The ten best Colorado brewery patios
"Once you've had a few beers, it's hard to leave a German beer garden without making some friends," says Patrick Crawford, who opened Denver Beer Co. with Charlie Berger in August 2011. In advance of that opening, Crawford and Berger had gone to Germany -- and came back with the idea of adding a beer garden. "We loved the communal atmosphere of the big long tables there," Crawford says. "And at the time, I don't think there was anyone else who had that style of tables in Denver."
All photos by Danielle Lirette Denver Beer Co. was one of the first brewery patios with community tables.
Denver Beer Co.'s Bavarian-style beer garden soon set the standard for brewery patios from Boulder to Golden to Denver. Dozens of new breweries have opened in the metro area over the past four years, and on a warm summer day, there's no finer place to be than on one of their patios. There's no finer place to be on a perfect summer night, either.
Or, for that matter, at any time during this state's three and a half seasons of outdoor drinking weather -- whether the patio is an intimate, backyard-like space illuminated by strings of white lights or an expansive, park-like atmosphere that feels more like a party. Some have views of the mountains or the city skyline, while others simply look over alleys and train tracks. And although a few are modeled after Germany's storied biergartens, the beer that is imbibed on Colorado's patios is all-American.
Which makes the ten patios listed alphabetically below ideal spots for celebrating our independence on July 4. Or any other day.
Black Shirt Brewing
Black Shirt Brewing offers an oasis in industrial RiNo.
3719 Walnut Street, Denver
The owners of Black Shirt Brewing have never shied away from the industrial nature of the River North neighborhood. Instead, they've embraced it, installing tables and a bar made from reclaimed wood that once served as flooring in boxcars, and working long hours to the sounds of trains that rumble by within view of the brewery's back door.
That gritty view is in marked contrast to the tiny oasis that Branden, Chad and Carissa Miller have created outside the brewery, one that goes particularly well with the variety of carefully crafted red beers they brew inside. Open five nights a week (there's a patio in front, too), the backyard beer garden seats 36 and features cornhole games, strings of white lights at night, and three-year-old hops plants in garden boxes alongside barley and crimson clover.
"We don't have any plans to use these ingredients in the beer, but rather to create an interesting and informative ambience, and to educate people on what beer's ingredients look and smell like," says Branden Miller. "Over time, we'd like to grow more back there -- herbs, flowers, etc. -- and keep making the ambience better and better."
Boulder Beer Company
The patio at Boulder Beer is thirty years old.
2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder
Some things get better with age, and the 2,300-square-foot patio at Boulder Beer Company, Colorado's oldest microbrewery, is certainly one of them. Although the patio isn't as ancient as the brewery itself -- Boulder Beer was founded in a goat shed in rural Boulder County in 1979 before becoming the first tenant at its current location on Wilderness Place -- it dates back to 1984, which means that some of the University of Colorado students who were catching rays and downing brews under the sun back then now have kids who are old enough to do the same.
With seating for 100, the lush patio's greenest feature is the Cascade hops plants that were planted in 1994 and are harvested every fall for Boulder Beer's Patio Ale, which is only served in the pub. Dog-friendly, cyclist-friendly and with views of the Flatirons, the spot also hosts live music on weekend evenings -- a great time to enjoy the rotation of flagship and seasonal brews, including a few new canned varieties.
And the patio even carries a hint of romance, says Boulder Beer marketing director Tess McFadden: "Ellen Leonard, one of our longtime admin employees, was married on the patio in 2006."
Denver Beer Co.
Denver Beer Co. grows its own.
1695 Platte Street, Denver
Like Denver Beer Co., many restaurants and breweries -- old and new -- have added Bavarian-style communal tables to their patios, but few of them can also claim the location, location, location that this brewery boasts on hip Platte Street, just steps from both the Millennium Bridge, which crosses I-25 to the Lower Highland neighborhood, and the Highland Bridge, which crosses the South Platte River in lower downtown.
The dog-friendly patio features big, shady umbrellas, stellar people-watching, and a vibe that alternates from lazy on summer days to electric at night; the brewery's Kaffir Lime Wheat tastes great at any time of the day or night. Denver Beer Co. also grows hops plants here, which it uses each fall in a special neighborhood hop-swap pale ale. Oh, and in the winter, brave drinkers can earn a dollar or two off the price of a pint if they sit in the snow.
But the fourteen communal tables are the stars of the show. "Charlie and I made every one of those tables ourselves," says co-owner Patrick Crawford, adding that they had a little help from friends and family. "We screwed each one together, sanded them and polished them. Three years later, they're still going strong. There are a couple of wobbly legs now after all that time. But still pretty good for a couple of yahoos."
2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder, CO
1695 Platte St., Denver, CO
1600 38th St., Boulder, CO
12th and Cheyenne streets, Golden, CO
W. Emma St., Lafayette, CO
2540 19th St., Denver, CO
3550 Frontier Ave., Boulder, CO
7045 E. 38th Ave., Denver, CO
1700 Vine St., Denver, CO