Boulder’s Best Brews

My favorite way to explore a new city is through taste.  And the best way to taste Boulder is through its beer!

At the heart of downtown Boulder is Pearl Street.  On it you’ll find restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and of course, brewpubs!  With four blocks closed to cars, it’s a great place to window shop, seek shade under a tree, or go on a pub crawl.

I started my beer tour of Boulder on the eastern end of Pearl Street at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.  Open since 1993, this community-based neighborhood pub was modeled on the thriving microbrewery scene in Oregon.

Don’t come here looking to catch the game.  You won’t find any TVs at Mountain Sun.  It’s the place to go when you want to chat with friends or play a game of Scrabble.

Like many Boulder-area breweries, Mountain Sun serves its own beer, brewed on site and fresh from the tap.  It’s a pretty large selection too — with 15 choices that range from pale ales to stout, you’ll need some time to make up your mind.  If you think the selection is impressive, so is their taste.  Mountain Sun’s beers have won awards all over the world, including six gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the world’s largest beer festival.  All the beers are well priced.  An 8 oz. glass costs $2.60, a 16 oz. pint costs $4.20 and a 48 oz. pitcher costs $11.60.

Along with the beer, there’s a full menu of burgers, sandwiches and vegetarian fare.  Even if you’re not a vegetarian, the tempeh reuben and the quinoa, black bean and vegetable wrap are hard to pass up.

With so many different beers, you’ll want to come to Mountain Sun a few times so you can sample them all.  Or ask the friendly servers for a taste of a few.  On the lighter side, I loved the Jah-Mon Ginger Wheat.  It’s crisp and refreshing with a great taste of fresh ginger that lingers in your mouth.  Drinking a pint with my avocado and veggie sandwich I felt very healthy, like the ginger was able to negate the calories and the heaviness of the wheat.  If you don’t want the ginger taste to be as strong, you can get a mix of the Ginger Wheat and Blackberry Wheat (which has a very mild fruit flavor and isn’t sweet at all).

On the darker side I highly recommend the Isadore Java Porter.  Black in color like Guinness, the Java Porter is rich and creamy with a hint of coffee.  It’s almost as thick as a latte, so don’t order it if you’re already full!

From Mountain Sun I headed west on Pearl Street to the Boulder Draft House.  It’s just north of Pearl on 13th Street.  The Draft House serves up a selection of beer from the Colorado Brewing Company.  Pints cost $4.50, though if it’s your first time I’d recommend ordering the beer sampler.  You’ll get a taste of each beer on tap for $7.50.

One of the first beers that I enjoyed was the Alpenglow Amber.  Deep copper in color, it has nice flavors of caramel with a hint of chocolate malt and a mild hop finish.  Also good were the two wheat beers, the 13th Street Wheat and the Blackberry Wheat (also pleasantly mild in fruitiness, though I preferred the one at Mountain Sun).  The oak-aged Oatmeal Stout was another favorite.  It was thick and creamy with flavors of cocoa, cedar and vanilla.  Being a wine drinker, it was neat to see how the oak influenced the stout’s flavor.

Like live music?  Then you’ll definitely want to check out the Draft House in the evening for a taste of the local music scene.

My last stop was Walnut Brewery.  It’s located just south of the pedestrian mall on Walnut Street, which runs parallel to Pearl.

The brewery is located in a charming historic building.  With high ceilings, wooden tables, and all sorts of beer paraphernalia on display, it’s the kind of setting that makes you crave a pint and a burger (I recommend the Hickory Burger which is topped with melted cheddar cheese, hickory smoked bacon and Stout BBQ sauce).

Walnut Brewery’s hand-crafted beers have won multiple awards at the Great American Beer Festival.  Pints cost around $4, or you can try them all in a sampler.

I decided to go straight for the Old Elk Brown Ale and was immediately glad I did.  It has rich and savory malt flavors thanks to the mix of caramel, Munich and chocolate malts.  The taste is complex without any bitterness, with a subtle, earthy finish.  It was delicious with my burger.

Though I usually refrain from picking favorites (especially because there are so many different styles of beer), I’d have to say the Old Elk Brown Ale was my favorite beer I tasted in Boulder (Mountain Sun’s Ginger Wheat was a close second).  In fact, it’s one of the best brown ales I’ve ever tasted.

Because I was only in Boulder for a few days I barely scratched the surface on the city’s brews.  Looking for more information on Colorado’s Breweries?  Click here to see Metromix Denver’s extensive guide.

Next: The beer tour continues with a visit to a favorite Colorado brewery, plus some of the tastiest brews I’ve ever sipped from a can.

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