Despite the volume of beer being pumped out of this state's kettles, breweries keep opening at a breakneck pace. We're just fine with that, especially when those breweries come with taprooms, because taprooms are a really good way to daytime drink and somehow seem less alcoholic than if you were sequestered in a bar. Going to a taproom is like being a beer tourist in your own town, and also, it's kind of educational.
There are so many worthy breweries in the metro area that you could never dream of covering them all in a day, but you can get a taste of several if you plan right. It's also an excellent way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. We know because we did it last weekend.
Without further ado, here's a seven-brewery crawl you can do over the span of a few hours.
Stop one: Strange Brewing Company, 1330 Zuni Street Strange opens at noon, which is as early as it gets for taprooms on weekends -- and what makes it an ideal first spot. Hop heads might consider the flight because even the saison is packed with a bite. Those looking for something different -- and drinkers who want to start more slowly -- can opt for the Cherry Kriek, a pour that's low alcohol, fruity and delicious. Watch that you don't get sucked into the low-riding, uber comfortable patio chairs, though, or you might give up on the rest of the tour.
Stop two: Wit's End Brewing, 2505 West 2nd Avenue #13 Buried in the back of a warehouse strip, this may have been the friendliest taproom we visited last weekend, and we enjoyed chatting up owner Scott Witsoe and our fellow patrons alike. The sampler is a good way to go here; the brewery is making a lot of interesting different styles of beer. If pressed to pick a favorite, though, we'd order the Jean-Claude Van Blond over and over and over again. Fair warning: if you approach Wit's End from the north (and you probably will if you're driving over from Strange), Federal is a mess of construction. Avoid it or turn left on 4th Avenue -- 2nd Avenue is closed to traffic.
Stop three: Colorado Cider, 2650 West 2nd Avenue After you're through at Wit's End, you can hike a block to Colorado Cider Company, and luxuriate in a comfortable, breezy tasting room that should have been much more crowded than it was. We were especially into the classic Glider Cider and Ol' Stumpy, which is made from granny smith apples, but the sampler is definitely, definitely the best choice here -- mostly because it's free. Just make sure you buy a bottle in support on your way out.
Stop four: Renegade Brewing, 925 West 9th Avenue Renegade was our Best Neighborhood Brewery in Best of Denver 2012, and last weekend, it was packed with people who'd settled in to hang out for awhile -- including us, over a game of Uno. At risk of sounding like a broken record, the sampler is a good bet here, too. These were some of our favorite beers across the board, and Renegade pours a lot of fun, one-off brews that rotate frequently. We almost guarantee you'll be back for a growler of something in the near future.
Stop five: Denver Beer Co., 1695 Platte Street You're going to have to post up aggressively to find a picnic table at this stop because there's no question the place is going to be packed all day long. But grab your beer -- we're still suckers for the Graham Cracker Porter -- and do it, because the pleasant beer garden-like atmosphere is a sweet place to bask in the sun. And because you'll no doubt be hungry by this point, score some grub at whichever food cart or truck is parked outside. Also, now's a good time to ditch your car if you have one -- parking is hard to find downtown, the location of the next two stops, and unless you have a designated driver, we sort of doubt you should be operating a motor vehicle at this point.
Stop six: River North Brewery, 2401 Blake Street The newest brewery on this crawl, River North was fairly quiet when we hit it last weekend, though that changed sometime around 8 p.m. when a big group rolled up. Suffice it to say our palates were pretty much shot by this point, but we appreciated the cheekily named BPR, a Belgian-style pale red ale that had enough hops to make an impression. Ditto for the Hello, Darkness, a black IPA. By the way, like Denver Beer Co., River North is dog-friendly if that matters to you. Just keep 'em on a leash.
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Stop seven: Great Divide Brewing Co., 2201 Arapahoe Street Great Divide is the oldest brewery on this list, and it's also one of our all-time favorite places to drink, period. The taproom is comfortable both inside and out, with a sweet patio that's a great place to settle in. But the real reason we love it so is for the beers, which are always memorable and interesting, even seven breweries deep. Colette, a golden and delicious farmhouse ale that's only available in the spring, should be reason enough to get you to this finish line. So should the fact that the brewery is also pouring a bunch of other cool stuff that'll never make it past the taproom.