The Family Jones
Danielle Lirette

Most tasting rooms are little more than extensions of the distilleries themselves, but this space is a standout. The Family Jones Spirit House was the first distillery-restaurant in metro Denver, and its tasting room is actually a posh and inviting eatery. The distilling equipment towers over the bar on a mezzanine level, its shiny copper reminiscent of a church's pipe organ. Below, neat pours of the distillery's many products — some of which have never been bottled for sale outside the establishment — can be sampled alongside creative cocktails. If you fancy a bite to eat, so much the better, since the food menu is on par with the booze.

Best New Brewery Taproom
Wild Provisions Beer Project

They don't give Michelin stars for taprooms, but maybe they should. Because Wild Provisions Beer Project is certainly "worthy" of a detour, as the famous French restaurant guide suggests for its rated restaurants. An offshoot of 4 Noses Brewing, Wild Provisions, which opened in May 2020, specializes in two different styles of beer with centuries-old traditions: Belgian wild ales and Czech lagers. Both are brewed here using extremely specialized equipment, including a decoction mashing system, horizontal lagering tanks, open-topped fermenters and two coolships. The gorgeous taproom is just as well thought-out, with a wood-paneled half-circle bar and traditional side-pull, Czech-style faucet taps. Make the detour.

Best New Brewpub
Courtesy of Spice Trade Brewery

Spice Trade Brewery has unusual roots: It was born inside Arvada's Yak & Yeti Restaurant, brewing beers made with herbs and spices to complement the Indian and Nepalese food. So it made sense that when the brewery opened its own distinct location in May 2020, it would push these flavors even further. The new Spice Trade, set in an airy corner spot and bursting with color and electricity, offers rotating street food and dishes from around the world, including everything from Thai wings and char siu barbecue to Moroccan tagine and butter chicken arancini. Pair them with beers like Tamarind Belgian Dubbel, Sichuan Saison and Chai Milk Stout, and you have a party in your mouth.

Best Brewery for Grilling Your Own Grub
Factotum Brewhouse

After a one-year hiatus, Factotum Brewhouse has resurrected its Grill and Swill program, wherein you bring your own steaks, burgers, dogs or veggies and fire 'em up on one of the brewery's propane grills (which come complete with utensils). Don't want to tote your own plates or condiments? Factotum will rent you some — and serve you all the beer you need for a proper backyard patio hang. "It's just like going to the park," the brewery says, "except the beer is fresher, the picnic tables are sturdier and the bathrooms are fancier."

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.

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