Ratio Beerworks
Danielle Lirette

Ratio Beerworks suffered during the pandemic, but that suffering only seems to have made the hip RiNo staple even stronger. Built on a simple but well-crafted slate of solid beer choices (some with a twist), Ratio also has a unique style aesthetic, a killer patio, and an eye-opening arts and music-driven vibe. The brewery now regularly cans its beer, helping it find a larger audience, while a city street closure gave it a larger outdoor space. In 2021, Ratio has added a new and highly respected head brewer, and it will soon open a second location in south Denver — moves that will only elevate this already high-flying fun factory.

Best Brewery Taproom — Beer
New Image Brewing

New Image Brewing releases beers at a frenetic pace — and with blasts of creativity. One week it's an impossibly rich, dessert-like stout, and the next it's an unfathomably complex take on a hazy IPA or a fruit-laden tart beer. Over the past two years, as the brewery added a production facility nearby, it took its beers to another level — not just in quality, consistency and palate-pleasing flavors, but with endless experimentation into process, ingredients and technique. And that means anything could be in store for the rest of 2021.

Best Brewery Taproom —Atmosphere
Courtesy of Raíces Brewing

We have yet to meet anyone who hasn't had a good time at Raíces Brewing. That's because there's almost always something special happening here, either inside or on the patio, which provides views of the South Platte River, Mile High Stadium and an industrial neighborhood turning industrial-chic. Sometimes it's Latin dancing or live music; at other times it's a community or political forum, acting classes, an art show or a soccer party. And then there are the food trucks, featuring cuisine from all over Latin America. But Raíces — one of Colorado's only Latino-owned breweries — is also beautiful, boasting high-arched ceilings, massive windows with sweeping views, murals, a stage and an elegant, tree-themed light fixture that can change colors depending on what flag or idea it is honoring. Oh, and the beer is lovely as well.

Best Brewery Taproom — Patio
Michael Emery Hecker

Ground-bound patios don't really stand a chance when it comes to competing with their lofty rooftop counterparts — something the owners of Joyride Brewing knew when they first opened in 2014 and made plans to build a big deck on the roof. That dream became reality in 2019: The rooftop patio boasts not only its own bar with sixteen taps and room for 150 people, but stunning views that take in Denver's skyline to the east, busy Sloan's Lake Park just across the street, and Pikes Peak to the south (on a clear day). Get up there and have a beer!

TRVE Brewing
Danielle Lirette

TRVE Brewing has such a long, skinny space — it's just eighteen feet across — that it didn't make sense to seat people indoors for most of 2020. And the brewery has, or had, no patio seating whatsoever. But as 2021 rolled around, TRVE took over the back-alley parking lot of a neighboring business and installed the Dumpster Garden, a weekend-only pop-up outdoor beer garden featuring its cans and bottles. It was the most perfectly named, perfectly themed outdoor drinking spot for a dumpster fire of a year.

Westbound & Down Brewing Company
Westbound & Down Brewing Company Facebook

As winter approached during the pandemic, breweries rushed to install tents, domes, greenhouses or other enclosures that would allow them to seat people indoors — while outdoors — and still comply with social distancing rules. Westbound & Down Brewing took it to a whole other level, however, building a set of massive but elegant wooden barrels that came complete with heaters, Bluetooth speakers and room for six to sit and enjoy beer, fondue or other dishes from the brewpub. The Barrel Experience, as it was called, was a hit, and could live on at Westbound's second location, now under construction in Lafayette.

Tennyson Street has changed a lot in the past five years — for better and for worse. One of the better changes has been the growth of a quality craft-beer scene that was bolstered in 2019 by two new breweries — FlyteCo Brewing and the Empourium Brewing — bringing the total to five between 38th and 46th avenues. Your best bet for a crawl? Start at FlyteCo, on 38th, and head north to the Empourium, the Grateful Gnome, De Steeg and Call to Arms. All have in-house or nearby food options, and among the five, you can find just about any style of lager or ale.

Best Brewery for a Flight
Jonathan Shikes

Oh, did you think we meant a flight of beers? No, we meant a flight, like in an airplane. Since opening in 2019, FlyteCo Brewing's aviation theme has really taken off — and includes not just a salvaged plane wing at the entrance, runway striping on the floor and other aeronautical details, but a custom-built replica of the fuselage of a plane. Inside are jump seats, tables and plane windows where beer drinkers can gaze out at other customers. But you can order that flight of beers, too — in a carrier shaped like an airplane, of course.

Acova
Danielle Lirette

Kids are weird. They're hungry when you're not, and when you finally get them rounded up to head to their favorite restaurant, they clam up and claim they're not hungry the moment the server arrives. When you ask what they want to eat, they shrug and say, "Whatever." At Acova, that answer will get them a PB & J sandwich with a side. And "I'm not hungry" will land them a kid-sized cheeseburger with fries. You get the idea: Acova's kids' menu takes standard annoying answers and turns them into the names of dishes — which just might elicit a smile and get the young ones engaged in the family dinner. The only problem? Now you have to get them to choose a side dish. Unfortunately, "I hate you, Daddy," won't result in potato salad.

Best Restaurant Patio
Westword

Typically, hunkering down over burgers and drinks inside the dark and atmospheric bar at this venerable Denver institution is the way to go, but My Brother's Bar earns the distinction of best patio because right now it's all patio. The Newman family, who in 2017 took over from the Karagas brothers (who'd bought Denver's oldest bar almost fifty years earlier), hasn't seated guests inside since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but they added heated domes and tents to an extended patio that took over part of the parking lot to give guests a cozy way to enjoy jalapeño cream cheese burgers and pitchers of beer in safety and comfort throughout the winter. Of course, the bar has always had a great patio — sheltered, shaded and surrounded by hop vines — so even when customers can finally go back inside, they may decide to stay outside for one more round.

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