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The Flat-Out Best Beer Caves in Denver

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The moment you’ve been waiting for is here: the everything-food-and-drink list to end all lists. We’re undertaking a rather ambitious project—a year-long endeavor that lays out our flat-out best picks of the most exceptional culinary experiences in Denver and Boulder.

We’ll cover the usual suspects: tacos and ramen, for example. Pizza and burgers, too. But think of this as the Herculean version of Denver and Boulder’s gastronomic universe. Over the next 52 weeks (give or take), we’ll post 104 different lists, wherein we’ll give you the lowdown on the very best neighborhood restaurants, bottle shops and butchers, food festivals, pop-up dinners, industry nights, cooking classes and kitchen stores, chef counters, spice shops and cake shops, Cuban sandwiches, Chinese hot pots, and even the best food from truck stops. Who knows? We might be compelled to feature a fantasy-filled list of strip club grub that goes beyond thighs and breasts.

In the meantime, we all know that Denver is an incredible city for craft beer. And while every liquor store trumpets a transparent section dedicated to hops and barley, walk-in beer caves—hideouts!—are a wholly different paradise for seekers of beer nectar. Here are five caves, in particular, that are the absolute best when you’re on the prowl for bombers, magnums, and offbeat oddities from here, there, and everywhere.

The Flat-Out Best Beer Caves in Denver

1. Grapevine Wine & Liquors {900 South Monaco Parkway; 303.388.4369}

Grapevine beer cave

If you based your opinions of Grapevine solely on its dilapidated stucco exterior, you’d assume it was the kind of liquor store that extols the merits (or lack thereof) of cheap spirits and even cheaper beer. PBR comes to mind. And while spirits (inexpensive and otherwise) certainly dominate plenty of shelf space, beer is the super-star here. And the beer cave, stowed behind a glass door posted with signage that requires you to ask for permission for entry if you’re a rookie (if you’ve waltzed through the door to beer heaven in the past, ignore the signage), is nothing short of sensational.

Here, among the thousands of prominently displayed bottles, erratically arranged without rhyme or reason, you’ll encounter a stellar supply of sought-after bottles like the Brouwerij De Molin Cease & Desist, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, and limited edition releases of J.W. Lees’ Harvest (an ale matured in Calvados casks) and super-obscure beers, including the Brasserie BFM SA 225, a saison brewed in Switzerland.

Spend some time perusing, and you’ll also find sweet deals, including sales on magnums and three-packs. I picked up a box of three heralded Belgian sours for around $15; a little digging online revealed that I scored. Big time. Chris Kirchmeier, affectionately known as just “the beer guy,” is a wealth of knowledge, and if he happens to be working at the shop while you’re there, you’d be remiss if you didn’t pick his brain.

2. Davidsons Liquors {5555 Boatworks Drive, Highlands Ranch; 303.224.0444}

Davidsons Beer Cave

Meticulous in its organization, this super-stylish new beer cave (the adjacent side is devoted to a wine cellar) inside one of the city’s most revered liquor stores, is a first-class voyage into beervana. A beautifully robust selection dedicated to all Colorado craft beers (check out the enormous collection of sours from Crooked Stave) sits alongside bombers from The Bruery and Firestone Walker Brewing and jugs of St. Sebastiaan Dark Dark Abbey Ale from Brouwerij Sterkens, a small-batch Belgium-based brewery.

If you need a cheat sheet, there are tasting notes and ratings, too, that zigzag from Great American Beer Festival winners to high scorers from ratebeer.com. The cave, with its wooden shelving, tiled floors, and Tuscan yellow walls, has a lofty feel to it. Just like the perfect coiffure, there’s not a bottle out of place. Bonus: A tasting area just outside the cave hosts monthly beer-centric events, including food-and-beer pairings.

3. Mile High Wine and Spirits {435 South Vance Street, Lakewood; 303.936.0272}

Mile High Wine and Spirits

In a nutshell, the Mile High City’s insatiable thirst for craft beer could conceivably start and end here. Keeping pace with its competitors, the chilly beer cave, crammed with both familiar and far-out labels, satisfies every craving, from sours to stouts, saisons to Belgian-inspired session ales. And if, like us, you pay close attention to new releases, then take note: five-to-10 new arrivals show up each week.

And this might be the only cave in Denver (at least at the moment) that sells the extraordinary saisons and sour Fruit Stand bombers from Casey Brewing and Blending, a small, family-owned brewery in Glenwood Springs that only offers ticketed tours and tastings a couple of times a week. Want to score a ticket? Good luck. Instead, stop whatever it is you’re doing and get your butt to the beer cave at Mile High Wine and Spirits. There are numerous other reasons to explore the cellar—the bounty of beers from Bull & Bush Brewery, for instance, plus the bomber-of-the-month sales and staff selections.

4. Little’s Fine Wines, Beers & Spirits {2390 South Downing Street; 303.744.3457}

Littles beer cave

In 2008, this lovely beer, wine, and spirits emporium became a certified destination for craft beer advocates when it created one of the city’s first beer caves. Sequestered behind a heavy wooden door haphazardly stamped with stickers from local breweries, the tight quarters give way to an wonderful compendium of 12-ounce bottles, bombers, cans, pre-mixed craft packs, and discounted brews. The treasury of sours is especially stout, but no matter what you’re collecting, there’s a dream pick.

John Panek, the former beer manager, established the cave, and his successor, Clayton Myers, is pretty damn good at continuing to stock oddball rarities. If there’s a particular beer that you’ve got your eye on, it’s all but guaranteed that he can find it; he’s also your go-to guy when you’re seeking beers that have small allocations. It’s not the biggest beer cave in Denver, but what it lacks in square footage, it makes up for in quality. If you happen to be a TRVE beer junkie (the local heavy metal brewery is turning out some amazing new beers), then Little’s should be at the top of your list. By the way, the shop hosts beer tastings from 4 to 7pm every Thursday.

5. Molly’s Spirits {5809 West 44th Avenue, Lakeside; 303.955.5174}

Mollys Spirits

This supersize liquor store can be a bit overwhelming, and while the beer cave is large, it still feels like a sanctuary, especially compared to the 36,000-square-foot vast expanse beyond the door. Parading more than 500 different beers from 30 countries, it’s a well-curated, highly orderly romper room of bombers that equates to sheer lust.

Brewheads congregate here en masse on the weekends to stock up on local favorites (and staff picks) from Avery, Epic, Trinity Brewing, Blackshirt Brewing, and brews from everywhere else (there’s a terrific selection of Belgian beers). There’s a section, too, that’s absorbed by sours, wild ales, and barrel-aged bombers. If you want first grabs of hard-to-locate special releases, join the store’s beer club, which offers its members advance notice of the really cool stuff that flies off the shelves before you can say “six-pack.”

By Lori Midson