Shortly after moving to Colorado, my adult beverage of choice changed from ciders and sweet wines to local craft brews.
I think a lot of it has to do with my age. And the altitude. And being surrounded by so many creative and quality-driven craft breweries.
Even though my taste has changed, I still hadn’t visited many of these fine establishments. Add that to the fact that I only indulge in a few drinks per month, and I’m certainly not supporting my new state like I should. But, I am proud to say that, last month, I partook in a weeklong Colorado beercation!
A Bit of Backstory
In October, my friend Brian texted me to see what the hubs and I were doing for the holidays. I explained that Nick and I were going to be staying here in Colorado for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s and not going home.
“Home” for Brian and I is the exact same town in Illinois – O’Fallon. For my husband Nick and Brian’s wife Amy, home for them is also within 25 miles of O’Fallon, Illinois. Brian and Amy currently reside in Tulsa, but when Nick and I still lived in St. Louis, we would get to see them once or twice a year, when they came for visits. Brian and I actually went to grade school together, and the four of us have been hanging out together since the early 2000s.
Instead of being disappointed that us Biermanns were not coming home for Christmas, Brian had something else in mind. He and Amy wanted to drive out here to Golden around New Year’s for a weeklong Colorado vacation with us. I hadn’t been that excited in years!
Instead of Missouri Wine Country, we’d be drinking and making new memories in the Napa Valley of Beer here in Colorado.
A Colorado Beercation.
Beer is OK
Of course I think beer is okay! You have to feel that way around it in these parts, ya know. 😉
Actually, my friend Brian is the creator, owner, and lead designer for Beer is OK, the Oklahoma craft beer enthusiast group.
Check out this sweet swag he designed!! (Below are only the pieces in my personal collection. See more here.)
With such a passionate craft beer guy in our group, checking out local craft breweries was definitely to be a priority for this vacation. For any craft beer enthusiast, Colorado’s undoubtedly a dreamland.
In the week that Brian and Amy were here, we hit up a ton of breweries, caught a couple of free brewery tours, ate some great food, went dog sledding, and took in some easy but spectacular sights.
A wonderful week!
I’m sharing our Colorado Beercation itinerary here on my Sweet Green Photography blog so that others might benefit from our smooth and strategic week around the Denver area. It’ll be a mix of tips, recommendations, and recollections…including suggestions for food and sightseeing!
A Weeklong Colorado Beercation
(December 29, 2015)
- Walk Clear Creek Trail near downtown Golden. You can take it at your own pace, get up close and personal with Clear Creek, and bronze sculptures provide plenty of photo ops. On this day, the holiday lights were still up and were very pretty.
- Relax in the mellow lighting of Barrels and Bottles Brewery and sip some beer or wine…whatever you’re in the mood for!
(December 30, 2015)
- Enjoy breakfast at Snooze: An AM Eatery. For years, it’s been one of the most highly-rated breakfast spots in the Denver area. And for good reason. I regularly wait over an hour and a half to eat at Snooze, and it’s worth it every time. On this day, we ate at the Ballpark location in downtown Denver, but I’ve been to 3 other Snooze locations. They’re all amazing and usually crowded, but we got lucky and didn’t have to wait this day. And I always get lucky with the food. Try a Pancake Flight, a Benny Duo, or their Breakfast Pot Pie. Those are my faves. 🙂
- Head for Fort Collins, Colorado! Fort Collins is a little over an hour’s drive from Denver and actually deserves a couple of days dedicated to its beer scene. We only devoted one day to it, and this was the day. (Side note: There’s actually a Snooze in Fort Collins, if you fancy spending the entire day there.)
- Head to New Belgium Brewery and take their free 90-minute tour. I’d recommend booking your tour tickets as soon as you know the day that you want to go there. If you don’t have reservations, there’s a slim chance you could slide into someone’s spot who didn’t show for their tour. This employee-owned company allows dogs INSIDE, refills your NBB growler for $6, serves delicious beer poured from awesome people, and won’t accept tips. If you want to tip, they ask you to instead donate it to their featured charity. It’s one of my favorite places to bring Max (my dog), order a 1554, and just hang for the afternoon.
- After New Belgium’s beer-sampling-filled tour, you’ll definitely need lunch. We ate at Choice City Butcher & Deli, and that really hit the spot. I had the Choice City Burger, and it was way delish.
- Fort Collins brewery #2 was Odell Brewing Company, complete with lots of seating, a fire pit. and live music (The Kinky Fingers played on this day).
- Equinox Brewing Tap House was our third and final Fort Collins brewery of the day. A rather cozy place to end the day.
(December 31, 2015)
- Walk into Green Mountain through Mesa View Estates. We live right down the street and love walking just 3 minutes onto the trail to feel away from it all. There’s something surprisingly serene and beautiful about it. Even in the bright sunlight of midday.
- While you’re in the area, make the short drive up Lookout Mountain to the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. According to Trip Advisor, those are the Top 2 Things to Do in Golden, CO. I haven’t been in to see Bill yet, but the view up there is breathtaking. And free.
- Again, while you’re in the area, head over to nearby Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. If you have time, watch the video in the Visitor Center, and then walk down onto the stage. It’s pretty exciting.
- Take a little break, and then head back into Denver and take the free tour at Great Divide‘s Barrel Bar. My kinda vibes in there.
- While killing time before our dinner reservations at The Lobby, we walked across the street to the original Great Divide. Their Brewery & Tap Room. Colette was a delight! And bartender Cory was playing my jams.
- When it was time, we headed back over to The Lobby for dinner. We were there for New Beer’s Eve – their four-course beer pairing dinner. Their Fried Brussel Toss – brussel sprouts, fried kale, plum sauce, and parmesan…I’m still dreaming about it.
- After dinner, we still had a 3-4 hours before the midnight show of the Denver New Year’s Eve Fireworks over 16th Street Mall, so we parked and hit up Wynkoop Brewing Company.
- What I like most about Wynkoop Brewing Company is their second floor. Tall, brick walls, windows, and wooden floors and ceiling open up to a playground of pool tables, foosball, and shuffleboard. Patty’s Chile Beer also gets my stamp of approval.
- Even if you’re not here for New Year’s Eve, I still recommend checking out 16th Street Mall. On this night, at a feet-freezing temperature of 13 degrees, we walked up and down it for an hour and a half around midnight, awaiting the fireworks. I was amazed at just how many people – families – were all walking with us. Different dj set-ups provided people a chance to dance, colored Christmas lights twinkled in the trees lining the street, and wintertime fireworks warmed up the night sky. It was the most magical New Year’s Eve I’ve ever experienced.
(January 1, 2016)
- Head to Boulder, Colorado. If you can, drive north on State Highway 93. If offers grand views of the Front Range on the way up to the Flatirons.
- Drive up Flagstaff Mountain first. Like Golden’s Lookout Mountain, a short drive soon provides you with spectacular views at the top of Flagstaff Mountain. You get to see white-capped 14ers when you look west!!
- Walk up and down Pearl Street Mall. One of the best mixes of food, shopping, and people watching I’ve ever witnessed. And I’ve been to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain! I don’t consider myself a fan of shopping, but no matter how busy Pearl Street is, or what the weather’s like, I always enjoy my time on it, however brief.
- Grab lunch at Zoe Ma Ma. I always get at least one Original Pot Sticker, Pearl Meatball, and Steamy Bun. But usually two. 🙂 Quench yourself with their complimentary cucumber water too. According to Boulder’s Daily Camera, it will be featured on an upcoming episode of Cheap Eats, and I’m not surprised. I love the quickness and quality for the price!
- Twisted Pine Brewing Company. MY NEW FAVE brewery that came out of the week. The hubs and I shared a Twisted Flight, and I LOVED Billy’s Chilies and Mini Max. Billy’s Chilies is a wheat ale made with 5 kinds of chili peppers, and Mini Max a wheat ale made with 5 kinds of citrus zest. Exploding with flavor, their beers were. I’m getting excited just remembering that wonderful, warm burn from Billy’s Chilies….ahhh… 😀
- Hit up the hoppin’ Cannonball Creek Brewing Company located just outside downtown Golden. I didn’t try anything from here, but it’s spacious, kid-friendly, and always busy on the weekends. Must be a winner, right?!
- After a day of drinking beer to your belly’s content, make sure to save room for dinner at Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza & Watering Hole. I shouldn’t have to say this, but the only watering you should be partaking in at this point is H20. After seeing former coworkers suffer at Cicis, I was cautious of pizza buffets, but Woody’s won’t harm you in any way. For not even $12, you can indulge in their all-you-eat soup, salad, and pizza bar. Don’t judge the pizza by the horrible photos people have taken and posted on Yelp. Also, the folks at Woody’s will make any kind of pizza your heart desires, it’s delicious, and it’s wood fired…so even the crust is amazing! And definitely dip your crust in honey.
(January 2, 2016)
- Enjoy a Biscuit Sandwich at Denver Biscuit Company for breakfast. You can’t go wrong with any of them. My fave: The Ellsworth. Gimme that chicken!
- Check out the REI Denver Flagship Store. It’s huge and beautiful and full of everything you can imagine to accompany you outdoors! On this day, their Garage Sale had the whole store buzzing with lines at least 30 people deep, but it certainly felt like an experience just to be there.
- Copper Kettle Brewing Company. IPAs and hoppy beers aren’t really my thing, and that’s mostly what they had here, but I enjoyed their award-winning Mexican Chocolate Stout and the friendly staff. Quiet location too.
(January 3, 2016)
- Dog sledding at Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge, Colorado. YOU HAVE TO GO! What a neat experience! I recommend it to anyone who wants to have a unique, wintertime Colorado experience but don’t know how to ski or snowboard. Or know how to do any kind of winter sporting. They even have complimentary full-body snow suits and proper boots for you to borrow there. Perfectly easy. But also exhilarating. Read here for a full blog post on that awesome experience!
- We grabbed lunch at Breckenridge Brewery & Pub. I can’t say that I would recommend it. Both the food and the service was a tad below average, compared to everywhere else I’ve been in Colorado since I’ve lived here. But they were busy, easy to find, and had unique versions of traditional pub and American lunch food.
- After an afternoon outside, an evening enjoying the hot tubs at Ameristar Black Hawk, capped off with a fantastic night’s sleep, made for the perfect end to a day in the mountains.
(January 4, 2016)
- On the way to Estes Park, watch for elk! They tend to hang out around there. In fact, they even have a yearly festival honoring them there – Elk Fest!
- Eat lunch at Peppers Fresh & Fast Mexican Grill. Hooooooly moly. Their fish tacos. Let me just say that I’m picky about my fish tacos, and these just slid into a Top 3 slot for me. Not only are they amazing and filling, but they don’t even cost mountain town prices.
- Stretch your legs (and tummy) out by walking downtown Estes Park. Shops, sweet treats, and dog-friendly.
- On your way out of the mountains, pop into Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. It’s the original Oskar Blues! Taste some beer and chat with Annie, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be some live music.
- After leaving Lyons, Colorado, head for Avery Brewing Company. Catch their free guided tour, grab a seat at the bar, and finish the day with dinner and beer tasting. They have a lot of nice brews! Very intentional flavors.
When our Colorado Beercation began, I didn’t realize that I would be blogging about it. Therefore, I didn’t take many photos with my “real camera.” Aside from the Beer is OK gear and my new Colorado breweries sticker collection, the photos you see above are ones I just happened to take for myself. And I was working on my manual focus technique that week. So there’s not many, and I wouldn’t call them my finest work. I apologize. Next time I go to any of these breweries, I may bring my “real camera” and return with more photos to properly add to this post. For now, this is all I’ve got though. Sorry, y’all!
This Colorado Beercation was the finest staycation I’ve ever experienced. As always, I feel lucky to live in Colorado. 🙂
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