Best Colorado Distillery 2023 | Golden Moon Distillery | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Navigation
Courtesy Golden Moon

When Stephen Gould and Karen Knight launched Golden Moon Distillery in early 2008, the husband-and-wife team started small. Fast-forward fifteen years, and the pair has expanded its spirit offerings and added a speakeasy in downtown Golden that works as both a trendy bar and a tasting room for the distillery's vast portfolio. Many of the spirits are made using historical recipes and techniques, thanks to Gould's collection of rare books on distillation and concoctions, some dating back to the 1500s. Taste the dedication by sipping drams of REDUX Absinthe, Amer dit Picon and Ex Gratia Génépi. The lineup of whiskeys is just as delightful, and Golden Moon's gin is one of the best in its category.

The Unfound Door

Daniel and Talia Haykin officially opened Haykin Family Cider, which has a simple tasting room in an industrial part of Aurora, in February 2018. Here, Haykin produces single-variety ciders from apples (many of them grown in Colorado) that are picked, pressed and fermented in season, allowing the distinct flavor of each to shine through. Crisp, clean, complex flavors make Haykin the Champagne of ciders — and it can be found sold in champagne bottles at liquor stores across the region.

Danico Brewing

Nikki Harwood and Dave Lotierzo made lemonade out of lemons, so to speak, when they ran into COVID-related delays in opening their new brewery. The additional planning time allowed them to find their ideal builder, and after a smooth construction process, Danico Brewing opened in late 2022. The pair brought on veteran brewmaster Chris Kennedy, launching Danico with one of the best-tasting lineups for a fledgling brewery in recent memory, with delicious beers like Front Porch Porter and Tookah the Tucker Munich Dunkel. Both are available among the dozen or so rotating brews available in the gleaming taproom, with its groovy mountain-like, turquoise-accented backdrop and comfy back-supported bar stools. Pair these excellent brews with a snack from one of the food trucks that pull up outside.

Cannonball Creek Brewing

Cannonball Creek has long been known for making hop-forward beers, and making them well. But in recent years, the brewery has expanded its menu to focus more on lagers — which, not surprisingly, are very good, too. From Dad Squad pils to Let's Talk About Mex!, you can always find tasty options here. The brewery mixes in a few other interesting styles, from Belgian golden beer to porters and saisons, that will tempt those looking to venture outside the realm of IPAs and lagers. You'll have to go directly to the source for these beers, as Cannonball Creek doesn't distribute cans, and you'll rarely find a keg outside of the taproom. The upside is beer that's always fresh, and the Golden location is prime for pre- or post-outdoor adventures, with a lively crowd and rotating food trucks.

Matt Peck @hopternal

Coloradans are fortunate to have quite a few high-quality producers of specialized beers, from makers of barrel-aged stouts and Belgian, English, German or Czech-style brews to South American and Mexican-focused breweries and, of course, IPA houses. Some of the most dedicated to the craft are Brandon and Lisa Boldt, who have built a real gem at Primitive Beer in Longmont, producing some of the best spontaneously fermented beer in the world. Primitive is also home to one of the best guest beer lists in the state, complementing its more singular focus and giving visitors to the brewery a variety of options.

Goed Zuur made a strong impression on the beer scene when it opened just over five years ago. The sour beer and cheese bar was launched by chef Anthony Lopiccolo and John Fayman. Fayman was already well known for opening Backcountry Pizza & Taphouse in Boulder, but Lopiccolo is getting his time in the spotlight now with a special chef's tasting counter — a three-part series that explores his life through food. Goed Zuur has always been more than a beer bar, though, and projects like the tasting counter really highlight the team's range and risk tolerance. The beer cellar list is also deep and frequently updated, with top-notch selections from around the globe.

Sarah Cowell
Cohesion's dark lager poured in the mlíko way.

Over the years, many American breweries have tried to convey to drinkers the difference between hladinka and mlíko pours, or the importance of foam on beer in general. But Cohesion is the first that truly seems to resonate with customers. And while the beers are on point and authentically accurate — from the local, undermodified malt to the open fermentation, decoction mashing, horizontal lagering, natural carbonation and unfiltered finish served from side pull taps — the quality of service really stands out. How many times have customers initially paused and questioned the healthy amount of foam that comes with these beers? The same number of times that the team here has happily explained that it's traditional in the Czech Republic, as it protects and enhances the flavor.

Raíces Brewing Company

Raíces means "roots'' in Spanish, and that describes why we love this Latino-owned and -operated brewery so much. Along with crafting delicious cervezas, Raíces supports Denver's Latino community with a lineup of food trucks outside dishing up Mexican, Puerto Rican and Central and South American fare. The brewery also hosts Spanish-language and Latina book clubs, hosts pan-Latin artisan vendors every Saturday, and more. If you're looking for that "mi casa, su casa" ambience, make Raíces your go-to.

Kelly Buening

Warm season is Kölsch season. No, not the spiced and/or fruited ales that too often unnecessarily use the name, but the delicate, clean, crisp, slightly hoppy pale beers served in 200-milliliter (6.7-ounce) cylindrical glasses called stangen. In Cologne, servers (or köbes) will pour an endless stream of these fresh beers, one after another, while marking them off on coasters until patrons cover their glass with the coaster to signal that they've had enough. Fritz Family Brewers, along with a handful of other local breweries, started offering this service in 2022. What separated Fritz from the pack was the use of a single dedicated server, which means no long waits between beers, and the kind of personalized service you'd expect in Cologne — albeit a little friendlier than the notorious köbes of the Rhine. The beer is damn good, too, snagging one of our top beers of 2022 slots.

Coda Brewing

A beer made with mushrooms might sound strange at first, but the delicate, earthy, fruity flavors of chanterelle mushrooms pair perfectly with Coda Brewing owner/brewer Luke Smith's choice of the base style, Bière de Garde. The portion of the batch that was packaged sold out very quickly, thanks to popularity among the local foraging community, but there has been plenty of this unique beer available on draft. The beer changes over time, developing notes of plum, apricot, fig and, according to Smith, "Big League Chew bubble gum" as it ages like a fine wine. The mushrooms are either locally sourced or, during all-too-frequent dry spells in Colorado, purchased from the lush growing region of the Pacific Northwest.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of