You can get high in the Rockies
DOWNING my third sampler from the Monkeygland brewery in the cold spring morning sun in Denver, I spied a truck drawn up with the driver opening the sides. It was a food truck, in this case one selling Middle Eastern-style kebabs, falafel and the like. This is how bars feed drinkers in this city, I was told.
The host has no obligation to supply food (or non-alcoholic drinks), and in one brewery I visited on a tour of Denver’s best, the only edible of any kind on offer was popcorn, and that was for the children of the afternoon imbibers.
You can also forget any idea of fulfilling the hippie dream of a joint in one hedonist hand, a cold lager in the other, lounging in the sun listening to sweet tunes and waiting for the munchies to strike.
You can’t smoke dope in public, and by law a bar can’t also be a marijuana dispensary. The breweries made sure of that. This isn’t Amsterdam. Buy it, take it home and smoke it there, not in parks, the great outdoors, restaurants or any other public places.
Those considerations aside, Denver is a hub of alcoholic and culinary pleasure. As a foodie destination, the city is carving out a well-deserved reputation for quality, variety and innovation.
Leading chef Josh Niernberg served me an apple, fennel and kombu braised wagyu short rib, served with preserved apricot butter, puffed barley and micro mustard. It simply melted in the mouth, and the combination of flavours was delicate and sweet: one of the nicest dishes I have ever eaten.
The state has numerous craft beer makers (as do many other states). Colorado also makes wine, and there are many makers of spirits too.
For an Aussie or Kiwi, the local wine isn’t up to much (and a good deal of it is sold in cans for hikers), but the whiskeys and vodkas are top notch.
Denver, the capital and main city of Colorado, is literally a mile high (5280 feet above sea level) and the height makes the air fresher, the legs tire more quickly and adds extra oomph to alcohol and other stimulants. Not that anyone has a problem with that, but I was warned that the THC content of locally grown marijuana was higher than normal.
The city is now overrun with young professionals who have crowded into apartments being built close to downtown, with jobs in IT and technology, where hot desking, flexitime, and gyms on hand are standard. Just as Uber and Lyft are the normal ways for the under-30s to get around. The city is well spread out but $10 in an Uber will get you most places.
There is public transport – buses, trams and conventional taxis – and there are plenty of hardy bikers, but the transport doesn’t go everywhere, with a lack in the new housing areas where the new arrivals congregate. Those areas are also quite sterile and barren. One developer told me he’ll plant trees when the concrete trucks have finished their job. Such is the pace of development there.
A major drawcard is the access to the great outdoors. The Rockies are a bike ride away – if you regard 30km as not too much of a stretch. Ride, hike, ski, snowboard, fish, hunt. The mountains are always on the horizon, timeless landmarks for a bustling city.
In the foothills of the mountains is an enormous natural outdoor amphitheatre, Red Rocks, which seats more than 9000 and took 200 million years to form. Great venue for the rock concerts held there regularly.
Sports fans also crowd into Coors Field for the baseball and into Mile High Stadium for the Denver Broncos, a halfway-decent American football team, and into the Pepsi Centre where the Denver Nuggets play national league basketball. This is a sports-mad town.
One new drawcard is a marijuana tour. For a small fee, people from out of state are professionally guided through the experience of buying marijuana and consuming it safely but taking it home is illegal because it’s a federal offence to take it across state lines.
SPORTS AND NATURE: Mile High Stadium is the home of the Denver Broncos (top). Rocky Mountain National Park’s 1000sq km protect spectacular mountain environments (bottom left). The city has a thriving arts and culture scene (bottom right).