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Pub Visit - USA/Canada

Denver (Lower Downtown), Colorado:
Wynkoop Brewing


Visited on: Thursday 31st May 2018

Bob Thompson

Some breweries have had an influence on their locality following their establishment yet is doubtful if any had such a profound influence than Wynkoop Brewing. It was established in 1988 in an old warehouse built for J.S. Brown Mercantile. Its founders were John Hickenlooper, Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler and Russell Scherer. The area was a genuine skid row, a fact I can attest to.

Wynkoop2I first visited Denver in 1980 and arrived by rail on Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Chicago. The train still runs, albeit on a different route west of the Mile-High City.

Then, it operated north and westwards to Ogden, Utah via Cheyenne, Wyoming as its current route via Grand Junction was still ran by the then private Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad with their Rio Grande Zephyr train.

This passed through the Rockies rather than around them, so as soon as the DRGW discontinued it in 1983, Amtrak began routing its California Zephyr via this scenic route.

That sets the scene with some recent railroad history. I remember arriving in the morning and walking towards the downtown area to exchange some travellers cheques (remember them?) into cash.

There were quite a number of homeless people. One was a group of native American men drinking wine from a flagon. They invited me to be the first investor in a financial scheme they had started. I suggested the “scheme” might be the purchase of another flagon. They agreed that this assessment was probably true. I gave them a dollar for cheek.

Wynkoop3I think that sets the scene in describing what sort of district it was with many derelict warehouses and factories. Today, it could not be more different with these old buildings converted into apartment blocks and fancy restaurants.

Then there is the gigantic Coor’s Field, home of the Denver Rockies Baseball team. This massive 76 acre stadium opened on April 26th 1995. It has a brew-pub inside which is open on match days.

The district is now described as Lower Downtown, normally abbreviated to LoDo. Back in 1998 the four partners installed a brewery on the ground floor along with a bar.

Wynkoop4There was also a further bar at the rear of the building. On the floor above Wynkoop Billiards was established with twenty-two pool tables by the team.

Despite the bad reputation of the area, drinkers flocked to the pub as the types of beer brewed by Russell were not available elsewhere in the city.

When myself and Linda visited we were on our way from Denver International Airport to our hosts’ apartment in Lakewood and had to change from Commuter line A to Light Rail line W at Union station, so on a swelteringly hot day, why not break off for a beer, or a more?

So it was up the stairs and there we found a large bar room on the right with a central island counter. To the left the room was designated for diners and was decorated with many old hanging pub signs from the UK.

Wynkoop5There are many other smaller rooms off the main bar room. The brewery could be seen through a glass window at the back of the main room. There is a carved wooden statue of a gorilla in front of this; its significance is not known.

The main room offered a haven from the scorching heat outside and, on this day at least, it presented a very cool atmosphere in more ways than one. The high ceilings and large windows added to the effect of tranquillity in contrast to the frenetic city activity outside.

You can tell we liked this pub! And we also liked the beers we consumed here. The menu divides the offerings into various styles so I might as well do the same.

Wynkoop6There were three IPAs and these were: Mile High Pale Ale (5.5%), Vail Pale Ale (5.6%) and the strangely named Ekuanot S.M.A.S.H. #2 (5.1%).

Then there were those who were described as Wheat and Light. These were: Light Rail Ale (3.8%), Wixa Weiss Wheat (5.3%), Petite Saison (4.3%), “Fenriz” Farmhouse Ale (4.5%), Uber Lager (4.8%) and Patty’s Bitter (4.2%) which was a light English bitter infused with chillies, said not to be hot.

Their next category was Malty and Dark and these beers were: Railyard Amber Ale (5.2%), Malty Tasking (5.8%) (a Brown Ale), Monk-y Business (8.3%) (a Trappist-style Trippel), The Bobfather ESB (4.8%), B7K Vienna Lager (4.5%), Move Your Car Porter (5.2%) and Bad Habit Nitro Blonde (5.3%), which despite its name is an oatmeal milk stout. It is brewed with 50 donuts and a pound of espresso coffee in the mash tun, almost incredible!

Wynkoop7It worth noting how this menu began with the conventional and moved on to the weirdly experimental.

The final category is Specialities and Sour. There were two of these: Lush Vibes Sour IPA (5.5%) and B.A. Cabernet Saison (7.5%). The latter was matured for seven months in wine barrels.

Leaving the best till last, I tried a pint of The Bobfather ESB (4.6%), only this time it was a cask version.

The cask beer rotates through the range and this one had an uncanny resemblance to Fuller’s ESB. I thought it could have been a bit more bitter to fully appreciate that it was a cask beer. Also, it could have been served a bit cooler but these are small points because it is so nice to get the real thing in this country.

Wynkoop8We earlier had a tasting flight of four 5oz glasses, all IPAs and a Pale Ale. I thought that Ekuanot S.M.A.S.H. #2 was the best.

This was significant a little later on. That was when the manager came round dishing out raffle tickets to all those in the pub, of which there weren’t very many.

I won a two pint take-away, so I knew what beer I was going to have. He said he wanted to reward those who were in the pub. There was one of those small canning machines on the bar, so I went to Lakewood with a nightcap under my arm.

So, that ended a very good session in the first of many beer visits on this trip. The oldest brew-pub in Denver is one of the best and should be destination for all visitors to the city who appreciate a good beer.

Important Information:

Wynkoop Brewing Co., 1634 18th Street, Denver, Colorado 80202. Web: Tel: 303 297 2700.

Hours: Monday-Sunday 11.00-02.00.

The pub is just five minutes from the main concourse of Denver Union station. Turn left out of the front entrance. You will find the pub on the opposite corner about 200 metres along. Denver Union is served by Amtrak’s California Zephyr running from Chicago to Emoryville near San Francisco. Denver International Airport is connected to Union Station by the RTD A Line commuter rail line.
Other routes also terminate here.

A further five minutes walk will bring you to RTD rapid transit station where many lines terminate.
The connection between the two stations is accomplished walking through the underground bus station. This is served by a large number of routes.