Without a doubt, beer plays a huge role in the taste of Colorado.
About 230 breweries can be found throughout the state, accounting for 10 percent of the nation's craft breweries. By all reports, that number is growing as more home brewers graduate to commercial brewing and open establishments from the Front Range to the Western Slope.
Always on the hunt for new flavors and taste adventures, I knew I had moved to the right place almost two years ago when I caught my first glimpse of "The Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado." Any place that offered so many craft breweries that a map was required had to be fun, and I haven't been disappointed.
Colorado's brewers have made it their mission to push the envelope of what beer is supposed to taste like, creating revolutionary and original IPAs, stouts, ales, sours, saisons and every other variety of beer under the sun. If it doesn't exist yet, rest assured someone's working on it.
I couldn't possibly try to include every brewery in one column, or even all of my favorites, but this list should be a good place for anyone to start a summerlong love affair with Colorado's breweries.
Red Leg Brewing
The veteran-owned and -operated Colorado Springs brewery opened in July and already has made a name for itself in the local craft beer scene. Located just off Garden of the Gods Road, Red Leg consistently offers high-quality brews named after Civil War battles and heroes.
Its Cutter Wit, named as a Coast Guard tribute, took Gold Medal at this year's Colorado Indulgence Festival for Most Indulgent Beer, and the establishment was named Favorite New Brewery. Visit www.redlegbrewing.com.
This gem of a taproom in downtown Colorado Springs is the perfect place to visit when you want great craft beer but have commitment issues. Its tap list constantly is rotating new beers from breweries all over Colorado and the nation. Brewer's Republic offers free samples so patrons don't get stuck drinking something they don't like.
In addition to great beer, the taproom has an in-house kitchen with a full menu, and I recommend Jerry's spicy pork green chili. Like its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/brewersrepublic, to keep up with the tap takeovers.
Manitou Brewing Co.
Having opened in March, this is one of the newer breweries in the Pikes Peak region. But it has gotten off to a great start with good in-house brews, a generous listing of guest taps and a food menu that caters to about every palate. After two visits to the brewery, the super-hoppy IPA and the Rev Red Ale, with rich caramel and nutty flavors, were my favorites. Visit manitou-brewing.com.