BY LUKA D’AMATO AND COLIN HELM
Boulder is a place known for its outdoorsy and liberal culture. Nestled at the base of the Flatirons, Boulder offers an excess of potentially exhausting activities for those venturing to the stereotypically beautiful college town. Filled with young, healthy people, and known for its sunny days, the atmosphere of Boulder makes it hard not to max out your days hiking, rock climbing, or just wandering down Pearl Street. But what do you do when the golden sun starts to slip below the unforgettable outline of the mountains?
Beer. Boulder is known for its craft breweries and tap houses, and when the sun sets and the locals are getting out of class, work, or from a long day exploring the outdoors, they hit the bars to enjoy a locally created, artistically crafted beer—some of which can’t be purchased outside of the breweries themselves. As we ventured from brewery to brewery, we discovered a diverse group of patrons at each bar. From businessmen, to students, to retirees, they were all packed with people there for one purpose: to relax after a long day. It is unavoidable that the Boulder area cultivated a culture for well-crafted beer.
WEST END TAVERN
Service: Swift, attentive service is to be expected at West End. Expect a slight delay during dinner hours due to the popularity of this exquisite whiskey bar.
Beer: Adequate selection of notable quality brews with specialty bottles reaching $40.
Food: BBQ is their specialty and will not disappoint. During happy hour, pulled pork sliders are a must. The Butcher Block for 4 will set you back $69, but offers a sample of every meat smoked in-house (chicken, brisket, pulled pork, ribs, hot links, and multiple sides).
Atmosphere: Industrial, modern tavern with rich, warm wood and copper piping. Customers range from students on a budget to businessmen enjoying rare whiskies.
Price: Reasonably priced considering the quality. At West End Tavern it is possible to enjoy a meal for $20 or spend $800 if consuming rare whiskies (reaches $120), such as Pappy Van Winkle that must be purchased at auction.
Location: Located on the west end of Pearl St. next to Jax, this location is very convenient, especially for guests of the St. Julien. 926 Pearl St. | 303.444.3535
AVERY BREWING CO.
Service: The service at Avery was unparalleled for a brewery and if service is your primary desire, look no further. The wait staff is friendly, and no matter how busy they are, they perk up when asked about their favorite beer or if they have any suggestions. One of the cooks even stopped by while off shift to ask us how we liked the food and beer. With exceptionally fast and friendly service, go to Avery if waiting is your pet peeve.
Beer: With an extensive selection of brews encompassing many varieties, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. You may or may not love Avery’s beer, but you will like it and have a great time trying their diverse menu. With a range of beers like the distinct, blonde, 4.5% abv El Gose, of Leipzig German heritage with lime and sea salt giving it a uniquely tart taste, to something like the insane, 17.5% abv Tweak, with its espresso and bourbon aged sweet but spicy flavor.
Food: Although the menu is not as long as some other places, the food is of very high quality. Avery is certainly not a place one goes to get dinner, but if you need something in your stomach to get through that next beer, you will not be disappointed. Notable dishes: fried chicken and macaroni.
Atmosphere: With an outside patio and a social seating arrangement, Avery has a fun atmosphere. It is located in an industrial park and is a larger brewery, giving it a less authentic feel. Despite lacking in ambience, the brew room itself is free to be explored and observed on your own terms. It offers a cool perspective on beer for anyone interested in the brewing process.
Pricing: With quality food, the pricing is fairly standard at around $15 for a dinner. Beer pricing can get expensive when looking into the specialty brews ($9 for 5 oz). However with tasters and cheaper selections available, quality beer can be had for a reasonable price ($5 pints).
Location: Being a 10-15 minute drive from Pearl Street, Avery is a little ways outside of Boulder. But because it is located in an industrial complex, there are several other notable breweries within walking distance making it a good place to sample the Boulder brewery experience. However, a designated driver is necessary. 4910 Nautilus Ct. | 303.440.4324
Service: Decent and rather friendly at the Walnut Brewery, although relatively unremarkable in comparison to Avery.
Beer: Get the Buffalo Gold or the Pomegranate Wheat if you enjoy citrus notes. Both are well suited for a beautiful summer day. We thought the St. James was rather underwhelming and lacked flavor.
Food: The Maker’s Mark burger is a personal favorite, combining complex whiskey flavors and a sweet aftertaste.
Atmosphere: With open seating featuring high ceilings and a combination of booths and long tables, this brewery is well suited to large groups or families. The staff was friendly and helpful and the floor plan is fairly social.
Price: Most entrées are around $12-$15 while beer is generally $5-$6 for a pint.
Location: On Walnut Street, just off of Pearl, Walnut Brewing Co. is excellently located. Walnut is only a short walk away from a plethora of other bars, breweries, and restaurants. It is conveniently located for those looking for a few beers, a long night out, or just something close to their hotel. 1123 Walnut St. | 303.447.1345
WEST FLANDERS BREWING CO.
Service: Very friendly staff ready to jump into friendly conversation in their free time at West Flanders Brewing Co. Like other locations, the staff is incredibly knowledgable about both their food and their beer. Every staff member has their favorite appetizer and beer, and are excited for you to try them. The speed of the service is not anything notable, but you will not be sitting wondering where your server is.
Beer: Excellent quality and a large selection. West Flanders is one of the few breweries in Boulder to brew a Trappist style Belgian ale (Angry Monk).
Food: For light bar food, get the Pretzel Bites with extra sauce. I can confidently say this is the best bar snack I have ever consumed, with a slightly crispy yet doughy texture and a savory cheese sauce. The entrées can reach $25 as West Flanders is a pricier option, but the quality and convenient location justify the price.
Atmosphere: Contemporary with unique lighting fixtures, the ambience is warm and inviting. There are multiple levels of seating and a charming outdoor area, perfect for summer.
Price: With entrées going up to $25, you can certainly spend some money on your food, but prices do reflect quality. Beer, on the other hand, is much more affordable with most beers at $6 and a few of their specialties beers, like the Black Immaculate, at $8. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3-6 pm, and beer is half off at this time.
Location: Located in the heart of Pearl Street, West Flanders is convenient for both tourists and locals. Multiple parking garages can be found along with street parking off the Pearl Street promenade. 1125 Pearl St. | 303.447.2739
With nationally renowned breweries like Avery Brewing Co. and West Flanders Brewing Co., as well as lesser-known local favorites, it is undeniable that the craft brew scene is a fundamental part of Boulder culture. This is evident from the patrons, as well as the passionate employees who all are more than happy to start up a conversation about their favorite brew, as well as delve into the details of their brewing process. The breweries are frequented by everyone from college students to businessmen, all looking to unwind after a long day of work. With the majority of the breweries’ tables setup in a social order, it is hard to avoid friendly conversation with those around you. It is undeniable that Boulder embodies the “work hard, play hard” motto, and the local breweries are the meeting place for all to relax with a wide selection of quality beer and food that hits the spot before turning in and seizing the next adventure to come.