4 Noses Brewing Company

Founded in 2014 by Tommy Bibliowicz and his family, 4 Noses has steadily grown over the past two years, building both its beer selection and its reputation. In 2016, the brewery's Pump Action Imperial Pumpkin Ale swept the two most prestigious beer competitions, winning gold at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. But pumpkin beers are just the beginning. What the brewery has really become known for are its IPAs, including 'Bout Damn Time, a canned flagship that is one of the most delicious representations of the style in Colorado, and .44 Magnum Double IPA. 4 Noses also started an Ad Hoc series of creative and experimental beers, and turns out other solid cans, like Laika Boss Russian Imperial Stout, and draft-only one-offs served in the lovely, cozy taproom. Thanks to those four noses, the brewery's profile will continue to get higher in 2017.

Little Machine Beer
Courtesy Little Machine Beer Facebook

Robots make some people nervous, but not at Little Machine Beer, where their faces decorate the tap handles and their images run throughout the brewery. In fact, Little Machine has one of the most laid-back, friendliest atmospheres around — in addition to great beer across a wide range of styles. Part of that is the result of the tone set by owners Mike Dunkly, Brett Williams and Ben Chenard, but it's also because of the unique circular bar (made from a single honey locust tree), a centerpiece that allows twenty to thirty people to sit around and face one another. Comfy chairs and couches, a patio and big garage doors complete the vibe.

Declaration Brewing Company
Miles Chrisinger

Declaration Brewing, which renamed its taproom Preamble by Declaration last year, has one of the most spacious and well-thought-out drinking areas in Denver, complete with games, TVs and a snowboard theme. Two enormous garage doors open up onto a large, relaxing oasis of a gated side patio, filled with well-shaded tables, potted flowers, a ping-pong table, a spacious grassy area for cornhole and other lawn games, backyard lights, and a pad set aside just for food trucks. There's also a grand mural of Uncle Sam, who wants YOU to drink beer here. The casual outdoor area is basically the picture that would be next to the encyclopedia entry for "brewery patio in Denver," if there were such an entry.

When you order a Bierstadt Lagerhaus lager inside the Rackhouse Pub, which serves as its taproom, you're not just getting delicious liquid: You're getting an experience. The flagship here is the Slow-Pour Pils, which is served in a very specific seventeen-ounce glass and topped, after at least five minutes of pouring, with a creamy head that resembles the top of a fluffy cupcake. But the pils isn't alone: Although Bierstadt doesn't make a lot of beers, each one is carefully crafted and carefully presented, each in its own glassware, from a sold Helles mug to a tall, thin and dainty Baltic porter glass. And the glassware doesn't end there. Any bar or restaurant that wants to serve Bierstadt beer also has to use the glasses. That's dedication.

Uturn BBQ
Courtesy of Uturn BBQ

In retrospect, the idea to open a brewery with a drive-thru window for beer and food is so genius, it's amazing that no one had thought of it before. Last year, the Trapp family, who run a Boulder restaurant construction company, took over an old Burger King in Lafayette and turned it into a restaurant, with a patio, that serves the Trapps' favorite food: barbecue. But they didn't stop there. They also retrofitted that drive-thru so that you can get single cans or a whole six-pack of their beers when you pick up your burnt ends or brisket to go. U-Turn makes two styles, a dark and a light, both of which pair well with the food. As the Trapp motto goes: Keeping It Simple.

Second Home Kitchen and Bar
Hunter Stevens

Just about every boozy brunch joint in this town offers some kind of bottomless-mimosa deal, and most follow this basic formula: Mix a little cheap sparkling wine and a strong pour of OJ, repeat several times, and three hours later, you need to nap until tomorrow. Second Home may very well get you to that outcome, but there are a couple of reasons to opt for this $14 all-you-can-drink deal over others. One, the restaurant serves a quartet of juices and doesn't require you stick to one, which means you can stray from the typical orange into cranberry, pineapple or grapefruit (or mix of a couple of these, like pineapple and orange). Two, the restaurant lets you designate your own ratio of sparkling to juice, which overcomes our biggest complaint about most bottomless mimosas: too much OJ, not enough wine. Fill 'er up to the top, please, and then give us a splash of juice. You get your money's worth quickly that way. And three, if you need that nap, you can book a room upstairs in the JW Marriott that houses Second Home.

Readers' Choice: The Lobby

Westbound & Down Brewing Company
Westbound & Down Brewing Company Facebook

What happens when a high-caliber chef like Scott Parker leaves an excellent restaurant like Table 6 and decamps for a brewery kitchen in Idaho Springs? You get a brewpub that's worth a stop, whether you're drinking or not. Westbound and Down deals in sports-bar classics — nachos, pretzels, chili and burgers — and each dish is executed by an exacting hand, resulting in a menu that's elevated in quality but not unnecessarily fancified. This food is immensely comforting, and ideal for pairing with an IPA after a hike or a day on the slopes. Friendly bartenders will set you right, plotting you a course through a trough of green-chile cheese fries littered with pork shoulder; housemade charcuterie ;and a buffalo burger paved with white cheddar. We never miss the hot-fried chicken, either: The poultry comes peppered with lip-tickling spice and sided with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit plus one additional side. Get the mac and cheese — the classic spirals in creamy cheddar are the platonic ideal of the version you loved as a kid.

Readers' Choice: Wynkoop Brewing Company

The Truffle Table
Danielle Lirette

You already know that the cheese collection is stellar at the Truffle Table's slice of space; how could it be otherwise, with proprietors who made their name running a wildly successful artisan cheese shop? But this neighborhood gem should also be on the radar of wine-lovers...even those who are allergic to dairy. We favor wine bars with thoughtful by-the-glass lists, and the Truffle Table delivers on that requirement. Its seasonally shifting list is well-balanced between old world and new world, strange and familiar, voluptuous and restrained. Curated with cheese in mind (of course), the list also has a strong section of sherries and fortified wines that you'll want to peruse, particularly if you like strong, funky cheeses. One of our favorite ways to play here: Pick a wine and then ask a staffer to build a cheese board based on your selection. Or do it the other way around, leading with cheese, and discover something new on the wine front.

Readers' Choice: Vesta

Distillery 291

In his past life, Distillery 291 proprietor Michael Myers was a celebrity photographer, but he'd acquired a fascination with whiskey and the West when he was a kid in Tennessee. In 2011, he moved to Colorado with his sons, and that September he launched 291, with a goal of capturing classic pioneering spirit in every bottle. Distillery 291's whiskeys certainly carry a whiff of Colorado — they're finished on aspen staves, which impart a bit of forest to the nose — and we're fascinated by the clarity of these spirits, a quality that make them comparable to Japanese whiskeys. You taste the precision through the entire line, from the lightly aged and mildly sweet American whiskey to the heady, woodsy Colorado bourbon. The spirits are a delight to sip neat or on the rocks, and their unique character makes us look forward to this operation's next release, be it a happy accident, like the recent high rye bourbon, or something intentional and unusual.

Readers' Choice: Stranahan's

The Populist
Courtesy The Populist Facebook page

Restaurant by-the-glass selections often prioritize accessibility and familiarity — chardonnay, cabernet, sauvignon blanc — and make you venture into the cellar to find something truly interesting to drink. Not so at the Populist, whose by-the-glass list is an immediate standout. Wines from unsung regions like Lebanon and New Mexico get equal billing with Rhone reds and Napa Valley whites here, forming an alluring and well-rounded board of offerings that will please wine geeks and novices alike. And talk about half-full: This restaurant offers every single pour in a half-glass size, which means you can both taste more and taste to educate yourself, sipping something totally different from what you'd normally order without having to commit to a bottle. Don't read this as a call to completely ignore the Populist's bottle list, though, because a few more unusual gems are listed alongside more classic showstoppers from Mosel, Chianti and Burgundy. Better yet, almost everything is priced below $100 per bottle, and the majority of these wines ring in under $60.

Readers' Choice: Nocturne

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