The Passport aims to serve as a road map to Denver drinking, and to lure you into establishments you haven't yet patronized. Deals come from breweries, distilleries and bars in neighborhoods all over the city, and they give you access to cocktails, beer, wine and whiskey. Here are ten highlights that we think make the Passport especially worthwhile this year, though our aim, of course, is to let no page in the Passport go unstamped. Pick up your Passport via the program's website.
Adelitas Cocina y Cantina and Palenque Mezcaleria — The Fortaleza Coin
Adelitas and Palenque were our Best Bars for Agave Spirits in this year's Best of Denver, and the Fortaleza coin is a great way to sample an introduction to what's on offer at these spots. Then move on to the rest of the cocktail list, which consists entirely of drinks made without agave syrup or processed sugars.
Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales — IPA
Black Project was once a special project from Former Future, but its popularity was such that it replaced the brewery whence it came. The South Broadway brewery specializes in wild ales, letting its yeast cultures evolve naturally from batch to batch, which means you'll find some of the more unique beer currently being brewed in Denver. After your IPA, taste something sour or barrel-aged.
Call to Arms Brewing Co. — Any Core Pint
The owners of Call to Arms set out to create a neighborhood pub, and the busy taproom often has the slightly unruly and energetic feel of a beloved local hangout: You might spot a book club meeting, an impromptu band practice and a first date, all in one night. Core pints, as Call to Arms explains, rotate, and might include anything from an IPA to an oatmeal porter to a saison. You can upgrade to a more expensive pour, but your free beer has to be from that core line.
Cerebral Brewing — Core Beers
Cerebral's beers range from fairly traditional to pretty wild, but the brewery especially shines when it comes to hazy IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Summer is the perfect season for IPA, and Cerebral's Rare Trait IPA is a core beer included in the passport deal. Graduate to one of the others on tap, or explore the rest of the lineup, which rotates frequently.
Colt & Gray — Drinks From a Bigger Boat
Ste. Ellie — Neo-Classics
The Passport is already built to share, but Colt & Gray is upping the ante by offering shareable drinks at a two-for-one value (hence, Drinks From a Bigger Boat). When you're done, head on down to Ste. Ellie and have a neo-classic, which bar manager Kevin Burke describes as drinks from the modern cocktail era — the strawberry-and-bourbon-infused Kentucky Buck, for example, or the Penicillin, which matches Scotch with lemon, ginger and honey.
Fort Greene Bar — Cranes in the Sky Cocktail
Tucked into a moody space along the main Globeville strip, Fort Greene serves up well-crafted cocktails and a hip vibe, and it remains relatively underrated, which makes it a great place to while away an evening. Your Passport gets you the Cranes in the Sky — a blend of Lee Spirits dry gin, Cardamaro, orange curaçao, floral bitters and soda water, garnished with an orange twist.
Hearth & Dram — Bartender’s Choice
Whiskey anchors the drinks program at Hearth & Dram; the bar stocks more than 300 varieties, which pair with a menu centered on wood-fired cooking. After your bartender's-choice cocktail, work your way through bourbon and Scotch options, or choose something from the cocktail menu, where you'll find more whiskey, but plenty of other spirits as well.
Laws Whiskey House — Flights
Tasting-room hours are limited at Laws Whiskey House; the doors are open for short, irregular windows Thursday through Sunday (see the Laws website for exact times). Planning a visit for a taste or two pays off, though, as it gets you access to this distillery's core bourbon and rye plus interesting experiments, like a wheat whiskey and a single-barrel bourbon chosen by the farmers who supply the ingredients. Taste them all in a flight, then pick up a bottle of your favorite to take home.
Sarto's — Aperitivo Hour Drinks, Drafts, Wines by the Glass, Spritzes and Season Cocktails
Sarto's is probably the best place on this Passport for pleasing a crowd, since it's offering a variety of two-for-one options. We'd head straight for the spritz section; the Italian restaurant makes one of the best Aperol spritzes in town, and its Campari Americano is nothing to sneeze at, either.
TRVE Brewing Company — Pints
TRVE bills itself as a heavy-metal brewery and carries its bold persona into its brewing, putting out innovative beers with names culled from the same musical genre. Don't miss the mixed-culture offerings, made in the Acid Temple on the west side of town, which is dedicated to sours, wild ales, barrel aging and funk.
By the way, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have their own versions of the Passport. Boulder's gets you access to places like Arcana, Pizzeria Locale and Upslope; the Fort Collins booklet takes you through Elliot's Martini Bar, Funkwerks and New Belgium; and in Colorado Springs you can land at spots like the Blue Star, Bristol Brewing and the Whistle Pig.