Best Brewery Taproom 2018 | Cerebral Brewing | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

Even with all of its breweries, Denver needed a place that was cultured but unpretentious, intellectual but neighborhood-focused, nerdy but not condescending, something...cerebral. Oh, and with fantastic beer. That's what it got with Cerebral Brewing, a mellow spot just off Colfax Avenue that is making some of Denver's best beer and presenting it in a fun, relaxed taproom. From its hop-bombs to its luscious stouts and sophisticated saisons, Cerebral has a menu that has been gathering national accolades from magazines, fellow breweries and craft-beer fans. But Cerebral and head brewer Sean Buchan are probably best known for their hazy, hoppy offerings. Although that style of beer is trendy right now, it was Cerebral's style from the get-go, when the brewery opened back in 2015. The flagship IPA, Rare Trait, is a luscious, tropical showpiece with very little bitterness and plenty of balance.

Readers' Choice: 105 West Brewing

Danielle Lirette

With more than seventy breweries in Denver alone, competition is getting tough, so any new kids on the block need to go big when they open — or go home. And big is just where Jordan Fink and Chad Moore went when they opened Woods Boss in August 2017. The spacious taproom is centered around three massive slabs of redwood; two make up a stunning 21-foot-long bar, while the third, beautifully finished and sided by couches, serves as a long communal table. But the decor isn't the only thing that sets Woods Boss apart. From the beginning, the brewery has been serving a wide variety of high-quality brews that range from such classics as an amber, a porter and a brown to more creative styles, like a Belgian tripel, a New England-style IPA and a sour.

Readers' Choice: Denver Beer Co. Arvada

Brandon Marshall

Take one part industrial chic and toss in a few ounces of hipster cool, a few ounces of your British uncle's library and carefully planned nonchalance, and you've got the design style of Our Mutual Friend, which was founded in 2012 and is now one of the oldest breweries in RiNo. But Our Mutual Friend doesn't rely on its reputation; it pays attention to little things, too, like the planter pots on the bar and the lights hanging outdoors that make you feel like summer will never end. Our Mutual Friend not only brings the beer — it won two Great American Beer Festival awards in three years — but an ideal, comfortable atmosphere for enjoying its brews.

Strange Craft Beer Company and Wit's End Brewing — which opened in 2010 and 2011, respectively — pioneered the taproom explosion that has taken place over the past eight years, and Strange owner Tim Myers and Wit's End owner Scott Witsoe, two of the nicest guys in the industry, have been friends ever since. So it made sense that when Witsoe decided to step away from his own space last October, he'd move his business in with Strange. Now the dynamic duo hopes that the co-taproom will offer small breweries a new model to emulate in a very competitive industry, and they'll have twice as many good beers to do it with.

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

Sarah Cowell

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

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