In this article, we put together a list of the 10 best breweries in Boulder, CO. We also included top brews for each brewery and lots more. Let’s dive right in.
From the 1970s when Boulderite Charlie Papazian pioneered the concept of microbrewing by putting home-brewed beer on the map, to the 1990s when microbrews began popping up as quickly as hip coffeeshops, to change the way America drank beer, Boulder has been on the front lines of the craft brewery scene.
It’s an old joke about Boulder: there’s a microbrewery on every corner. It’s almost literally true, and an overview will necessarily leave out a microbrew or two that are just as stellar as the award-winning ones (of which there are many, just in the city of Boulder, let alone the whole county). And new breweries are cropping up all the time.
The Boulder Weekly Best of Boulder awards can give us a little insight as to what breweries are the best according to that particular Boulderite vote, and, being a lifelong Boulderite myself (and a longtime beer enthusiast) I’ll add my two cents’ worth to the consensus, giving you an idea what the best beers of the many Boulder breweries really are.
What makes a brewery the best of the best?
#1 — Beer: well I mean, duh. A brewery is only as good as its beer, and in Boulder, you can’t throw a water bottle without hitting an excellent, tasty pint. Variety, creativity, selection, and taste (which comes from good ingredients) all combine to make a top-notch beer.
#2 — Ambience: is it the walls crammed full of Grateful Dead posters and hippy-trippy art, like Mountain Sun? Maybe it’s a warehouse-chic brewery with exposed brick and a good view of the brewing facilities (like at Upslope). Or a cozy pub-like atmosphere, where you can snuggle up to the taps and spend a lazy afternoon sampling the creative varieties. Where you drink the beer is almost as important as the beer itself, and can affect how you appreciate the brews. And then there’s the service: how are the bartenders/servers? Do they know their stuff? Are they prompt and friendly?
#3 — History: how long has the brewery been open? Is the business good to their neighbors? Has it won awards and/or a reputation? Does the community agree on its quality?
These are the big three when it comes to judging a brewery for its quality, though there are no doubt more things you can come up with to add to the list.
One disclaimer: when picking the “best” beer each brewery below offers, know that I haven’t sampled every single variety that each place serves. I go with (along with personal taste): popularity, and quality of ingredients. Let us know if you have a favorite beer I didn’t mention!
Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery
Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery tends to sweep the BoB awards each year, as you’ve read here before. This year, they won Gold in Beer Selection, and Silver both for best Craft Brewery, and Happy Hour. It’s easy to see why: stop by any of the Mountain Suns in Boulder or Longmont and you can sample (for free!) any of the beer that makes the pubs famous to your heart’s content. Better yet, you can enjoy all the delicious pairings with the healthy and tasty pub grub you can fit in your happy tummy (see Best Burgers right here on Your Boulder).
Best Brew: FYIPA
Longtime flagship beer FYIPA (it doesn’t stand for what you think it does) has been on the menu at Mountain Sun for decades. Rich, amber-colored, strong but not sweet, and deliciously hoppy, the FYIPA is the go-to at any of the Mountain Sun locations. It pairs excellently with their burgers and with their hummus, too.
A note from the pandemic trenches: Boulder’s OG flagship pub, Mountain Sun downtown, is rumored to be opening back up sometime in February 2022. Just in time for Stout Month? We hope so. In the meantime, South Boulder’s Southern Sun and its slightly higher-end restaurant sister, Under the Sun, are still going strong, as is the Longmont branch, called Longs Peak. No word from the Denver Mountain Sun, called Vine Street, only that they’re hiring good people as fast as they can, and hope to open up again soon.
Oskar Blues Brewery
BoB Bronze winner for Best Beer Selection, Oskar Blues’ yummy creations offer something delicious for all tastes in beer. And they’re all canned and widely distributed across Colorado, so if you miss something when you’re out enjoying one of the taprooms, you can always bring some home for later.
If you’re familiar with Boulder county locales, you’ll know Oskar Blues from the big silo on the Diagonal Highway, right at Hover Road in Longmont. That’s its big Boulder county location, with stellar bbq on their menu of “homegrown liquids and solids” and live bands playing there any number of nights of the week.
Oskar Blues has a location on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall now, too, down on the West End, with all the tasty menu items (and beer selections) of its bigger Longmont counterpart. So why not make it an Oskar Blues beer, people watching, and bbq evening on the mall?
Best Brew: Dale’s Pale Ale
Of all the beers to select at Oskar Blues, one failsafe and immensely popular brew is its famous Dale’s Pale Ale. Flavorful, drinkable, and offered year-round, Dale’s Pale Ale is light enough to be an easy beer but tasty enough to enjoy its complex flavors, without overwhelming the palate.
Pandemic Note: It’s looking like the live music scene at Oskar Blues is still on hiatus due to Covid protocols, but they do still have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and their nibbles and sips are available in-house or to go, as usual.
Upslope Brewing Company
Bronze BoB winner for best craft brewery, Upslope’s two locations are back up, running, and busy: both are lovely taprooms with a wide variety of food trucks parked up in their lots to go with the tasty upslope flagship pints as well as creative seasonals.
North, Upslope looks over Lee Hill Road, and has board games and more to enjoy as you enjoy the Upslope beer choices. East, the Flatiron Park branch often has live music, food trucks, and other types of beer celebrations depending on the occasion.
Best Brew: Craft Lager
One of Upslope’s most popular flagship beers, their Craft Lager is one of the tastiest lighter beers you’ll ever experience. Brewed entirely from malted barley, the Craft Lager is smooth, drinkable, and a lovely thing to drink on a hot summer’s day.
Avery Brewing Company
Avery has been around for a long time but settled a few years ago into a huge brewery, taphouse, restaurant and patio tucked in amongst the office campuses of Gunbarrel, just off 63rd street.
Avery got the BoB Gold several years running when it comes to the Best Craft Brewery award. But have you tried their food?
Way beyond your basic bbq or pub grub, Avery offers a wide variety of especially expertly prepared meats, many with an upscale Southern flair, and the comestibles always pair beautifully with the giant list of taps Avery’s got to offer.
Best Brew: Tweak
So I’m going to recommend the Tweak as arguably Avery’s best beer, but beware! It packs a major punch. The recent Tweak on the menu (as of this writing) is a whopping 14.7% ABV, so. Just saying. Tweak is a rich, sweet, chocolate-and-coffee-laden, bourbon barrel aged imperial stout with espresso added. It’s seriously a dessert (and a strong one at that), and I highly recommend it. Just, yanno. Get an Uber home from Gunbarrel.
Avery has also gotten on the hard seltzer bandwagon, for those concerned about their gluten intake–those come in all sorts of tasty flavors, and they usually have a few of them on tap in their taproom.
Pandemic changes at Avery: Normally, Avery has pretty much the best brewery tour you can find in Boulder, with merch and everything else you could want, every day. Unfortunately, the Covid plague being what it is, those are temporarily suspended. Keep your eye on their website to catch when they’ll be opening those tours up again–it’ll be well worth the wait.
Asher Brewing Company
Asher Brewery is Boulder’s first all-organic brewery! And its use of only the best and healthiest ingredients shows: the Ginger Bomb seasonal brew has actual organic ginger root ground up and in the mix. Hops, barley, any other flavors? All real plants, all organic; never syrups. Like the popular seasonal choice, Cafe Kolsch: never a flavored syrup, it’s infused with real (organic and fair trade) cold brew coffee.
Best Brew: Cafe Kolsch (Green Bullet)
Though the Green Bullet, a delicious and robust IPA that’s a flagship beer for Asher, is probably their best-selling pint year-round, the Cafe Kolsch is something special, and rivals sales of Green Bullet when it’s in season.
Cafe Kolsch is an intensely flavorful light beer that has been infused with cold brew coffee (supplied by another Boulder staple: Ampersand coffee roasters). This flavor combo may sound odd, but trust me: it’s delicious, especially when ice cold. And the advantage to Asher using all real and organic ingredients, never additives? It’s caffeinated.
Asher doesn’t really do the food thing (they had food trucks there before the pandemic hit), but they do allow you to order food from elsewhere if you’re chilling on their patio.
Asher’s Pandemic Note to keep in mind: They don’t have indoor seating anymore due to Covid and their small size, so stay out on the patio if you want a “for-here” beer.
Finkel & Garf Craft Beer
How about them Gunbarrel breweries, am I right? What used to be a little rural-ish, industrial twig branching off of Boulder (and those that live there still have Boulder addresses) has become a wee cultural hub of its own, with Boulder flavors abounding. Finkel & Garf brewery is no exception—and the tastes you’ll find there are as unique as its name.
Located right across from the Gunbarrel King Soopers, Finkel & Garf’s taproom boasts 16 taps of its own delicious brews! Five of those are the “normal” flagship beers (which taste anything but), and the rest all rotate constantly, giving East Boulderites a new taste sensation every time they go. Finkel & Garf’s brews are available to sip on there at the taproom, and you can also take them with you to go, either in a growler or a 6-pack of cans.
Best Brew: Oatmeal Milk Stout
My personal favorite at Finkel & Garf is their Red IPA, but a close second for my palate (and by far the most popular among F&G fans) is the rich, creamy, drinkable Oatmeal Milk Stout. Like all good Milk Stouts, this beer is an excellent breakfast beer, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and sweetness. The breakfast of champions.
Pandemic Note: Finkel & Garf looks like it’s functioning normally, though you’ll want to have your mask on whenever you’re not at your table (like all taprooms in Boulder these days), and keep your pooches on leashes. They’ll show you around the brewery anytime, too, if you want to see how the F&G magic is done behind the scenes.
No quest for the perfect Boulder beer would be complete without a visit to VisionQuest brewery, over to the East and North, behind the Depot restaurant and near the Valmont dog and bike parks. Making this a stop on your beer quest will highlight your whole Boulder beer quest, whether you end up with a strong Belgian quad or a complex tea and ginger sour, VisionQuest will wake up your taste buds and raise the Boulder beer bar that’s already high.
Best Brew: Helena’s Handbasket
This American Red is a must for any of you fellow Red (and even IPA) lovers–this mellow and tasty brew has a slogan, which encapsulates the beer perfectly: “Live, Laugh, Lavender.” Trust me, you’ll love it. And it’s gluten-reduced!
Pandemic Note for VisionQuest Taphouse: Tuesdays and Thursdays are still Open Mic and Comedy Nights, respectively. Mask up, leash up your pets, and go have a ball. Sounds like a perfect post-dog-park thing to do.
Ah, Sanitas. One of the very best beer-drinking patios in all of Boulder, and that’s saying something. Sanitas is perched right on Boulder Creek, and it’s got a long line of taps with some of the tastiest brews you’ll find anywhere, beer and kombucha alike. They’ve got a big beautiful indoor space, too, as well as a spiffy conference room for private events and the like. And if you’re a Boulderite like me and enjoy your yoga as much as your craft beer, you can enjoy both here at Sanitas.
Sanitas doesn’t allow outside food, but it’s for a good reason–they’re in partnership with multiple BoB Gold-winner for Best Tacos, McDevitt Taco Supply, who hosts a permanent version of their excellent taco truck right in Sanitas’ back yard (literally). Eating McDevitt’s is just as much a reason to hang out at Sanitas as any of their delicious brews.
Best Brew: The Bandito
This delicious Mexican lager is perfect for a cold summer sipper, but delicious and available year-round. As an homage to McDevitt’s, this crisp lager is laced with roasted tortillas, and so is a perfect pairing with an award-winning taco.
Sanitas in the Pandemic Note: Sanitas is asking that all patrons please wear masks when not at their tables inside. Pretty standard stuff for beer-swigging in Boulder during the pandemic.
Twisted Pine Brewing
Especially since Boulder Beer shut its doors a few years back, Twisted Pine has come into its own as one of Boulder’s old reliables when it comes to good beer with a decades-long reputation. Its Walnut Street taproom is still going strong, with its excellent pub grub, patio with a view of the Flatirons, and long tap list of award-winning brews. Twisted Pine is located just kitty-corner to my favorite tattoo shop, Rising Tide, and I can personally attest to a Twisted Pine pint being the best pick-me-up after a long ink session.
Best Brew: Hoppy Boy
If you’re an IPA lover and have never tasted Hoppy Boy, it’s time to remedy that right away. Technically not an IPA but an APA (American Pale Ale), Hoppy Boy nonetheless is any hop-loving Boulderite’s favorite beer when it comes to snappy hops, bitterness in a very good way, and refreshing crispness.
Twisted Pine also has a wide variety of non-alcoholic choices, too, for those Boulderites trying to keep away from the booze: kombucha, switchel, aqua fresca, and an amazing dry-hopped mango tea are all available to tempt your taste buds without impairment.
A Twisted Pandemic Note: Twisted Pine, like so many pubs and places nowadays, has been affected by the pandemic’s effect on the supply chain. As such, their kitchen (and sometimes their tap availability) can sometimes be a little depleted. But they’re open for good sips and eats nonetheless, and their patio, as well as taproom seating, is still going strong.
The Post Chicken & Beer
Noted for its chicken just as much as its beer, The Post was featured by none other than the mayor of Flavortown himself, Guy Fieri, on his show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, specifically for the gluten-free fry process they use on their chicken. It’s a scrumptious result, and the Post’s beers are all centered around it, making any brew you choose a good pairing with the food. The Post has pubs all over Boulder County and beyond, too: Longmont, Denver, even Estes Park and Fort Collins all have their Post to boast about.
Best Brew: Townie
When any Boulder beer love thinks of The Post, they think first of Townie IPA. Hoppy, bright, and “Easy Drinkin’”, Townie is the perfect pint to enjoy as you sit outside under the heat lamps watching the Pearl Street Mall shoppers walk to and fro.
The Post also has the tastiest and most popular of the gluten-free options around–their Holidaily series, Fat Randy IPA in particular, is brewed with the exact same care and attention to flavor detail as their other beers, and you can tell by tasting.
Pandemic/Marshall Fire Aftermath Note: Since The Post’s OG flagship restaurant is in Lafayette, very close to where the awful Marshall Fires ravaged a huge area of local Boulder-area neighborhoods, The Post is happy to have added themselves to the Restaurants Revive program, a long list of local restaurants that are providing free meals and more for those affected by the fires.