Second Helpings

Wynkoop Brewing Company preserves the roots of Colorado's craft beer scene

In this week's review of Ale House at Amato's, I reminisce about family trips to the original Breckenridge Brewery, where my parents would take my brother and me after forcing us to enjoy the great outdoors. Thanks to my dad's love of brewpubs, though, we also made regular trips to a Denver-based forerunner of the craft beer scene: the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

We went there as a special treat for burgers and pool lessons, which my dad would conduct on the tables upstairs. And though Wynkoop has expanded over the years, the feel of -- and my experience with -- the place hasn't changed much over the years: I still spend the occasional evening with a cue stick in hand while I drink what's on tap and order from the pub food menu.

But I was nervous that the old spot -- with its worn and uneven wooden floors, brick walls and perpetual darkness -- would lose something when Wynkoop merged with Breckenridge at the end of last year to capitalize on Breckenridge's experience with distributing beer outside of the restaurant while divulging knowledge of how to run good restaurants. Luckily, though, both entities preserved their own identities in the deal, and while Wynkoop's added Breckenridge brews to the list -- plus suggested beer pairings on the actual menu -- it's still, mostly, the same old place.

I stopped by a few weeks ago to meet some friends for rounds of pool, shuffleboard and darts. After a round of crisp, beer-battered onion rings -- which come, happily, with molten queso -- I pondered the quinoa-crusted shepherd's pie and the IPA-battered fish and chips, both of which are before settling on my old standby order: the buffalo burger. (The menu recommends pairing bison with the Railyard Ale, an amber, but I find it goes just as well with the B3K Black Lager or London Calling IPA). Served a juicy medium rare patty on a hot bun with lettuce and tomato, it's simple and tastes like Colorado to me, just like Wynkoop.

In a city of rapidly evolving craft breweries, I'm glad this brewery has preserved a bit of the state's beery roots. I hope that never changes.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk