Gunbarrel Brewing is a Colorado gem: a haven for craft beer-lovers and a hotspot for arcade buffs
Just north of Boulder, there's a local little secret waiting...
Tucked off of main roads north of Boulder, around the back of a parking lot in a secret little local cove, is one of the best craft breweries you may have never heard of — a place with a huge beer lineup, a killer atmosphere and the freshest pinball arcade this side of the Rockies.
I pulled into Gunbarrel Brewing right at three, on the nose, right as they were gearing up and getting ready, opening for the day.
The place was empty — but that wouldn’t last long.
Gunbarrel Brewing is a surprisingly large place. That was the first thing I noticed when I walked inside their brewery and tap house on 7088 Winchester Circle in Gunbarrel: it’s no small operation. The tap house itself has seating for a lot of people; some booths, some scattered tables and some tables lined up like a traditional German-style biergarten. And on the wall behind the bar, waits an extensive lineup of glistening taps. Their beer list features over twenty different craft brews.
I had no idea what to order. And I must have looked it too, because the bartender’s first question was, “Have you been in before?”
I told her I had not and asked for a recommendation.
“The Drop of Dew is new, if you like NEIPA’s.” She told me.
“Let’s do the dew then.”
“Cool,” she said. “I’ll keep pouring samples and bring them over.”
Sounds awesome, I thought. And it’s is a pretty great way to familiarize new customers with what’s on tap: just being them a bunch of samples.
Photo courtesy of Gunbarrel Brewing.
I sat down and already there were other customers trickling in in twos and threes. People escaping work early on a Thursday afternoon, to come get at a little local brew action.
Drop of Dew is a NEIPA worth traveling for. Bright yellow and impenetrably hazy, it’s got a bitter little bite off the front end and you can really taste some juicy strawberry and honeydew flavors off the back. It’s a testament to Gunbarrel’s knack for nailing these NEIPA’s — it’s one of their most popular styles, according to their co-owner Marie Fox.
“Definitely the New England style IPA is something that brings people in and we really push the limits of that style,” she says. “Sometimes you drink those from a brewery that has a few and they all kind of taste the same. But with us we really craft an entire recipe for every single beer to make it unique.”
From the water profile to the grain bill and the hops, everything about Gunbarrel’s NEIPA’s is crafted to be authentic and distinct.
Marie co-owns and co-founded Gunbarrel Brewing with her husband Jaime, who has been brewing for over 18 years. Just recently they started distributing cans in Boulder and throughout Denver, so you’ll likely see their awesome lineup of beer popping up cans in liquor stores near you.
And it is an impressive lineup — not just because of the awesome can art (which Marie designed herself) but because of its sheer size. At Gunbarrel Brewing they have thirty-two different canned beers to choose from, Marie tells me. Which is even more than they feature on tap.
“No other smaller breweries our size carries that kind of lineup,” she says proudly.
I was hanging out, taking notes and enjoying my Drop of Dew, when Olivia (the bartender) brought over the promised sampler set.
“Beautiful Friend,” she said, placing one sample down (which is the name of the beer, I realized somewhat disenchanted, not what she was calling me). “Geezers & Bros, Sunset in July, Velvet Sea. Let me know if there are any others you want to taste.”
I was set – my palette had its work cut out for it. I started with the Beautiful Friend, a resurrected American IPA that smacks of dry hops and leaves a satisfying bitterness on the tongue. Next: Geezers & Bros, a light kellerbier, pilsner-like and traditional. Then I tried the Sunset in July (which is sadly no longer on tap), a salted watermelon sour that I can only describe as ‘summer in a glass.’
But my favorite was the Velvet Sea NEIPA. It tastes just like the name might lead you to believe: super smooth on the palette, fruity and a little creamy too (which makes sense, as it was inspired by Japanese mochi treats). I liked it so much, I ordered a full pint and retired to the pinball area in back.
Which, is one of Gunbarrel’s coolest and most unique facets: they have a beautiful flashing blinking lineup of Stern pin-ball machines just beyond the front area. Which, Marie explained to me, are all brand new games.
“Every time Stern pinball company comes out with a new machine, as soon as the limited-edition machines start shipping it comes straight to us,” she says.
I played a few rounds of AC/DC pinball, losing to myself pretty miserably and having a grand old time in the process, sipping my beer and sinking balls between the bumpers. I could have stayed for a few more pints, playing pinball and enjoying Olivia’s sample train, but my sobriety was quickly waning and if I didn’t make an exit soon, I realized I wouldn’t be driving out of there.
So, with reluctance, I paid my tab and gathered my things. When I finally left sometime around 4:20, Gunbarrel Brewing was bustling with customers, drinking merrily and chatting it up, sipping on their Thursday afternoon brews.
It’s definitely a brewery to check out, for beer enthusiasts and arcade aficionados alike, and one you can spend a lot of time sampling your way through.