The metro area gained so many liquid assets in 2011, we had to do a lot of drinking before we could choose the winner of our Best New Bar award for the Best of Denver 2012. And even then, the awards kept spilling out for other new spots, including Best Neighborhood Brewery, Best Place to See a Grownup Cry Over Pac-Man and Best New Brewery.
Here's our rundown of the ten best new bars in Denver.
10. The Bar, 554 South Broadway After new owners took over the Atrium Bar & Grill, they gave the space a much-needed overhaul and reopened the place as The Bar in September. Within the next few months, the new owners started bringing in bands on the weekends, as well as hosting goldfish races and open-turntable nights on Wednesdays.
9. Tennyson's Tap , 4335 West 38th Avenue Since opening in early 2011, Tennyson's Tap has really tapped into the community. It started out as a neighborhood bar that serves Colorado whiskey and brews, then turned into a full-fledged music venue after securing a cabaret license over the summer. Since then, it's been booking blues, jazz, rock and metal acts most nights of the week, and even added a recording studio.
8. Prohibition , 504 East Colfax Avenue Jimmy Callahan took over one of the city's more colorful dives, the Roslyn Grill, gave it a serious scrubbing and opened Prohibition in May. The space has a much more classic -- and clean -- feel, with a bar in the back that came from a hundred-year-old saloon in Indianapolis and a new mahogany bar in front with a Chicago drink rail. In keeping with the bar's name, the decor includes newspapers from the Prohibition era and a bunch of whiskey "prescriptions."
7. The Matchbox , 2625 Larimer Street The Matchbox's name was inspired partly by a fire that gutted the space in 2009, and partly by the fact that it's long and narrow, like a matchbox. Sudhir Kudva, who also owns the Squire Lounge, partnered with two other folks to overhaul the former Orange Cat Studios, demolishing the back of the building to make way for an awesome patio, putting in new bathrooms and installing a garage door in the front. But while the place has been updated considerably, it still retains some of the Orange Cat's charm -- including the exposed brick on the south wall. With three live-music venues within a block, the Matchbox is the perfect spot to take a break.
6. Black Crown Lounge , 1446 South Broadway Last spring the former Cafe Cero/Open Tap space at 1446 South Broadway got an overhaul when business partners Mark Cameron and Brian Grace transformed it into the Black Crown Lounge, an authentic piano bar (during the day). Furnished with a number of items from Grace's personal collection, including chandeliers, the Black Crown feels like you're walking into someone's high-class living room; it has an old-world, over-the-top, decadent country-club feel. Many of the décor items are for sale; the space even functions as a retail shop during the day.
5. The Three Lions , 2239 East Colfax Avenue After a long run as the Bank Bar & Grill, The Three Lions opened at 2239 East Colfax Avenue in August. Billing itself as a world football pub, it's modeled after a traditional London-style pub, with zones where multiple games are shown on several TVs, an English style "public bar" games area, and full dining areas. Schedules and standings are updated daily, and there's live MLS coverage as well.
4. Denver Beer Co , 1695 Platte Street When Denver Beer Co opened last August, owners Charlie Berger and Patrick Crawford wanted to do something different -- and they've stuck to their vision of constantly brewing new recipes, almost never returning to the tried and true. While that occasionally frustrates fans of one beer or another, it's easy to forget your cares while sitting inside the airy, comfortable space or outside in the gorgeous Platte Street beer garden -- just blocks from where Denver itself bubbled to the surface in 1858. But the liquid gold here is the beer, and Denver Beer Co has already had some success with its brews, winning a bronze medal for its Graham Cracker Porter at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival -- a beer for which Berger and Crawford decided, thankfully, to make an exception and brew again...and again.
3. The 1UP, 1925 Blake Street From life-sized Jenga to an array of video games, all from 1985 or earlier, this vintage arcade/bar is the best place to drink, get to level 254 of Pac-Man, and break down when the ghosts finally get you. The good news is that with over forty vintage arcade games (including BurgerTime and Mortal Kombat), as well as pinball and Skee-Ball, there's not much time to pout over one loss. As long as you're acting like a kid, order up a burger with a glazed doughnut instead of a bun: One bite and you'll be shedding tears of joy instead.
2. Renegade Brewing , 925 West Ninth Avenue Is Denver oversaturated with neighborhood breweries? It's a question that gets asked a lot these days, but there's a simple answer: Denver can handle as many neighborhood breweries as there are vibrant neighborhoods. One of the most vibrant 'hoods in town was blessed with its own suds-seller last year when Renegade Brewing opened in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe, and judging by the slurping sounds, the district was thirsty. The brewery, owned by Brian and Khara O'Connell, boasts Spanish architecture, big garage-door windows and even bigger beers, and on First Fridays, the place is packed. Good art needs a muse, and the district has found it with Renegade Brewing.
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1. Williams & Graham , 3160 Tejon Street It took longer than expected for Todd Colehour and Sean Kenyon to get the doors open at their spot in Highland, but the wait was worth it: With Williams & Graham, they've created one sexy, sexy place. Step across a threshold concealed by a miniature bookstore and you're in a 1920s-themed world, filled with plush leather, dark woods and quirky artifacts from the age of Prohibition. It's the perfect setting for enjoying Kenyon's comprehensive cocktail and spirits list, which includes inventive twists on classics and rare selections from all over the world. And don't miss chef David Bumgardner's menu, either: The food is excellent and perfect for pairing.