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.

Photo: Visit Den­ver

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).

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