Black Shirt Brewing Company – Denver, CO

Black Shirt Brewing Company is located in the River North (RiNo) district in Denver, near the intersection of Walnut and Downing. Just north of the brewery, maybe a couple hundred yards away, is a stop for RTD’s A-Line Light Rail line. Many travelers either heading out to DIA or coming from DIA to Denver, stop at Black Shirt Brewing to try a fresh Colorado craft beer. Due to their unique location, Black Shirt has loyal fans all over the country that enjoy stopping in when they visit Colorado. Black Shirt is one of the must-try breweries in the Denver area whether you live nearby or you’re planning to visit from another state.

Black Shirt Brewing Company’s story began in 2011 when brothers Branden and Chad Miller along with Chad’s wife, Carissa, decided it was finally time to realize their dream of owning a brewery. The siblings had the idea to make this happen as far back as 1999, but like they say, “good things take time”. With help from Carissa’s brother, Aaron Holstad, they worked long hours to transition the old brick building into a functioning brewery. The building is thought to be from the 1920s and there are varying stories as to its exact history. From a furniture store in the 50s to a disco in the 60s-70s, to a brothel sometime along the way (not confirmed), the building had a lot of history.

The owners worked hard to begin the next chapter for the building as it transitioned to a brewery. For nearly two years (one year, 9 months) Branden, Chad and Aaron worked to renovate what they could as they were paying for improvements as they went. Due to the fact they had a small budget, every single piece of the brewery was touched by one of the three. There are some really cool touches to the construction that have unique stories. For instance, the barn wood was brought in from Branden and Chad’s hometown.

Black Shirt Brewing Owners Branden and Chad Miller are Colorado natives, having grown up in the Southern Colorado town of Westcliffe, CO. They will proudly tell you that they are in fact, 5th generation Coloradans. The brothers gravitated towards skateboards and the music of Johnny Cash, while preferring their clothes to be black. It wasn’t what all of the popular kids did, it was what Branden and Chad did. When they decided to open the brewery, Branden and Chad thought it was important to stay true to their style and design things to fit what they liked. When you walk in Black Shirt Brewing, you quickly notice pictures of Johnny Cash and many references to music on the walls. You will hear music playing and it might just be coming from the back patio.

The Beer:
One of the questions we like to ask at Colorado Craft Brews is what makes a brewery unique from the others. For Black Shirt this is an easy question to answer. Black Shirt specializes in Red Ales, a style of beer that is an uncommon focus among most breweries. Sure, most breweries brew a Red IPA from time to time, or a Red Ale for a seasonal, but very few focus on primarily brewing Red Ales. When we asked Branden Miller why he chose to brew Red Ales, he quickly told the story of his dad and the fact he believes it’s best to one thing and do it better than everyone else.

Branden and Chad decided to pursue brewing Red Ales for a number of reasons. Colorado is a Spanish adjective that means “red”. Early Spanish explorers named Colorado for the red that could be found around the state. A great example of this is the area in Southern Colorado where Branden and Chad grew up. This area is known for being the home of the Sangro de Christo Mountains. Sangre de Christo means “the blood of Christ” in reference to the red hues of the mountain range. Branden thought Red Ales were being done well but there was definitely room for improvement. Ultimately, it seemed fitting that in a state known for its red soil and red rock formations, he could brew Red Ales and brew them better than anyone else.

We sampled a number of Black Shirt’s beers and were impressed by the variety and quality of the samples. While difficult to pick a favorite, we thoroughly enjoyed the Frontmaniac IPA. Hop lovers will enjoy this big, bold IPA with a smooth finish. The Baritone Black IPA stood out for the earthy, piney notes – definitely a beer we will be trying again. The Colorado Red Ale (Black Shirt’s flagship beer) has floral and citrusy notes that make it a favorite for American IPA drinkers. If you prefer lighter, less hoppy beers, the Semitone Saison, Common Red Kolsch are great options. One thing we noted in trying some of the higher ABV (alcohol by volume) beers was that they were not overpowering, each was smooth and balanced. Often times, higher ABV beers can be either too hoppy or too malty. Overall, we enjoyed the tastings and would recommend Black Shirt’s beer to anyone from craft beer fanatics to those that are looking to try craft beer for the first time.

Beer List:

  • Born to Hula (Nitro) – Sour Ale: 6.5% abv – Sour Ale conditioned atop Pineapple and Coconut, dry-hopped w/ Citra
  • Common Red – Kolsch: 5.5% abv – Crisp, clean, and crushable
  • Semitone – Saison: 5.4% abv – Petit Saison brewed with sweet orange peel
  • Stringender Saison – Saison: 7.5% abv – An amplified, resonant and expressive Saison
  • Timekeeper Rye Pale Ale – American Pale Ale: 6% – A precise, balanced and crisp Rye Pale Ale
  • Colorado Red Ale – Amber Ale: 7.3% abv – The flagship beer, a floral citrusy Red IPA
  • Frontmaniac IPA – IPA: 7% abv – Hopped to a rate of over 5 lbs per barrel of Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hops
  • Blood Orange – Double IPA: 8% abv – Double IPA conditioned atop fresh blood oranges and double dry-hopped w/ Mosaic and Amarillo hops
  • Ocean of Noise – Gose: 5.4% abv – Gose brewed w/ Yuzu, Lemongrass, Hawaiian Red Gold Sea Salt, dry-hopped w/ Equinox and Hallertau Blanc
  • Fourtrack Porter – Porter: 6.3% abv – American Porter w/ notes of milk chocolate, caramel and toffee
  • Baritone – Black IPA: 7.5%: Dark and brooding Black IPA inspired by the original man in black Johnny Cash. Warrior, Chinook and Simcoe hops
  • Black Beacon Storm Nitro – Imperial Stout: 8.5% abv – Imperial Rye Stout aged in a variety of bourbon barrels.
  • Frontman IPA – IPA: 7.3% – A mic’d up, hoppy and loud IPA brewed w/ Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic Hops.

Black Shirt Brewing distributes their beer in many liquor stores around the metro Denver area. You can also find Black Shirt in a handful of mountain towns including, Buena Vista, Gunnison, Salida and Crested Butte. If you want to find a location near you that sells Black Shirt’s beer try their beer locator. The best way to enjoy a Black Shirt beer is to visit the taproom. If you can make it on the first Wednesday of the month, you’ll be able to try a new release beer and help raise money for local charities. $1 from each sale of the special release beer is donated to a local charity. If you are not able to make it on the first Wednesday, you can still try the new release beer for the entire month, until the next special release (and your purchase still helps raise money for charity).

We mentioned that you may hear music coming from the beer garden at Black Shirt. They have a stage in the back that is a hot spot for artists in the local music scene. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Black Shirt hosts live bands on the stage and welcomes fans to enjoy music with a fresh craft beer.Be sure to check the schedule as there are many events going on throughout the spring and summer.

We would like to thank Branden Miller for taking time to chat about Colorado craft beer. It was apparent in our discussion how passionate Branden is about brewing high quality beer. We encourage anyone reading this to make a trip to Black Shirt Brewing to enjoy a delicious beer, you won’t be disappointed. If you would like to learn more about how they got their start, you can see Black Shirt in a craft beer documentary called Crafting a Nation.

Black Shirt Brewing Company
3719 Walnut St.
Dener, CO 80205
(303) 993-2799

Wit’s End Brewing Company – Denver, CO

Wits End Brewing logo

Wit’s End Brewing Company is located in Denver, CO, and is a self proclaimed “Impossibly small Denver nanobrewery fueled by dreams and inspired by the limitless potential of craft beer.” Wit’s End was started by Scott Witsoe, a transplant from Seattle, WA. After coming to Denver, Scott realized there was a beer culture similar to Seattle, and the dream of starting a brewery was born.

The moment the light bulb turned on for Scott Witsoe was when he first attended the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Scott had seen the event on TV, but always thought it looked gimicky, basically like an informercial. There was no way this event was as great as advertised…well maybe it really was. Scott couldn’t believe the amount of brewers, the different types of beer, and all the people that were so passionate about craft beer! The wheels started turning, and Scott began dreaming about becoming a brewer.

As Scott became more familiar with Denver, he quickly found great local craft beers. Great Divide became his favorite craft brewery, and happened to be in Scott’s neighborhood. Avery, another local brewery, turned Scott onto Belgian style beers. After getting some ideas and trying different types of beers, Scott began tinkering with his own recipes via a homebrew kit he acquired from his father-in-law. The kit had been collecting dust, so Scott simply needed to dust it off and pick up ingredients to make his first homebrew. Scott’s hombrewing quickly got him excited about opening up his own brewery. As Scott describes it, “opening the first beer, hearing the sound, and smelling the first beer, I knew what I wanted to do.” By his 5th homebrew batch, Scott filled his first keg. Scott’s friends tried his beers and the response was great…it was time for Scott to realize his dreams. 

Scott was laidoff from his job in the MMA industry in March 2011. It was at this point that Scott, and his wife Heather decided it was time to pursue his dream full-time. They made the decision to go through the difficult process of starting a brewery with no back up employment to fall back on. As Scott put it “Without the support of my wife, I would not be doing what I am. She has supported me completely, and she deserves a ton of credit for that!” After months of paperwork, planning, inspections, licensing, painting, construction, and a lot of long days, Scott and Heather officially opened Wit’s End Brewing in September 2011! Immediately, Scott realized how much he enjoyed watching people build relationships at Wit’s End, and he knew he was finally doing what he was meant to do.

Wit’s End is a small taproom that offers up fresh beer, and a neighborhood feel that is hard to find these days. Scott has placed an emphasis on fostering conversation instead of sitting and staring at TVs like at a typical sports bar. Each person that came to Wit’s End during our visit was personally greeted by Scott, and made to feel at home. If you want to enjoy a beer at a fun, friendly taproom, Wit’s End is a great place to go.

Scott has creativity that shows in his beers. With names like “Jean Claude Van Blond” and “Mick Jaggery” the beers at Wit’s End offer options that are a little outside the box. Standards are not necessarily followed, and are not meant to be. Scott has made an effort to do things his way, and does not worry about following institutionalized “style” guidelines. It’s more fun to do something different, and to create a unique recipe.

Beer List: Our favorite beers were the Wilford, and the Green Man Ale! The Wilford won an Award at the Colorado State Fair. The Green Man Ale is Scott’s oldest recipe and was modeled after the 1st craft beer he had in Seattle (Redhook). Wits End 40sIf you head down to Wit’s End, you can try many different beers from the tap. Availability changes from time to time, but there are always some great options to choose from.

If you want to purchase beer to take home, Wit’s End has a really cool option. They have 40oz. stainless steel “40s” that are very popular. In fact, Westword awarded Wit’s End with the “best new beer to go idea” for their 40s. You can even find Wit’s End’s 40s in the A-Z exhibit at the Colorado History Museum in the beer section. Wit’s End will also fill any seal able container with the beers they have on tap, so bring in a growler, Nalgene, or any other seal able container.

  • Jean-Claude Van Blond: Inspired by the action hero in all of us. It features a Belgian yeast strain and is built on a lighter malt profile with just a touch of oats for a silky body and some additional depth. You will find this beer intriguing and hard to define—which is just the way we like it.
  • Wilford: Introducing the Belgian Oatmeal IPA! Flaked oats play a major role in this Belgian-American porridge. Pungent spicy noble hops, citrusy American hops, and a Belgian yeast all wrapped up in a silky blanket of oats–yes please! We will not make any claims as to the health benefits of using oatmeal in beer, but if there are any, then…it’s the right beer to drink, and the tasty way to do it!
  • Super FL I.P.A. : A no nonsense Black IPA—can you dig it? This bad-ass beer features nine different malts, as well as a combination of Columbus and Cascade hops. After the fermentation, it is then dry-hopped and rests on just a touch of real cedar wood chips. The game it plays it plays for keeps!
  • Green Man Ale: Inspired by the malty and hoppy beers of the Great Northwest, Green Man Ale is a rich and layered beer that lies somewhere between an IPA and a Red Ale—not exactly radical, but not quite the conformist, Green Man Ale just is.
  • Kitchen Sink Porter: What started out as a basic porter recipe evolved by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, using a wide variety of malts not typically seen in a porter. This includes various types of rye and a dash of smoked malt. The result—a roasty, spicy, chocolaty glass of goodness. We just threw in the Kitchen Sink moniker for good measure.
  • Experimental Beers: There are many of them…probably too many to list here! Check out the beer list or see what is available when you visit. The experimental beers are available from time to time. To view Wit’s End’s beer list, click here

We had a great visit to Wit’s End Brewing, and were impressed with the beers, and the passion behind the making of them. Scott Witsoe has created a great environment to enjoy a beer, or as he puts it “slow beers for fast times.” Wit’s End is all about personality, and making it enjoyable for people to visit. If you’re looking for an unpretentious environment, and are open to exploring new types of beers, Wit’s End would be a great taproom to visit. Thanks for the hospitality Scott!

Wit’s End Brewing Company
2505 W 2nd Ave. Unit 13
Denver, CO 80219

Taproom Hours

Fridays and Saturdays


Arvada Beer Company – Arvada, CO


Arvada Beer Company LogoArvada Beer Company is located in Arvada, CO. in the historic Olde Town district. The building Arvada Beer is located in was originally built in 1916, and has changed quite a bit over the years. The building was divided into smaller units that originally included a drug store, a car shop and most recently, a printing shop. Arvada Beer decided to move into the building in November 2010, and finally opened up the brewery in October 2011 after a massive renovation that included replacing all electrical and plumbing throughout the building. The owners of Arvada Beer Company are proud of the building, and enjoy taking visitors on tours of the facility.

Arvada Beer Company was started by Cary & Kelly Floyd.  The husband and wife brewing duo have a really interesting story that is deeply rooted in a mutual love of homebrewing. Cary started homebrewing in 1988 and learned a great deal through trial and error. In 2002, Cary won his first medal for homebrewing. In 2004 he started dating Kelly (this is where the story gets interesting!). Kelly watched Cary brew one of his favorite recipes, and told him it looked really easy. Cary took that as a challenge, and told Kelly they should both brew the same recipe, and enter their individual beers into a homebrewing contest at the Colorado State Fair. Kelly won the gold medal! Cary won silver…this was when he knew he needed to make Kelly his wife!

With over 400 homebrewing medals (including 50 multi-award winning recipes), Cary and Kelly Floyd have learned a thing or two about experimenting with their recipes. They have created great beers that are always available, but they’re constantly tweaking recipes, or adding flavors for special occasions. Arvada Beer offers their ‘Brewers Limited Release’ on Thursday nights. The limited release is usually a regular beer with an extra flavor, or a twist on the original recipe. A recent beer featured in the ‘Brewers Limited Release’ was the Butter Pecan Gold. This unique beer was made with the Olde Town Brown and butter pecan flavoring from the ice cream shop next door. While Cary Floyd wouldn’t personally drink a full pint of the Butter Pecan Gold, he said the beer was a big hit among bar patrons.

Dennis O’Harrow is the brewer for Arvada Beer Company. He also has a strong brewing background, and brings a great deal of talent to the team. Dennis has won 49 professional brewing medals. His Coffee Porter won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival, and the World Beer Cup. Dennis previously brewed for CB & Potts before joining Arvada Beer. With a mix of experiences and techniques from years of practicing, the team at Arvada Beer Company brews excellent beers in many different styles. They are not afraid to push the limits, or to try something that sounds completely off the wall. Many breweries stick very close to their recipes, and try not to differ from batch to batch. Arvada Beer on the other hand, is contantly looking for a new way to add a crazy twist to what they do.

Beer List:

  • Water Tower Wheat: This true to style Bavarian Wheat beer is cloudy from the yeast, and includes notes of banana and clove.  4.5% ABV
  • Ralston’s Golden Ale: A crisp, refreshing beer. Easy drinking, malt oriented American ale.This beer is lighter and not too hoppy. This beer would be a great choice for someone that is looking for a good intro craft beer. 4.8% ABV
  • Goldline IPA: Smooth, not bitter with great citrus and floral tones. Goldline is hopped with 5 different hops, and then dry hopped with 3 different hops.  5.8% ABV
  • Flanigan’s Irish Red: With a deep red hue and subtle maltiness this Irish Red Ale is a sure fire easy drinking brew, with just enough hop for balance and the lower alcohol level of a traditional English ale. 4.8% ABV
  • Arvada Pride Double IPA:  American Hops and extra malt for a classic American Style Double IPA. With the high alcohol content, this DIPA still has as a great taste, and finishes smooth. 8.8% ABV
  • PoolHall Porter: A cross between a brown Porter and a Robust Porter, with all the taste of a robust porter and with some of the subtle flavors of a brown porter.      5.1% ABV
  • Lemon Shandy: This is a unique brew that starts as the Water Tower Wheat. Lemonade is added and it creates a lighter, sweeter flavor, and decreases the alcohol content. 3.8% ABV

We enjoyed tasting Arvada Beer Company’s beers. Our favorite was the Goldline IPA! Anyone that enjoys an IPA should definitely try out this beer. Arvada Beer is planning on canning in the near future, and the IPA will be one of the beers that is canned. Check back to find out when the IPA is available in cans, or you can always pick up a growler at the bar. Arvada Beer Company has a constantly changing beer list so check out their website for the latest:

The atmosphere at Arvada Beer Company is very laid-back and has a great vibe. Olde Town offers a cool historic feel but with updated modern interiors in the buildings. There is a great neighborhood feel, and in our experience everyone was very friendly. While food is not provided by Arvada Beer, a cool option they have is to order from a number of closeby restaurants. Not only will these restaurants deliver your food, they will bring it right to your table! You can have Italian, Chinese, Indian, or many other options delivered in just a few minutes.

Arvada Beer Company has become an important part of the Arvada area. They participate in many city festivals and activities, and are a main part of many Olde Town gatherings. On March 16th Arvada Beer will be participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This festival will close off traffic in Olde Town, and will include activities for kids and adults. Arvada Beer will be providing green beer, and their Irish red as well.

Other Activities:

  • Brew Class: For $25 per person, you get your first pint of beer and a 6 pack of the beer made that day when it is ready ( limited to the first 10 people who sign up). If you want to just come watch and ask questions, our classes cost $10 each person, which includes your first beer. All Classes start at 9 am with mash in and should end around 3 pm. Must be over 21 to attend class.
  • Pro-Am Competition: We will be holding a competition again this year to determine our GABF Pro-Am entry. All entrants must be a member of the AHA at the time of judging and on 10/15/13 to be able to participate in the GABF Pro-Am.
  • National Homebrew Association Competition: Arvada Beer Company will be hosting some of the competition.
  • Arvada Oktoberfest: check the Arvada Beer website for more details as the event gets closer.
  • Beer Dinner: April 3rd at the Golden Hotel in Golden, CO.

We want to thank Cary Floyd for sitting down with us and sharing both the history and the beers of Arvada Beer Company! We had a great time, and look forward to visiting again. Anyone that wants to try great beer in a great environment, should head over and try out Arvada Beer for themselves. If you’re looking to try something different, and maybe a little outside of the box, look no further. With unique beers, and creative twists on everyday recipes, Arvada Beer Company is doing things most other breweries don’t. We hope you will take a trip to Arvada and see for yourself!

Arvada Beer Company
5600 Olde Wadsworth Blvd.
Arvada, CO 80002
Phone: (303) 467-BEER