There are places that by their nature, location, or vibe, lend themselves to just hanging out. A place where you can kick back, have a few beers, and shoot the shit with either the proprietors or the other patrons. For the wife and I, Renegade Brewing Company is just such a place.
Being located in the heart of the Santa Fe arts district, it’s an easy city drive for us from Capitol Hill, not to mention the luscious beer we’ve been enjoying there from day one. Opening on June 26, 2011, it paved the way for the two other Denver breweries to open that year, Denver Beer Co and Wit’s End Brewing (although, to be fair, Copper Kettle is within the city limits, it’s just not near downtown). The bar was already full as we arrived maybe five minutes after their stated opening time, most of the beer geeks in central Denver turned out, ready to christen the most recent brewery since Strange Brewing the year before. Looking back, it could also be considered a coming out party for craft brewing in the near downtown area.
Among others, Tim and John from Strange made an appearance to show their support. It presaged an attitude of cooperation rather than competition with all of the Denver area breweries in the city’s quest to become the best craft brew town in the country. From that first day, Renegade set the bar high for all of their brethren in the metropolis, not only with their innovative beers, but in the atmosphere they cultivated.
I was curious to how the brewery would fare from that first day. It had an almost built in clientele from the First Fridays crowd that throngs the area every month; but the question was could they develop a steady and loyal following the rest of the time?
The answer, derived from the numerous times we’ve been in, is yes. And it all goes back to the growing community of craft beer drinkers in Denver making their intentions known through the time and money they spend at Renegade, as well as the other breweries downtown.
The three beers initially on tap on opening day just hinted at the experimentation that has become their hallmark thus far. From the Ryetous IPA’s unique hoppy flavor, to the crisp and sweet 5 O’Clock Blonde, to the perfectly understated chili bite of the Una Mas Mexican Amber, it was evident that brewer and owner Brian O’Connell liked to play.
Brian and his wife Khara make everyone feel at home in their taproom which prominently features recycled elements used in the decor and bar. They try to greet everyone who comes in, nurturing the laid back atmosphere, ready to get you a pint or snifter and talk about the latest brews while they do.
It’s a glorious place to sit on a sunny day while sipping a beer. The South facing front wall consists mainly of glass paneled, roll-up garage doors which they open at the drop of a hat whenever the weather permits. And when they are open, tempting aromas from ever-present food trucks waft in. Most times, whatever is cooking out in the food trucks pairs well with whatever beers Brian has dreamed up that week.
If you visit often, chances are there will be something new and interesting to wake up your taste buds. even the more adventurous brews that may not have come out as expected. A case in point is the Hookah Smoked IPA that even Brian admitted came out way more smoky than he intended. A bastard mix of a rausch and an IPA, the beer actually wasn’t too bad in small doses; even though it was only 7.7% ABV, a snifter was more than enough. I look forward to the next time they try brewing it with a modified recipe.
But their hits are far more numerous than their misses. From Another Thrill Imperial Porter which won a silver medal at the Colorado State Fair, to Hit Me American Red, their full bodied beers stand up to anything I’ve had from across the country. Even their Sunday Morning Strong Ale is good, flavored with coffee that enhances the generous hops infused in it.
So if it’s one of those perfect clear days that can hit Colorado in any season, a lazy afternoon at Renegade may recharge the batteries, engage you in conversation with a stranger, or just satisfy that yen for a taste you’ve never had before.