Best Italian Winery in Denver
Courtesy of Attimo

Colorado has its own vineyard and wineries, mostly on the Western Slope, but when Snooze co-founder Jon Schlegel decided to plunge into the world of wine, he looked abroad, and ended up living in Italy to learn the business. As a result, all the wines at his year-old winery in the Ballpark neighborhood start with grapes from the rolling hillsides of Italy. They're crushed there, too, before the liquid is shipped to Denver for resting, blending and aging. So when you enjoy a glass or a bottle at the winery, you're drinking Barolos, Nebbiolos, Barbarescos and other wines made according to Italian tradition and with 100 percent Italian ingredients.

Best Winery for Dog Lovers
Mark Antonation

Chad and Marla Yetka named their urban winery after their first precious pooch, Bigsby the golden retriever. His image can be found — with pipe, top hat and tie — on the winery's bottles, above the bar and on the sign gracing the venerable brick building facing the light rail line in RiNo. Bigsby is long gone, but you can hang out with other pups on the patios at Bigsby's Folly or just bring your own, provided your pet follows in the footsteps of that perfect gentle-dog namesake. The wines, made from California-sourced grapes, are worthy of praise, too. And with a full food menu, Bigsby's is a great destination whether you're just in for a few sips or looking for dinner, drinks and celebrations. RiNo is going to the dogs, and that's a good thing.

Haykin Family Cider
Mark Antonation

Ashmead's Kernel, Dabinett, Porter's Perfection and Ruby Jon. Are these racehorses getting ready for the Kentucky Derby, or canine Best of Show winners? No, they're just a few of the many apple varieties — some of which are grown and harvested in Colorado — that Talia and Daniel Haykin use to make sparkling ciders that rival wine in complexity, aroma and food-friendly balance. You can find Haykin ciders at some of Denver's finest restaurants (a testament to their quality), on liquor store shelves and at the Aurora cidery, making it easy to pair them with your own culinary creations at home.

Laws Whiskey House
Danielle Lirette

Whiskey doesn't get much more Colorado than Laws. The distillery works with specific farmers in the San Luis Valley and on the eastern plains to source corn, rye, wheat and barley for its lineup of spirits. Those heirloom grains give the whiskeys (all Laws makes) a distinct terroir, bolstered by years in oak barrels. Laws was the first distillery in Colorado to produce a "bottled in bond" bourbon, meeting strict criteria for ingredients, age and provenance, and the attention to detail shows in each rich and complex sip.

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.

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