Ten Colorado Breweries for Train Lovers

The trains whistle by Black Shirt Brewing's backyard patio.
The trains whistle by Black Shirt Brewing's backyard patio.
Jonathan Shikes

The history of rail travel in Denver goes back a long way, to the 1860s, when the first trains began pulling into town. But the history of beer goes back even further, to 1859, when thirsty gold miners flooded the area and German brewmeisters followed. The two just seem to go together: Imagine a lone figure setting a pint of grog — or, more recently, a tulip glass full of a double IPA — down on the bar while a train whistle sounds forlornly in the background.

At Black Shirt Brewing, which opened in 2012 just two blocks from the train tracks in River North, you can live that image every day. “It’s become a comforting noise for us,” says Carissa Miller, who owns Black Shirt with her husband, Chad Miller, and Chad’s brother Branden. “I think it started for us way before we opened, when we got bikes and started riding around the neighborhood. Everywhere we went, we could feel the grungy soul and hear the whistle. I think we wanted to take that love and that soul and build from there.”

On Friday, April 22, a new whistle will join the chorus when the RTD’s new Train to the Plane A Line opens, connecting Union Station with Denver International Airport with six dots in between, including one station at 38th and Blake streets, directly behind Black Shirt.

That proximity will mean a lot to the brewery — and to others within walking distance of light rail — because it will allow customers to use a new form of transportation to get there and, perhaps more important, to leave after a few beers. It means so much, in fact, that Black Shirt is throwing a weekend-long party to celebrate, complete with new beer tappings, live music and food trucks. (Nearby Beryl's Beer Company will also throw a party and tap A-Line IPA.)

But Black Shirt isn’t the only brewery in Colorado with a connection to rail. Here, in alphabetical order, are ten breweries for Colorado train lovers, including Black Shirt.

Every nick and scratch in Black Shirt's boxcar-flooring bar tells a story.
Every nick and scratch in Black Shirt's boxcar-flooring bar tells a story.
Jonathan Shikes

Black Shirt Brewing
3719 Walnut Street

Located just a block from both the railroad tracks and a new light-rail station, Black Shirt has a back patio with a great view of trains. And while that may be blocked in the coming year by construction of a new office building, the sound of the train whistle will remain. A more intimate connection can be felt inside the brewery, though, where the long bar and all of the tables are made from old boxcar flooring that was refurbished to make it smooth and straight, but which still retains a lot of wear and tear. “Every nick and scratch is a story of its own,” says co-owner Carissa Miller, adding that the man who sold Black Shirt the wood told her that it had been used in train cars that carried Coors beer from Golden.

Coors ties railroads and beer together.
Coors ties railroads and beer together.
Colorado Railroad Museum

Coors Brewing
13th and Ford streets, Golden

There was only one good way to get beer out of Golden in the 1930s after Prohibition ended, and that was by rail. Coors so depended on the rail lines that there’s a replica of a refrigerated Coors car (known then as a “reefer”) at the Colorado Railroad Museum, which is also located in Golden. All self-respecting train nerds have to visit this museum and check out the reefer, and they can follow up by hitting the famed Coors tour at the brewery. If craft beer is more your style, though, head for Cannonball Creek, Barrels & Bottles, Mountain Toad or Golden City Brewery, which also call Golden home. And if you hit them all, you might want to abandon your car and walk the three miles to the light-rail station at the Jefferson County Government Center for the ride back into Denver.

Ten Colorado Breweries for Train Lovers

Denver ChopHouse & Brewery
1735 19th Street

Although it’s owned by Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries, which operates the Old Chicago and Rock Bottom chains, among others, the Denver ChopHouse serves up a wide variety of its own beers, which it brews on site — in a grand 1923 building that once served as Union Pacific’s local headquarters. And while the historic two-story building once had a direct connection to the tracks, which run nearby, it now has more of a tie-in to Coors Field, right next door. Still, if you close your eyes and look at the ChopHouse logo, which mimics Union Pacific’s, and the building’s architecture, you can almost imagine yourself in another era.

Glenwood Canyon Brewing is across the street from the Amtrak depot.
Glenwood Canyon Brewing is across the street from the Amtrak depot.
Glenwood Canyon Brewing Facebook page

Glenwood Canyon Brewing
402 Seventh Street, Glenwood Springs

While Denver’s ever-expanding light-rail lines mean that beer lovers can travel by train to more and more local breweries, a true train lover will want to take Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Denver to Glenwood Springs. The six-hour journey rolls through beautiful mountain scenery and connects the Wynkoop Brewing Company (see below), which is just across the street from Union Station, to Glenwood Canyon Brewing, which sits on the first floor of the historic Denver Hotel, just across the street from Glenwood’s own Amtrak station. Founded in 1995 — or 91 years after the Denver & Rio Grande first chugged into view — Glenwood Canyon Brewing has since become an institution in town, and is one of the first things people see when they get off the train. Try an Old Depot Porter and then hit the hot springs.

Beers are cheap at Sanitas when a train goes by out back.
Beers are cheap at Sanitas when a train goes by out back.

Sanitas Brewery
3550 Frontier Avenue, Boulder

The pastoral, two-level back patio at Sanitas Brewing has a view of Mount Sanitas, but it also has front-row seats to a daily train show. Trains, most of them carrying coal, rumble past the brewery at seemingly random times of the day every day, on a set of tracks lined by grass and trees. “We have not figured out a rhyme or reason for why they are scheduled when they are,” says Sanitas co-owner Michael Memsic. The brewery has embraced the situation, though, naming its session beers (those that are under 5 percent ABV) the Train series and keeping one on tap at all times; Train 15, a session stout, is the current offering. In addition, Sanitas lowers the price for a pint of its Train beer to $2.50 for the fifteen-minute period after each train rolls by. There are a few train decorations in the tap room as well.

Keep reading for more breweries.



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