What is craft beer? Craft beers are defined by the Brewer’s Association as small, independent and with all or at least 50 percent of production in malt beer or one that uses ingredients to enhance flavor. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the new brewers on the block, but here are a few in Denver and beyond that are worthy of a pint and some extra time on a bar stool.

(credit: crookedstave.com)

Crooked Stave
1441 W. 46th Ave, Unit 19
Denver, CO 80211

Over the years, some craft beers have gotten a little more commercial and a little less crafty. But if you are looking for craft beers with limited release and a barrel-aged components, Crooked Stave is the place for you. In September of 2012, Crooked Stave opened its barrel cellar tasting room, which is home to 100 wine and spirit barrels for beer aging (there are plans to add another 100). The tasting room selections vary, but expect such limited releases like Pure Guave Petite Sour, Blackberry Petite Sour, Surette Wood Aged Farmhouse Ale, Surette Reserve Ale and Fertile Soil Fresh Hopped Golden Ale. Crooked Stave has a Cellar Reserve membership available which is limited to 400 members per year for $300 (check website for details).

Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 297-2700

Other breweries may stake a claim to the title craft brewery, but Wynkoop’s was first in line. Since its inception in 1988, this pioneering establishment has been dedicated to small-batch craft beers. Wynkoop likes beers with stories and is happy to tell a tale or two about its own brews and guest beers. For instance, this fall Wynkoop was pouring Belgorado IPA, a Belgian yeast beer made from 95 percent Colorado ingredients (and who is bragging, but it was a bronze winner at the Great American Beer Festival in the experimental beer category). In 2011 and summer of 2012, the brewery expanded its brewhouse fermenters, so in the coming year expect to see barrel-aged beers and sours. Wynkoop is also now canning beers in house so you can buy Rail Yard Ale, B3K Black Lager and Silverback Pale Ale in local stores to take home.

Related: Top Fish and Chips In Denver

Cheeky Monk
534 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 861-0347

As artisan beers go, Belgian craft beer is the finest of the finest, which makes Denverites lucky to have Cheeky Monk in the neighborhood. Not many craft breweries are brave enough to take on Belgian beers because they are aged in a keg or bottle. Cheeky Monk has 75 craft Belgian beers and an equal number of bottled beers. Cheeky Monk’s beers look a lot like wine on the menu with descriptions like Muscat’s — raisins, hops and sour cherry with cask-oak flavors. Cheeky Monk advises not to get caught up in the adjectives, just try one.

Falling Rock Taphouse
1919 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 293-8338

Pick a beer-making city, at least one with beer worth drinking, and you will likely see its brews on tap or in a bottle at Falling Rock Taphouse. There are as many as 75 beers on tap and 130 available by the bottle. Do you like Longmont’s Lefthand Nitro Milk? No worries, Falling Rock’s got it and many other beers you might have to otherwise drive to find. Look online for a list because there are endless options to peruse.

Denver Beer Company

1695 Platte St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 433-2739

Denver Beer Company brews seasonal beers, so as the weather changes, so does the beer. If you get your heart set on something you like, drink it now or wait another year. The beer is brewed on site and includes only Denver Beer Company brews. Cold-weather favorites include Graham Cracker Porter, Smoked Lager and Fresh Hop IPA. Check the website for the seasonal menu.

Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids

1555 S. Hover Road
Longmont, CO 80501
(303) 485-9400

Oskar Blues in Longmont is easy to find, just look for the silo painted as a Dale’s Pale Ale beer can. The draft list boasts no imports and no bottles. It is a geography lesson in beers with familiarities like Oskar Blues and Sam Adams and a unique list of craft beers from around the country like Epic’s Sour Apple Saison from Utah and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades ESB, from where else but Crazy Mountain, Colorado.

Related: Top Spots For Hot Drinks In Denver

Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.