Has Denver finally surpassed Boulder as a beer city? Is Portland next?
Denver has always been a center of the beer-making world. From our rip-roaring past to the Great American Beer Festival to the beer-fueled redevelopment of LoDo. But until recently, you could have argued that Boulder was a better craft beer town.
Dusting a firkin at Hops & Pie.
In 2011, Denver surpassed its smaller, hipper neighbor to the northwest, both in the number of breweries (the first time in a long time that we've been able to make this claim) and with the culture that goes along with craft beer drinking. As 2012 approaches, Denver has fourteen breweries within its city limits, according to the Colorado Brewers Guild (although I count fifteen), while Boulder has nine.
Four of Denver's breweries -- Denver Beer Co, Wit's End, Caution and Renegade -- bubbled up in 2011, and there are already seven that have announced their intentions to open (or move to Denver) in 2012. Many more are in the early planning stages.
More important than quantity, though, is the way Denver's beer culture has grown, changed and matured in a very short time.
Hundreds of new tap handles were added in 2010 and 2011 at beer-centric restaurants like Ale House at Amato's, Freshcraft, Hops & Pie, Euclid Hall, Yard House and Mellow Mushroom, and more on on their way in 2012 (watch for Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House, opening in February or March). But that was just the beginning. Many of these spots now bring in rare and special beers, host tap takeovers and special events and lure celebrity brewery owners on a regular basis; and Hops & Pie is in the midst of doubling its size, while Euclid Hall added a massive tap handle sign a few months ago.
Even bars that typically favored mass market beers are slowly recognizing the importance of catering to craft beers, especially Colorado-brewed beers. Choppers, Blake Street Vault and Boone's Tavern all revamped their tap lists in 2011.