Food News

This Man Visited 37 Places in 32 Days on a Fish & Chips (With Beer) Quest

Colorado Beer Guy Paul Myhill did a deep dive into the local fish and chips scene.
Colorado Beer Guy Paul Myhill did a deep dive into the local fish and chips scene. Paul Myhill
Paul Myhill goes hard. Also known as the Colorado Beer Guy, he's previously visited 365 breweries in 365 days, gone on a 46-day beer-only fast, and completed a quest to visit every Colorado brewery and taproom, which took eighteen months to complete.

His latest endeavor took him on a more food-centric journey, as he spent a month visiting as many spots as possible in metro Denver that offer fish and chips, based on recommendations via social media and his own research. He ended up trying the offerings at 37 places in 32 days, pairing beers with all that fried food at all but one stop, which does not serve booze.

Myhill's fish and chips knowledge goes back to childhood. "I was born in Bedford, U.K. (near London) to British parents of Scottish, Irish and English descent," he writes. "I still have fond memories of going to pubs as a child and then hitting a chippy afterwards for a full fish and chips, or for just chips with curry sauce."

After his family moved to Texas in the 1970s, his fish and chips cravings continued. "Absent decent local choices, we found ourselves settling for places like Long John Silver’s at least once a week. Quite the struggle!" he shares.

He returned to England in the early 1990s, opening an American-themed pub and restaurant in Cambridgeshire that offered over a dozen beers on tap, 100 bottled beers, and a take on fish and chips with American-style fries.

During that time, he also traveled frequently to Yorkshire, which is "the county known as the mecca and standard of British fish and chips," Myhill notes. There he enjoyed "what true fish and chips was supposed to be — full beer-battered fillets, deep-fried with beef dripping and served with hand-cut, brined chips from Maris Piper potatoes or something similar. The chips were as much the star of the show as the fish was."
click to enlarge
GB Fish & Chips is a popular local chain, and one spot where you can get a banger on the side.
Paul Myhill
He's also eaten his way through the fish and chips options in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Wisconsin, as well as other countries around the world as he traveled doing charity work with orphans and child slaves. "As a result, I think I’ve tried just about every notable variation on 'British' fish and chips around the world," he says. "I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert, but as a well-traveled Brit, I feel I truly know my fish and chips."

Myhill has lived in Colorado for over two decades now, and though he's eaten plenty of fish and chips in the area during that time, this quest took him to both new spots and ones he'd visited before.

"There’s a big difference between American fish and chips and British fish and chips," Myhill explains. "My lifelong experience with traditional British fish and chips is one of full fillets (not carved-up 'logs,' as I call them), hand-cut chips (not frozen French fries), and a fryer oil composed with at least some beef tallow (beef dripping) or lard. The beer batter has to be crispy, not thick and spongy, and with just a little oil retention, not like a soggy/greasy sponge. The fish itself has to be what you’d expect it to be — flavorful, flaky and moist. It’s quite an art to get the right balance of batter to fish and the right balance of crisp and moist. When done right, that’s what makes fish and chips so downright enjoyable."

And so the ideal fish and chips experience can be broken down into three components. First, the fish. "I want to appreciate that specific fish, not logs from multiple random fish," Myhill says of his preference for full fillets. "I want to enjoy a particular catch, not a commodity." But full fillets are rare in the U.S., and that proved true in this quest, as well.

The type of fish is also important. "Traditional fish and chips is either cod or haddock, with a general preference for haddock the further north you go in Britain," Myhill notes. "A couple of places on the quest didn’t disclose on the menu that their fish is pollock, or some other type of inferior whitefish, instead of the traditional cod or haddock. To me, that’s a real shame. You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and just order meat and potatoes, would you? You’d want to know what kind of meat it was, and maybe what the specific cut is. I wish fish and chips was looked at the same way."
click to enlarge
For gluten-free fish and chips, Myhill recommends West Main Taproom + Grill in Parker.
Paul Myhill
The second major component: the oil and batter used. Myhill has a strong preference for England's traditional thin, light and crispy exterior fried in beef dripping, or at least in oil with some beef drippings added. "It sounds quite unhealthy, but beef dripping is very rich in nutrients and natural anti-inflammatory compounds. My maternal grandmother almost lived to 100, and her favorite thing during the week for breakfast was to spread the prior Sunday’s beef dripping on her toast each morning," he recalls.

On this quest, "I saw all kinds of variations on the batter, from the spongy grease trap to pleasantly light and crisp. The ones who seemed to do the worst in this regard in the Denver area were typically part of larger chains," he shares. "Some places try to differentiate themselves with beer batter/breadcrumb/cracker hybrids. Off with their heads! In Britain, breadcrumb fish is reserved for the frozen-food aisle or flatfish like plaice and sole. A nice, juicy fillet of cod or haddock should never suffer the indignity of breadcrumbs or crushed crackers."

Finally, you cannot overlook the chips portion of a superior fish and chips. "There’s a reason that fish and chips shops in Britain and Ireland are called 'the chippy' or 'chippies.' When so much attention and pride is taken to make sure the chips offering is great and can be served on their own or with a good curry sauce or Bisto brown gravy, I believe the American version should at least try to honor that tradition, also," Myhill explains. "Battered fries are the bane of my existence, and shoestring fries are an insult to humanity."

This is where Denver's offerings really fell short. "None of the places I visited, even those claiming or closely resembling chippy status, offered what I’d consider to be truly authentic British-style, hand-cut chips," Myhill says. He did find a few hand-cut varieties that were pleasing in other ways, though.

He also found a handful of places that satisfied his cravings for the ideal combination of solid fish, chips and beer. But "none of these craving-satisfying choices are truly perfect, and they would have difficulty competing in Whitby, Yorkshire or in many other places around the United Kingdom and Ireland," he admits.

His conclusion: "Maybe I should open my own."

Here's a breakdown of Myhill's (not perfect, but craving-worthy) favorites for fish and chips in the Denver area:
click to enlarge
Yorkshire Fish & Chips was one of the standouts of the quest.
Paul Myhill

For the British pub experience: "There’s really only one in that category for me — Burns Pub in Broomfield. For the 'with beer' part of the quest, Burns also has a very nice selection of British beers on hand." Honorable mention: the British Bulldog.

For a more typical American tavern version: "It’s the Old Blinking Light in Highlands Ranch. The duck-fat chips, in particular. ... Probably because the duck fat emulates the traditional beef-dripping oil I was accustomed to in my youth."

For the American experience, a Walleye fry: "I’m undoubtedly heading to Henry’s Pub in Loveland."

Best-tasting cod:
"Hands down, the Icelandic cod from Yorkshire Fish & Chips in Denver, served as two long cuts of the fillet loin. ... I’d prefer the full fillet, and I wish they’d also hand-cut their own chips, but the fish was very satisfying."

Best gluten-free batter: "West Main Taproom + Grill in Parker, which uses a five-flour blend to achieve what I rarely see in gluten-free fish and chips. For those who want their gluten fix there, also, they offer 54 taps of Colorado beers, representing Colorado’s 54 14ers."

Upscale fish and chips: "Water Grill is at the top of my list. Everybody else who tried to take a traditional dish and make it unique and fancy didn’t quite hit the mark, in my opinion."

Brewery fish and chips: "It was Wynkoop Brewing in Denver for me, with the only butterfly-cut fillet (both sides of the fish) I experienced on the quest. Standard fries on offer, but the fish cut was nice, unique and satisfying."

Chippy (a spot serving only fish and chips): "Reelfish in Lafayette. ... [It] also scratched the good-beer itch."

Bonus recommendations: "My other alter-ego on Facebook is the Colorado Banger & Burger Guy. Given my heritage, I love a good British banger sausage, and they’re equally hard to find here. But I was very pleased to be able to get a deep-fried banger with my fish and chips at The Chippy in Colorado Springs, and a banger on the side with my fish and chips at GB Fish & Chips in Denver (plus other locations)."

To scroll through photos of every stop on Myhill's quest, visit his Facebook album.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin

Latest Stories