Odell Brewing Co.
Jonathan Shikes

It's almost not fair when the class president shows up late to the party with a six-pack of beer for everyone. How do you even compete? But that's what happened when the thirty-year-old Odell Brewing opened its new taproom and pilot brewhouse on upper Larimer. Built in a two-story restored brick building next to Shake Shack and boasting a second-floor patio, vibrant murals inside and out, and a lineup of its own modern, experimental beers (alongside Odell's classics), the Fort Collins brewery knew exactly what it was doing, and it did it right. At least this class president is pretty cool.

Readers' Choice: Dos Luces Brewery

Cerveceria Colorado
Courtesy Cerveceria Colorado Facebook

Chins were scratched and eyebrows raised last May when Denver Beer Co. closed the barrel room next door to its always-packed LoHi location and replaced it with a separately run taphouse pouring only beers with Mexican-inspired ingredients and collaborations with Mexican breweries. Even more curious was the overt political message that Cerveceria Colorado brought with it: Build bridges, not walls. But the spot has worked well on both levels. Not only is it doing its best to foster inclusion, bilingualism and multiculturalism with special events and charity nights, but DBC is supplying the brightly colored beer hall with some refreshingly different and delicious cervezas, including an horchata blonde, a cactus wheat and a churro stout. What's next? Look for more bridges — and canned beers coming soon.

Best New Brewery With Old-School Traditions

Dos Luces Brewery

Dos Luces Brewery
Mark Antonation

When it comes to corn, the past year has been the best of times and the worst of times for beer. The worst came with Bud Light's disastrous Super Bowl commercial blasting corn syrup in its competitors' brands...and the #corntroversey that followed. The best came with the elevation of chicha — a pre-Columbian blue-corn-based fermented beverage — into the national spotlight, thanks in part to Dos Luces Brewery and the corny focus of owner Judd Belstock. The brewery itself — and, yes, it is a brewery, because chicha and its cousin, the maguey sap-based pulque, are indeed beers — is one of the most beautiful and interesting spaces in Denver. And the liquid? Let's just say you need to try it to understand it, and once you do, it's hard not to be a fan. The chicha varieties are light and fruity, as they are brewed with everything from passion fruit, strawberry, lime and pumpkin to chile, cacao nibs, cloves and cinnamon.

Liberati Osteria defies classification. It shrugs off convention and laughs at categorization. Is this an Italian restaurant in a brewery or the other way around? Are the beers themselves also wines? Is this traditional Italian cuisine or a modern twist? Oh, and who makes savory cannolis filled with fish rather than ricotta, anyway? Luckily, the answers don't matter — only the experience does. Liberati not only turns out its own housemade fresh mozzarella, bread, salumi, sausage and gelato, but it's also turning brewing on its head with beer/wine hybrids that owner Alex Liberati calls oenobeers. And they will trick and delight all of your senses as you smell and taste these creations, all of which are brewed with both grapes and grains. But don't let it bother you: By the end of the evening, you won't care about the difference anymore.

Novel Strand Brewing Company
Novel Strand Brewing Company

With its big windows, potted plants and laptop-toting customers, Novel Strand feels more like a community center/coffee shop than a brewery. And it actually is a coffee shop for most of the day: Queen City Collective Coffee turns out steaming mugs from this adorable corner location in the Baker neighborhood all morning and afternoon. But in the back, the beating heart of the new brewery pumps out beer — really good beer. Balanced and elegant, with an easy likability, Novel Strand's brews are mostly hoppy (though there are some other styles) but very approachable. In the evening, the brewery turns into a cozy neighborhood spot, complete with food trucks.

The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe & Brewery
Jonathan Shikes

Beer is America's workhorse beverage, and sandwiches are its workhorse meal. Both have been taken apart, deconstructed, reconstructed, improved on, and sometimes over-thought and overwrought. But not at the Grateful Gnome. At this casual brewery/deli/sports bar, you'll find solid, straightforward beers like a blonde, a brown, a weiss and an IPA, along with a few simple variations like the session stout, the petite barleywine and the hibiscus saison. You'll also find a massive list of classic sandwiches — chicken parm, Taylor ham, turkey club, capicola and ham — done so perfectly that they'll end up in your sexy food dreams. The Gnome is Gno joke.

Baere Brewing Company

You can find breweries in just about any kind of building in Colorado — big and small, a century old or just a few weeks new. There are former hotels, auto shops and churches, an airplane hangar and a Buddhist temple. There are farmhouses, firehouses and schoolhouses, business parks, and, yes, strip malls. Probably no brewery has embraced that strip-mall ethos quite like Baere Brewing, however. Squarely in the middle of what is, sorry, a pretty ugly retail strip along Broadway, Baere tongue-in-cheekily brews a beer called Strip Mall Pale Ale and describes its location thus: "Next to Dunkin Donuts; across from 7-11. A great place to hang out while: doing laundry at Cycles; getting your car washed at Waterworks; preening at Paris Nails; having coffee at Sugar Bakeshop." Baere's beer, though, is anything but nondescript. While you can order traditional styles, like a brown, a saison, a dunkel and an IPA, give some of the more exotic beers a try, like the mixed-culture saison, the wild ales and the Berliner weisse.

Primitive Beer
Jonathan Shikes

Passion projects are typically full of vim and vigor, coming in fully carbonated and ready to bubble over. Brandon and Lisa Boldt's project is certainly full of vim and vigor, but carbonation is not in the equation — which might be considered a little strange in the beer world. Last April the couple, who both have full-time jobs at other breweries, opened Primitive Beer, a small blending facility and taproom that turns out uncarbonated sour lambic-style ales. Most of these unusual Belgian-style beers are aged in wooden puncheons for nine months to three years, and you can drink them by the glass or by the pitcher — or you can take them home in plastic bags secured inside a box. Yep, that's weird, too, but delicious, and also part of an old Belgian tradition. Wanna get really wild? Take the bag out of the box and give it a slap before drinking right from the nozzle. The gorgeous taproom is only open four days a month, so plan ahead.

Alternation Brewing takes the cake for best vegan-friendly brewery without even serving food. Even though Alternation doesn't have a kitchen of its own, Wong Way Veg, Vegan Van, Migration Taco, Veggie Yeti and other plant-friendly food trucks are always around serving meat-free grub. Vegan events, such as dairy-free-cheese and beer pairings, beer dinners and vegan meetup groups, are hosted here as well. For its For the Animals milk stout, Alternation swaps in almond milk for the traditional lactose that gives the style its creaminess; the vegan-friendly twist has been done in many variations, including candy cane, gingerbread, Oreo, s'more and salted caramel.

Haykin Family Cider
Mark Antonation

You don't need a fancy tasting room to produce good cider. You just need good apples, a press and the patience to polish your craft over years of fruit harvests. Daniel and Talia Haykin learned about making cider from Colorado apples first, perfecting their recipes at home and winning awards along the way. Since opening their Aurora cidery in 2017, the couple has continued to win fans with single-apple varietals and blends from specific growers that have the complexity of wine and the terroir of Colorado's orchards. Visit the bare-bones Haykin tasting room to experience flavors ranging from butter to banana to rich tropical fruits and from tart to semi-sweet, or pick up a corked bottle at a specialty liquor store to pair with your favorite home-cooked meals. Even some of Denver's most lauded eateries are catching on, so you can sip Haykin cider along with food from a growing list of chefs.

Readers' Choice: Stem Ciders

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