I had initially set off to Colorado for my brother’s downtown Denver wedding and thought I’d extend the trip to include summiting a few ‘fourteeners’ and visit Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes National Parks, but the week following the reception quickly turned into how many outstanding Colorado Breweries I could visit.

For anyone who has been hiding under a rock for the past 15 years, we are living in the golden age of beer. And Colorado is arguably at the epicenter of this very fine micro-brewery explosion.

Oskar Blues, Lyons

Famous for being the first microbrew sold in cans rather than bottles, Dale’s Pale Ale is a cult classic. But let’s focus more on how good Oskar Blues beer taste rather than its packaging. Although the majority of the brewing process takes place at a larger facility in Longmont, you can still visit the original brewery in Lyons, on the edge of Rocky Mountains. Oskar Blues is a friendly and passionate family and they keep it real by keeping it local, selling their used grain to area pig farmers and having a pig roast at the brew pub. And if you were wondering, Oscar and Blues were the name of Dale’s dogs.

colorado beer

The sampler at Left Hand in Longmont

Left Hand, Longmont

The modesty of the folks up at Left Hand Brewery in Longmont amazed me. How could they brew such tasty beer and remain so modest? Their beer speaks for itself and production is small enough to remain trendy, but big enough to distribute to 28 states. Hope you live in one of them.

Longmont also keeps it local, hosting a farmers market in their parking lot once a week. Left Hand was named in honor of Chief Niwot, whose tribe wintered in the local area. (The name is derived from the southern Arapahoe word Niwot meaning left hand.) Go ahead and stop by the brewery and taste the milk stout that has made them famous.

 

Avery, Boulder

It’s hard not to love these guys. Their beer is phenomenal and they make so many varieties. Thanks to their dollar four-ounce tasters at the brewery taproom, you can taste a decent selection and remain on your feet while saving enough money to visit the other fantastic breweries in Boulder (but why would you want to leave Avery?). The server carefully carried nine different brews to our table outside, which somehow is quite enjoyable despite the industrial park-like setting. Don’t leave without trying the Maharaja, their Imperial IPA.

 

New Belgium, Fort Collins

This one I hit a few years back. They’ve expanded quite a bit since I visited, and now lucky folks as far away as North Carolina can imbibe. Their brewery in Fort Collins is environmentally sustainable, running completely on wind power and the company is employee owned. They’re famous for that old school mountain bike on the label of their flagship Fat Tire brew, but crank out some nice seasonal brews as well.