A taste of the Alps in the Rockies: exceptional traditional German lagers like a dunkel, weissbier and helles, plus seasonal specialties, served alongside giant salted pretzels and basic, hearty cold-cut platters.
Best of 2012: Local Brewery
A series of award-winning beers, and the much-anticipated Spring 2013 opening of a new 16,000-square-foot brewing location: These things hint at how Mike Bristol stays on top, both as a local brewery operator and community leader. His company is legendary for producing tasty beers that truly give back to Colorado Springs, from a Smokebrush Porter whose proceeds help keep the Uncle Wilber fountain entertaining kids all summer, to a Pinon Nut Brown that supports Cheyenne Cañon. And don't forget the sold-out-before-it-hits-the-shelves Venetucci Farm Pumpkin Ale. When the Ivywild School renovation is complete, the brewery will finally have a building that almost matches the size of its heart. — Steve Hitchcock
Best of 2012: Local Microbrew to Drink in Summer: Beehive Honey Wheat
Again we see a Bristol beer ranking top-slot with Indy readers. We'd think the crowd was biased, but in all fairness, Beehive is a great representation of the wheat style, cloudy and with a honey sweetness. It's easy to see why you'd want to kick back with a few on a hot summer day. Funny thing about this beer is that it was meant to be Bristol's first summer seasonal, says owner Mike Bristol, but after such an amazing response from fans, Beehive was deemed worthy of year-round production. — Steve Hitchcock
Best of 2012: Local Microbrew to Drink in Winter: Winter Warlock Oatmeal StoutWho would have thought that a character from a childhood movie would become part of such a great beer? Company owner Mike Bristol admits he got the idea for the Winter Warlock label image from the 1970 movie Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. And much like the warlock of the big screen, Bristol's oatmeal stout delivers cheer to all who experience it. The rich creaminess of this malt-and-oat-heavy winter warmer is just what the doctor ordered to fight the long, cold Colorado nights; at the brewery, it often flows out of the tap using nitrogen to add a bit of extra buttery smoothness. By the way, no reason to wait for Santa: This season's first batch releases in late October. — Steve Hitchcock
Boasting new house beer releases at 5 p.m. every Tuesday and a new menu, year-old CMB is aggressively set to open a second location in the iconic former Van Briggle Pottery building. Beers and bites have been thoroughly tested and refined, virtually guaranteeing your satisfaction.
The Springs' first brewery (est. 1991), JB's has always been a good happy-hour spot (4 to 7 daily), with $3 drinks and half-off apps, weekdays. From an updated menu featuring Kobe burgers, green chile and lobster bisque, the house-barbecue-sauced chicken quesadillas are popular.
Drink 2010Happy hour: Daily, 4-7 p.m.
When Judge Baldwin's opened in 1991, it was the Springs' first microbrewery. Located inside the Antlers Hilton, it's now a low-key operation, churning out beers mainly for hotel and restaurant guests, says head brewer Mike Ford. He makes a few seasonal beers, including an Irish red for St. Patrick's Day and an Oktoberfest in the fall, but for the rest of the year he's content to brew old favorites like amber and pale ales.
Judge Baldwin's menu has radically improved under two-time James Beard House invitee Ryan Blanchard. The outfit's beer isn't the best around, but it doesn't entirely disappoint at happy hours, which also offer absurd food specials. Get the ale and cheese soup, calamari or standout Maine lobster roll.
Best Of 2012: Restaurant for Tourists
Best Of 2012: Place to Shoot Pool
Since it's just a block off the Springs' main strip, lucky tourists often stumble into Phantom Canyon for lunch or dinner. There they find a well-executed seasonal menu, which Phantom's Suzie Nichols says is focused on warmth and comfort food like meat and potatoes in fall and winter, and cool and crisp items like peach- and strawberry-infused plates in spring and summer. But locals flock to Phantom for its brews and 13 pool tables. (OK, maybe for the famous blonde ale and smoked gouda soup, too.) Look for a significant expansion to the brewery soon, which will not only increase brewing capacity, but bring an old-school video-game arcade into the billiard hall — sorry, the foosball tables had to go. — Steve Hitchcock
Bites 2013: Blonde Ale & Smoked Gouda Soup
Like the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones or one of those geek-ass elven blades from The Lord of the Rings, this soup is legend. It's not so much that wars have been fought over it (aside from the personal mental battle of resisting eating it all the time) as the fact that it's pretty much the greatest beer-cheese soup in the known realm. With its Queen's Blonde Ale base and thick cheese, it's so rich it's royal. ($3.25 cup/$5 bowl)Click here for Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.'s Pork Green Chili
Best Of 2012: Neighborhood Bar: Monument
Pikes Peak Brewing opened in May 2011, but is already beginning an expansion to double its size and fermentation capacity. "I'm overwhelmed with humility that people have responded as well as they have," says owner Chris Wright, who's paying back the love via community outreach like the Local 5 Pale Ale (benefiting local firefighters) and cranberry-apple saison Beer for Boobies (benefiting breast cancer research). The latter releases during Monument Beer Week, Oct. 20 through 27, which Wright co-organizes; it features beer dinners at Monument eateries, a regional mini beer fest and much more. PPB also enables the base wort production for Woodland Park's exciting new experimental brewery, Paradox; Wright will put 30 oak barrels in his greater space for his own upcoming special releases. 'Nuff said. — Matthew Schniper
Happy hour: Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close
The goods: $3 house drafts, wines and wells, $5 appetizers
Rock Bottom may be corporate, but its Springs location does all its brewing on-site, every beer the product of local brewmaster Jason Leeman. He picked up two awards at the Manitou Craft Lager Festival last summer, and each month unveils a new creation. Rock Bottom usually offers about 14 brews on tap, but don't expect to find Bud or Coors: "If we don't brew it," Leeman says, "we don't serve it."
The guys at Rocky Mountain like to experiment with small batches of unusual flavors. They've done a red chili beer and a toasted coconut porter, the kind of brews that disappear soon after they're introduced. But whenever you visit this garage-like tasting room, head brewer Nick Hilborn promises you'll get beer with personality: "We're not trying to dummy down our beers. We're not reducing the flavor so that more people will like them ... we're trying to impress the microbrew drinkers."