With over 40 breweries in Boulder County and even more opening in the near future, the first “flight” of breweries you should consider visiting during a trip to Boulder is the Beer in Boulder “Founders Flight.” While most flights consist of a selection of specific craft beers, we’ve chosen to instead give you a flight of breweries themselves, as each one is highly unique and worth a visit in their own right.
All of the eight breweries on this list were founded before the year 2000, meaning that they paved the way here in Boulder and educated the public about craft beer, laying the foundation for a community of craft beer drinkers and giving the opportunity for so many more breweries to open their doors in our county. Keeping in mind the legacy that these breweries have built, a trip to Boulder is simply not complete without stopping into these local breweries.
As one of America’s oldest craft breweries and the oldest in Colorado, Boulder Beer Company opened its doors in 1979, five years earlier than Jim Koch started Sam Adams Brewing Company, two years before Sierra Nevada began mastering the pale ale, and nine years before Gordon Biersch opened in 1988. The brewery was created by two college professors and with a tap house right in the Denver International Airport, you can sample Boulder Beer Company’s brews before you even make your way to Boulder and get a head start on your Founders Flight. If you’re looking for a classic Boulder Beer Company brew, try Hazed, a hoppy session ale, or sample their Pulp Fusion IPA for a fun seasonal treat.
Considered Boulder’s first brewpub, Walnut Brewery has been serving delicious beer and food since they opened in 1990. With some beer recipes that haven’t changed in 20 years and a “Mug Club” membership that is sure to challenge even the most committed craft beer drinker, Walnut Brewery is a must-visit location. With monthly beer tappings where patrons receive a free pint of new beer (and that often raise money for local charities), Walnut Brewery’s role as a founding father in the Boulder County craft beer scene is solid. If you want to really sound like a local when you stop by, order the “James Brown,” a combination of the St. James Irish Red Ale and the Old Elk Brown Ale.
After twenty-two years of making innovative craft beer in what became known as Avery Alley beginning in 1993, founder and president of Avery Brewing Company Adam Avery moved his brewery from a series of garage units to a newly built $30 million brewing facility at the start of 2015. The host of multiple craft beer festivals throughout the year, Avery often has upwards of 30 beers on tap, many of which can only be sampled in their taproom, and a barrel-aged series of brews that pushes the boundaries of traditional beer styles. Avery Brewing Company is a creative and extremely unique Boulder brewery, and we quite honestly can’t even decide on our favorite Avery beer! You’ll have to visit their taproom, order a smattering of samples, and decide for yourself.
Since opening their doors on Pearl Street in 1993, Mountain Sun has maintained a uniquely Boulder atmosphere in their original location while also expanding to new locations, from Southern Sun and Under the Sun in Boulder to Long’s Peak Pub and Taphouse in Longmont and Vine Street Pub in Denver. February is a particularly amazing time of year to visit Mountain Sun, as February marks the lauded Stout Month at all Mountain Sun locations, featuring never-ending stout options, all sourced from local Colorado breweries. Don’t believe us? Take a look at their placemat menu highlighting the 53 Stout Month options from 2016. A microcosm of the eclectic Pearl Street Mall and Boulder culture in and of itself, Mountain Sun continues to impress and pay it forward in the community by supporting other local brewers.
Named in honor of Chief Niwot (“Left Hand” is the English translation of “Niwot”) Left Hand Brewing Company has been brewing their Sawtooth Ale and has been a staple in Longmont since 1994. Pioneers of bottling nitrogen beers, Left Hand Brewing and their Milk Stout Nitro can be found in just as many homes as their signature stickers are found on the rear windows of cars driving around Boulder. As a founding member of the craft beer community in Longmont, the Left Hand spirit of giving back has never waned, and they donated nearly $700,000 in 2015 to local charities. If you are in the area on a Friday, stop by their taproom for one of their signature beers infused with new and creative flavors and ingredients.
Since merging the brewery he founded with that of his friend in 1995, Bob Baile has been the face of Twisted Pine Brewery. Twisted Pine’s philosophy is to give their brewers free reign to create out-of-the-box, creative Boulder beers. As if they needed more credibility to be on the Founders Flight, than being old enough to legally drink in the U.S., how many breweries can claim that they have had a relationship with the Wu-Tang Clan? That’s right, not many. In 2011 Twisted Pine released their Ghost Face Killah beer that is brewed with chili peppers and claims the title of “the hottest beer this side of hell.” But you won’t find their beer in liquor stores, so when you stop by, also try the seasonal Northstar Imperial Porter and La Petite Saison in their Boulder taproom.
After spending a year renovating one of the largest regional car dealerships from the 1930s in the area, the owners of Pumphouse Brewery have been focused on serving their customers in downtown Longmont since 1996. You won’t find their beers in local liquor stores or beer distributors, proving that their dedication to quality over quantity has kept craft beer lovers more than satisfied for over 20 years. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you won’t be able to pass up sampling their American Style Wheat Ale, the Wildfire, when you stop in for a pint!
After beginning brewing operations in 1997, Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis saw an opportunity to serve hikers, kayakers, golfers and those who needed their beer served in portable containers that wouldn’t break if dropped, and he did something unique in the world of craft beer – he canned his brews. Despite an initial gasp from beer drinkers who associated canned beer with the mass-market lagers in Super Bowl ads, Oskar Blues is often credited with starting the craft-beer-in-a-can craze and is also Colorado’s first craft brewery to offer distribution in all 50 states. It doesn’t get much more “founding father” status than that. Wherever you are enjoying an Oskar Blues beer, start with their first canned craft beer, the Dale’s Pale Ale.
If you want to stay on top of the events held at the breweries of Boulder’s Founding Fathers and all of the breweries that came after them, sign up to receive the Beer in Boulder Weekly List of Events and receive an email with a complete list of events every Thursday morning.