A Rocky Mountain Beer Tour

I’m going to make a bold statement:

The United States has really good beer. Spectacularly good beer, possibly the best beer in the entire world.

We like to keep it a secret though. If you’ve never visited the US there’s a pretty good chance you think I’m a lunatic. The stuff we export: Budweiser, Miller, Coors, is a dismal representation of what we’re capable of. Actually, we keep all the really great beers for ourselves.

When you’re in the US though, you can find the good stuff all around. Microbreweris are popping up everywhere, and the popularity of craft beers is exploding. Last year in Charleston we found some great brews, and Denver Colorado is another hotspot for interesting beers.

It was lucky for me then, that Visit Denver organized a beer themed road rally for TBEX attendees. Part scavanger hunter, part pub crawl, our day of beer sampling took us from Denver to Keystone and hit a lot of brewery highlights along the way.

Rocky Mountain sky
The rockies have a lot of sky and beer.

First, and biggest of all, was of course…


My inner beer snob came out as we pulled up to the massive Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. The acres of shining metal before us were actually the largest brewery in the entire world. I cracked a few jokes about watery beer and “tasting the rockies,” but managed to control myself during the tour. Two things shut me up:

Blue Moon. How could I forget that Coors makes Blue Moon, my generic bar beer of choice? The original Blue Moon brewery actually exists in Rocky Stadium…

Colorado Native. Just like the US hordes it’s good beers, Coors only sells it’s very best beer in Colorado state. Everyone in my group really enjoyed Colorado Native, a lager made with only local Colorado ingredients.

Oskar Blues

We didn’t visit the Oskar Blues brewery, instead we enjoyed their brews in an iconic location: Red Rocks Amphitheater.

 So freaking gorgeous. I’m adding “Attend a concert at Red Rocks” to my non-existent bucket list.

Oskar Blues themselves are pretty interesting. They hold themselves responsible for the “Canned-Beer Apocalypse,” aka they decided to put their craft beers in cans instead of bottles. Formerly canned beer has been mainly crappy mass-produced stuff (see: Coors Light). But cans have many strong points: they are easier to cool, they protect beer from light, they’re recyclable and super portable.

Their most famous beer is Dale’s Pale Ale, but Mike and I both enjoyed Old Chub Scotch Ale in it’s full canny goodness.

Tommyknocker Brewery

One of our last stops was the wonderful Tommyknocker brew pub in the old mining town of Idaho Springs (they are not named after the Stephen King book, but after the tiny elfs that miners used to believe lived in the mines). Even though Idaho Springs is tiny the pub was bustling with lunch patrons enjoying beer and monster delicious jalapeno poppers.

Tommyknockers is my favorite kind of beer maker: a small microbrewery making interesting beers thoughtfully. The emphasis drinkable “session beers” over high concept high alcohol sipping beers. I particularly liked the Nice Saison Seasonal Ale and the Butt Head Bock.

Tommyknockers is now available in the New York area so I’m on a mission to find some this week!

The only downside to drinking out in the Rocky Mountains? The altitude. I can’t tell you the exact science behind if but beer is fizzier up there, it takes up more room in your stomach and even 1 beer can make you feel horribly bloated. I found I couldn’t drink nearly as well as I usually can which was disappointing.

There were a lot more local beers during our trip to Colorado, most of which I lost track of the names of (again, I blame the altitude). I guess that’s just an excuse for another trip to the Rockies for some more extensive beer tasting…


Thank you to Visit Denver for arranging the brewery tour.

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18 thoughts on “A Rocky Mountain Beer Tour”

  1. In the UK all I’ve ever had it horrid tasting imports, so to hear about such good tasting crisp beers makings me contemplate that maybe we’re missing out.

    It’s hard to find a good beer that travels well.

  2. I am a big fan of Old Chub and I totally agree with your opening statement. American beer has made huge strides in the last 20 years (it used to be crap). But today, there is no place in the world that makes better beer than the USA. And when you take into consideration the wide variety of styles and choices, you can make a strong argument that America makes the best beer in the world. Sounds like a great tour, but I can think of several other EXCELLENT breweries not mentioned above in that area of Colorado. Too bad you missed them.

  3. You really should have visited Fort Collins. New Belgium, Odell, FCB, Funkwerks, Equinox. You have to see the Napa Valley of beer next time.

  4. I often order Blue Moon too and I had no idea Coors made it! Crazy! Sounds like a fun tour, even if the altitude made things a little difficult.

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