20 Best Colorado Craft Beers, Ranked

When you think of the best craft beer in America, Colorado is one state that immediately comes to mind. There's a lot of sudsy competition in the Centennial State, and we're here to break down some of the best Colorado has to offer.

Colorado is likely one of the best states for craft beer because craft beer has been a thing here for decades. Many of the state's breweries have been around for decades. Newer breweries in Colorado are often headed up by people with decades of experience in the industry. All of that pedigree adds up to a very special region for craft beer.

For the most part, we've tried to avoid here-today-gone-tomorrow limited releases, which tend to have limited availability. Because what's the point in reading about a great beer when you can't get one in your hand? Also, we're taking a holistic and food-centric approach to our ranking here at Tasting Table. If you want a list that prioritizes ultra-hoppy IPAs, syrupy dessert stouts, and other current craft beer trends, there are craft beer sites for that.

20. Yeti Imperial Stout - Great Divide Brewing Company

Yeti Imperial Stout is one of those iconic beers you can find in any craft beer store in America. While it's a delicious beer that deserves massive distribution, getting an imperial stout to that point of popularity took a lot of hard work.

These days, you can find craft beer in any sports arena, and every major city has local craft breweries numbering in the double digits. But when Yeti Imperial Stout was released back in 2004, most craft breweries were in the business of educating their potential customers. In Denver, Great Divide Brewing Company had to explain how its new imperial stout shouldn't be compared to Guinness. While the latter is a relatively easy-drinking dark beer, the former has bold, rich roasted flavors that recall coffee and dark chocolate. Fortunately, the typical craft beer drinker in the mid-2000s was adventurous and thirsty for new experiences. After years of going to beer festivals and selling this imperial stout, it eventually became ubiquitous within the craft beer world. Today, Yeti Imperial Stout is celebrated as a go-to flagship beer for lovers of deep rich flavors. However, those with more modern tastes might think this imperial stout isn't flavorful enough.

19. Dale's Pale Ale - Oskar Blues Brewery

When Oskar Blues brewery released its iconic, canned Dale's Pale Ale back in 2002, the beer can was considered to be somehow flawed. Cans were things you chugged Natural Ice (ahem, Natty Ice, if you're fluent in frat) from at fraternity parties, not what you sipped craft beer from. As a result, most craft breweries at the time released their beers in brown 12-ounce bottles.

A little less than 10 years ago or so, something started to change. Craft brewers began to see the benefits of using cans instead of bottles. Manufacturers of aluminum cans started adding a polymer coating to the inside. This did a lot to dispel the idea that cans give beer an undesirable metallic taste. Brewers and consumers also began to realize that cans are easier to transport and more sustainable.

Oskar Blues was clearly ahead of the curve with its use of cans, and Dale's Pale Ale earned a massive following with its crisp hoppy taste. But today, the flavor profile of this beer can taste a bit dated. If you could care less about that, then have at it with a can of this cold classic. If you're looking for something more modern, Oskar Blues recently released an imperial IPA version of its flagship pale ale.

18. Milk Stout Nitro - Left Hand Brewing Company

Debuting at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, Milk Stout Nitro from Left Hand Brewing is an iconic craft beer with bold chocolate and coffee flavors that's noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it's one of the few milk stouts enjoying widespread popularity. This style involves adding lactose to a traditional stout recipe and it was developed in early 20th century England.

Milk Stout Nitro is also notable for being canned with nitrogen, instead of the industry-standard carbon dioxide. Nitrogen forms smaller bubbles in beer, and the result is a much foamier head and smoother texture. Guinness Extra Stout is also famously canned with nitrogen, but the Irish brewery uses a proprietary "widget" to release the gas into the beer after it's opened. To can its iconic milk stout, Left Hand had to develop a new unique way to infuse nitrogen. After a lot of research, the company eventually found that a blend of 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide was the key to making it happen. This combination of rich, roast flavors, a creamy mouthfeel, and innovative bottling makes Left Hand's Milk Stout Nitro one of Colorado's best beers.

17. Trippel – New Belgium Brewing

For most Americans, American craft beer has provided a gateway to all kinds of beer styles they never would have tried without leaving the country. Released in 1992, Trippel from New Belgium Brewing was likely the first Belgian tripel beer that many Americans ever tried. This style is driven by complex yeasty flavors. While these beers are complex, potent, and a bit spicy on the tongue, they are very approachable and appeal to a wide range of palates.

Solely for introducing this style of beer across America, Trippel deserves to be recognized as one of Colorado's best craft beers. But given the average price of imported Belgian beers, this offering from new Belgium also provides great value. Sweet and spicy with an alcoholic kick, Trippel is both a throwback to the pre-hazy-IPA fanfare, and is a solid representation of Belgian-style beer, which is still very much respected within the craft beer community.

16. Vanilla Porter – Breckenridge Brewing Company

No subject inspires a fiercer, more bloodthirsty debate than discussing the difference between a porter and a stout. One of the more popular opinions says a stout is made with roasted barley and has a white foam head when poured. But by that definition, the vanilla porter from Breckenridge Brewing Company should actually be called a vanilla stout. Putting the stout-versus-porter debate to one side, the Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge is an iconic, widely-distributed Colorado craft beer that ships toffee, coffee, and vanilla notes. It's one of the lighter-bodied porters you can find these days, which fans of bocks and brown ales should find appealing.

Incidentally, both stouts and porters are great beers to cook with. The dessert-friendly flavors in Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter would go perfectly in a recipe for chocolate cake or brownies. The chocolatey notes in this beer also pair well with red meat.

15. Ten FIDY – Oskar Blues Brewery

Named after its impressive 10.5% ABV, Ten FIDY was first released in 2007 and it's one of a handful of beers that defined the "imperial stout" style for the modern American palate. Rumored to be created for Peter the Great, the Russian imperial stout was developed in England. These days, the beer style is simply called imperial stout and it's mostly made in the United States. Imperial stouts have both stronger flavors and higher alcohol content than regular stouts, clocking in at between 7% and 12% ABV.

Ten FIDY is a great example of the modern imperial stout style. Big and thick-bodied, this beer doesn't have the robust roasted flavors of other similar beers. Instead, it balances lighter fruity notes — like those you would find in coffee — with bold chocolate flavors. If you're looking to assess other imperial stouts, consider using Ten FIDY as your measuring stick.

14. Slow Pour Pils - Bierstadt Lagerhaus

In many ways, Bierstadt Lagerhaus is screwing convention in today's craft beer world. While many breweries are focused on developing new kinds of beer with unusual ingredients, Bierstadt Lagerhaus is focused on classic Continental lagers and pilsners that have been around for hundreds of years. The brewery is also laser-focused on German authenticity at a time when many breweries are looking to distance themselves from the wooden tables, beards, flannel, and other supposed signifiers of authenticity that have come to define American craft beer.

Ignoring convention is all well and fine, but is the beer any good? In fact, beer is what's getting Bierstadt Lagerhaus love from local craft beer fans in Denver. In particular, the brewery's Slow Pour Pils is widely recognized as the brewery's best beer. Made with an all-copper brewing setup that was shipped over from Bavaria, this crisp pilsner ships light malt flavors with a slight and pleasant bitterness.

13. Juicy Banger IPA - Station 26 Brewing

If you're a brewery that's opened in the past decade, you absolutely must have a crowd-pleasing juicy IPA in order to get attention from the masses. Station 26 brewing did just that with its Juicy Banger IPA. Released in 2014, just one year after the brewery was founded, this hazy IPA features a flavor profile with notes of stone fruit and pineapple that mask a potent 7.4% ABV. Importantly, the beer's potency and juiciness are well-balanced by a subtle malt backbone.

Using the word "banger" to name your IPA is a bit like using the words "stairway to" to name a song you've written. It's a curious choice from Station 26 given the iconic status of Focal Banger, a groundbreaking beer from Vermont brewery The Alchemist. That beer was a follow-up to the brewery's Heady Topper, which kicked off the hazy IPA craze in the mid-2000s. To be fair, Juicy Banger is a great beer that stands up well to these iconic brews.

12. Juicy Bits – WeldWerks Brewing

After brewing beers as a hobby for several years, Neil Fisher and friends made an agreement ahead of the home brew competition at the 2014 Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines festival: If Fisher brought home a medal from the competition for one of his homebrews, he would open a brewery with the backing of his friends. And Fisher didn't come away from the competition with one medal, but two. As a co-founder and head brewer at Weldwerks Brewing, Fisher has won more awards since and the brewery has produced more than 400 beers in less than a decade.

Juicy Bits is the brewery's crowd-pleasing juicy IPA featuring strong citrus notes with a bit of sweetness. Too many IPAs err on the side of sweetness, and Juicy Bits distinguishes itself by being just dry enough to have a balanced flavor profile. This style of IPA may have come from New England, but Juicy Bits is proof that Colorado can do it just as well.

11. Tweak - Avery Brewing Company

Avery Brewing Company didn't start barrel-aging beers until 2003 — about 10 years after the company was founded. Since then, the brewery has launched a number of barrel-aged stouts, including its "one-and-done" barrel-aged series of limited releases. Funnily enough, the brewery is slowly becoming known more for its barrel-aged beers than its un-aged beers.

Even though it's hard to find, the brewery's Tweak stout isn't part of the limited-release barrel series. As you might expect, this barrel-aged stout is boozy, sweet, and decadent. But beyond that, it also ships a complex blend of coffee, vanilla custard, and maple flavors. This bold-flavored beer is highly ranked among craft beer fans, but it's also earned respect among craft brewers. John Walker, head brewer at Athletic Brewing Co., recently told Gear Patrol that Tweak is his "holy grail" beer because it has unprecedented complexity.

10. Myrcenary Double IPA – Odell Brewing Company

Making a name for themselves by brewing cutting-edge beer styles, newer breweries seem to get all the hype these days. However, the delicious Myrcenary Double IPA from Odell Brewing Company is proof that older breweries can learn new tricks.

Co-founder Doug Odell started his career in craft brewing in the 1970s, scrubbing the mash tun at Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. In 1989, Odell founded his Odell Brewing Company inside a repurposed grain silo. Throughout the '90s, the company made a name for itself with malt-forward beers, and over the years, it evolved to embrace the industry-wide shift toward hop-forward beers.

Myrcenary double IPA is a very modern-tasting beer that's named after myrcene, a defining compound in the hop flower. This beer is brewed with a blend of hops that contain the highest levels of myrcene. That hop blend translates into complex floral and citrus aromas, as well as grassy, citrus flavors. However, there's also enough malt in this beer to keep it balanced and prevent it from becoming a one-note hop bomb.

9. White Rascal – Avery Brewing Company

Most of us are drawn to craft beer by a sense of adventure. The craft beer industry carved out a niche by offering different and unique alternatives to the beers being offered by massive corporations. But being adventurous means a willingness to take risks, and gambling is not a business plan. In order to generate customer loyalty, craft breweries offer a handful of "flagship beers" year-round. These beers are designed to have broad appeal, always be available, and always brewed the same way.

White Rascal is a flagship beer from Avery Brewing and it's one we highly recommend. This beer appeals to a wide range of people by being both unique and refreshing. The additions of coriander spice and orange peel give this Belgian-style wheat beer a zesty flavor profile. White Rascal also has a dry crispness that makes it easy-drinking and ideal for pairing with foods, especially Asian foods that complement the beer's spice and citrus flavors.

8. Royal Oil – Bull & Bush Brewery

Both Royal Oil strong ale and the brewery that makes it are defined by an evolution that's lasted many years. Bull & Bush Brewery began life as a British pub in 1970s Denver. In the mid-'90s, brother-owners Dean and Dale Peterson decided to build a craft brewery next to their pub and the business slowly became more known for its beers than its old British decor. More recently, the decision was made to get into retail sales with the addition of a bottling line to the brewery.

Royal Oil is probably the brewery's highest-rated beer, and making it also took a lot of time. Clocking in at a hefty 13% ABV, this rich-tasting beer is cellared for more than a decade, and as long as 25 years. The result of all that aging is a deep flavor profile that tastes of cocoa, fresh dates, toffee, and bourbon. It's a strong, decadent beer that's perfect for sharing with friends.

7. Vieille Artisanal Saison - Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Developed by farmers in Belgium, the Saison style is one of the most popular beers you can find at a craft brewery. This style of beer has many characteristics that you would want in a beverage after a long hard day of working in the field. It's fizzy, light-bodied, and dry — with relatively low alcohol content. These qualities can also be found in pilsners, but a Saison distinguishes itself by having slightly funky flavors attributed to specific strains of brewing yeast. These funky flavors give saisons a pleasing complexity that doesn't get in the way of their refreshing nature.

Slightly sour and slightly funky, the Vieille Artisanal Saison is a great example of this beer style. It's interesting but refreshing at the same time and is ideal for food pairing. This beer is aged in oak barrels, but it's not particularly oaky. The barrel aging simply adds more depth to the overall flavor profile of this refined and complex beer.

6. East Bank - Casey Brewing & Blending

Beer from the same batch placed into two different aging barrels can yield two very different results, for better or worse. As part of their quality control process, brewers will typically blend their barrel-aged beers before bottling them. This helps to assure customers that each particular barrel-aged beer they purchase will taste the same, again and again. However, blending can also be a technique used to create something unique tasting. The technique of blending beer is pretty self-explanatory. A blender will sample multiple beers and then devise a blend in order to create an intended flavor profile.

East Bank is a barrel-aged farmhouse ale from Casey Brewing & Blending that's brewed with local honey. While the beer does feature the funky and oaky notes you'd expect from a barrel-aged farmhouse ale, it's also citrusy and bready. This complex beer is easy to enjoy and it's a great example of what is possible through beer blending.

5. Penicillin - Wild Provisions Beer Project

Craft brewers trying to develop new beers are constantly on the lookout for inspiration, and some of them have been turning to the world of craft cocktails. Penicillin is a wild ale from Wild Provisions Beer Project that takes its inspiration directly from the craft cocktail of the same name. Developed in the early 2000s at the New York City cocktail bar Milk & Honey, the Penicillin cocktail is made with honey, lemon, and ginger. It's also made with two types of Scotch, which is what makes a Penicillin cocktail so unique.

To replicate this iconic drink, the brewers at Wild Provisions Beer Project aged a wild ale in peated Islay Scotch barrels with ginger and orange blossom honey. With the citrusy notes being provided by the beer's wild yeasts, Penicillin beer from Wild Provisions is bright tasting and very drinkable. You might expect a significant amount of smokiness from the Scotch barrels, but there's only a slight smoky taste on the back end. The brewery has also made un-carbonated Penicillin available in resealable bags for use in craft cocktails, bringing the entire concept full circle.

4. Working Lunch - Cerebral Brewing

Not too long ago, breakfast-inspired beer might have sounded like a bad punchline at a college party, but these days, beers inspired by breakfast and lunch are most definitely a thing. We can thank Founders Brewing Company for our dramatic increase in daytime naps. The brewery launched a one-barrel pilot system in 2002 and one of the first beers to come out of that system was the now-iconic Breakfast Stout. About two years later, the brewers at Founders tried aging this beer in bourbon barrels and Kentucky Breakfast Stout was born. This beer took another leap forward when the brewers tried the same trick with bourbon barrels that had been used to age maple syrup. The result was another hit in the form of Canadian Breakfast Stout.

The runaway success of these beers has inspired countless other brewers and Working Lunch from Cerebral Brewing is a standout representative from the great state of Colorado. This beer takes the Canadian breakfast stout one step forward with the addition of peanuts to the aging barrel. The result is a sweet and strong porter with robust peanut butter notes. You may not want to drink more than one of these at a time, especially if it's midday and you're on the clock.

3. Bligh's Barleywine – Dry Dock Brewing

It's funny that the word "Barleywine" is used to describe a style of beer, because it's both very descriptive and somewhat inaccurate. Technically speaking, wine is made from fermented fruit juice and barley — in case you didn't know — is not a fruit. However, Barleywines are strong and complex beers in the same way that wines are strong (compared to beer) and can be complex. Barleywines have an AVB that ranges from about 8% to around 12%.

Although modern double IPAs and imperial stouts also have an alcohol content around this same range, the term "Barleywine" was coined when beers were typically in the 4% to 7% ABV range. While all Barleywines have rich flavors and pack a punch, Bligh's Barleywine from Dry Dock Brewing is a transcendent gem that beer geeks go to great lengths to find. Syrupy with strong butterscotch notes, this beer echoes the flavor profiles of whiskey and brandy. It's definitely a sipper and a perfect after-dinner drink.

2. Medianoche Reserve – Weldwerks Brewing Company

Medianoche is an iconic barrel-aged stout series from Weldwerks, and brewery co-founder Neil Fisher cites Bourbon County barrel-aged stout from Goose Island Beer Company as a major influence behind the initial Medianoche beer. Before Bourbon County, Fisher told Westword that breweries didn't develop stop recipes with barrel aging in mind. In developing its Bourbon County recipe, Goose Island essentially considered the barrel as its main ingredient.

Medianoche was one of the first beers ever developed for Weldwerks, and in the eight years after its release, Weldwerks has developed a number of variants, as well as produced around 40,000 gallons of Medianoche beer. Medianoche Reserve is one of the brewery's premium variants that's made from a blend of stouts that have been infused with vanilla, cacao, and coconut, and aged for a minimum of eight years. The most recent version launched in 2022. The result is a rich and strong beer with flavors that evoke decadent chocolate baked goods. These beers are like catnip for beer geeks, but like death metal, they have a very specific appeal. If you're not that into the dark, rich textures of the iconic Denver band Blood Incantation, or of barrel-aged stouts, you'll fail to see what all the fuss is about.

1. L'Brett D'Or - Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

There's a reason the farmhouse ales are a favorite among foodies. The complex nature of these beers can rival that of fine wine, but they're also perfect for pairing with food — unlike palate-pummeling beers like double IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Made with spontaneous fermentation, in which fermenting yeasts are drawn from the surrounding environment, farmhouse ales can be tart, fruity, sweet, and funky. All of those different aromas and flavors open up many different options for food pairings.

Of course, some farmhouse ales are more complex and tastier than others. If you're looking for a great example of what a farmhouse ale can be, you could do a lot worse than L'Brett D'Or from Crooked Stave, as it's our favorite Colorado craft beer. Spontaneously fermented and aged in oak barrels, this beer tastes tart up front, before giving way to soft pekoe tea, stone fruit flavors, and an oaky finish. Every sip can reveal something new, especially as it warms up, and it's no wonder that this is rated a "world-class" beer on Beer Advocate. Complex, approachable, and food-friendly, this beer is like a gold-plated Swiss Army knife that comes in handy on just about any occasion. It also takes well to aging in a brew cellar, if you can resist drinking it, that is.