Craft Beer in a Company Town

Golden’s beer scene goes beyond the largest single-site facility in the world.

Craft Beer in a Company Town

The monolithic presence of MillerCoors Brewing stands in striking juxtaposition to the serene backdrop of ruddy foothills and frontier buildings that define this historic foothills town of 19,000. But the handful of new craft breweries and distilleries that have sprouted seem right at home—even in Golden’s touristy downtown.

One of these newer breweries, Cannonball Creek, lies on the edge of town, occupying a bright, sprawling space replete with views of the surrounding mountains. Upon first glance at the menu—a seven-tap list with three of the beers being some version of pale ale—I dismissed it as another pandering purveyor of hop-bombed brews. I rectified this misconception upon tasting the first, the second and finally eagerly downing the third.

The strongest of the three, Mindbender IPA, had moderate bitterness, with the piney and dank aromatic qualities of a West Coast-style IPA. Hints of citrus and grapefruit pith accompany a medium-bodied ale, with beaded bubbles continually streaming to the surface.

Featherweight Pale Ale was the most sessionable at 5 percent ABV, and balanced a fairly bitter backbone with crisp effervescence and sweetness from Munich malts. The newest offering, Prison Bound Pale, rounded out the pale portfolio with a low bitterness profile and a wallop of hop flavors including tropical fruit and orange rind.

Cannonball is a true brewer’s brewery. Every beer is well built, and the individual flavors are easily discernable without being in-your-face. Even the logo pays homage to the process of brewing. Instead of using clichéd hops and barley, Cannonball shows a tri-clamp, a ubiquitous piece of equipment used in modern breweries to connect hoses and secure clamps on tanks. Brewers immediately recognize it; the drinking public might not.

A more adventurous offering of libations awaits at Barrels & Bottles. Twenty-two craft beer taps—six being Barrels & Bottles’ own—and 24 wine taps offer a flavor for everyone. Of the 15 or so guest taps, most hail from well-known breweries but feature their rare specialties. It was a treat to see the likes of Odell (Fort Collins) and Stone (California) but beers of theirs I’d never heard of. Not to be outdone, most Barrels & Bottles brews have a unique flair: from a Peanut Butter Chocolate Mallow Stout to a Cherry Saison and a Gin Barrel-Aged Pale Ale. Barrels & Bottles also designed its own draught infuser, which can be packed with fruits, spices, and sundry other concoctions with select beers.

You’ll find something stronger than beer at Golden Moon Speak, a 1930s-style prohibition speakeasy that hides in an alley a block off Washington Street. Golden Moon embraces the patron with a cozy atmostphere and an ever-attentive staff. The bar showcases handcrafted spirits ranging from gin and whiskey to rarer herbal liqueurs such as crème de violette and absinthe. The scope of spirits encourages experimentation, something the highly skilled bartenders are eager to do.

If you’re lucky enough to have bartender Carly Reamer, order an Old Fashioned. Although variations are available, I stuck with the classic, which in itself was unique in its abundance of rye spiciness, a trait that blends seamlessly with herbal bitters and a hint of sweetness from sugar and orange rind. Carly crafts each drink with panache, while still adhering to classic methods.

Like the unique golf experiences offered in Golden by courses such as Fossil Trace, this new breed of craft beer and spirits continues to redefine what a good drink can be. With more craft-savvy breweries planning to open in the coming years, more established institutions stand to lose market share.

The white flags at Applewood Golf Course in Golden could symbolize surrender in the not-too-distant future as well, as the intertwining of golf and beer come to the forefront of the Molson Coors (MillerCoors)-owned course. The joint Canadian-American owned brewery is in contract to sell Applewood to a real-estate developer pending a rezoning request, ending more than 50 years of service to the community. Concerned neighbors, worried about the impact of 400 new residences on traffic and property values, have until November to raise $16 million to buy it from the developer.

As the business of brewing becomes more like, well, a business, the patronage of local breweries and craft distilleries becomes that much more important. Ultimately, as long as it tastes good, let the best beer win.

Cannonball Creek
393 Washington Ave, Golden

Barrels & Bottles
600 12th St #160, Golden   

Golden Moon Speak
1111 Miner’s Alley, Golden


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