The past year was an unusual one for breweries in Denver. At least one (Goldspot) was sold, while three others (Deep Draft, Beryl's and Zephyr) closed and were reopened with new owners and new names (Thirsty Monk, 14er Brewing and Blue Tile, respectively). But despite the changes and the overall slowdown in the craft-beer industry, Denver boasted a substantial group of brand-new breweries. In addition to the three names above, the city has welcomed Oasis Brewing, Long Table Brewing, the Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe & Brewery, Burns Family Artisan Ales, Dos Luces, Novel Strand Brewing, Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers, a new Odell Brewing taproom and a New Belgium Brewing pilot system. Then there's Tom's Urban Kitchen & Brewery, with beer made by an outlet of Tivoli Brewing, that's up and running at Denver International Airport, and the Cultural Center, a joint project of Westbound & Down and Amalgam Brewing that will host events and serve beer during occasional taproom hours.
What will 2019 bring? More breweries, of course — although the pace may run behind 2018's surprising clip. The upcoming year could also hold bad news, as there are a few local breweries teetering on the edge. Even if some of them close, however, Denver clearly hasn't lost its thirst for the delicious buzz of craft beer. Here are eight new breweries (some of them from familiar names) that will open their doors in the new year.
2801 Walnut Street
14er Brewing, which didn't have a location to call its own in 2017, made some big leaps in 2018, first by opening a rudimentary tasting room at 2801 Walnut Street, and then by taking over the lease and equipment of the former Beryl's Beer Company at 3120 Blake Street. Owners Andrew Kaczmarek and Nato Francescato have now morphed that second spot into the rebranded 14er Brewing and Beer Garden are planning a grand-reopening party in February or March. But they are also hoping to begin work in January on a full remodel of the Walnut location, which they hope to turn into a showplace for sour beers later in the year.
4499 West 38th Avenue
Jason Slingsby, Eric Serani and Morgan O'Sullivan have signed on to open a 4,000-square-foot brewery inside the former Merkl's garage at the corner of 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, which is being redeveloped into a project that will include three businesses; construction is being carried out by Built, which has done several other spectacular breweries. Before becoming Merkl's, the building was a streetcar power station and is in a perfect position to be a gateway to the Tennyson Street shopping district. It will join the Grateful Gnome, De Steeg Brewing, Call to Arms Brewing and the upcoming Empourium Brewing (see below) in the neighborhood. Before changing its name to FlyteCo, this brewery in planning was called Aero Craft.
Counter Culture Brewing
205 East Seventh Avenue
The word "counterculture" usually describes anti-establishment movements (think of those social upheavals of the 1960s), but in the case of Counter Culture Brewing, it refers to an actual counter where people will be able to order lunch or dinner from this planned brewpub's small kitchen. In fact, owners Kevin McCrossin and Justin Martinez picked this neighborhood in part because of its focus on food, and they will offer made-from-scratch plates from a wood grill. But there will also be beer, of course. The two have purchased a ten-hectoliter brewhouse (about 8.5 barrels), and although both have worked in the beer industry, they plan to hire a professional brewer to oversee the beers — of which they hope to have a wide variety.
The Empourium Brewing Company
4210 Tennyson Street
The Empourium, which is currently under construction, will join an already bustling craft-beer scene on Tennyson Street. Located right across the street from César Chávez park in the former Rocky Mountain Driveline building, the brewery will focus on "the local community, our brand culture, and of course the beer." It will come complete with garage doors and a south-facing patio. The brewing, meanwhile, will be headed up by a brewmaster whose name is under wraps for now but who has won several awards at another brewery.
Jade Mountain Brewing
1925 South Rosemary Street
Denver native Sean Guerrero moved to Huzhou, China, several years ago to be close to his wife's family. It was there that he opened his own small brewery, making beers flavored with Chinese spices, fruits, vegetables and tea. The family has since returned to Denver and will open an American version of the brewery. The 1,700-square-foot space has high ceilings, a garage door and a patio. Guerrero will begin with a very small one-barrel brewing system and grow from there. Among other beers, he plans to make an IPA using jasmine tea, a bamboo lager, dragonfruit and lychee ales, and a saison brewed with the fragrant flowers of the sweet osmanthus tree, which blooms in the fall in China, making entire towns smell like oranges, vanilla and citrus.
2060 West Colfax Avenue
Raices Brewing has signed on to be part of a huge development in the Sun Valley neighborhood, next to Mile High Stadium, and the owners — Jose Beteta, Tamil Maldonado and Martin Vargas — hope to cross cultural divides in the same way that city planners are trying to finally connect this long-forgotten neighborhood to the rest of Denver. All three owners are Latino, a rarity in craft breweries, and they plan to celebrate that heritage with their beers, cultural programming and food trucks that visit. Raices will occupy an existing 6,000-square-foot building in the 3.2-acre Steam on the Platte project. It will include a fifteen-barrel brewhouse and three patios, one of which will be a 3,500-square-foot outdoor space that will lead down to the river.
River North Brewery
3400 Blake Street
After three and a half years in exile, River North Brewery, which was founded in 2012, is returning to its namesake neighborhood — where much has changed — with a new space that is exactly ten blocks from its original location at 2401 Blake Street. The new brewery and taproom will include a seven-barrel brewhouse, a wraparound patio and a private event space. It will serve small-batch beers only available in the taproom, including stouts, sours, hazy IPAs and some of the Belgian-inspired beers that River North has become known for. The brewery will also continue to run its current production and packaging plant at 6021 Washington Street, where it has also been operating a taproom for the past few years. “We used to be a gateway to RiNo from the south,” owner Matthew Hess points out. “Now we’ll be a gateway from the north.”
Westbound & Down
956 Santa Fe Drive
At the end of 2015, the owners of Westbound & Down Brewing teamed up with the historic Buffalo Restaurant and Bar in Idaho Springs on a joint spot in the Buffalo’s old location. Next year, Westbound will make the trek down the hill to open a second, more upscale spot in Denver. The two-and-a-half-story building will include a taproom and bar with a limited menu on the first floor, and a larger sit-down space with more elevated, experimental dishes upstairs — all paired with the brewery’s beer. And that beer will be a little different from what Westbound serves in the mountains. Using a new ten-barrel brewhouse, brewer Jake Gardner plans to experiment a little more and make some “extreme” beers along with some of the brewery’s tried-and-true favorites. The location will have 24 taps, some of them serving Westbound's sours.