Friday, August 9, 2013

CO Trip - Day 1: Denver

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
We, along with B&B (our fav couple who we went to Ireland with last year) were invited to a wedding in Estes Park, CO.  B-guy was actually a groomsmen in the wedding and while we only hang out with the bridge-groom on occasion, we were excited to be invited to be a part of their day and of course for an excuse to head out to Colorado.
After some pricing out, we decided that between the four of us, it was well worth the savings to make the drive from Chicago to the Quad Cities, three hours, drop the dogs off, and then the additional twelve hours from the QC to Denver.  We'd spend a day and night in Denver hanging out before heading to Estes Park.
I was shocked at how smooth and quick the drive there felt.  Of course, I also had the last leg of the drive, so besides Ben's shift (which he did first) and my staying awake to watch Season 1 of Scandal keep him company, I was able to get in plenty of off/on snoozing in. I'd equate to the quality of sleep on a red-eye flight.
Sunrise in Nebraska
None the less, we arrived safe and sound in Denver on Friday morning around 9:30am.  Knowing our hotel wouldn't allow us to check in just yet, and all being fairly hungry, we drove straight to Snooze (since we'd enjoyed it so much the first time) for breakfast.  Despite it being a Friday, we still had a 30 minute wait, but it's well worth it. You cannot beat their sweet potato pancakes. I need to come up with a recipe for them!
After breakfast we drove to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the Denver Convention Center and were happy to learn we could check in. We used the same strategy we used in June to book our hotel: Priceline's Express Deals. We tried the Name Your Own Price option first but apparently we were low-ballers because our offers were never accepted. We ended up getting our king bedroom for $96 total, which would have been $138 if we booked via Priceline and $182 if we'd booked directly on Hyatt's website. I'm telling you, Express is the way to go! Plus, unlike the $26/day parking at Sheraton, the Hyatt has a free self park lot. Score.
After taking time to freshen up in a much needed shower, see outfit details here, we were on our way for our walking beer tour. 
My friend Emily, over at Sassy in Sequins, visited Denver after us and found this self-guided walking beer tour.  We had every intention to follow it, but first we had to get to Crooked Stave.  Ben found out about them when he searched for sour beer locations in Denver, but given it's odd location, we didn't make it there on our first trip.
It certainly was an odd location.  We hopped at $15 cab and were dropped off at what I can only describe as a storage facility. Where the hell were we? Seriously, the things we do for beer.
Thankfully, inside was more of the scene were were expecting and we were, in fact, at the right place. For what it's worth, they are moving to a new facility this fall, that will also partner with a cheese distributor (can we say amazing match?).
Ben was a giddy schoolboy. To give him credit, the sour beers, just two on beer, were pretty damn good. It's an acquired test, but once you get used to it, you're hooked.
After a few beers here and a declined off from a local couple to drop us off at our new spot (people are so friendly there!), we hopped the city bus to the Highlands area to go to Denver Beer Co.
This spot was on Emily's link and I can see why. It's near the creek in a cute little area full of shops. It's completely open with a great picnic patio and they allow dogs. (Although I was heartbroken not to see any).
The bartender (or maybe more like brewer) at Crooked Stave had recommended this over Amato's Ale House (now two trips and we still haven't made it here. Although the local couple said their food isn't great and the menu is pretty small) saying that it would get crowded as the night went on so it was better to go early and get a spot.  He was right, when he arrived there were just a few tables and as we left the place was filling up.
We could not have had a more perfect afternoon of low 80s and sun for tramping around the city. The beer itself was good.  I liked the Kaffir Lime Wheat best, which is light and slightly fruit; perfectly refreshing for summer. Although, on the other end of the spectrum, the Graham Cracker Porter, rumored to taste like s'mores was also delicious. 
And what's a beer tasting without something to clean your palette? The only food on their menu was a pretzel and although it was lacking cheese dipping sauce (really?) it was particularly delicious.
From here we made what felt like the longest walk ever to Falling Rock Taphouse. Ben and I had visited here the night we arrived in town last trip, but we were hoping they'd have Russian River's Pliny the Elder on tap this time (sadly they didn't).  While the guys were playing a round of pool, a group walked in with a guy wearing a t-shirt from a local brewery in the Quad Cities.  We struck up a conversation (I think he'd gone to school in the QC or something) and ended up getting four $4 tickets for the Rockies Brewers game that night. (Oh yea, and there were a few rounds of Frogger played at 1-Up; the arcade bar next to Falling Rock)

We left Falling Rock to walk closer to the ballpark in search of a rooftop beer and a bite before the game.  We ended up at Viewhouse. I know it was game day and the place was insanely busy, but we were not at all impressed with the service.  We were lucky to get a both on the first floor and after waiting 20 minutes with no help, we ordered our own pitcher at the bar.  10 minutes later, still no sign of a server, we decided to go up to the rooftop.  As we left, the waiter approached us and said "you'll get better service up there." Hmmf.
After a round, we decided we'd better head in to grab some bites and drinks to see the start of the game.
The drinking must have caught up to us. Not only did we each order a foot long brat...
...but we also ordered this heaping pile of chicken nachoes to share.  Needless to say, we had plenty of leftovers (which we offered to a bum on the street).
We mainly wanted to get in the stadium to see it and had no true intention of staying for the entire game, so as the sun started to go down, we decided to depart, with one more beer stop in mind.
Great Divide! We couldn't come to Denver and not take B&B to Great Divide.  Plus the oatmeal yeti stout on draft for a mere $6 is well worth the stop in.
In fact, we decided we needed a few...and don't be alarmed, that's not a yeti at the bottom right of this picture, it's just Ben's hairy arm:)
It's no surprise that by 9pm we were pooped, so we hopped in a cab and headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep in what proved to be an amazingly comfortable bed.

To be continued...
(and don't worry, there is more to this trip than beer. As Ben said when attempting to plan this trip "All I care about are brews and mountain views". Next up is the latter, with more of the first).

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