Best Wine Shop for First-Timers 2002 | Corks | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Tired of cooler-than-thou wine stores? Try Corks, a warm, very drinker-friendly store with a completely down-to-earth approach. Owners Glenn Ehrlich and Pam Glynn, former advertising folks who decided one day that it would be neat to own a wine shop, have assembled around 300 wines, 90 percent of which cost less than $15 a bottle. The shop is divided into categories that describe the body of the grapes within and make it easier to find what you like: "Sensuous" means medium-bodied reds, "lush" means full-bodied whites. And wine novices and veteran winos alike will appreciate the fact that next to each bin is a placard explaining the characteristics of the wine and offering comments from wine writers. Ehrlich and Glynn subscribe to wine magazines from around the globe and have a database of about 16,000 wines they think are worth tracking down, and they're bringing them to Denver as fast as they can. Uncork this baby and enjoy.

Restaurants looking to make their wine lists more accessible to diners should take a page from the Fourth Story and offer a variety of grapes and styles from a variety of locations, with enough rarities thrown in here and there to keep more serious wine enthusiasts interested. (No need to try to impress people with a 300-page roster that would take six mealtimes to read, let alone comprehend.) Above all, have fun, as the Fourth Story does with its Tasting Challenge: flights of wine, each with three two-ounce samplings, designed to give diners the opportunity to discern differences and find favorites. Put it all together, and it's no wonder the Fourth Story's wine list is a perennial bestseller.

Despite its name, the Wine Company carries as much great beer as it does wine. And while many beer vendors slap the goods on the shelves and leave it to the customers to figure out what to drink, the staff here drinks -- and thinks about -- its beery inventory. As a result, burgeoning beer geeks can get great advice with their selections, all of which are kept in top condition.

Drinkers wanting the latest buzz get their kicks with the honey wines made by David Myers at his Redstone Meadery. Once an at-home mead maker, Myers has turned his avocation into a vocation. His not-too-sweet bottled and draft meads are making the elixir accessible to the masses while turning Myers into the area's newest brewing revolutionary. Beowulf would be proud.

Finally, a local brew for the wimpy Mexican beer drinkers among us! The H.C. Berger Brewing Co., usually known for its German-style beers, recently turned its eyes south and came up with Federales Export Cervesa Pils-ner. The beer's even poured into clear, longneck twelve-ounce bottles -- the better to grab all those folks who usually reach for a Corona or Pacifico. While still a little heavier, and definitely hoppier, than those Mexican beers, Federales is a good homegrown alternative.

When Peter Coors visited the town in Germany whence the original Adolph Coors sprang, he liked the local lager. So he brought some back to Golden and gave it to the boys in the lab. "Can we make this?" he asked. Turned out they could -- and the result is Barmen, a very rare brew available in only a handful of places (among them the Brown Palace, the Bull & Bush and 240 Union) -- and only on tap. Since the brew isn't advertised, you have to ask for it by name; you'll also need to be patient, since it's a seven-minute pour. Real men drink Barmen.

For local beer hunters, no other bar touches the array of brews you can bag at Falling Rock. Owners Chris and Steve Black offer a palate-perplexing roster of over 70 draft beers and another 200-plus bottled versions; they eschew mass-market swill in favor of the best in national and craft beers. A year-round Great Global Beer Festival is as close as LoDo.

The warmth of the Mountain Sun lies in its intoxicating list of in-house beers. Brewer Mike Altman makes a dizzying selection of assertive, cut-no-corners beers, from the hoppy Colorado Kind to a toothy Scotch ale and a glorious, coffee-enhanced porter. As if that weren't enough exceptional brew, the house also serves a guest list of Colorado's best microbrews -- a bold move that other local brewpubs should emulate.

Don't tell Adam Avery that the thrill-seeking spirit of the craft-beer boom has faded. Adam builds his company's growing sales (and national reputation) on big beers that challenge the most jaded palates. His IPA is a world classic, his stout lives up to its Out of Bounds title, and Hog Heaven barley wine is one of the country's hoppiest beers. That high-octane wonder is now joined by the Reverend and the new Salvation, Belgian-style gonzo ales that overflow with flavor and alcohol. Avery's been very, very good to extreme beer nuts.
This long-lived watering hole combines three of bar culture's better merits -- alcohol, televised sports and a convivial pub vibe -- for a pleasing new hybrid. But it's the in-house beer that elevates the Bull & Bush to all-star status and keeps regulars coming back year after year. Head brewer Gabe Moline crafts a long list of exceptional beers, most of them English-style ales rich with hops, flavor and true-to-style character. Moline's ESB, IPA and strong ales are superb, as are the B&B's brown ale and various breeds of wheat beer. D-town beer nuts can find no better place for filling their growlers than the Bush. Bully!

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