On a busy downtown corner at the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s ROCK BOTTOM BREWERY is one of the large chains’ busiest and roomiest franchised restaurant-pubs. A large railed patio at its entrance provides beautiful views of the city and a wonderful outside dining experience. Dark wood furnishings get scattered throughout the multi-section interior. Large glass-encased copper brewtanks spread across the large expanse.
A casual sportsbar atmosphere (multiple TV’s; three billiard tables) keeps the general bar customers happy. The menu serves typical pub fare. A private banquet room is available for special events.
My friend, Dennis, brought back to Jersey two fine specialty beers October ’13. The first one tried, Rock Bottom Double Down Double India Pale Ale, attached perfumed fruiting to resinous pine hops. Its gin-like juniper bite and yellow grapefruit rind bittering mellowed to a sweet orange peel misting before reaching its floral citric-sugared finish.
On deck, ambitious Rock Bottom The Gnome Baltic Porter went beyond the usual stodgy stylistic souring most Baltic dark ales mistake for mocha sweetness. Its fudgy brown chocolate and maple molasses overtones allow less obvious black grape, black cherry and blackberry illusions to emerge alongside sharp hop toasting (causing less discriminate tasters to compare the rich suds to a Black IPA).
Opened 1997, English-German-styled BULL & BUSH PUB inhabits a freestanding brown-striped barn-like building in Cherry Creek section of Denver. visited August ‘07. Covered outdoor deck, main and backroom dining sections, and quaint cushioned lounge area with hearth supplement left side copper-topped bar. Multitudinous Scotch-bourbon-liqueur-cognac selection pleases hard-liners while filling burgers-nachos-quisedillas complement brewer Gabe Moline’s well-rounded brews.
House fave, Man Beer IPA, placed woody-hopped dry rye against apple-cherry-nectar-pear sweetness and grapefruit-currant bittering. Styptic corn-oats-dried, diacetyl-vegetal-weakened, lemon-soured Happy Hop Pilsner, astringently alcoholic floral-fruited hay-dried Allgood Amber Ale, and pallid fig-raisin-nut-blurred toffee-molasses-teased Big Ben Brown Ale appease mainstreamers. Soured pepper-hopped lemon-bruised banana-clove-dried vanilla-bubblegum-tinged Hail Brau Hefeweizen hit the spot.
Highly intoxicating elixirs included lactose milk chocolate-y coffee-roasted tea-ridged Stonehenge Stout, candied apple-sweet, creamy caramel clustered, bourbon-cognac-finishing Release The Hounds Barleywine, and candi-sugared cinnamon-coriander-spiced orange-cherry-banana-bruised spice rum-licked 36th Anniversary Belgian Amber. Beyond summer solstice, excellent Yule Fuel Winter Warmer rushed nutmeg overtures into cinnamon, coriander, and sugared fig expectancy.
A few streets south of Denver’s downtown, PINT’S PUB exquisitely replicates a neighborly British tavern and boasts 200 single malt Scotches (visited August ’07). Brit flags surround yellow-bricked red-windowed freestanding building and antiquated bright red phone booth fronts small outside deck at entrance. A balcony provides extra seating above small bar area (with comfy hearth and countryside murals). An old-fashioned Triumph motorcycle caddy corners separate left side dining space.
Alongside fish & chips, sheepherder’s stew, and pukka tuna, quaffed perfectly re-created, peculiarly inventive, cask-conditioned English-styled ales. Sweet Scotch-fizzed dry-hopped smoothie Phonebox Amber Lager soothes neophytes. Better was floral green tea-embittered pumpernickel-sidled red apple-bound anise-licked pencil shavings-finishing Lancer IPA. Fascinatingly fungi Dark Star Dark Ale plies ashen dried fruits, bitter walnut-Brazil nut, bruised lemon, and sour oaken cherry to black tea bittering. Resinous mocha-dried chocolate-seeded iced tea-like Alchemy ESB isn’t bitterer but may be better. Buttery whiskey-malted grassy-hopped rye-dried Airedale Pale Ale and resin-hopped cola-hazelnut-layered Baker’s chocolate-backed Gael Force Scottish Export Ale were fine alternatives.
Had dinner at WYNKOOP BREWING, Colorado’s first brewpub (1988), now housing brew master Tom Larsen (taught the art of brewing by North Star’s Kyle Carstens), August ‘07. Across from Coors Field in Denver’s Union Station midtown section, Wynkoop has tremendous capacity and certain upscale elegance reinforced by beautiful wood bar, finely prepared dishes (venison medallions; ranch steaks; lamb; trout; burgers), embossed copper tile ceiling, and second floor billiard room.
Located inside grand JS Brown Mercantile building, Wynkoop’s glass-encased brew tanks served maize-dried yellow-orange-fruited Light Rail Ale, the sweeter Marzen-styled Railyard Ale (with its peppery-hopped tea-stained orange-burnt floral wheat setting), and airily carbolic cocoa-bitter chocolate-roasted stewed-pruned B3K Schwarzbier.
Perky German-styled, lemon-banana-clove-spiked, daintily hop-fizzed, vanilla-bubblegummy Wix A Wheat and cask-conditioned orange-peeled piney-hopped currant-dashed Monkey Fist IPA got heads up. But thin vegetal-fig-vexed St. Charles ESB did not. Peculiar jalapeno peppering girded earthen dried fruit murk of Patty’s Chili Beer (more approachable than Fort Collins-based Coopersmith’s similar Sigda’s Green Chili).
On the dark side, mildly creamy Splatz Porter tempered black chocolate entry with cherry puree, hazelnut, and cappuccino illusions. Meanwhile, black chocolate and black cherry fronted fig-dried wood-charred walnut-tinged Sagebrush Stout.
Initially a dusty golddigger mining town, Denver’s booming cosmopolitan metropolis retains a pioneering frontier spirit. In ’96, visited Denver’s Pyramid Brewery’s Left Out Field Beer Garden at Colorado Rockies Safeco Field, Blue Moon Brewery, and Breckenridge Brewery. During ’03 at Great American Beer Fest, I found sundry hard-to-find brews from California’s EJ Phair and B.J.’s breweries; Oregon’s Pelican Brewery; Texas’ Saint Arnold; Tennessee’s Rocky River; Kansas’ Little Apple Brewery; Indiana’s Upland Brewery; Missouri’s Boulevard Brewery. Also, Georgia’s Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and Michigan’s No Disputin Putin Imperial Stout.
Finally did extensive 11-day Colorado brewpub tour, August ’07, with adoring wife, Karen. First stop, Denver’s NORTH STAR BREWERY, run by 10-year Wynkoop brew master Kyle Carstens, opened November ’06. A small café cornering Tejon Street, its interior had oak furnishings, cozy Formica-countered mirror-backed bar (with small TV’s), and back dining area. Sliders, potato skins, salads, and sandwiches were served, but silver kettle brews such as Northside Negra Schwarzbier, Citrus Ale, and Pics Pale Ale were temporarily out. Happily, Rye Red Ale efficiently contrasted honeyed cereal oat sweetness against dry-hopped grapefruit-soured bruised orange bittering.
Unfortunately, North Star closed its doors for business, 2008.