Thursday, March 23, 2017

10 Beers To Try at Collaboration Fest

Saturday marks the fourth Collaboration Fest, and the beers that will be served there only continue to get more nuanced and more adventurous. But since there are 180 breweries combining on roughly 100 beers at the event, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide even which direction you want to head when entering the National Western Complex for the show.

Consider this, then, a high-level sneak peak at the strangest, wildest, most wonderful combinations that will be poured at the Two Parts/Colorado Brewers Guild event. And if you haven't gotten your tickets for the mid-afternoon adventure of the palate yet, consider this your chance to decide if you want to buy them - or, frankly, if you can afford not to attend.

1) Ladyfingers - Boulder Beer and New Holland Brewing
Maybe you feel like you've tried a lot of desert-style beers in recent years, but there's a good chance you haven't drunk a tiramisu brown ale before, especially one made with New Holland's house vanilla extract. After Boulder's creation of Shake Chocolate Porter in 2013, one is wise not to turn away sweet beers that America's oldest craft brewery may offer.

2) Uberpower Triple IPA - Comrade Brewing and Uberbrew
The idea of drinking a triple IPA from Comrade Brewing is enticing enough on its own, given how the east Denver brewery is pushing the boundaries of hoppy beers. But combining its talents with the talents of the 2016 Small Brewery of the Year winner out of Montana bumps this up to irresistible.

3) Japance Off - Denver Beer and Altitude Chophouse and Brewery
Altitude's absence at the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines festival this year was a sad one, but one of the most clever small breweries in the Rocky Mountain West found another reason to come back to Colorado - and partner with a Denver beer maker that continues to up its game. This is a hybrid Japanese and French saison made with sake yeast and floral French hops. No word yet on whether it's a traditional Japanese saison or a new-age version ....

4) Corner Store - Gravity Brewing and KettleHouse Brewing
The Louisville and Montana breweries are offering up a dry hopped imperial malt liquor. Just let that description sink in. And then try to imagine the reaction of an OE 800 fan trying one.

5) Spiciest Memelord - Odd 13 Brewing and Kane Brewing
One might worry that a kettle sour could be lost on the taste buds with all of the double IPAs and imperial stouts that breweries will be rolling out. Then you realize that this is made with habanero and raspberry. Oh, and that it's Odd 13 working with a respected New Jersey brewer.

6) Chocolate Orange Belgian Tripel - Ratio Beerworks and WeldWerks Brewing
If these two breweries made an American-style light lager, it would be worth trying. But this collaboration is as ambitious as it sounds. And it's hard to imagine it being anything short of startling.

7) Oaked Rye Dunkelweizen - Upslope Brewing and Resolute Brewing
Dunkelweizen is one of the most underutilized styles in America, and the appealing combination of this style aged on medium toast French oak cubes with some Colorado rye in there means a lot of good experimentation.

8) Brettxit - Bonfire Brewing and Casey Brewing
Casey can do sours. But an ESB fermented in wine barrels with four different Brett strains, made with an under-the-radar Eagle brewery? This is the kind of beer that defines a festival if it works out well.

9) Enemy of the People IPA - Great Divide Brewing and beer bloggers
Last year's Fourth Estate Belgian Chocolate Stout, made by bloggers and Lost Highway, was one of the real hits of the event. As an added bonus this year, I had to miss the group brew with Great Divide at the last minute even though my name is still on the beer - and that can only help its flavor profile.

10) Calvin and Hops - Something Brewery and New Boswell Brewing
I'm a guy who believes really well named beers deserve a taste. And this kumquat double IPA that is a product of a relatively new Brighton Brewery (Something) and an Indiana brewery you've probably never tried before boasts the coolest name of the festival.

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Rebels with Different Attitudes

When Sam Adams launched its Rebel IPA three years ago, it was met with an ovation from the general public but a bit more of a muted round of applause from beer connoisseurs. This was an IPA, after all, that had a very 1990s throwback feel of big malt that almost subsumed its hops, and it was somewhat hard to define its appeal in a world full of citrus, grass and experimental hop bombs.

So, proving that the oldest dog (nearly, at least) in the craft beer world still does want to learn some new tricks, Sam Adams scrapped that initial recipe this year and came out with an all-new version boasting of seven kinds of hops - including two experimentals - and describing itself as tropical and juicy, echoing the IPA buzzwords of today. But the beer still feels in some ways like a throwback - more mid-2000s than 20th Century this time - and while it's a quality beer, it pales in comparison to the more rebellious Rebel Juiced IPA that the brewery is promoting simultaneously.

First to Rebel. The reborn version ditched the caramel malt that over-bulked its body, leaving this new version cleaner and brighter. But the tropical flavors it promises are lacking, leaving a straightforward piny body that ramps up the bitterness and puts it more squarely into the camp of beers that IPA fanatics love more than a beer that will grab the attention of someone wanting to taste across all styles. In other words, it's a good beer, but not necessarily one that you'll consider at the 20-tap beer bar.

And now to Rebel Juiced IPA, which is both a blessing and a curse to be out at the same time as the reborn Rebel. The beer - a West Coast-style IPA made with mango puree - is a blessing because it's a phenomenal beer, the type of juicy, sweet and bitter, groundbreaking beer that others are sure to emulate for its combination of sturdy body and envelope-pushing additives. But it's a curse too because if you happen to drink this in the same setting as Rebel IPA, you may not even give the original rebel a second thought for the bounty of tropical flavors in Rebel Juiced.

The mixed blessing of releasing two new packaged beers almost at the same time is nothing new for America's largest craft brewery. It also put out two seasonals for early 2017  - a hoppy wheat by the name of Hopscape that is on sale in January and February and Fresh as Helles,, a classical helles brewed with orange blossom petals that just hit stores and will stick around through March. And while Fresh as Helles is a wonderful blend of a fantastic underlying sweet and malty beer with a pleasant but not overwhelming zing of citrus, Hopscape is a disappointingly bland, very light-bodied effort that absolutely disappears - at least in comparison to its fellow seasonal.

So, yes, the new Rebel IPA is an improvement on its predecessor, coming across as sharper and hoppier. But Rebel Juiced is the beer that really has a cause, breathing life into a sometimes stagnant IPA genre and showing just how fun the style can be again if you move past what IPA has been and re-imagine what it can be.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A February Full of Beer-Event Personality

Craft beer fans and football fans share a mutual disdain for the month of February. For football fans, it's that desolate time in between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. For beer aficionados in Colorado, it's the lonely month between Big Beers Festival and Collaboration Fest.

Luckily, though, a few event organizers have heard the anguished cry of the craft-beer drinker and tried to do something to make this month more memorable. And over the next 28 days, a number of gatherings - including a pair of new or reborn events in particular - are going to fill calendars surprisingly quickly and make March seem it got here with no delay at all.

First there is Beer Fight Club, the brainchild of buddies Jeff Flood and Adam Schell that debuts on Saturday at Larimer Beer Hall. Less an all-out Tyler Durden-style brawl and more a civilized March Madness-style precursor, it pits eight River North neighborhood breweries against each other in head-to-head blind-taste tests until only one survives the bracket to be crowned Beer Fight Club champion.

Flood and Schell had wanted to get into the craft-beer promotion business, and so they talked with a number of breweries about what kind of event might draw out drinkers and get them through the doldrums of winter. What they came up with was a ticketed event in which the eight contestants bring a beer of their choosing and advance through the bracket based on the combined votes of audience members and a specially chosen panel of experts. Flood and Schell hope to host three more such events featuring different brewing neighborhoods in the coming months, and then have a "best-of''' bracket to determine the ultimate Beer Fight Club champion.

"Every weekend there's a different type of beer fest, so we asked how we do something different," Flood said of the event, scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Larimer Beer Hall featuring breweries like Epic, Mockery and River North - all of which will have folks at the event. "We really want to connect the beer drinker to the brewers, so they can establish a little longer-term relationship."

A smaller event was also the theme around which Colin Bickford and Patrick Brown wanted to organize the Mile High Beer Festival, a collection of 25 Colorado breweries that will be pouring beer at the Exdo Center in RiNo on Feb. 11 for both an afternoon and an evening session. They wanted reasonable lines, breweries that came from a reasonable distance away and a crowd that got to taste a substantive number of beers on the Colorado scene.

Bickford earlier organized the Epic Beer Festival with 80-plus breweries in 2013 and the Country Beer Festival in Jefferson County in 2016, but he wanted a different event in the heart of Denver this year. So, he and Brown gathered an array of Colorado craft breweries - from heavyweights like Odell and Crooked Stave to up-and-comers like ,Resolute and Verboten - and will have them pouring in a fairly intimate setting of some 500 attendees that revives the first Mile High Beer Festival, which Brown organized several years ago.

"We found that people don't want bigger. They just want a nice experience," Bickford said.

Those are two of the highlights for the month. Here's a few more:
* Denver Beer Co. which is becoming the master of the food-and-beer-pairing events, will host a beer, bacon and coffee festival at its main brewery from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 12.
* A number of breweries and bars are hosting Valentine's Day events. But for my money, you can't go wrong going down to Freshcraft that night, which will be tapping Southern Tier Creme Brulee.
* On Feb. 15, Yak & Yeti Brewery officially becomes Spice Trade Brewing Co., which will continue to operate within the Arvada restaurant but as a separate entity. It will tap a Szechuan Saison and a Mayan Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout, among other things.
* On Feb. 18, Bristol Brewing brings back its annual Firkin Rendezvous, in which 40 breweries will tap experimental versions of their beers. Tickets are $45.
* And, of course, all month is Stout Month at Mountain Sun and its affiliated brewery restaurants. Their offerings include the likes of a Mint Chocolate Girl Scout Stout, a Coconut Cream Stout and a Norwegian Wheat Stout. Oh, yes.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Still Craft After All These Cans?

Last week, Oskar Blues opened a beer bar/restaurant/donut place in Denver. The expansion shouldn't come as a surprise, since the one-time Lyons brewpub has grown already into Longmont (four times), North Carolina, Texas - and soon into Colorado Springs.

But with the multi-state empire, not to mention the two other breweries Oskar Blues has purchased with capital from venture firm that is a part owner of the brewery, one can't help but look at the company that pioneered craft beer in cans and ask: Is Oskar Blues still craft, or has it gone corporate?

The new CHUBurger location at 3490 Larimer Street in the RiNo neighborhood actually presents some good points in pondering this question.

It's the kind of place simple craft breweries don't put up. The burger-heavy restaurant - the same concept the brewery operates in Longmont and at Coors Field - is connected by a walkway and a courtyard to its Hotbox Roasters shop that serves coffee, beer and donuts. When asked why the beer maker started making donuts, Oskar Blues Fooderies executive Jason Rogers, who worked as a baker in college, said it just sounded like something that went well with coffee. That makes sense.

The restaurant opened about 18 blocks west of an 11,000-square-foot restaurant and music venue that the brewery will open in the renovated Market Center development downtown later this year. Two major investments in the same general city area isn't Starbucks-level saturation, but it's not exactly boot-strapping it either.

Then there are the questions that swirl around Fireman Capital Partners, the investment firm that purchased a major share of Oskar Blues in 2015 and then provided the capital for it to buy Perrin Brewing of Michigan and Cigar City Brewing of Florida, the latter of which had been scoped out also by by some major non-craft brewing interests. But before Fireman bought into Oskar Blues, it bought Utah Brewers Cooperative, restructured it and laid off a couple of long-time brewery operators, making some in the industry question if it was just AB-InBev in a craft-brewing disguise.

Then again, I spoke last year with Jarred Sper, co-founder of Perrin Brewing, when the company entered the Colorado market last year about the influence of Oskar Blues. He told me - not surprisingly - that its role with his brewery was the furthest thing he could imagine from an Anheuser-Busch-style takeover. But he laid out some pretty good arguments for why he felt that way.

Oskar Blues and its charismatic founder Dale Katechis changed zero about Perrin's small-brewing culture when it purchased the brewery. Instead, it used its resources to help Perrin scale up and begin distribution outside of Michigan, as Perrin had wanted. It offered its expertise and influence to get into sales channels but didn't change the recipe for beers like its tasty Grapefruit IPA.

"When people talk shit about Fireman Capital, you know what? It's giving us opportunity to do what we were going to do anyway," Sper said. "I really believe Dale has a vision of what he wants to do ... The culture still feels like 'Middle finger up, what the f--k do we want to do?"

And while CHUBurger may be starting to grow like a chain, there are some things that don't resemble any other chain out there.

There are 10 Oskar Blues beers on tap, as you would expect. But there are 20 other taps too - including those from the likes of Call to Arms, Hogshead, Ratio and Wibby, small and local breweries that benefit greatly from the inclusion on a beer list like that.

Rogers said Oskar Blues reached out to beer makers like them because they were in the position it was a decade or so ago - making great beer and looking for their opportunity to get noticed. The restaurant will do burger specials with their beers because they know it will bring in locals who are growing a dedicated following to them.

And while Oskar Blues restaurants may be multiplying like rabbits, it's not an indication of selling out so much as it is a sign of Dale's constantly burning entrepreneurial fire, looking to see what new project or new market he can grow into next, Rogers said. (These are, after all, the folks who became the first craft brewery last year to expand into all 50 states.) The fooderies side of the business has almost 300 employees now, which means more people on a payroll and more opportunities to generate money for charity like its Can'd Aid Foundation that's done things like send pallets of canned water to Flint, Michigan when it was in the depth of its water crisis.

"It hasn't lost that craft spirit. It hasn't," Rogers said emphatically when I asked whether the company had gone corporate. "Obviously, there are efficiencies we have to put on as we grow. But I think we really navigated that and stayed real to who we are."

The venture-fund ownership remains a worry even to those in the industry who are fans of Oskar Blues. But as of now, Fireman Capital has done nothing to change the feel of the brewery and its bold beers - or that of Perrin and Cigar City - and it should be given the benefit of the doubt until it makes a move that runs counter to that.

As far as the growing number of restaurants and breweries and music halls, what they show is that Oskar Blues is no longer the scrappy little craft brewery that it was when people thought it was nuts for putting Dale's Pale Ale in a vessel that was as corporate as the can. And, to be sure, the brewery needs to be cautious as it moves into more and more neighborhoods not only that it doesn't step on the toes of local breweries but that it doesn't step on the toes of the local restaurants and beer bars that have been promoting those breweries since before it came to town.

But a close look at what it's doing at CHUBurger and other locations, I feel, shows you that is hasn't sold out. It's taking full advantage of its increasing resources, maybe in a way that no craft brewery in America other than Stone Brewing has done before. But it's also churning out new beers and doing what it can to give taps at its places to breweries that can reach a wider audience through their association with Oskar Blues.

So, call Oskar Blues the behemoth of the craft-beer industry if you will. But don't call it corporate. There's still too much of the "FIDY" attitude to denigrate it that way. And we can only hope that further growth and success does not change that.  

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Craft Malting: It's What's Next in Beer

In a small facility in western Massachusetts, Andrea Stanley is doing everything she can to come up with varieties of small-batch malt that are going to differentiate the small-batch brewers who use them. Sometimes that involves dipping back into brewing history to revitalize brown porter malt. And sometimes that means going where no one thought beer makers would want to go — like soaking malt for two weeks in a crock pot with kimchi to invent a whole new flavor.

What Stanley, owner of Valley Malt, and a small number of other craft maltsters — there are 44 operating in the United States now, with 26 more malt houses under construction — are doing is taking back an industry sector that largely is in the hands of big corporations. Craft maltsters produced just 0.4 percent of the supply in North America in 2016. Then again, that's about the percentage of American beer that craft brewers were making in the early 1980s as well.

And while big malt houses will churn out exciting products every once in a while, they are not coming up with the Kvaas malt or bourbon-barrel-smoked malt that Stanley is. And most are not offering single-variety malts like Colorado Malting Company of Alamosa, experimenting with the flavors that a lone crop can give to a beer.

"This is the way that things are moving," said Chad Yakobson, the founder of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project who recently worked with Casey Brewing and Blending to make two versions of their Von Pilsner with two different malts and produced strikingly different flavors. "Malt is beer ... So, without it, what do we have?"

Stanley, Yakobson and others gathered at the recent Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival in Breckenridge for a panel discussion on experiments with local malt. The talk was eye-opening in regard to the possibilities of flavors not yet achieved by American brewers through the use of new varieties of one of the four main ingredients (with water, hops and yeast) that go into a beer.

Jason Cody, president and CEO of Colorado Malting Co., explained that he worked with the ever-experimental Three Barrel Brewing to make three varieties of the same ale, each with their own strain of single-variety malt — unusual in an industry that relies heavily on blended malt. And the samples of the beers they poured at the seminar were wholly unique - one light and jasmine-tinted, one traditionally earthy and a third almost flowery.

"This was a huge eye-opener for me," said Will Kreutzer, brewer and manager of the Del Norte beer maker, who works closely with father-in-law owner John Bricker (both pictured with Cody, above).

Yakobson's two Von Pilsners — one with Weyermann Pilsner malts and the other with Leopold Brothers floor-malted barley — also felt like different beers. Weyermann malts made the beer feel exceptionally clean and seemed to accent an airy quality, while the Leopold Brothers malt gave its offering qualities that were sweeter and somewhat chewy.

Stanley didn't bring beer samples but presented the malts almost as a breakfast supplement. (This, after all, was the 9:30 a.m. seminar on Saturday of the festival.) And while the kimchi malt was the most vibrant and palate-startling of the bunch — even if it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly what style of beer would benefit from its characteristics — varieties like the Kvaas malt, made from rye, gave hints of the bready, almost historical flavors that could be brought out with such new efforts.

"Are we going to transition all of our beer to be flavored with kimchi malt? The answer is obviously 'no,'" said John Mallett, the director of operations for Bell's Brewery who was presenting with Stanley. "But I love that malts like that are being made."

Craft brewers have used hops, yeast and additive ingredients to create new flavors and whole new styles of beer over the past 25 years. So, it's wonderful to see that by tweaking what is arguably the most staid of beer's primary ingredients, they may be about to push the flavor profile of this traditional beverage that much further.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

4 Things I Learned at Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival 2017

Colorado's best themed beer festival found a new home in Breckenridge after 16 years in Vail and, frankly, found a new energy. There was vibrancy throughout beer bars in the town and vibrancy throughout the Beaver Run Resort, where most events were held. And brewers clearly tried to raise their games with the beer they were pouring — and, in many cases, succeeded.

Here, then, are four big thoughts about what took place over the past four days, both in regard to the beer and in regard to the good folks who were ensuring the beers were poured.

1) The new wave of imperial stouts will redefine the style.
It may sound obvious, but you can't drink Russian imperial stouts for three-plus hours without them beginning to taste a lot alike. That is why the growing number of brewers adding unique ingredients to these creations — ingredients that go beyond the coffee and chocolate that brewers like Epic already have pioneered so well — were the ones most often turning heads at Big Beers.

Station 26 Brewing stood at the head of the pack with its German Chocolate Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star Imperial Stout, which felt every bit like the desert it was named after and flowed so easily at 13 percent ABV that you didn't know whether to be enthralled or frightened. And very close to that creation in its palate-pleasing level was Weldwerks Brewing's Barrel Aged Mexican Achromatic, which bubbled over with cinnamon and vanilla and made Mexican coffee weep at what it could be with hops and barley added.

2) The barrel can make all the difference.
With more breweries trying more ways to age their beer in barrels, the possibilities are almost limitless at the flavor profiles that can come from the experiments. But not every decision to throw a beer into a barrel is a solid one — a truth that could be seen in the number of barrel-aged saisons from very good brewers that felt listless and undefined. (A major exception was the Old Order 6 bourbon-barrel-aged imperial black saison from Solemn Oath Brewing, whose malt backbone allowed the beer to stand up against the barrel).

But there were brilliant decisions with barrels too. Paradox Beer's Trois Ans Anniversary Ale, aged in Spanish Cedar barrels, gave off a wonderful blend of tart and smoky-wood complexity and made you stop to think about what you were tasting. Similarly, the choice by Grimm Brothers Brewhouse to age its Magic Mirror imperial koltbusser in oak barrels turned an adequate malt monster into a tart and challenging beer that showed off its honey and molasses in new and vibrant ways.

3) More chai beers and imperial IPAs are needed.
Two years ago, tiny Altitude Chophouse had maybe the beer of the festival with a chai-infused dunkelweizen, making one ask why more breweries don't use this palate-enlivening ingredient. This year, New Holland Brewing absolutely startled with its Dragon's Milk Reserve Vanilla Chai, which was a full-throttled expression of how bold flavors can make big beers seem like pleasant tea.

But while chai beers remain maybe unsurprisingly rare, it was a little shocking to see the lack of barrel-aged IPA and double IPA beers on display when the style combines the two most popular craft-brewing trends of the past 10 years. And one sip of Steamworks Brewing's 50/50 Barrel Aged Imperial IPA, with its huge whiskey mouthfeel almost perfectly balanced by its big hops, showed why this is a trend that needs to pick up.

4) One never needs to leave the resort to really enjoy Big Beers now.
A primary advantage in moving to Breckenridge was to plop the festival in the midst of a town that could support it with days of special tappings and beer/food pairings around the main event. And while reports where that the gatherings at places like Aprés Handcrafted Libations were phenomenal, you didn't have to step foot into the negative-11-degree weather to truly enjoy the event.

Late-night activities at Beaver Run featured welcoming collections of brewers and beer lovers alike, particularly the Friday night beer-cigar pairing that let drinkers try to combine smoking and drinking if they wanted - or just wander around and sample some of the best beer in the nation, often while talking to the man or woman who made it (without any pouring lines).

The seminars have ramped up throughout the morning and early-afternoon of the main tasting, providing attendees with more knowledge than you could ever want about the brewing process (more to come on that in a later blog about experimental malts). And the resort bar became a place to go by yourself, knowing you'd run into industry friends.

Laura and Bill Lodge exceeded expectations this year. And the festival keeps getting better.

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Friday, January 06, 2017

A Lost Opportunity for Capitol Hill

After more than two years on East Colfax Avenue, Lost Highway Brewing will be moving to Centennial this spring, joining the growing craft beer scene in that southern Denver suburb. That's good in many ways for owners Sir James and Tina Pachorek, who sold their Capitol Hill property and shut down their Cheeky Monk restaurant last year to focus on the brewery and now will have room to can and distribute their beer finally.

It's bad news, though, for the stretch of East Colfax avenue in Capitol Hill that was just on the verge of becoming a beer destination. Once a beer wasteland, the area had seen Lost Highway make significant strides in its quality in 2016 and had witnessed the same growth from Alpine Dog Brewery, which will remain in place.

In the past year-plus, the Pachoreks and brewer T.J. Compton diversified and intensified their lineup, moving away from more traditional beers and toward fresher takes on styles. Yes, staples like the bland District 6 Pils remain. But they are vastly overshadowed by the likes of Grave Robber Fraud Quad, a 9% ABV Belgian-style quadruple that is cherry, plummy and unique in its easiness to drink. Or Almond Coconut Porter, a medium-bodied beer bursting with both flavors that is particularly smooth. Or Fourth Estate, a sweet and full-bodied Belgian chocolate stout made for Collaboration Fest 2016 in conjunction with a bunch of us beer bloggers (whose contribution was to suggest the style and let Compton do all the work).

Progress can involve pain. The Colfax location is so small, Sir James said, that delivery trucks would drop palettes of malt and Compton would have to carry them inside one at a time because there wasn't a way to deposit them en masse in the brewing area. The Pachoreks also were looking at the option of installing a mobile canning line that they'd have to use in the taproom before it opened to the public and then clear out the equipment to make room for customers. Those problems won't exist in the new location. And along with the likes of Resolute Brewing, Dad and Dudes Breweria and Two Twenty Two Brewing, they can grow a new craft community in the Centennial/Aurora area.

But it leaves a hole in a slowly revitalizing neighborhood that seems like it would be an ideal location for locally owned small businesses like breweries. And it puts pressure on the similarly two-year-old Alpine Dog to continue to try to draw beer aficionados to the neighborhood until someone else steps up to the plate.

Set in a bare-brick-walled location in a gritty area of East Colfax where the brewing equipment is visible to all patrons, Alpine Dog exudes the feel of the neighborhood. And its 14 taps of beer show the ambition of the venture, even as the beers themselves sometimes feel as gritty and still-maturing as the surrounding area.

Its Wild Peach Saison that was on tap this fall, for example, was imbued with a funk that made the peach taste jump out in a relatively wild way but felt a little granulated. And its Notorious M.O.N.K. Belgian-style dubbel has a mild hop character that makes it stand out from the style, though it feels slightly medicinal on the taste buds.

That's not to say Alpine Dog isn't doing some exceptional beers too. Its Electric Thunder Hop Double IPA sports a full-mouthed flavor profile that is both woody and bright, and it's exceptionally smooth for a 100-IBU beer. And its Howl at the Moon Imperial Red Ale has a rich caramel and toasted-malt backbone that balances well with its extremely bold hopping.

Drinking at Alpine Dog, you feel the brewery will grow into its big ambitions as it matures and perfects its recipes. But you want to hope too that it finds a fellow brewery or two to liven up the neighborhood with it and bring Capitol Hill the beer culture it deserves.

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