park brewery, 1898 S. Flatiron Court
Lee Hill brewery, 1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 20
Following in the footsteps of Oskar Blues, Upslope started out in 2008 as a canned beer-only operation. Upslope’s success in cans have helped it expand to two breweries in Boulder that feature limited-release and single-batch beers crafted to reach “optimum flavor.” Upslope’s original brewery off Lee Hill features some small-batch and experimental offerings, while the roomier Flatiron Park taproom has a wide variety of Upslope beers on tap.
What to try: The Pale Ale is Upslope’s flagship.
Walnut Brewery & Restaurant
1123 Walnut St.
The Walnut Brewery may be part of CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries Inc., but it does have history here. It was Boulder’s original brewpub — it’s celebrating 25 years in 2015 — and it, along with the original Old Chicago, helped build the foundation for Rock Bottom Restaurants, now CraftWorks. The Walnut features a lineup of consistent beer of traditional styles such as a red, pale ale and brown.
What to try: Start with the Buffalo Gold, then ask about their specialty darks.
West Flanders Brewing Co.
1125 Pearl St.
Local restaurateurs teamed up with a longtime local brewer to create this downtown brewpub that features Belgian-style beers and pays respect to the style of Colorado-crafted beers. The brews incorporate a variety of yeast strains that help to impart different aromas and levels of complexity.
What to try: Hoffmeister — just keep in mind what brewmaster Brian Lutz said about brewing a pilsner: “Any flaws in your brewing process will be glaringly apparent – like a third nipple.” Suck on that.
Wild Woods Brewery
5460 Conestoga Court
This cozy brewery’s beers and tap room are inspired by nature. Campers, hikers and nature enthusiasts should delight in beers that include ingredients such as juniper berries, jasmine flowers and fresh berries — and are inspired by activities such as roasting marshmallows on the campfire.
What to try: The Smores Stout is popular, and the Ponderosa Porter, with hints of vanilla, is a well-crafted approach to the style. Combine both for something really wild.
French for: still technically Boulder, but it’s all industrial and you’ll need to take a quick jaunt north to get there
Asher Brewing Co.
4699 Nautilus Court South, Suite 104
In the natural and organic products haven of Boulder, where Celestial Seasonings, Horizon Organic, Silk and Justin’s nut butter (chuckle freely) were founded, of course there’s sure to be a representing member in the craft beer industry. When Asher opened five years ago, it was Colorado’s first organic brewery. Gunbarrel’s first brewery has a laid-back tap room, and they’re really into cornhole.
What to try: Green Bullet Organic IPA, heavy on the hops, easy on the bitterness.
Avery Brewing Co.
4910 N. Nautilus Court
Boulder’s largest brewery moved to a new location this year. Until February the almost 22-year-old Avery occupied a series of warehouses on Arapahoe Avenue in east Boulder. It doubled capacity when it moved to its new home on North Nautilus Court in the city’s Gunbarrel district. The brewery is known for its big and bold beers, including beasts such as the 15-17 percent Mephistopheles, as well as easy-drinkers such as White Rascal.
What to try: Dry-hopped iterations of Avery’s flagship IPA, seasonal rarities such as Gored! pumpkin beer and Lilikoi Kepolo passion fruit-infused Belgian wit.
Finkel & Garf Brewing
5455 Spine Road
This brewery, a father-and-son collaboration, has a sense of style, as well as passion for beer. Vintage toys and games adorn the taproom. Its snack offerings include Cracker Jacks and Twinkies. The owners say they’re still kids at heart — see what good beer can do for you?
What to try: Ask for the house flight that features each of the six beers paired with a snack.
New Planet Brewing Co.
6560 Odell Place, Suite D
This is one of the few breweries that feature gluten-free offerings. The tap room includes New Planet’s gluten-free beers in addition to some barley seasonals and beers crafted to remove gluten. They even offer gluten-free pretzels with every pint.
What to try: Gluten-Free Raspberry Ale.
6880 Winchester Circle, Unit F
The brewery was founded on the principles of beer-making through precision, quality and all-natural ingredients. A bright spot in a Gunbarrel office park, Vindication produces flavorful beers, thanks in part to its “hop back” system that allows for a variety of ingredients at different times in the brewing process. Mondays in the tap room offer $1.50 off pints. Check out the cool bar, which is hand-made from beetle-kill pine.
What to try: The Antihero, a red ale, that’s dry-hopped with Golding hops.