With 2018 halfway done, we're looking back at six months of thirst-quenching, creative and satisfying drinks in new bars, taprooms and beer gardens throughout Denver. We're not content to imbibe boring booze or sit in the same tired sports bars. Instead, we're attracted to bold flavors, new ideas, expert craftsmanship and generous hospitality. Here are the ten best new bars of 2018, so far:
2706 Larimer Street
Three of Denver's bar elite teamed up to open American Bonded this spring. Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham, Kevin Burke, formerly of Ste. Ellie and Colt & Gray, and Justin Anthony of Matchbox combined their talents and sensibilities to add a welcoming and inexpensive option to Larimer Street. While Kenyon and Burke have previously soared in the stratosphere of craft cocktails, here they stay grounded in the classics while presenting a wide range of American whiskeys. Anthony's populist leanings at Matchbox get a slight bump, but not at the expense of still feeling overwrought or exclusive.
Big Trouble (inside Zeppelin Station)
3501 Wazee Street
On the ground floor of Zeppelin Station, you can take your pick of Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Quebecois or Hawaiian cuisines, topped off with some Italian gelato — but you're going to need something to wash it all down with. Climb the stairs to Big Trouble for Asian-themed cocktails sporting pop-culture names from movies, television and comics. Bring friends for "We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat," a massive punch bowl on dry ice that will take a team to conquer. Big Trouble? Big Fun!
2845 Walnut Street
Booz Hall is the first of its kind: a collection of several tasting rooms for Colorado wine and spirits producers under one roof. The opening lineup comprises Jackrabbit Hill Winery, 3 Hundred Days of Shine, Rising Sun Distillery, Woods High Mountain Distillery and State 38 Distillery, all offering samples of their wares, plus mixed drinks and special pours hard to come by elsewhere in the city. Taste your way through the delights of Colorado's boozy variety — from Hotchkiss to Salida, Golden to Monument — without ever leaving the building.
Canopy comes from bar expert Greg Gallagher, who also launched the Roosevelt, Gaslamp and Front Porch, all comfortable and unpretentious watering holes that combine a welcoming vibe and attention to detail that rises above standard neighborhood joints. Canopy fits right into the Broadway scene, where bar-hoppers can stop in and almost certainly run into friends, or linger a little longer in the cozy booths.
1635 Platte Street
This is a side project from the beer experts at Denver Beer Co. next door, and the focus is the flavors of Mexico. The starting point is clean and refreshing lager perfect for a hot summer day, but the brewers explore international styles while adding rare ingredients from Mexico for surprising bursts of boldness. In a city full of experimental beers, Cerveceria Colorado stands out for its roots in tradition and eye to the future of brewing.
Dead Battery Club
2420 17th Street
Dead Battery Club straddles the line between every-man and elegant in a long, narrow space that asks you to unplug and unwind. Although the DBC, operated by the same team that brought Carbon Cafe & Bar and Habit Doughnut Dispensary to Platte Street, is an all-day cafe, cocktail seekers will want to hit happy hour, when the joint fills with office workers, service-industry folks and neighbors for a casual and lively time.
Death & Co
1280 25th Street
Surround yourself in the opulence and luxury of the Ramble Hotel while sipping a cleverly crafted cocktail at the bar or in a cushy lounge seat at Death & Co, which was founded in New York City and planted its second flag in Denver in May. Choose from a drinks menu that starts with "Fresh and Lively" and moves through "Light and Playful" and "Elegant and Timeless" before landing on "Rich and Comforting," just like the bar itself.
Haykin Family Cider
12001 East 33rd Avenue, Aurora
This hidden cider house doesn't win points for its grand decor or hip location; it's just a simple tasting room in a warehouse in an industrial part of Aurora. You're not going to see and be seen, but rather to experience some of the most wonderful expressions of Colorado apples to make it into glass and bottle. Haykin produces single-variety ciders from apples picked, pressed and fermented in season, allowing the distinct flavor of each apple to shine through. Crisp, clean, complex flavors make Haykin the Champagne of ciders. We're not the only ones who have fallen in love with the tiny cidery; at this year's Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (the Oscars of cider), Haykin took home multiple medals, including gold for its Akane and Sansa varieties.
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Red Rocks Beer Garden
116 Stone Street, Morrison
When this secluded cottage and beer garden opened in April, it became an instant destination for day-trippers, concert-goers and neighbors in Morrison. A tight selection of local beers and a dappled patio off the town's main drag are the main draws here. With a spot in the shade and a pint in hand, you might forget all about your Red Rocks tickets.
Tap Fourteen Colorado Beer Garden
400 East 19th Avenue
Tap Fourteen opened its second Denver beer bar in January, following the original on the rooftop of Hayter's at 1920 Blake Street. This one is on street level, so it lacks the views of the LoDo location, but the wrap-around patio makes an ideal spot for neighbors and their pooches to wander in for a cold brew or two. Seventy tap handles make decisions a little tough, but you'll never want for something original, and the kitchen goes a step above standard taproom fare.