With the Mile High’s multiple options for visiting several breweries in a day, and new locations opening up on the horizon, we can’t help ourselves but to add another tour to the Denver lineup. If you don’t have quite enough time to make it to Parker and Aurora on our Southeast Drive, this exploration traverses the east side of town to some destination breweries. While there’s some overlap between the two drives, the East Side tour focuses on three very different locations relatively close to one another, with an iconic Denver lunch stop along the way.
Walking into Bull and Bush is like stepping into a time machine. Arrive back in Denver circa the 1970s, when the lights were dimmed, fireplaces offered warmth and an ambient glow, ceilings got low and cozy, and the beer flowed into large mugs raised to laughing friends. Though they’re updating their kitchen, we certainly hope Bull and Bush keeps their atmosphere the same, this is a fun change from most every other spot in town.
And the extensive beer menu of house-brewed offerings will keep you busy all the way through a football game or during other tastings on future days. We limited our tasting tray to ensure visiting other breweries on our list, but enjoyed the handful of seasonal selections we tried. The Ghoul Fuel made for a nice and spicy pumpkin ale, while the 41st Anniversary Ale delighted my palette as a well-balanced Double IPA featuring malty characteristics with oily, bitter, and citrus hop flavors . . . all the notes I’ve come to love. And their Captain Midnight, a Black Saison with a tour-de-force of spices, still has me intrigued.
The highlight though came with their Whole Hop Infusion. The bartender poured a pint of the Happy Hop Pilsner into a French Press containing Cascade hops (you can chose from several hop varietals and any beer on the menu). Some critics have called this gimmicky, but I call it delicious. And it allows the beer enthusiast to get a little creative with the fresh hop mixture, which I think is a bold and charitable decision on the part of the Bull and Bush brewers. Just remember, that’s not extra caffeine, but the lovely lupulin you’re adding to the beer.
Step outside, put your sunglasses on, and if you didn’t dine at Bull and Bush, head for a lunchtime pick-up. Santiagos, a local chain of fast, sit-down Mexican food is quickly becoming a world-known, Denver landmark. Their green chilli rages, their burritos are packed full of flavor, and an entire meal will keep plenty of money in your wallet for more beer tasting. Finding a seat at the Leetsdale location might be difficult, so we recommend getting lunch to-go and enjoying it alongside the beers at the next brewery, Copper Kettle.
We first wrote about Copper Kettle after our visit last fall when I left ecstatic for their Mexican Chocolate Stout. One week later, it won Gold at GABF, confirming that I wasn’t the only one to think this beer had a lot of balanced flavor, and a lot of soul. Order a glass to accompany your burrito, or save it as a spicy dessert . . . whatever you do, try it.
After the Stout, put together a tasting tray of Copper Kettle beer that looks interesting to you . . . there’s no going wrong here. We enjoyed their Marienplatz Lager, a malty Oktoberfest brew. We moved on to the Hoppa, a unique batch with that sweet and oily hop flavor I adore. And the Imperial Pumpkin Porter makes for a perfect fall seasonal, while the Black IPA, with Goulding Hops, is a perfectly balanced beer.
It’s easy to get lost in the beer at Copper Kettle, but if you make it out with taste buds still eager for more beer, head north to the last, but certainly not least, spot of the day, CAUTION: Brewing. As one of Denver’s newest breweries, this team is pushing the envelope. Though the beer definitely connects to certain styles, it’s difficult to classify what they’re brewing at CAUTION . . . other than the category of just plain delicious.
Their Toaster Bat Black is a “dark and dangerous” smoked porter using peated malts. And their Lao Wang Lager that features a wild rice blend makes for a perfect complement to any Asian noodle dish. For some easy drinking and tasty batches, check out their Wild Blonde or the Honey Matrimony, (which uses Colorado Wildflower Honey from Clark’s Honey Farm). For something really different, indulge in the Hippity Hops containing Chrysantheum and Chinese rock brown sugar, or its big brother, the Big Bunny, for a really well-balanced, super-toasted beer.
Yes, it’s another epic Colorado Brewery Day, but what a wonderful mixture of spots, beer styles, and tasting experiences. Get out there and enjoy!