A scheduled trip to Denver for work turned into a nice week with a mini-holiday in the middle. Having to work the July 4th week away from home allowed me to plan a small vacation and make the trip more fun. Jess got a trip on Frontier for Tuesday night and we thought a quick trip into the foothills of Colorado would be fun with stop in downtown Denver for some brewery touring and beer tasting.
My flight into DIA was uneventful. Flight 399 pushed back from the gate at 6:15pm CST, just a few minutes behind schedule. After a brief wait on the taxiway, the pilot commenced a rather long take-off roll. I was seated in 15C, an exit row on the 737-800 but with minimal recline. After the first “ding” signifying we were at 10,000 ft. I took out my laptop and watched an episode of “The Office” and waited for the snack to be served.
Forty-Five minutes into the flight and service began with options for the snack being a tuna sandwich or turkey sandwich. I opted for the turkey even though I brought pizza on-board for this flight (the woman next to me brought a hamburger) and a glass of Chardonnay. I finished watching the episode of “The Office” and started working on a side project of mine that I hope to have up in the near future. One observation about the flight was that even though it was full, the service was quick and efficient. The crew went out of their way to make sure everyone was accommodated.
Our arrival into DIA was smooth and as we pulled up to the gate I knew the airport would be almost completely empty. Walking into Terminal A, I saw a few people waiting on a couple of delayed Frontier Airlines flights but other than that, it was the normal, fairly deserted terminal. One thing that annoys me about DIA is the train that takes you to the baggage claim area. Yes, it’s nice but people just cram into it because they want to get to their bags as soon as possible (though most of the bags take a while). What starts as a nice stroll through the airport turns into a free-for-all at the baggage carousel.
I carried-on but my co-worker checked his bags, so after he collected them we headed to the AVIS pick-up area. We were upgraded to a Mercury Mariner and exited the airport grounds, making our way to the hotel in Westminster, CO.
Two days of work and I headed to the airport to pick-up Jess, ready to enjoy the quick little holiday. Jess’ flight was on time and I parked to make it little easier for her to get her bags and not be worried finding me in what is sometimes a mess known as the DIA passenger lanes. We made our way to the hotel, dropped off our bags, freshened up and headed downtown for dinner. We knew we wanted to try a few breweries and thought we would try one on Tuesday and a couple of others on Wednesday. For this night we picked the Breckenridge Brewery which was catercorner to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. The atmosphere in the place is just like any other large restaurant/bar and we were ready to try a sampler but the waitress informed us that they don’t do samplers on game nights because the bartender is too busy. I was a little perturbed by this because the place had settled down and most of the crowd had made their way to the game and they could have easily made us a sampler if they really wanted to. Needless to say, we just ordered a couple of beers, I had the Proper Hefeweizen and Jess had the Summerbright Ale. Both were great light beers, perfect for summer and they went well with our dinner.
We paid and made our way outside, ready to walk-off some of the calories we had just taken in. Strolling around downtown we decided to head toward the 16th Street Mall and enjoy the evening. The sun was setting and the crisp air of the Mile High City was refreshing. Downtown Denver is done right. There is plenty of sidewalk space and everything seems to be well thought out, especially the underground bus terminal. After about an hour of walking we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.
On a whim that night, we decided that we would get up early and head to the foothills to enjoy the beautiful weather and maybe make our way to a casino in Black Hawk. After a good nights rest, we did just that. The drive to the foothills was breathtaking and we made mental notes of places to stop on our way back so that we could snap some photos. Arriving in Black Hawk, we quickly decided we would try out a couple of the nearby casinos and then make our way back to Denver. We parked and headed into the Golden Mardi Gras Casino. $20 was going to be the total that we would spend at the casinos and got our cash and put a few bucks in the penny slots… I know what you’re thinking, “Penny slots?!” but in all honesty it was just for fun, as neither of us had ever been to a casino before. Losing some money on the slots, we played video poker, where our luck did not improve.
We needed a break from the cigarette smoke and went outside to enjoy the beautiful mountains that surround this little town. They are absolutely amazing. Still having money in our pockets we wanted to try our hand one more time, so we went into the Ameristar casino and went for the penny slots again. Then we tried out the video poker… Our luck took a turn for the better as Jess won $14. We were happy and invested $5 in another game. A few deals later and Jess won $44.25, enough to pay off our losses for the day and come out on top. With that, we were off to cash-out and head back to Denver, stopping to snap a few quick pictures.
Our first stop in Denver was the Wynkoop Brewing Company. It is a neat little brewpub with a real classic feel. The ceilings are ornate with carvings and a 1920’s-esque appeal to them. The beers we were served were Light Rail Ale, Railyard Ale, Two Guns Pilsner, Cascade Cream Ale, and Cherry Bomb Weizen.
The Cherry Bomb was interesting but dry. The sweetness of it was not overpowering and it was refreshing with little aftertaste. The bartender described the brewing process as the beer simply aging with fresh cherries in it, which explained the not too sweet flavor. Cascade Cream Ale let us down a little bit, it had a great starting flavor but finished dry and bitter. We were hoping for a much smoother finish as the name “cream” had led us to believe. Two Guns Pilsner was very similar, finishing dry and bitter but starting light. Nothing too impressive about it. The Railyard Ale was hands down the best of the bunch, with strong flavor and a smooth, easy down finish. Light Rail was too light and not flavorful enough for us, leaving us wondering if it was actually beer. We did have a light snack of beer bread and artichoke dip which was awesome. I definitely give Wynkoop a 4 out of 5.
After paying our tab, we made our way across downtown to the Great Divide Brewing Company. This is an interesting place because it is not a restaurant or brewpub, it is merely a tiny bar and tap room. They give four free samples and after that there is a minimal charge for more. Our samples for this trip were the Ridgeline Amber, Denver Pale Ale, St. Bridget’s Porter, and Wild Raspberry Ale. All of these were good beers. The Ridgeline had great flavor, with a slight aftertaste. The Denver Pale Ale was a little too hoppy, in our opinion, for a pale ale but was still a very good beer. St. Bridget’s Porter was interesting, as it reminded us of a seasonal fall beer. It was heavier (not unexpected) but had a wonderful flavor. Wild Raspberry took the cake though. I was expecting to be overwhelmed with raspberry flavor but in fact it was extremely mild and added a lot of life to the beer.
The bartender left a little to be desired at Great Divide but overall it was somewhere I’d visit again. We actually ran into someone from Sugar Land inside of the place, we chatted for a while and he was on his way. One of those random encounters you really don’t expect. One note, the beers at Great Divide are actually available in Texas at Spec’s and Central Market, should you decide you want to try them yourself.
The day concluded with us heading to a local park to watch the fireworks displays, many of which could be seen from our vantage point. Jess left on Thursday, I finished up work on Thursday and Friday and headed to the airport for the trip back to Houston. There was about a 2 hour delay on our flight due to weather in Houston and I eventually left Denver at 8pm MDT, arriving in Houston around 11pm. It was a great mini-vacation in the middle of the work week and made my trip to Denver much more enjoyable.