10 essential Denver-area breweries to hit during the Great American Beer Festival or any time

Exploring Denver’s beer culture is as easy as pulling up a barstool.

As the longtime home of the Great American Beer Festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Oct. 6-8, the Mile High City has earned a deserved reputation as one of the world’s best beer destinations, and it’s not hard to see why. Whether you’re craving a crisp lager, a variety of hoppy options, or something experimental, you’re bound to find it in or near Denver.

Use this list of 10 essential breweries to jumpstart your exploration.

Bartender Michael Brockoff draws a Slow Pour Pils at the Bierstadt Lagerhaus inside the Rackhouse Tasting Room and Kitchen September 9, 2016. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Bierstadt Lagerhaus

Bierstadt Lagerhaus head brewer and co-owner Ashleigh Carter has been specializing in the meticulous art of lagering for nearly a decade. Her precision and knack for turning out crisp and clean recipes has turned this RiNo brewery into a destination for German-style beers. It is perhaps best known for its refreshing Slow Pour Pils and its Helles. Steins and stanges here are best enjoyed in the brewery’s massive biergarten with a Bavarian pretzel.

2875 Blake St., Denver. bierstadtlager.com

The Belgian-inspired Bruz Beers boasts two locations: Bruz Off Fax is near Cheeseman Park and City Park, and its production facility in far north Denver. (Photo by Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post)
Bruz Beers

Fans of Belgian beers can find more than a dozen of them on tap at Bruz Beers, which boasts two locations, one in north Denver and one just off of East Colfax Avenue. That includes fruit-forward beers, effervescent saisons, abbey-style ales and a whole menu section of sours. But don’t box Bruz in with preconceived notions: Hopheads can usually find IPAs on tap, sometimes with a Belgian twist. The beers are best enjoyed in the courtyard at the Bruz Off Fax location on York Street or in the brewery tasting room at its production location.

1675 W. 67th Ave., #100, Denver, and 1495 York St., #101, Denver. bruzbeers.com

: Tony Goeken pours two beers at the same time at the Cannonball Creek Brewing Company September 24, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Cannonball Creek Brewing Co.

Golden-based Cannonball Creek Brewing Co. only brews about 700 barrels of beer annually, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Don’t just take our word for it: Cannonball Creek has earned at least one Great American Beer Festival medal every year since it opened in 2013. Its winningest recipes include Featherweight pale ale and Vladimir Brutin brut IPA (now called Olivia Brutin John). Cannonball Creek rarely distributes its beer, so the best place to get a taste is onsite at the brewery, making it well worth the journey.

393 N. Washington Ave., Golden. cannonballcreekbrewing.com

Cerebral Brewing February 23, 2018. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Cerebral Brewing

Experimentation is always on tap at Cerebral Brewing in Congress Park, which is known for its esoteric recipes as well as for maintaining a solid selection of IPAs. Think foeder-fermented saisons and lagers like Invisible Hand saison and Tactical Maneuver Helles, barrel-aged dark beers like Southern Jewel Sazerac-inspired strong ale, and hoppy beers brewed like they do on the West Coast, East Coast and everywhere in between. Though Cerebral has long been a small-batch operation, it’s recently expanded to an 18,000-square-foot production facility in Aurora that will make its beer more widely available.

1477 Monroe St., Denver. cerebralbrewing.com

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project relocated its taproom from RiNo to its production facility in Sunnyside during the COVID-19 pandemic. It serves pints, flights and cans to-go of its sour, hoppy and lagered beers. (Photo by Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post)
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Founded in 2010, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project quickly became a leader in the American sour beer movement. Though it has since branched out style-wise to include IPAs, pilsners and adjunct stouts, the brewery and taproom in Sunnyside still offer a plethora of recipes showcasing Brettanomyces yeast and character from wood barrels. Sample several with a flight seated at the bar, which includes a view into the production space, or on the quaint parking lot patio. Should you find yourself far north of Denver, Crooked Stave also boasts a taproom in Fort Collins.

1441 W. 46th Ave., Unit 19, Denver. crookedstave.com

Provided by Shawn Gavlick/Gavlick Photos/Denver Beer Co.Opened in March 2021, Denver Beer Co.’s third location on South Downing Street is a patio paradise, complete with picnic tables, a yard area for games and fire pits.
Denver Beer Co.

Does it even count as a trip to the Mile High City if you didn’t have a pint on one of Denver Beer Co.’s amazing patios? The brewery has been a stalwart since opening its first location in LoHi in 2011 and has a string of recent GABF awards. It now boasts three beer gardens, each with a pilot system, with a fourth on the way. Each one welcomes kids and fur babies, so it’s a hotspot for the whole family.

1695 Platte St., Denver; 5768 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada; and 2425 S Downing St., Denver. denverbeerco.com

Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Bar area at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Ratio Beerworks assistant manager Adam Reed draws a fresh beer for a customer September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

King of Carrot Flowers beer, carrot elderflower saison at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Indoor seating at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Outside patio area at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

“Apawllo” the huskey/German Shepard mix dog and James Maley, left, and Justin Broadfoot, right, enjoy a nice evening on the outdoor at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. Braodfoot’s dog, “Apawllo” enjoys (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Beer taps at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Colorful brews awaiting customers at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Indoor seating area at Ratio Beerworks September 17, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

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Ratio Beerworks

Ratio Beerworks in RiNo is a destination known for its A+ vibe. Whether you’re sitting inside the taproom awash in natural light, or on the patio nestled between brightly colored murals, the space welcomes drinkers to come and stay awhile. As for beer, Ratio offers a wide variety, from recent GABF medal winners Dear You saison and Domestica American ale to IPAs, Oktoberfests and Scotch ales. The carrot and edlerflower saison is also a popular choice. Now with a second location in Denver’s Overland neighborhood, there’s twice as much to enjoy.

2920 Larimer St., Denver; and 2030 S Cherokee St., Denver. ratiobeerworks.com

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Raíces Brewing Company on Jan. 31, 2020.

DENVER, CO – JANUARY 31: Raíces Brewing Company owners Martín Vargas, left, and Jose Beteta at Raíces January 31, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

A full house at Raíces Brewing Company Jan. 31, 2020.

Fans and visitors gather at Raices Brewing Company located next to Empower Field at Mile High before a Broncos game on August 27, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott/Special to The Denver Post)

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Raíces Brewing Co.

Raíces means “roots” in Spanish, and those roots run deep at this brewery on the South Platte River, where drinkers can find Latin flavors infused into the menu. Examples include Cinnamon Horchata Ale, Manguito (a mango fruit beer) and Cosecha chili pepper beer. According to the Boulder-based Brewers Association’s 2018 data, 88% of brewery owners polled across the country identify as white, while 2.4% consider themselves Hispanic or Latino. So in addition to serving tasty beer to Sun Valley drinkers, Raíces is a welcome hotspot for cultural events.

2060 W. Colfax Ave., Denver. raicesbrewing.com

Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostCanned SIREN, Belgian Saison, 7.0% is sold at TRVE Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado on Friday, June 10, 2022. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)
TRVE Brewing Co.

Metal isn’t just what’s on the speakers at TRVE; it’s also an ethos. Since opening in 2012, the brewery on South Broadway has been a haven for metalheads, but even if you’re not much into that music, there’s plenty to love about the beer list. While TRVE made a name for itself with sour and wild beers, it has since expanded its portfolio to include Belgian farmhouse-style ales and clean lagers. Pair them with something spicy from the Music City Hot Chicken restaurant onsite.

227 Broadway #101, Denver. trvebrewing.com

Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostThe 95th St. Pizza and Westbound IPA at Westbound & Down Mill in Lafayette, Colorado on Friday, Jan. 20.
Westbound & Down
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Named 2019’s Midsize Brewpub of the Year at GABF, Idaho Springs’ Westbound & Down Brewing Co. has since expanded its footprint to bring its award-winning beers to more drinkers along the Front Range. In December, it opened a 4,000-square-foot production facility in Lafayette, where it serves house-made pizza and suds. But you don’t even need to leave Denver city limits to enjoy the beer. Just stop by its pop-up taproom near Union Station for a pint.

1617 Miner St., Idaho Springs; 2755 Dagny Way, Ste. 101, Lafayette; and 1801 Blake St., Denver. westboundanddown.com

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