Colorado mountains - a great place for beer!

Why Denver is still the Napa Valley of Beer

Regardless of your political or social status, the phrase “I need a beer” may have crossed your lips many times, or you could have heard someone say it. If you needed a beer, it would be a simple task of walking into the nearest bar and ordering for your favorite brand.

But the situation is completely different for those in Denver, what one journalist famously dubbed “The Napa Valley of Beer“. Choosing what and where to drink beer is nearly impossible in Colorado’s Front Range, a region with the highest impact of craft beer on the economy. It is the state with the third-largest number of craft breweries per capita, and one of the best places to get a pint.

Chug-a-lugging beer on a merry night with friends or sipping wine on a sunny patio as you enjoy the mountain views is as Colorado as it gets. While Napa Valley is well known for its wine, for over a century, Denver has resigned itself as the king of beer, and with very good reason. It brews more beer than any other city in America and is home to more breweries than you can count. Well, close to 150 breweries, actually. 

What’s Napa Valley again?

Located in Northern California, Napa Valley boasts of spectacular landscapes – and exceptional wines. The area is more popular for its wines than its breath-taking landscape, hence, fondly known as the wine country. With a multitude of wineries across the city, you would never miss your favorite brand, or anything to suit your wildest dreams.

Every winery in Napa Valley claims its own unique charm, but some often rise above the rest. From towering castles to gorgeous caves, the list of the most fascinating wineries in this region would take your breath away.

If you fancy tasting different brands of wines, Napa Valley would be the place to be. The Louis M. Martini Winery with its amazing art and wine integration, HALL St. Helena with its most authentic castle, or Castello di Amoroso with the prettiest of grounds – all 4-star wineries – and many others, would be screaming for your attention when you visit Napa Valley.

The history of Napa Valley

Denver is as renowned for its beer as Napa Valley is for its wine. That being said, the California wine scene has a bit of a different feel to it: In fact, the first wines were actually crafted solely for religious purposes.  The first vines were planted as far back as the late 1700s. In 1779, a group of missionaries, led by Father Junipero Serra, planted them in each of the nine missions that he founded.

Believe it or not, Napa Valley was not always well-known for its wine. For a long time, New York, Virginia, and Missouri were famous for these classy, delicious beverages.

The birth of the commercial wine industry took place in the mid to late 1800s. A group of European emigrants began making good use of the soil in Napa and Sonoma during this time.


In 1833, Jean Louis Vignes opened the first commercial winery in California. William Wolfskill, who owned 145 acres of vineyards in Los Angeles and Southern California by the late 1830s, soon followed suit. In 1859, the Los Angeles wine industry was given a major boost because the state government declared that any land used for the purpose of planting grapes would not be taxed.


Some will tell you that the history of Napa Valley began when a man by the name of Joseph Osborne planted vines on 1800 acres of land he called the Oak Knoll in the 1850s. Others will tell you that George Calvert Yount deserves much of the credit for planting the first grapes in Napa as early as 1836. The land this man cultivated was actually given to him by the Mexican government, because this land was not yet a part of the United States of America.

Another important figure in Napa Valley’s history was a man named Samuel Brannan, who started planting vines on Agua Caliente Ranch in 1859. He was responsible for the creation of the famous Calistoga.

Many wine connoisseurs will tell you that John Patchett was the one to make history in Napa Valley: He created the first official vineyard and winery in this famed location. He planted vines in 1854 and produced wine a mere three years later. He then constructed his wine cellar in 1859 and received his first adoring review in 1860 from Robert Parker, which was published in California Farmer Magazine.: 

“The white wine was light, clear, and brilliant and very superior indeed; his red wine was excellent; we saw superior brandy too.”

In short, the Napa Valley has a long history of producing incredible wine, using grapes from various parts of Europe. The many talented winemakers who have worked in this famed location over the years have created a wonderful reputation for themselves across the country in this regard. Talented winemakers continue to reside there to this day: If you want to try the finest wine in America, Napa Valley is the place to go. Denver has achieved a similar reputation when it comes to beer, but, admittedly, the famous Mile High City does have a bit more of an outlaw culture than the renowned Napa Valley, and we like to think that’s a good thing! After all, there’s a certain freedom that comes with sitting amongst the pines, sipping on a cold beer in a state filled with sunshine and friendly, down-to-earth souls.

Denver, Colorado has the best beer on this side of the Mississippi, and you’ll be glad you stopped by. Our breweries are phenomenal, the locals are super friendly, and the bright blue skies and towering trees will likely leave you feeling content and rejuvenated as you sip on a cold pale ale, surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the country. Please contact us at for information about anything and everything beer-related!

Denver: The Napa Valley of Beer

Today, you really don’t need to make your way to northern California to enjoy sipping Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot, or even Pinot Noir if you are anywhere in or near Colorado. Make your way to Denver, and you will get the opportunity to sample different brands of beer – much like in the famed wine country, Napa Valley.

Denver has gained a reputation as the epicenter of excellent and strange breweries that churn out exciting beers every day. A tour through this metropolis wouldn’t be complete without checking out the awe-inspiring landscape, popularized by the many beer festivals and celebrations.

The History of Denver Beer: How Law and Thirst Shaped the Industry

The first brewpub started pouring beer in Denver around 1988. However, this is not the pinnacle of Colorado’s beer culture because it arrived generations earlier. In the 19th century, some of the most famous lagers were Neef Brother’s Bohemian Girl Special Brew and Walter’s Gold Label TripleBbrew, back when Trinidad and Pueblo ranked high as some of the top beer hubs. 

Colorado’s rich brewing legacy started over 160 years ago in 1859 during the mid-19the century gold rush. Rocky Mountain Brewery was the first brewery to set up shop in Denver in the year 1859, with dozens more following opening up to make more beer for the miners. It was Frederick Solomon, a merchant that recognized the huge market for beer, who opened the Rocky Mountain Brewery. He joined forces with a partner and set up shop in Auraria at Tenth and Saint Louis, on Lorimer Street, a site today that houses the Auraria Campus. 

In 1873, Adolph Coors, a German immigrant stowaway, founded Coors Brewery in Golden. He used the Rocky Mountain water from natural springs to brew his amber concoction, which quickly became a favorite among locals who dubbed it “The Miner’s Banquet.”

A lot of miners used to get beer for a pinch of gold dust. The saloons had measuring scales to determine the amount of gold dust to accept in exchange for a drink. Most of the drinking took place in Saloons, halls, and pubs and largely enjoyed by men since social mores would not allow women to drink beer in public. Back then, there was limited technology, which made bottling and refrigerating the beer impossible, so they could only brew so much as it needed fast consumption to avoid going bad.  

After the initial mad dash to get gold from the Platte River, there were over 35 saloons built and serving beer in Denver after the frontier settlement. During this time, constructing schools, churches, and other community halls seemed to take too long, so Pioneer Denver did just about everything in the local bars. The first government in Denver got things going in one of the salons called the Apollo Hall, which was located in the original Larimer Square. This was one of the most respectable saloons back then and was suitable enough to conduct government matters.

However, the city fathers suspected that there would be some restraint and created a law that stipulated that beer could not be sold out of wagons, tents, or in the Streets. By the 1890s, there were more breweries set up in Colorado, with some of the major players being Ph. Schneider in Trinidad and Walter’s in Pueblo. In Denver, Philip Wang opened up shop on the banks of the Platte River, close to where the Denver aquarium is currently located, and by 1910, the brewery would produce over a hundred thousand barrels of beer in a year. 

The Death Knell for Breweries: When the Taps Went Dry

In 1916, alcohol beverage consumption was prohibited in Colorado, and four years later, in 1920, the nation followed with the Eighteenth Amendment Ratification. There were fears that the drinking habits of the American people would result in a public health crisis because alcohol consumption had reached historically higher levels. Progressive reformers felt that drinking destroyed the drinker’s health, engineered violence, especially in domestic homes, and trapped families into poverty. Women, as well as children, suffered at the hands of drunk men, which led to the prohibition campaign.

While drinking rates declined, the lawlessness increased because Americans scoffed at the dry law. There was a growth in organized crime as people looked to supply the high demand for beer. When the American economy hit the Great Depression, breweries were idle, with Coors Brewery keeping its malthouse operational by substituting beer with malted milk. Of course, nothing would replace the economic impact the brewing industry had, so by 1933, Americans organized the National Prohibition Reform.

The Beginning of Craft Beer

The repeal in 1933 allowed citizens to make wine at home, but the repeal failed to include beer. For this reason, some of the homeowners decided to practice their beer craft underground. They were, however, at a disadvantage because they largely had limited access to ingredients, recipes, and supplies required to perfect their beer. Charlie Papazian, one of the most experienced brewing enthusiasts in Colorado back then, started teaching home brewing in his kitchen.

In 1976, President Jimmy Carter decided to sign a bill that would adjust the legislation to end prohibition. When homebrewing was legalized, Papazian launched a homebrew newsletter and went an extra mile to write a beer recipe book. By 1983, he had formed the American Homebrewers Association for both professional and amateur brewers in Colorado. It was this event that led to the formation of the Great American Beer Festival, which still takes place in Denver every year. The first festival featured 24 brewers that served about 47 different types of beer to an audience of 800 people.

Between the late 19th century and early 20th century, more and more people had started making their own beer at home and even selling it to others. About 129 breweries opened in Colorado, and although most of them were short-lived, it was just the beginning. There was a chain reaction that propelled Denver to getting the unique status of Napa Valley of Beer when it comes to the American craft beer Revolution. 

The Beginning of a New Dawn

The Wynkoop Brewing Company opened in 1988 as the first brewpub in Colorado. They opened shop in what had previously been a neglected warehouse in Denver. During the opening night, crowds thronged into the warehouse, making it clear that the microbrews had a huge market. This popular brewery helped spark the craft beer revolution and the development of Denver’s downtown district.

Decades later, the Craft Beer industry in Denver has progressed exponentially. Although Coors Brewery had invented the aluminum cans way back in 1959, when craft beer penetrated the market in the 1980s and 90s, they started packaging their beers in bottles. It wasn’t until 2002 that Oskar Blues Brewery started packaging Dale’s Pale Ale in aluminum cans. The brewery was later anointed by The New York Times as the best pale ale, with the suggestion that the can preserved the flavor better than the bottle did. 

Today, every neighborhood boasts of a local watering hole, with flavorful ales and lagers on tap. The number of breweries popping up keeps growing by the day. You would do well to raise your glass to Salomon, Good and Tascher for pioneering the beer culture in Denver.

Why Denver is dubbed “The Napa Valley of Beer”

Denver has a long history of beer culture, but why has it been dubbed The Napa Valley of Beer? There’s no doubt the number of craft beer makers has increased staggeringly over the years, and beer imbibers are never short of a place to sip their favorite brands. Here are some reasons Denver is truly the Napa Valley of Beer:

1.  The people of Denver love beer

There is no denying that the people of Denver love beer. The demand for beer has been on an upward trend since the end of the Prohibition days. The number of saloons grew, and beer makers began to target other sections of the society, especially the female-folk. There would be no stopping the drinking spree for Denver people.

Dave Jamison, the Twenty Brew Taphouse owner in Westminster notes that Coloradans love crafted beer. He adds that people in Denver are the adventurous type, and aren’t afraid to try new flavors on the market. With this understanding in mind, he offers a constantly rotating selection of cider and Colorado beer.

2.  Denver is a big player in the beer production industry

Denver may not exactly match Napa Valley when it comes to the number of breweries and mass production of beer, but it isn’t a long way off. Denver is home to over 300 breweries, each offering over 20 selections of beer. This wide variety of options leaves patrons with no choice but to try every available flavor – if they could.

Colorado has become home to the second-most breweries in the country, and the fifth most per capita. It could as well be the Napa Valley of Beer in Colorado, or the Munich of the West, as some imbibers or observers have come to learn.

3.  The city plays host to major beer festivals

Colorado pays homage to three of the most popular beer festivals in the US. The Great American Beer Festival takes place in Denver, attracting thousands of beer enthusiasts from all over the country. More than 50,000 beer connoisseurs gather to sample more than 3,000 beers across 600 breweries.

Denver has played host to the Great American Beer Festival for the last 30 years. The Guinness Book of World Records reports that no other festival comes close to the Mile High City when it comes to the staggering amounts of beer presented at this festival. It is no wonder that Denver was dubbed the Napa Valley of Beer.

More than 50,000 beer enthusiasts could flock to this city this year for the festival, hoping to enjoy more than 3,000 beers from the 600-plus breweries across the US. The huge amounts of beer present point to a popular beer competition. The contest features beers from professional brewers based on their homebrew recipes. Winners receive prestigious awards, which they then flaunt publicly to win more clients for their products.

But imbibing beers isn’t the only activity that takes at the Great American Beer Festival. If you look forward to learning about beer brewing, you will gain a lot of knowledge from this festival, courtesy of educational seminars offered throughout the event. You also get to purchase delicious foods onsite from a variety of vendors.

Since thousands of attendees always flock to the festival, it would be prudent to purchase your ticket early enough. You will also need to plan out your festival itinerary to avoid missing out on some of the best beer picks at the festival.

You also won’t miss the Denver Beer Festival, which runs into the Great American Beer Festival at its tail end. It is a celebration of the beer culture, which has been growing over the years. To cap it off, you have the All Colorado Beer Festival on November 1, staged at Colorado Springs. Suffice to say, you won’t be able to think or do anything without beer crossing your mind – as long as you are in Denver.

These three great beer festivals have helped thrust the city to greater heights of beer consumption, attracting throngs of beer lovers, and presenting new brands to the customers. As it stands, the beer culture in Denver has only the sky as the limit.

Denver’s Beer Scene

Denver’s beer scene is one of the most desirable ones in the country. You can knock back a cold one while engaging in some fine dining and learn about the history of the famous Wild West and its many saloons in the process. Oh yeah, and Denver also has the largest brewery in the world!

If you’re a fan of cowboys and cowgirls, mountain pines, flowing rivers, and perfectly brewed beer containing the purest spring water on this side of the Mississippi, the Queen City of the Plains is for you, with breweries galore and every variety of the finest amber ale you can think of. Is this place heaven on earth? We like to think so.

Breweries to Try while in Denver

With all the hoopla about these craft beers, you might be ready to experience the magic firsthand. If you do, there are some renowned breweries that you totally have to visit!

Wynkoop Brewing Company

If you want to party, this is the place to be: It has twenty-two pool tables and multiple dartboards. You’ll want to try its famous Rail Yard Ale, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could ask what’s on their cask-conditioned rotator tap!

Hmmm… Do you want to try the Railyard Ale or Patty’s Chile Beer?

Rock Bottom Brewery

Are you a rock’ n’ roll fan and a beer aficionado? If so, this place is totally up your alley. You might want to try Molly’s Titanic Brown Ale, named after the famous Margaret Brown: A woman known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, who resided in Denver for a while after surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Did we mention that all of Rock Bottom’s beers are handcrafted in-house? It’s even earned the title of “Brewpub Group and Brewpub Brewery of the Year!” If you want to listen to some popular bands while enjoying some of the best craft beer on earth in the process, you’re in luck: This brewery hosts a rockin’ outdoor concert series every Friday night during the summer!

Breckenridge Brewery

This lovely brewery started out of a home brewer’s basement before it reached success by quenching the thirsts of souls far and wide with mouthwatering flavor combinations. If you’re an adventurous beer connoisseur, this is the spot for you. It offers unique flavors such as Agave Wheat, Breck IPA, and even Oatmeal Stout (a bold, smooth-bodied beer with hints of espresso and semi-sweet chocolate). While you’re there, you might want to ask for its 471 Small Batch Series or pick up a seasonal delight such as the Ophelia Hoppy Wheat!

Great Divide Brewing Company

This brewing company has a reputation for being the best of the best. People come from around the globe to try their famous beers, and for a good reason: They’ve racked up multiple awards and titles over the years.

Great Divide Brewing Co. has won no less than five World Beer Cup awards. It has also received a staggering eighteen Great American Beer Festival medals, and it was named the “Top Brewer in Colorado,” by in 2013. With the competition being so stiff in this state, that’s quite an accomplishment!

One of the folks over at Beer & Brewing gave this brewery’s Imperial Stout a rave review:

“This is what I want when I want an Imperial Stout. It’s like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and the nose smells like breakfast. Sweet and roasty, but not too sweet or too roasty. The two components balance incredibly well. The beer finishes warm, and that adds to the enjoyment.”

It’s safe to say that this is a must-see brewery if you ever find yourself in Cow Town. You can sample any of its beers on tap or in bottles, and you might even be able to try the occasional taproom-only special release!

Explore The Napa Valley of Beer with Denver Microbrew Tour

Now, when you head to Denver, better known as the Napa Valley of Beer, you’ll not only get to enjoy great beer at the Great American Beer Week but great wine at the Denver International Wine Festival as well. These are two highly ranked festivals, and given the history of how they can, it’s a given that anyone would want to get a taste. If you’d like to know more about Beer and wine in Denver, please reach out to us to schedule an amazing Denver Microbrew Tour hosted by professional guides. 

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