Big bars are great when it’s game day and you’re cheering on your team, surrounded by the camaraderie and chants of fellow fans. Or, maybe you’re meeting up with co-workers after a Happy Hour and want an expansive list of beers to sample and, ultimately, order as a flight.
But, sometimes a smaller bar is just better—especially if you’re looking for a more curated draft selection, a unique craft cocktail menu and a set-up that allows you to actually have a conversation with the the person sitting at the next barstool.
These 5 bars in Denver get our nomination for the coziest in town, with everything from remarkable fireplaces to books warming up the space. Here's where you can sit down, and stay awhile.
Locals, you might sense something familiar about this space. Old Chicago once set up its pizza shop here. But, reincarnated, it’s a German-style beer hall, and is hardly recognizable. That’s because the owners of Rhein Haus opened up the second floor and decorated the space in a warm way, by bringing antique chandeliers into the space to complement its historic charm. Even though the space itself is large, mahogany fireplaces that once took up residence in Bavarian castles decorate the beer hall, giving off a warm feel.
You'll definitely want to put this on your "must-visit" list if your beer palate favors lagers; there’s a good selection here. Plus, Rhein Haus has everything you’d expect menu-wise—house-made sausages and big, doughy pretzels served with warm cheese (or melted chocolate if you're in the mood for dessert). But there’s lightened-up fare and a vegetarian currywurst, as well.
For the bonus round, you can play a round of bocce ball on the two courts nearby the upstairs bar. 1415 Market St, Denver, CO 80202
Totally unpretentious, this bar wears its “dive bar” moniker proudly. More than half a century-old, it’s everything you’d want in a dive bar. It’s dark, outfitted with skeeball machines and a Rolling Stones pinball machine, and has a rotating selection of canned beer (which is mounting a mighty comeback), as well as 18 taps of beer with a large focus on local.
It's also where you'll find some of the best "smoked" cocktails in town. You're in the capable hands of bartenders who use a blow torch to lend a smoky flavor to whiskeys and tequila.
Come summer, you can lounge on the back patio under Christmas lights and watch movies and feel like you're at your buddy's place. 2137 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Step into this hidden, basement bar on the most historic block in Denver, and you feel like you’ve been teleported into another era . With a prohibition-era feel, you’ll first go through a set of doors labeled “pie shop” before you settle into handsome red chairs and are greeted by a bartender, who is likely outfitted in suspenders and a dapper bow tie.
No secret handshakes required, but once you sidle up to the bar there’s a few things that preserve the vibe of the place. No cell phone conversations (unless you step inside a quiet cell phone booth), no reservations can be made, and don’t try to walk in with a group that numbers more than six. The cocktails are thoughtful and made slow, with fresh herbs, housemade bitters, and infused liquors and sodas. (And, it’s not just a front—Green Russell does serve some delicious slices of pie, and you can ask the bartenders to make you a drink that complements the day’s pie flavor).
The bar’s namesake, Green Russell, was an 1850’s gold miner who came to Colorado during the famous gold rush. If you're hungry, you can sit down for a barbecue dinner in the adjoining restaurant. 1422 Larimer St. Denver, CO. 80202
If you’re the type who’d rather bury your nose in a good book while at the bar or take part in an engaging discussion about your favorite author, there’s a bar for just for you in the Tennyson neighborhood of Denver.
Instead of trivia and big screen televisions, you’ll find your reprieve: Expansive wine and book selections and a bar menu, where flatbread pizzas are named after literary greats and are topped with veggies and herbs grown in the Book Bar’s patio garden.
Parents, there's even a happy hour that incorporates story time. It happens from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays. You get half off wine and kids' meals. The stories start at 4:30 p.m., and cookies get passed around. Guest authors often are among the storytellers. Poetry series, book clubs and author talks also happen here.
We don't want to ruin the ending, but we can't resist: You can order a port and brownie sampler from the dessert menu, which is aptly named "conclusions." 4280 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212
This bar is unassuming on the outside. On the inside, Forest Room 5 is rustic and has some quirky decorations (like dolls under a staircase?) But the real gem is hidden out back. There, you can round up your friends, sit on tree stumps around fire pits, imbibe with some local beers and feel like you’re camping-just in an urban atmosphere. To complete the atmosphere, there’s a creek that runs by the outdoor space and, yes, even a teepee. 2532 15th St, Denver, CO 80211