Best Brewery for Parties 2018 | Ratio Beerworks | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

When it comes to house parties, there are mellow kickbacks that all blend together and the ragers that make for unforgettable stories. Brewery parties divide much the same way, and Ratio knows how to do both right. The gorgeously decorated brewery oozes a vital, electric vibe, even on a slow day...but there aren't many of those. In a rare quiet time, Ratio is a good spot to gather with friends. But the brewery also hosts concerts, comedy and beer parties, like the Cool Beans Beer and Coffee Fest and the Genius Wizard Release, which give a new meaning to the term "beer bash." Careful planning, a smart staff and great beer make Ratio's events can't-miss dates on your craft-beer calendar.

Jess Blackwell Photography

Kent and Greg Dawson opened their two-story Jefferson Park brewpub in 2016, serving spot-on beers and an ambitious menu of small plates that may have been a bit much for the neighborhood. But over time, the food roster has solidified into something a little more approachable without getting too close to boring alehouse standards. Don't come looking for bangers and mash or shepherd's pie; instead, be ready for shrimp corndogs, a brined-and-smoked pork cut dubbed the "ham-chop," and a surprising vegetarian bibimbap, with Korean flavors that play well with the house brews. Of those, a Belgian-style dubbel is a rare find, while Sour Seoul — made with Asian pear and a hint of chiles — is one of the most unusual yet food-friendly beers around.

Readers' Choice: 10 Barrel Brewing

Just a few years ago, most beer drinkers would have thought their beer had gone bad if they tasted something sour, but these days many craft breweries are fermenting sour and funky batches based on such classic European styles as lambic, oud bruin, Flanders red, gose, Berlinerweisse and others. You can tour the state's breweries hoping to find something special, or you can pull up a bar stool at this Five Points quencher, whose name is Dutch for "good acid." Goed Zuur has one of the most complete lineups of sour beers anywhere in the world, so you can sample bottles of rare originals from Belgium, Germany and Italy or try pours of newer, more experimental brews from Colorado and other U.S. makers. Offset the sour with housemade baguettes and a sampler flight of butters, then pucker up for another round of tart, refreshing and straight-up oddball beers.

Danielle Lirette

Laws Whiskey House bills itself as a grain-to-glass distillery, a phrase you might be tempted to deride as meaningless, given that all distilled spirits start with grain. But pop into the tasting room, and you'll hear the lore behind the whiskeys, down to the names of the farmers who grow the wheat, corn, barley and rye. The operation even gives a nod to its growers with the Farmers Select Single Barrel, a run managed by the farmers who grow and malt Laws's rye. Much of what goes into these whiskeys is grown in Colorado, helping to create an award-winning core line as well as one-off experiments.

Readers' Choice: Leopold Bros.

When the Family Jones rolled into LoHi, it gave Denver a unique offering: a high-end bar program built entirely on spirits made in-house. The ambitious endeavor is only possible because of the staffing: Rob Masters, a top talent in Colorado distilling, runs the still, while Nick Touch, who cut his teeth at Williams & Graham, oversees the bar. The duo collaborates on what's coming off the line, with Touch giving real-time feedback on how spirits work in cocktails as well as driving the development of such staples as triple sec and a substitute for vermouth. You don't have to be a geek to enjoy the creative cocktails and twists on classics that serve as a showcase for the results; just settle into a plush booth, order something from the creative food menu to go with your cocktails, and join the family.

Mark Antonation

In a cavernous brick building that was once a factory, Chad and Marla Yetka built a winery and wine bar named after their departed golden retriever, Bigsby. The wine list at Bigsby's Folly isn't lengthy or built on big-name vintages; instead, you'll find a selection of varietals made from California-grown grapes, some created on site and some crafted at the company's satellite winery in the San Francisco Bay area. A slate of wine-friendly dishes, including flatbreads, sandwiches and antipasto boards, helps round out the experience, so you can judge your favorite food-and-wine pairings before taking home a vintage-labeled bottle or growler filled from the wine tap.

Readers' Choice: LaLa's Wine Bar + Pizzeria

Molly Martin

Yes, Locale Boulder's older sibling, Frasca Food and Wine, has an indomitable cellar, lovingly tended by master sommelier and owner Bobby Stuckey, with the help of a sizable wine team. But Locale's list gets the nod because it shows off how well this crew can edit. The Italian-heavy roster was built with pizza in mind, traversing both classics and palate-expanding rarities at price points befitting a pie parlor. There's plenty to explore in the by-the-glass offerings, some of which are poured on tap; half-glass serving sizes enable a wander through the breadth. The bottle list offers further variety and great value; several options ring in below $50. And, as at Frasca, obsessive attention has gone toward ensuring that wines are served at the proper temperature and in good glassware, making it all the more pleasurable to drink. The kicker: If you ask nicely, you can access Frasca's cellar at Locale, too.

Readers' Choice: Mercantile Dining & Provision

Best Unexpected Restaurant Wine List

Hop Alley

Molly Martin

With its hip-hop vibe and tricked-out Chinese food, Hop Alley immediately strikes you as more of a cocktail-and-beer joint. But it's the wine list — with an assist from the well-rounded cider program — that keeps us bellying up to the bar. Juicy high-acid whites like riesling and chenin blanc, bold Rhône varietals like syrah, and a robust list of sparkling options are ideal partners for the spicy-sour-sweet dishes coming out of the kitchen, and they make up nearly half of the offerings. But Hop Alley has also given the hip-hop treatment to its vinous offerings, offering plenty of interesting finds: orange wine, large-format stunners, odd varietals, even a white Zinfandel. We keep plumbing the depths of this list and have yet to hit even a mediocre bottle.


Annette began garnering acclaim the moment it opened its doors, as fans flocked to Stanley Marketplace for chef Caroline Glover's inventive flavors and wood-fired cooking, served in a warm space with a homey vibe. Her pursuit of excellence extends to happy hour, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Afternoons see Glover serving a beefed-up menu of snacks not available during dinner service. Recent seasonal highlights include the grilled cheese, which layers grilled mild rye with sharp cheddar, sweet apples and caramelized onions; and the egg salad toast, a deli-style lunch offering that Glover improves with the toasty notes of the bread and a layer of paper-thin radishes that add a crisp bite. The centerpiece of the menu, though, is one of the best steak frites in town, built on a generous heap of addictive and crispy pencil-thin fries, then topped with a refreshing arugula salad.

Readers' Choice: There...

Oh Hey Creative

Cart-Driver's tiny shipping-container space ensures that the wood-fired pizzeria always feels full, but never is it more lively than between 10 p.m. and midnight. That's when it puts out a roster of late-night happy-hour deals that lure in a thrumming crowd, composed heavily of industry types getting off shifts at nearby eateries. During these hours, you can score a $5 Daisy (Cart-Driver's answer to the Napolitano-style margherita), a $5 rye Manhattan and a $5 pilsner plus a shot of Fernet. But don't miss the $5 plate of sardines and freshly baked bread, served with butter and sambal. For us, that's the ultimate late-night snack.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

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