The Lucero / Starving Artist Beer Crawl Across Denver

(I have written quite a few reviews of Lucero shows, this is not one of them)

The fact that I am in any shape to be writing this ‘play-by-play’ is a testament to good planning.  Sure, meticulously mapping out a day of drinking might sound like a total buzzkill, if not a complete waste of time, but if you do it right, I can assure you that a few simple rules (and an outline) can help you avoid the common mistakes that can lead to a disastrous night.   So, when I bought 4 Starving Artist Punch Cards ($20 for 12 pints of beer at 12 locations around Denver to support the 2nd Annual Colorado Starving Artist Showcase at SXSW) and 4 tickets for Lucero’s Saturday night show, I decided to set some goals and ground rules…


  • Hit at least 6 punchcard places before the Lucero show
  • Catch Ben’s solo set at Illegal Pete’s and get the Lucero pint glass
  • Document each stop with an instagram — tag with place, time, beer drank
  • Make it to Lucero in a state where we can enjoy and remember the show
  • Make it home without pissing anyone off (including, but not limited to, wives, girlfriends and friends)
  • Do not lose anything ((including, but not limited to cameras, phones, wallets, wives, girlfriends, friends, etc.)

Ground rules to achieve goals:

  • No Facebook posting – NONE!
  • No texting (except to respond to check-ins from wives, girlfriends, etc.)
  • Eat regularly
  • Drink water regularly
  • Only 1 beer at each location (exception being Illegal Pete’s since we’ll be there for Ben’s set)
  • No liquor until Lucero (and even then, moderate)
  • No video, keeping setlists, etc. at show (take a couple photos and be done with it)

With these goals and ground rules in place, I woke up Saturday morning and began to prepare.  With a forecast calling for sunny skies and a high of 82 degrees, I made sure to pack sunscreen and a hat along with the tickets to the show, map of the ‘beer crawl’ route, sunglasses, phone, camera and punchcards.   Backyard BBQ Brunch included steak, eggs, bagels, strawberries and a (beer #1)  6% Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout (12:00pm).  After laying down a nice base coat, it was time to crawl.

My amazingly understanding wife dropped us off at the Ale House at Amato’s where we began our day.  Deciding to start things out on a lighter note, a (beer #2) 5.6% Avery White Rascal Belgian Style White Ale (1:30pm) would be my first X on the punchcard.  It was a great beer to start the day, but when it was gone, it was time to move on.  Walking across I-25 over to Platte St., it was obvious there could not have been a better day to take in everything Denver has to offer.  A few light clouds in the sky only highlighting how blue the rest of the day was.   We got over to Denver Beer Co. around 2:00pm and that’s where the two of us were joined by another friend and his girlfriend.  Voted Denver’s best new brewery, we could have easily hung out in their beer garden all day long, but after enjoying one of their (beer #3) Summit Sunrise 2x Red Ales (2:05pm), it was time to get over to Illegal Pete’s to catch Ben Nichols’ solo set.  Not only was the lead singer performing a free show, but if you bought a New Belgium beer and presented a  ticket to either night’s show, you would get a free Lucero pint glass.  And because this was a stop on the crawl anyway, we weren’t going to miss out on that.  Virgil (Illegal Pete’s/Suburban Home Records) had warned us to get there early and he wasn’t joking….we rolled up around 2:45pm and the place was overflowing into the street.

Luckily, we were able to get in there and grab a few (beer #4) 5.2% New Belgium Fat Tires (2:50pm).  These were not a part of the punchcard deal, but $12 for 4 beers and 4 badass pint glasses was a hella’va deal, even if it hadn’t come with a free Ben Nichols set.  Although, trying to find a place to hang out became a task in itself, so we retreated outside to drink our Fat Tires before fighting our way back to the bar…this time to utilize our punchcards for a (beer #5) 6.7% Upslope Brown Ale (3:15pm).  It was at this point I realized we were 5 beers in, with no water.  So we took advantage of Illegal Pete’s handy plastic cups and ice cold water to get some much needed nourishment.

Ben took the stage around 3:45pm, announcing he had just woken up.  We stuck around for four or five songs and then decided it was time to get back out in the sun, and back on with our crawl through this Napa Valley of Beer that we call home.  It was on the way out that I committed my first fowl, I knocked over a full beer on the patio.  After apologizing profusely to a bunch of people who claimed it wasn’t their beer, and realizing no one was going to take me up on my offer to pay for it, I decided it was time to go.

Our next stop was the tap room at my favorite local brewery, Great Divide.  This is somewhere I could have spent the whole day, tasting everything they have until being carried out.  But sticking to my rule of one beer per location, I decided on a (beer #6) 9.5% Belgian Style Yeti Imperial Stout (4:15pm).  Right after we got our pours, we were treated to a short tour of the small brewery.  Once again, could’ve spent a lot of time here, but after going through the six degrees of separation to figure out how I knew our tour guide (she used to work at Teller’s near my house), it was time to get some food.

Wynkoop Brewing Company is a Denver staple, yet this was my first time here.  I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted any of their beer before, so I decided to go with something different, a (beer #7) 4.2% Patty’s Chile Beer (5:15pm).  This was probably my first bad choice of the day.  Not because the beer was bad, but because it wasn’t great, and it did not go well with our ‘hotter-than-the-flames-of-hell’ wings.  By the end of the meal I was sucking on ice cubes and had a red, inflamed eyeball (where I’d accidental rubbed with wing remnants on my finger).  But at least we got some food in our system to soak up the beer.  It was at this time that my extremely patient wife met up to take our spoils from us…pint glasses, sunglasses, shorts for jeans, etc.

Re-energized from our sampler spread at Wynkoop,  and dressed for our night out, our next stop was the patio at The Lobby.  This was a perfect spot to watch the day come to a close as the sun took it’s journey further west.  Sitting on the patio, drinking water out of a Jim Beam bottle, the calm before the storm wasn’t as recognizable as it should have been.  Serving fresh brews from Great Divide across the street, I decided to go with the (beer #8) 7.3% Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale (6:56pm).

Feeling good after our chill-out time at The Lobby, we decided it was time to journey south.  Our friend’s girlfriend was nice enough to drop us off at the Renegade Brewing Taproom.  I went with a 12oz. pour of (beer #9) Renegade Red-I (8:15pm), while my partners-in-the-crawl went with a couple (each) 6oz. pours of the 11% Elevation Triple IPA.  It was at Renegade that conversation started to take a turn toward the intoxicated (you know, the “I love you, man” variety), but all-in-all, we were all holding ourselves very well.  The space in between locations, sticking with beer, the food and (limited) water — not to mention being seasoned professionals — were all working in our favor.

Instead of heading down Broadway to 3 Kings and Irish Rover, we decided it was time to get over toward The Bluebird.  We caught a cab and were dropped off on Colfax around 9:30pm.  We had an extra ticket to the show, so I ended up selling that out front before running into Ben Nichols.  A short conversation with him around his hangover, playing so many shows in so few days in Colorado, and the new material, we went across the street to Goosetown Tavern.  I remember being at Goosetown, but to be 100% honest, I don’t remember what I drank there.  I do remember leaving at 10:15pm and walking across the street to enter The Bluebird and feeling really good about my state-of-mind.  Here we were, 9 hours after starting our crawl, at least 10-12 beers/drinks in and clear headed.

For a sold-out show, there was still quite a bit of room to navigate The Bluebird, even after Ben and the boys took the stage.  We got a great place, less than halfway back, center stage.  The only person who had been with me since beer #1 started handing me Red Bull Vodkas during the show.  Pretty sure they were doubles.  But he’s not to blame, because I thought they were a good idea as well!  And in all reality, I probably only had 2 or 3 of them, but they did cause my stated goals and guidelines to bluuuuuurrrr….

“On My Way Downtown”, “Can’t Feel A Thing”, “Kiss The Bottle”, “Joining The Army”, “Sweet Little Thing” — these are just a few of the songs that are crystal clear in my head.  I remember Ben in a baseball cap.  I remember thinking how the stage was too small for the band they have become.  I remember thinking ‘this is one of the best live bands working today!’  But I also remember trying to keep a setlist and giving up because my phone was blurry.  I remember taking 5 or 6 photos and them stopping (although the next morning proved I took many more than that).  I remember starting a late night text conversation with someone — a text conversation that should have never happened.  I remember it was after midnight by the time we were back on Colfax.  I remember getting in the cab and thinking we were going the wrong way (even though we weren’t).  I remember getting home and deciding it was time to go to bed, even though I had a full drink and friends in the backyard.  I don’t remember what time it was.  I don’t remember how long the band played.  I don’t remember what they ended with.  So, while my goals and ground rules did not lead to perfection, they did lead to a great day in a great city — drinking great beers and listening to great music performed by a great band!  So, here’s to planning and imperfection!  Here’s to Denver and Lucero!