Has Denver finally surpassed Boulder as a beer city? Is Portland next?

Categories: Beer Man

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Dusting a firkin at Hops & Pie.
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.

Not anymore.

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.

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14 comments
Jon S
Jon S

I just don't think Colorado's beer scene is city specific.When anyone refers to "local" breweries they pretty much are referring to the state. Not sure if there is really any point in comparing cities.

And for the Portland thing, who cares. I've said it before, but if you took the very best brewery in all of Oregon (whichever is your preference) and stuck it in Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder or Longmont, it would AT BEST be the 3rd best brewery in any one of those cities.

BeerCraving
BeerCraving

All the recently opened breweries in Denver are world class and we welcome them with open arms.  When I moved to Denver from Boulder a few years ago I was surprised at the lack of breweries in Denver.  Now I hear about a new brewery opening or in planning every few weeks.  Keep em' coming.  We're stoked to hear Cheeky Monk is opening the Three Saints Brewery on Colfax.

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

So, Denver, with some 600,000 residents, has 14 breweries, and Boulder, with just under 100,000 residents, has 9.  Which one is the better "beer city"?  The whole idea of competition is dumb, I prefer to think of us all as a beery front range.  But crowing about Denver being "better" because it has more gross numbers, when it doesn't come close in terms of per capita, seems pretty silly.

Eastsider
Eastsider

I believe Copper Kettle opened up in 2011 as well

GFTW
GFTW

Weird. I've never been aware of Boulder as a beer city. OTOH, Fort Collins has long been regarded as one.

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

Exactly re "local".  As a Boulder resident, I don't think of Oskar Blues or Left Hand as not local simply because they're a few miles away.  There is a bit more of a divide between Boulder and Denver and Ft Collins, beer-wise, but only in the same way that there is a physical and cultural divide between them as well.  Still, when I am at Liquor Mart wanting to "buy local", all of the front range breweries count as local to me.

SillyisasSillydoes
SillyisasSillydoes

Well, ok, if we calculate the ratio of population per brewery, Boulder wins.

But according to the inverse ratio of jackass per brewery, Denver wins.

Mantonat
Mantonat

And if half of them suck, it's not even worth talking about. I think it's worth waiting to see which breweries make it for more than a year or so before handing out any crowns.

The other thing I'd like to see is more bottle-conditioned beers from artisanal breweries around the world. There are still very few places in Denver or Boulder that offer interesting lists of great beers from Belgium, England, Italy, Japan, Norway, etc.

jonathan_shikes
jonathan_shikes

Copper Kettle's not technically inside Denver's city limits, which is why I didn't include them. But they are only a few blocks away.

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

Good point re whether they suck or not.  I can think of at least a couple in Boulder that aren't worth counting.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Copper Kettle is about 100 yards across the county line in Arapahoe County, it is technically neither in Denver nor Aurora

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