When in Denver recently for the CEDIA Expo, we went to dinner at The Rodozio Grill the first night we were in town. While it was still good, it didn't seem to be as good as when we were there last year. And we hardly got to try any of their unbelievable garlic beef. Still, the amount of food satiated us and a couple of my colleagues talked me into walking caddy-cornered over to the Wynkoop Brewing Company after dinner.
The Wynkoop Brewing Company bills itself as the world's largest brewpub. I don't quite know about that, but it is pretty big inside. But one thing I do know is that it's the first brew pub in Denver and the state of Colorado. Wynkoop Brewing Company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
I always thought some guy named Wynkoop started brewery, but it turns out the Wynkoop in the name belongs to one of the founders and first sheriff of Denver, Edward (Ned) Wynkoop. Wynkoop was appointed sheriff of the area in which Denver eventually became incorporated by the territorial governor of Kansas, James Denver. When the city was incorporated, Wynkoop suggested naming the town after the governor.
The brew pub was started by five people, including current Denver mayor John Hickenlooper. It's housed in the historic former J.S. Brown Mercantile building in the Lower Downtown (aka LoDo) area of Denver (see map). In the 90's, the Wynkoop organization began an aggressive push to establish brew pubs in historic buildings across the nation. They set up partial local ownership and some of their "chain" restaurants include the Upstream Brewing Company in Omaha, Titletown Brewing Company in Green Bay, and Raccoon River Brewing Company in Des Moines. I've been to all three, but I have to admit it's been quite some time since I've been to Upstream and even longer since I've been to Raccoon River.
First of all, I'm not a big fan of most Colorado brewed beer. I think most of them are overrated and I don't care for the taste of some of them. The Wynkoop beers are OK, but I wouldn't call them anything special. The brewery makes about a dozen different types of beer, including a root beer. I went with their most famous beer, the Railyard Ale, a marzen-style Oktoberfest beer that's their signature brew at Wynkoop. One of my colleagues went with the B3K Schwarz ale, a dark German-style ale that has a good forward taste to it, but was a little too heavy for my tastes. And the other colleague got a St. Charles Extra Special Bitter, a malty English-style beer.
We walked around the main floor of the Wynkoop Brewery which houses the brew pub and restaurant. The restaurant/brew pub area has an old style quaintness to it. I took a look at one of the menus and found their offerings to be similar to what I've found at other brew pubs. Wynkoop prides itself upon serving Colorado raised meats and produce. Given the amount of people in the restaurant having dinner on Labor Day evening, I'd say the food must be pretty good.
We ventured upstairs to the second floor to look around. The whole second floor is one big pool room with dart machines and other games. I'd have to say there was 20 pool tables up there, all the big fancy ones that you'd find in upscale pool halls. It was a pretty large room, to be sure.
I got another beer - this time I got one of their India Pale Ale, a English-style pale ale with a load of dry hops. It was much better than the Railyard Ale. Before I ordered the I.P.A., I tried a sample of their Chili beer. They add 3 1/2 pounds of Anaheim chili peppers to each barrel and let the peppers mix with the beer. It had a nice bite to it, but I'm not big on chili beers except for throwing some in with my homemade chili from time to time.
I also gave try to their Scottish Ale, which I liked, as well. It had a nice roasted flavor to it. In fact, I couldn't decide what to get and I ended up getting the I.P.A. One of my colleagues ended up getting the Scottish Ale while the other opted for the Sagebrush Stout, a very forward tasting beer made with a number of varieties of grains and hops. I tasted it and it was OK, but too heavy for my tastes.
While the brewpub was impressive, I'd have to say Wynkoop's beers were middling, at best. I thought the I.P.A. was good, but it just didn't have the bite that I normally like out of my pale ales. I don't know what it is about Colorado beers. Maybe I'm just partial to the Germanic style beers of Wisconsin. Everyone is different, that's for sure. Given the amount of people in the Wynkoop Brewing Company, there's a lot of people who like their beers. And if they've been in business for over 20 years, they must be doing something right.