We know you. You’re both a discerning and adventurous beer drinker. A bar with 10 familiar beers on tap won’t cut it for you. You want 40, 60, 130 choices.
Luckily for you, this is Denver. And while you absolutely should not try to drink 130 different beers in one sitting, theoretically, it is something you could do. (In this scenario, you are an actual giant.)
We did some thinking and drinking to come up with seven bars in Denver that have the most taps, and checked our results with a beer distributor and the Colorado Brewers Guild. Because there is no official list, we could be missing some, particularly on the lower end of the list, which includes three bars with 40 taps.
If you know of another bar with 40 taps or more, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org. (For the map-averse, there is a list below.)
Housing 40-130 taps in your bar is, obviously, a lot of work. Mostly, it’s the beer selection and maintenance (though we imagine running back and forth and pulling on all those taps throughout a shift is a light workout for the bartenders, too).
How do they keep all those taps clean?
Maintenance of dozens and dozens of taps is intensive and time-consuming work, and it’s important for customer safety, as well as the taste of the beer.
At the Yard House on the 16th Street Mall, there are 130 taps. That’s easily the most in Denver proper. Beverage manager Greg Howard said each one gets a regular professional cleaning, during which they’re taken apart, brushed and sanitized, and staff flush the lines in between. Yard House also uses a BLM (beer line maintenance) system, which Howard explains “reduces build up by emitting a sonic pulse of sorts via a transponder. These signals create an unfriendly environment for yeast and bacteria without any deterioration of quality to the beer.”
When I called The Crafty Fox on a Thursday morning, owner Kyle Moyer was busy cleaning.
At the Globeville bar, which opened just four months ago, they’re making a big impression with their selection (and pizza). With 60 taps, Crafty Fox has the third-most in Denver, a little ways behind LoDo’s Falling Rock Tap House and its 75-plus taps.
“I’m pretty anal. I’d probably be this way if I had only 10 taps,” he said. “Every time we kick a beer, we clean the line. We do a full clean, we take the faucet apart, we run sanitizers through that, then through the line, let it sit for a while. Even if it’s a permanent line, we’ll still do the full clean … so the beer tastes the way the brewer intended.”
How do they decide what to put on tap?
As you might already know, Yard House is a national chain, and as such, it has quite a process for selecting 130 beers to tap. Howard laid out the process in an email:
“Our team goes through an extensive process of tasting approximately 1,000 beers annually for our 65 locations, searching for the best local craft, regional craft and import beers to add to our menus. Products are rated on their overall flavor, uniqueness and how style-appropriate they are. We also source feedback from our local teams via surveys to find out what they want to see on tap and what guests in their individual locations are asking for. The balance of beers we add is based on the final ratings, guests and team member feedback and a certain amount of balancing. The balancing is based on what styles are selling in each location.”
And the decisions aren’t applied sweepingly to all 65 restaurants. As Howard pointed out, every menu that is unique to its location.
“I think what sets Denver apart from most of our other locations is that Denver has been a craft beer mecca for decades and that simply is not true of many other states,” he wrote. “Because of this, we see much more competitive offerings and diverse beers that are really world class.”
In picking out beer for The Crafty Fox, Moyer aims for variety, diversity and rarity.
“We definitely go seasonally when we choose beers. That’s kind of the biggest factor, along with diversity,” he said. “We are able to get a lot of rare beers. We have a permanent Russian River Blind Pig handle. I think we’re one of only two places in the state to have that.”
“Each beer bar’s personality is expressed by the selections at the tap,” said Steve Kurowski, marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild. “A good beer bar will have its own approach on how they select beer for their guests.”
“Good thing Colorado has a cornucopia of delicious beers to choose from.”
So, Denver, you have your work cut out for you. Bottoms up.
Yard House: 130 taps
1555 Court Place
World of Beer: 50
660 South Colorado Blvd.
Ale House at Amato’s: 40
2501 16th St.
First Draft: 40
1309 26th St.
Historians Ale House: 40