Tag Archives: travel

Denver Brewery Tour

December 3, 2016

While Colorado may be known best internationally for being the first state to legalize marijuana, it is also very well known for its craft beers.  Breweries have become very popular, and they seem to be on every corner! A few of my friends from Dallas came into town, and of course, they wanted to try out a bunch of breweries.  As such, we created our own brewery tour.

Our first stop was at Great Divide Brewing Company which was opened in 1994 when Denver’s craft beer industry hardly existed.  Over time, Great Divide Brewing Company became one of America’s most decorated craft breweries.  While Eric tried the Yeti Beer which appeared to be pretty popular, Steve and I tried sample flights.  Both of us thought they were good and well priced!  The brewery sells a variety of T-shirts and such, but only popcorn for food.  A guacamole food truck was parked outside the brewery when we left around 1pm, but it wasn’t open yet.

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Our next stop was at Jagged Mountain Brewery just a few blocks from Great Divide.  Here I tried the Cougar Slayer.  With that name, it may have been better suited for a male, but the blackberry saison sounded good to me.  None of us tasted any blackberry in the Cougar Slayer, so that was a bummer, but the boys liked some of the other IPA’s.  Neither had seen a 17.5% alcohol beer, so Steve and Eric ordered it to share.  It tasted almost like molasses…it was very syrupy.  We really liked the vibe at this brewery that had much more seating than the Great Divide.  As with most breweries, it only sold popcorn, so it was time for us to find a place with food.

We headed the opposite direction from where we wanted to end up, but it wasn’t that long a walk…eight blocks or so to reach First Draft Taproom & Kitchen.  This taproom has 30+ beers on tap on the wall along with a few ciders and a few wines.  Most of the beers were Colorado crafts, yet some came from other states as well.  The lightest could be found on the left of the wall and they grew bolder to the right.  Guests can draw as much beer from each tap as they want…a one ounce or eight.  A card connected to our credit card tracked the amount of each pour.  There is a total limit which is probably a good way for the establishment to control guests over-serving themselves!  We all ordered food though I can’t say it was the best.  It was, however, sustenance.

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From First Draft we walked a bit to Wynkoop Brewing Company, located across from Union Station.  Wynkoop was started by John Hickenlooper (Colorado’s current governor), Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler, and Russell Schehrer in the 80’s when LoDo (lower downtown Denver) was a ghost town.  Now, Wynkoop is a Denver institution in a hopping downtown.  Wynkoop brews its own beer, features guest beer, and has a full menu.  We tried one beer quickly before we took a break from breweries to go to the hockey game at the Pepsi Center.

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It only took about ten minutes to walk to the venue where the Dallas Stars were taking on the Colorado Avalanche in a division rivalry.  My Dallas friends were happy to see the Stars win…3-0!

Our final stop of the night was at Union Station.  Union Station was recently renovated, and is spectacular.  The building includes an expansive lobby with the Terminal Bar and a few shops surrounding it.  There are also a few fancy restaurants and a nice hotel.  The Terminal Bar is great!  We just joined the line at its window to order a beer and then headed to the shuffle board tables.  Some other folks joined us for some friendly competition.

Just as we were about to call it a night, I ran into my friend Marissa and her friend Catherine.  We caught up for awhile and then headed home.  We hardly made a dent in the breweries.  There were several more in the same vicinity.  My friends planned on trying more breweries tomorrow.  I opted for something a little more healthy tomorrow…a hike in the Rockies.  What a fun day though! ETB

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Cripple Creek and Manitou Springs with Hikes in Between

May 2-3, 2015

Garden of the Gods
Location: 5 miles northwest of Colorado Springs
Fees: None

Cripple Creek
Location: 45 miles west of Colorado Springs

Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rock Trailhead
Location:
9.4 miles north of Cripple Creek
Elevation: 9,760-11,000
Roundtrip: 7.6 miles
Fees: None

Manitou Springs
Location: 6.5 miles west of Colorado Springs

Just sixty miles south of Denver a national natural landmark, Garden of the Gods is a unique, free park to visit. David and I stopped in the visitor center to find out the best trails to follow for cool views of the rock formations, but also to get in at least a four mile hike.

Upon the instruction of the ranger, we walked from the visitor center under the road to Gateway Trail which we connected to all or portions of three more trails; Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail, Siamese Twins Trail, and Perkins Central Garden Trail. The trails led us along the dusty path past twisted trees and small shrubs, between a variety of rock formations, and beneath many climbers enjoying a sunny day.

After completing the four mile loop, we drove to Cripple Creek, an old gold mining town. In its heyday, over 10,000 prospectors lived in the now sleepy town of 1,100. Now the main street is lined with casinos. The casino just on the outskirts of town has the cheapest craps table in the state (only $1), and from what I understand, good odds. We spent a few hours learning how to play. It only cost us $20 each. It was a fun time filler while we waited to watch the Kentucky Derby.

Cripple Creek is also home to a few museums and a theatre. I wouldn’t mind coming back for a theatre production, as I’m told actors come in from all over. Only a movie was showing, Three Amigos, while we were there. For a small $5 contribution, we visited the Cripple Creek District Museum operated by an enthusiastic married couple. We mostly wanted to take our picture in the cut-out board, but then enjoyed seeing all the old pictures and maps of the town and gold mines. It was worth a visit!

The weather put a bit of a damper on walking around the town, but we got a glimpse before we left the next morning to hike Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks. The trailhead is located at the closed Little Ike Tunnel. If hiking to both Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks, the overall distance is 7.6 miles. It is also possible to just hike one or the other for a shorter distance, 2.2 miles or 6.6 miles respectively. The trail also offers a detour to the left on Ring the Peak Trail that goes into the nearby meadow and towards Pikes Peak (this is actually the first trail junction).

While the weather was rather crappy the last few weeks of April, we were surprised to see how much snow was still on the trail. I expected some, but much of the path was snowpacked. Micro-spikes would have been a nice addition for the hike that began at 9,700 feet of elevation and gained another 1,200 along the way to Pancake Rocks.

The hike to Horsethief Falls was relatively simple though most of the falls were covered in snow, so I was a little bummed to only see a trickle of water. The hike to Pancake Rocks was a bit more challenging. Our poles helped us climb up the icy switchbacks to some neat rock formations. I’m uncertain if we made it all the way as the path somewhat ended into a mass of snow shortly after we stopped to admire some of the rocks. As the day warmed up, we alternated between post holing and sliding down the path on our return.

On our way back to Denver, we stopped for lunch in Manitou Springs and to wander around the town. I would have liked to wander around the town a bit longer, but we made a poor lunch choice by visiting BooDad’s. We saw our waiter twice over 1.5 hours…to bring us a beer and to bring us the bill. We had to order our meal from the young girl cleaning tables, our beer from the waitress handling the table next to us, and then ask for our bill from the person seating people as our waiter was no-where to be found on the balcony or inside the restaurant! I would not recommend, though Manitou Springs is worth a visit. ETB