Thursday, August 20, 2015

Denver Brewery Tour in the Fun and Funky RiNo District

Ratio Beerworks Dear You French Saison Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks Dear You
On a recent weekend getaway to Denver, we decided to see what we could of Denver without a rental car.  This meant sticking to the downtown area and neighborhoods just adjacent.  As Denver is one of the best cities in the US for beer, we wanted to get to know Denver’s beer by joining a Denver brewery walking tour.  We learned Denver has an up-and-coming neighborhood where we would find exciting microbreweries just north of downtown, the RiNo neighborhood.

Mario Zoots Mural RiNo Denver Brewery Trou
Mario Zoots Mural
RiNo stands for River North Art District.  RiNo used to be an industrial area, but is now an up-and-coming hotspot filled with a mix of creative businesses including breweries.  RiNo is a special neighborhood and a new one for travelers to visit.  Not only are the businesses within the neighborhood of the creative and artistic type, the neighborhood itself has become a palette for artwork.  Buildings and alleyways proudly display colorful street art on the walls, creating a public outdoor museum.

Art Alley RiNo District Denver Brewery Tour
Art Alley
We joined Denver Microbrew Tour’s newest brewery tour, the RiNo Tour.  The RiNo Tour is a guided walk through the RiNo district and covers about a mile of territory.  Our walking tour visited three breweries, one cidery, and a home brew shop, and included stops along the way to admire RiNo’s street art.

While visiting the breweries, our guides Derek and Ethan taught us more about beer and the brewing process.  We were even taught the proper way to drink a beer.  Did you know there are steps to drinking beer?  I thought that was only in the wine world.  Step 1: Look at the beer for color and translucence.  Step 2: Swirl the beer, as the foam left on the sides of the glass indicates residual sugars.  Step 3: Smell the beer, looking for its aromas.  Step 4: Drink said beer to see if you like it.

Ratio Beerworks RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks
The Denver microbrewery walking tour met at Ratio Beerworks, a brewery with a fairly substantial tasting room with long communal bar-height tables and an industrial vibe.  We started with the Dear You, a French-style saison.  Dear You is cloudy from the yeast, lemon yellow, and slightly sour, a great beer for a hot day.  We next tasted Ratio’s Repeater, an extra pale ale.  The extra is for having more malt than the usual pale ale. 

Ratio Beerworks Extra Pale Ale RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks Repeater
Our final taste at Ratio Beerworks, which we enjoyed while visiting the back of the brewery where the brewing happens, was of their Hold Steady, a Scotch ale.  Scotch ales are hit and miss with me, as sometimes I find them too sweet and too strong.  Hold Steady, in my opinion, is the perfect Scotch ale.  It was full of flavor but not too sweet nor too strong.  As Goldilocks would say, it was just right.

David Choe Mural RiNo Denver Brewer Tour
David Choe Mural
A few doors down from Ratio Beerworks is one of Denver’s many works of street art by the famous graffiti artist David Choe.  David Choe’s is a rags to riches type story, kind of like the RiNo district.  He went from stealing as a kid, to getting arrested for graffiti, to creating art with soy sauce and urine in a Japanese prison, to completing mural commissions for the likes of Heidi Fleiss and the founders of Facebook.  He creates art for people who don’t give a f*@k about art.

The beauty of joining a Denver microbrew tour is you don’t have to be a beer lover to enjoy the tour.  The tour is both for people who love beer and also people who don’t know much about beer but want to learn more.  Probably more than half of our group preferred wine over beer.

Brew 'n Q Malted Barley RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Brew ’n Q Malted Barley
We moved on to Brew ’n Q, a shop with provisions for homebrew and barbecue.  We visited this eclectic shop to learn more about malted barley and what it does to beer.  We tasted different barley malts, tasting the difference between lightly roasted and dark roasted and even some with a sour flavor.

Stem Ciders RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Stem Ciders
We headed over to Stem Ciders, a brewery of a different kind, a craft cidery.  Stem Ciders has been making ciders since 2014.  Stem Ciders’ ciders are different from the ones you buy in the store.  They are much drier because they don’t add any sugar, something only about 5% of cideries do.  This is cider the way it should be made.  The apples are crushed at the orchard and the juice is frozen before being shipped to Stem Ciders.  The juice is defrosted, fermented, dry hopped, then filtered.  Because no sugar is added, their cider is one of the “healthier” alcoholic drinks you can enjoy, and it is also gluten free.

Stem Ciders Remedy RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Stem Ciders Remedy
Our first taste at Stem Ciders was of their Remedy, a dry cider hopped with citrus-flavored hops.  Next we tasted their Branch and Bramble, the rosé of cider.  Branch and Bramble is pink like a rosé and is a dry cider with raspberries.  Our final taste was of Le Chêne, a cider aged in oak wine barrels.  The cider was tart and had a heavier feel from the aging process.

Epic Brewing Intermountain Wheat Beer RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Epic Brewing Intermountain Wheat Beer
We moved on to Epic Brewing, a brewery that started in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The tap room is decorated with interesting touches like light fixtures made from the cone bottoms of stainless steel fermentation tanks.  Our first taste was of the Intermountain Wheat Beer, a session-able beer, also known as a porch pounder.  We were told wheat beers are not meant to be analyzed, so I’ll just say it was good. 

Epic Brewing 825 State Stout RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Epic Brewing 825 State Stout
Our next taste was of Epic Brewing’s Utah Sage Saison, a Belgian-style ale brewed with three of the four herbs mentioned in the Simon and Garfunkel song.  This would make a good holiday beer and it definitely had a finishing taste of sage.  We finished with 825 State Stout, which was poured from a nitro tap.

Our Mutual Friend Brewing IPA RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Our Mutual Friend Brewing IPA
Our final stop on our Denver brewery tour was at Our Mutual Friend Brewing.  I loved the miniature tulip tasting glasses.  Our Mutual Friend is unique because they roast their own malts, controlling the flavors they wish to achieve.  We finished our Denver beer tasting with OMF’s IPA.

Denver B-cycle RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Riding a Denver B-cycle through RiNo
The meeting point for Denver Microbrew Tour’s RiNo tour is about a 30-minute walk from Larimer Square.  If you don’t have your own wheels, a really easy way to get to the meeting point is to ride there on a Denver B-cycle.  There are B-cycle stations all over the city, the RiNo district is accessible from the nearby South Platte River Greenway Trail, and there’s a station to drop off the bike one block away from the starting and ending point of the tour.

There are a lot of breweries and a lot of beers in Denver.  Let Denver Microbrew Tour guide you to some of the best microbreweries in Denver and introduce you to Denver’s up-and-coming RiNo neighborhood.

Thank you to Denver Microbrew Tour for hosting our tour and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

A Denver brewery tour through the RiNo (River North Art District) neighborhood.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.