For decades, beer geeks in Denver always knew where they were going to be at 5 p.m. on the Monday before the Great American Beer Festival: Falling Rock Taphouse.
The craft beer bar kicked off a fun-filled week each year when its digital GABF countdown clock hit 00:00:00 and owner Chris Black began tapping special, rare and delicious beers. Falling Rock also was the first stop for many out-of-state visitors coming into town for the fest and the last stop as they headed back to DIA. It was a meeting place, a hub and a heartbeat.
But Falling Rock closed in June 2021 after 24 years. The pandemic hadn’t been good to the taproom, and a years-long construction project out front and a changing neighborhood made things worse. Plus, Denver’s beer culture had evolved. People were heading out to myriad taprooms all over the city to find fun and trendy new beers and experiences, eschewing the old guard beers that typically adorned Falling Rock’s 75-tap beer menu.
Which begs the questions: Where will people congregate before, during and after GABF, Oct. 6-8? What, if anything, will become the de facto meeting spot for brewers and beer geeks alike? Will there be one primary spot or a group of beer bars and breweries?
The answer for many will be Bierstadt Lagerhaus, 2875 Blake St., which is already a hot meeting destination for both out-of-towners and locals during Denver events like last year’s Craft Brewers Conference and previous GABF weeks.
“Returning to Denver for the first time after Falling Rock closed offered up a conundrum,” New Jersey-based beer writer, author and editor John Holl wrote in an email to The Denver Post. “The bar was always my first stop from the airport. I’d slip in early in the week, have a quiet pint, catch up with the staff and then descend into the madness of the Great American Beer Festival.”
“When it closed, I needed a new anchor. So it was fitting last year when the Craft Brewers Conference was held in Denver … that when I walked into Bierstadt Lagerhaus for that first pint I was greeted by Chris Black of Falling Rock. He was there holding court and it all felt right and a little normal, even with no IPAs on offer. Once again, that’ll be my first stop.”
Longtime Colorado beer judge and craft brewery expert Dev Adams concurred. “I think it’ll be Bierstadt. Still easy to get to, good food and, after all the heavy beers, it’s so refreshing.”
With its insider cachet, large space, food options and great beer, Bierstadt is probably the top contender. But it’s not the only one.
We asked around to see where else beer lovers will go to help fill the void that Falling Rock left when it poured its last pint.
Falling Rock’s Black said he will be at MobCraft Beer, a new-to-Denver brewpub that opened in early September, in the former Liberati Brewing space in Five Points. Black has teamed up with the business to offer some of his former events there, including an IPA showdown. “What we’re trying to do at MobCraft is re-create some of the camaraderie that the industry has been known for in past years — wth the focus on the event themes being to allow many breweries to participate,” Black said. But MobCraft is also very new and it hails originally from Wisconsin, so people don’t really know about it yet, and it doesn’t have any kind of track record in Denver. Nevertheless, the space is very large with a huge patio, and there’s food (from partnering restaurant Dee Tacko). The vibe will likely be comforting and familiar to people.
MobCraft/Dee Tacko, 2403 Champa St., Denver. mobcraftbeer.com
Like MobCraft, Goed Zuur is in Five Points, and the upscale bar, which specializes in sour and wild ales along with a small plates menu, has become a popular hangout during GABF, in part because of its rare beer list and its beautiful setting. “Downtown it’s tough, but parts of Falling Rock’s mission are covered by Star Bar [see below], Finn’s Manor [see below] and, of course Goed Zuur,” said Black. “All three have their own vibe and specialties, and all three have really good people selecting the beer that have good relationships in the industry.”
2801 Welton St., Denver. goedzuur.com
Star Bar, despite almost no online or social media presence, has been an underground hot spot during GABF for at least a dozen years now. There’s no food and very little room to move, but its divey feel and stellar cans and draft list attract brewery staffers in particular, who are looking for an all-out party where just about anything can and does happen. “It’s where the brewers flock,” said Dev Adams. “But the popularity with the general populace seems to have waned during that week.” Nevertheless, it will likely be crowded again.
Star Bar, 2137 Larimer St., Denver. thestarbardenver.com.
Located in the heart of trendy upper Larimer Street in RiNo, Finn’s Manor has become legendary for its beer menu, which is full of rare and hard-to-find beers — even when GABF isn’t in town and no one is looking. The indoor-outdoor venue is far from luxurious and the food options have shrunk from multiple trucks to a single burger pop-up (although a delicious one), but it would be hard to do GABF week without landing at Finn’s. Black loves it. And David Lin, the owner of Comrade Brewing, said he plans to hit up MobCraft, Bierstadt (early in the week, before it gets too crazy) and Finn’s, where he says the beer list is always top-notch.
Finn’s Manor, 2927 Larimer St., Denver. finnsmanor.co.
Hops & Pie
Almost everyone we asked mentioned Hops & Pie Artisan Pizzeria. The 11-year-old spot probably has the largest and best list of craft beers on tap during GABF and just about any other time — and its pizza is some of the tastiest in the city. But Hops & Pie is located a good 20 minutes from downtown in the trendy but remote Tennyson Street art district. So heading there from the downtown corridor, where most GABF-related events take place, has to be more of a thought-out trip with a planned Uber budget rather than a short walk, scooter ride or pedicab trip from the Colorado Convention Center or the other locations on this list. Nevertheless, if you walked into Hops & Pie on Wednesday and didn’t leave until Sunday, you’d probably taste a wider variety of specialty beers than anywhere else in the city.
3920 Tennyson St., Denver. hopsandpie.com
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